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Story Publication logo September 21, 2016

Trans Women Take on Theater: Acting as Activism

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Ashi Jaan, age 45, takes a break from the protest to sit and smoke a cigarette while chatting with the rickshaw driver. Image by Ikra Javed. Pakistan, 2016.
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Are they cross-dressing males? Are they drag queens? Are they transgender women, or are they simply...

Kathak dancer and social activist, Pakistan
Jannat performs a dance in Teesri Dhun. She doubles as a professional kathak dancer and social activist. Image by Ikra Javed. Pakistan, 2016.

In early August 2016, the cast and crew of Teesri Dhun, or Third Tune, traveled to Islamabad to privately perform for the United States Embassy. However, co-director Iram Sana had no intentions of leaving the city without a public showing. On the first Saturday of August, Teesri Dhun was brought to the National College of the Arts (in Rawalpindi).

Teesri Dhun depicts the lives and challenges of khawaja siras through theater. It is an empowering artistic autobiography featuring khawaja siras who—portraying themselves—share their own stories. Khawaja siras, also known as hijras, are a highly marginalized group of feminine-spirited, typically assigned men at birth. The terms are loosely translated as trans women in English, though they encompass a variety of sexually variant and gender non-conforming individuals, many who defy the binary and identify as a third gender.

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