Riz Ahmed visited Pakistan recently to speak at Lahore Literary Festival after which the Star War star spent some time in Karachi as well. The actor who hasn’t been to motherland in past 13 years said that he was overwhelmed by the experience and will be posting pictures from his trip on his Instagram soon. But what he posted is much more than just vacation pictures.
Ahmed spent some time with the transgender community and shared their story with his followers,
“The transgender community has been an established part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years. You see many many more transgender people walking around in Pakistan than in New York or London.”
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A transgender lady in Karachi, face bleeding fresh from a street-fight. The transgender community has been an established part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years. You see many many more transgender people walking around in Pakistan than in New York or London. In recent times Pakistan has even had a recognised ‘third gender’ on official government documents, cementing their place in society. Despite this recognition however, they are marginalised and often earn a living through dancing, sex work or a kind of spiritual begging (it is believed their prayers and curses carry more weight, so it’s best not to anger them, and instead to seek their blessings). Same sex relationships are very common in Pakistan and often not thought of as a sign of homosexuality. In many ways this is a non binary culture – in terms of gender, sexuality, and faith. Religiously observant transgender sex workers who live by exacting a spiritual tax, is a good example of this. Known as Khwaaja Sarai (or disparagingly and more commonly as ‘Hijra’) they trace their lineage at least as far back as being an important part of the Mughal royal court and administration. The community has an ancient custom of adopting newcomers into guru and disciple relationships. Financial and social rights and responsibilities flow both ways in an interdependent, although sometimes exploitative ‘family’ system.
He further said,