Cartographies of Khwaja Siras: Psychological Perspectives in Building Trans-inclusive Workspaces

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Aroosa Kanwal


This paper critically analyzes the Pakistani television Urdu plays Khuda Mera Bhi Hai (God is Mine Too) and Alif, Allah Aur Insan (Alpha, Allah and Man) which map the transformative itineraries of transgender individuals from occupations and roles that are “likely to be perceived as disgusting or degrading” to those offering “job satisfaction, engagement and opportunity for career advancement”.  In order to achieve greater public awareness of transgender individuals who, like other citizens, have equal rights to dignified jobs, the plays suggest a new way of doing gender through a process of sartorial transition. As we all know, the lack of transgender rights legislation and extreme limitations in employment have pushed khwaja siras in Pakistan into jobs such as beggars or entertainers, which are mostly labelled as ‘dirty work’, khwaja siras subjectivities are largely regarded as morally tainted and are deemed disqualified from social acceptance. While rebutting the stigma associated with transgender work, the plays suggest a process of sartorial transition, from being dressed as females (firqa) to being dressed as males (Khoktki), as a means for khwaja siras to avail opportunities of dignified work. I would argue that instead of suggesting ways of dealing with vulnerabilities associated with gender nonconformity, the plays continue to project khwaja sira subjectivities as transphobic, unless they hide their trans-identities. Therefore, in both plays – in which, through different occupational settings, the boundaries between dignified and undignified work are negotiated – the idea of ‘dirty work’ and its related stigma is only shown in passing to be replaced by Trans’ desire to ‘be themselves’

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