In a world that constantly suppresses the oppressed, there are thankfully those who use their voice to bring a positive change in society.
One such heartfelt example is the “Change the Clap” movement. It is a campaign dedicated to ending transphobia in Pakistan. It features renowned transgender personalities like Kami Sid and is being spearheaded by The Asian Pacific Transgender Network. The campaign video focuses on changing ridicule to applause by displaying how we can use our voices in favor of the transgender community in lieu of against them. I absolutely love how the signature clap of transgenders (hijras), which is usually laughed or sniggered at, is used as the base of this campaign.
Many assume that their ill-treatment is a result of the Indo-Pak continent having recently been exposed to them, but the truth is that this third gender has had quite an undeniable ancient presence in all of South Asia. The hijra community has been mentioned in the Hindu Ramayana (a religious Hindu text) as well as tales of The Mughal Era during which they were employed to guard the royal harems and serve as bodyguards for female royalty.
And yet, these people exist in a realm so far outside of society’s expectations that they have created a new subculture unto themselves.
But I’m sure most of you are still asking yourselves; who are the hijras? And where do they fall in the cluster of gender and sex as it is understood? This is a question which can never be answered using the Western lens of gender and sexuality norms. The hijra tend to be male-to-female individuals, but even this description is too vague to do justice to their identity. So let me break this down as simply as possible: the hijra community is divided into several different sects. There are those who fall perfectly under the category of transgenders according to western standards (ie: born biologically male but associate themselves with the female gender and vice versa) and then there are some who are born with the genitals of both men and women, neither of which are functional. The latter is what I’m talking about.
This faction of hijras are ridiculed by our desi community every single day. They, despite being crucial parts of our history as a nation, are seldom mentioned in the likes of our textbooks. Which is exactly what led me to think that male and female were the only two genders, growing up. They aren’t part of our curriculum or any curriculum in the world, really. I simply acknowledged their existence and thought little of it. But even in my state of sheer ignorance, I recognized that they did not have the same rights as I did, and that my country comprised of individuals who didn’t consider the hijra to be normal. These were the people who writhed uncomfortably whenever a hijra individual tapped on their car windows, draped in sequined dupattas with blotchy spots of powder all over their faces. The husk in their voice was undeniably masculine, and as for all their grace and femininity, the timber of their tone was more than enough for passengers to avert their gazes in a desperate attempt to ignore their sing-song requests for alms.
I was sadly one of those people, due to lack of understanding regarding genders, but now as I’m growing older, I have gained nothing but immense respect for these socially challenged beings of God. They are left unemployed and belittled at each and every turn of life and then are shamed for “not getting proper jobs”. So to all the people who do so, tell me, would YOU ever open up enough the tapered depths of your mind to let a hijra teach your children? Would you be okay with letting them take your orders at a restaurant, fix the plumbing at your house, or even design your house for you? Let me answer that: no you wouldn’t. You would probably give them looks laced with disgust and ask to speak to their manager or boss because their existence makes you feel uncomfortable. Hell, I bet so many of you wouldn’t even let your children play with hijra classmates if they had any.
So if any of you people with that hypocritical mentality want to stop seeing them “pestering” you for money, give them back their liberty. Stop looking down at them and let them live in peace. Play your part in letting them integrate into society and you’ll have so many of them far away from the windows of your car. That is what #changetheclap is about. It shows how once those who were given regal status are now barely provided with enough to breathe. Change your clap and then sit back and watch the same happen to the rest. It’s bound to start with one; be that one.