KARACHI: Trans rights activist Almas Bobby sparked controversy on Sunday when she called for a medical test for transgender persons before issuing them national ID cards.
“Run a medical check-up on all of us, including me, and I will accept whatever the results are,” Bobby, who is president of the Shemale Foundation Pakistan, said in a talk show hosted by actor Hamza Ali Abbasi on Bol network.
Bobby lashed out at men who were ‘pretending’ to be transgender persons and attending international conferences held abroad. “We have been stuck here all our lives, and these men go to the United States, Nepal, Sri Lanka and elsewhere as khwaja sira,” she added.
The video clip, which has been making the rounds on social media, irked many in the transgender community as they took to Facebook to rubbished Bobby’s statement.
Kami Sid, a well-known transgender model, condemned Bobby for her remarks, arguing that the recent passing of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 in the National Assembly is a result of the hard work of transgender activists who Almas termed ‘fake’.
Speaking to Cutacut, Sid said, “People of the transgender community should stop thinking about what lies between the legs and focus more on self-identification. We should always remember that sex is between the legs whereas gender is in our head.”
Regarding the medical check-up requirement for ID cards, as suggested by Bobby, Sid went on to say that to examine gender, experts are required to take blood tests to find out about hormones and chromosomes and during that test “nothing happens between the legs”.
She also said self-identification is a basic human right and one should be allowed to identify him or herself without coercion. “If I am saying that I’m a girl then the world will have to accept me as a girl no matter what.”
Kami’s stance goes along the Transgender Persons Act 2018 which says that people have the right to perceive their identity on their own. “A Transgender Person shall have a right to be recognised as per his or her self-perceived gender identity, as such, in accordance with the provisions of this Act,” it reads.
Kami Sid says if people really want a medical assessment before issuance of a ID cards then there should be examination of all those men who can’t reproduce “because what if they are also transgender persons pretending to be men”.
In August last year, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had introduced a new policy for registration of transgender persons and issuance of their NICs. The renewed policy has allowed transgender persons to mention their ‘guru’ name instead of parents’ names. Earlier, only transgender people who knew their parents could obtain the NICs.
Bindiya Rana, probably the most revered member of the transgender community in Pakistan, also posted a video on her Facebook and condemned Bobby’s comments. “Transgender persons still have to beg for alms and dance to earn bread. There should be a brain checkup for those who are calling for transgender examination because it’s a human right violation if you don’t accept someone’s gender as perceived by him/her,” she said.
Another trans rights activist, Shehzadi Rai, said it was due to misunderstanding and lack of education that people are unable to fully grasp the definition of transgender.
“The World Health Organisation says it is up to the person to decide his gender. After that, it is one’s own choice what she/he does with the body,” Shehzadi said.
“A lot of people go through the surgery but many don’t and we support their decision because we have to be united as a community. No one should look down upon a transgender person if he has not gone through a surgery for complete transformation,” she added.
Shehzadi said Almas has indirectly promoted castration among transgender people, a procedure which is illegal in Pakistan and hence often ends up a hack job.
The transgender activist termed Almas’ comment “a stunt to defame the transgender community” in the wake of the recently passed bill.