‘Lo Bhai Khusra Aa Gaya’: What It’s Like To Be A Trans Woman In Kashmir

Posted by Munawar in Cake, Gender & Sexuality, Kashmir, LGBTQ
May 18, 2017

The letter ‘M’ against the option ‘Sex’ on the torn and tattered birth certificate, stuffed in a thousand-year-old wooden box recognized the sex of Iqbal, and everyone in the family respected the fact until Iqbal was ‘a grown-up boy’. First, the intonation of voice, then the posture of walking and the incident of wearing a cousin sister’s shalwar raised eyebrows and Iqbal’s parents expressed repugnance. You see, Iqbal identifies herself as a trans woman. As a child, she was not allowed to socialize with classmates, and to attend a marriage ceremony became a dream for her. To her dismay, her parents curtailed her freedom to the last dregs of human independence and self-determination.

Many a times, family meetings were conducted to scrutinize every aspect of her life. Poignant taunts and gibes dithered her valor and eventually she wrote down a constitution of her life: No colloquial conversations or discussions in the bus; Keep away from public gatherings; Walk perfectly like a man; Embrace reclusiveness; Don’t clap; No loud laughing; Talk less.

She ploughed a roller over her exterior self.

Now, posters with these undertakings and much more occupy the walls of Iqbal’s room. It has been two years since she withdrew her resolution of counter-arguing every single individual who would mock her gender. There have been hundreds of incidents where Iqbal has had to fight for dignity and honor.

And, now, she is tired of it.

I used to crush every hateful and derisive behavior that befell me, but then a day came when a father in a local bus fed me as entertainment to his unhappy son. He described to him the way I talked over the phone. As if I was a creature of a lesser God! As if I was a laughable clown!

The attack on Iqbal’s gender is not the talk of the past. Even now, when she walks through a crowd, a burst of pejorative vocabulary is lashed at her. “Lo bhai khusra aa gaya”, “Abbey chakke, kahan tha tabse?” or “Yi chu laanch” (He is a male without genital organs).

Many trans Muslims of Kashmir are forced by the social setup to join the ranks of either marriage mediators. Called Manzimyour in Kashmiri, they facilitate marriages between brides and grooms. The alternative? They become prostitutes. Iqbal, on the other hand, has made it to college. She is now a second semester B. A. student, who ardently loves the works of Shakespeare, and other thoughtful literary contributors.

I don’t want to be a sexual green card, neither do I imagine myself as person dressed in gaudy clothes and carrying a backpack full of wedding cards,” she says, commenting on the role that is usually foisted onto trans people like her.

The script of Holy Quran has largely being used to circumscribe trans people. However, the Holy Quran quotes the Almighty as “One who shapes you in the womb as He pleases.” Further, it says “All shapes, that is, all physical traits including sexual characteristics and inclinations of a human being, come with the pleasure and permission of Allah” (Quran 3:6).

Even the Prophet of Islam treated trans people with respect, spoke against their ill-treatment, and had good things to say about spiritually-inclined trans people. Also, believing that trans people are dearer to God, some Muslim rulers appointed them as intercessors in royal palaces, including those of the Ottoman and the Mughal empires.

Speaking on the issue of transgender rights in Islam, Mohd. Ali, an Islamic Scholar from Kashmir believes: “Religion as itself has never been hostile to them, it is the social stereotyping that has deteriorated their once pure and revered silhouette. The major act of degradation of transgenders was when, in India, the British colonists enacted the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 to declare what they called Eunuchs (trans people) a criminal tribe on the theory that certain tribes were genetically criminal and must be placed under state surveillance.

Trans people are human, and their presence in the world is the will of God. And that should be enough for those who trade lewd remarks when they see someone different from them treading a path in public