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Jannat Ali “Respect is a very basic thing” “I am a trans-woman, a trans-rights activist, and a performing artist. Dancing is my passion and dream, but unfortunately in Pakistan there is a stigma attached to it. We try to put things in boxes and categorize them, if you’re one thing, you can’t be the other….
“I am a trans-woman, a trans-rights activist, and a performing artist. Dancing is my passion and dream, but unfortunately in Pakistan there is a stigma attached to it.
We try to put things in boxes and categorize them, if you’re one thing, you can’t be the other. We associate everything with gender, from gender-specific colors to gender-specific sports. When I started taking Kathak classes, I told my family I was going to take yoga lessons because they would not have allowed me to dance. Dancing helped me channel the frustrations of battling with myself, with my gender identity. It allowed me to express my emotions positively.
My passion for it grew and dancing became my profession, when financial hardships hit our family, I was able to support them. It is now a part of my activism, I do a lot of activism through art. I did my MBA from UCP with a distinction. I did not want to have the stereotypical lifestyle transgender are perceived to have, such as begging or prostitution. I wanted to be known an artist and an activist.
One thing that has been ingrained in my mind is the need for unity and inclusiveness. Without the presence of these two elements, all activist movements are futile. In my work, I try to reconcile the generational gap, so that people have a common platform.
Recently, I presented a bill to the senate with two of my friends. There were six to seven meetings and in every meeting, a lot of time had to be spent educating the people on gender issues. Most of the time we found ourselves discussing basic topics rather than the actual bill, because of the participant’s lack of knowledge in the matter. We did a lot of research regarding all these issues and took books with us to meetings. We met with religious leaders – and it was a scary experience to enter a room full of them – but we took them by surprise with our thorough research. Education played a large role in the success of this project, because people generally expect transgender to be illiterate and ignorant.
In another project, I am focusing on generating employment for the transgender community. Often, people cash on the ‘transgender cause’, I want to make sure that transgender who are offered training are also later employed, that they get a reward for their hard-work and are motivated to excel in life.
I just want to say, that before any gender, there is a human being. Respect is a very basic thing. Acceptance will not come with the push of a button but times are changing. There is more tolerance and people are working towards sending out a positive message about us.
Do not underestimate someone just because they are transgender, otherwise, they would not be able to contribute to the society with their maximum capacity. I have challenged myself throughout my life, so that I come up as a role-model for my community”.