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Bubli: A Transgender Guru in Pakistan
By Malik Ayub Sumbal
19 Jun 2014

June 17, 2014
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Bubli is a transgender woman living in Pakistan, a country marked by its religious conservatism. She has been punished both by her family and her society, who view her, and others like her, as an embarrassment. Seeking refuge from mistreatment she moved to Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad, and, over a decade, created a commune and safe haven for members of the transgender community. Here Bubli advises and looks after these people who have been ostracized by their society.

Bubli is a ‘Guru’, or senior member of the transgender community. Gurus like Bubli are highly respected and honored among the transgender community in Pakistan and many come to Bubli’s house to find support and share their problems. When this report was shot, more than 30 to 40 transgender people were gathered in her small house. Most of them found shelter there after being kicked out of their homes by their families and neighbors.

Transgender people, also known “hijras” in Pakistan and India, not only face banishment from their families, they also face rampant physical and sexual abuse in society in general. Many of them are sexually abused and harassed in the streets. Discrimination against the transgender community continues even after their death. Normally they are denied graves and funeral services in Muslim graveyards.

Bubli has been working and campaigning for transgender rights in Pakistan for the ten years. In 2013, the hijras won a key legal battle to have a third gender-option on national ID cards. There is also an increasing acceptance of hijras in Pakistani society, but progress is slow. About 50,000 Pakistanis are classified as hijras, which includes self-proclaimed transgender men and women, as well as transvestites, intersexed and eunuchs.

Shot List:

− The bazzar near Bubli house located in Rawalpindi. Transgender people preparing for cooking in Bubli’s house. A lot of shots. − Various shots of:

− Transgender people cutting vegetables in Bubli’s home.

− Transgender people in Bubli’s house chatting to each other.

− Transgender people eating fruit in Bubli’s house.

− Transgender people entering in Bubli’s house.

− Bubli talking with the transgender people who were kicked out of their homes by their neighbors.

− Transgender dancing.

− Transgender coming out of Bubli’s home.

− Eunuchs purchasing cosmetics from a shop.

− The street going towards the graveyard.

− The cemetery.

Interviews:

− Bubli, Guru in the transgender community

− Muhammad Ijaz, neighbor

− Nazia, a transgender member of Bibli’s group

Interview Transcript:

Bubli:

“I belong to a respectable middle class family. At the age of four I was punished by my family for acting like a female and wearing women’s clothes. I have always been subjected offensive and discriminatory behavior from my family, class fellows and society but after a while it becomes intolerable and unbearable, and forced me to leave them all.”

“But when I came here to this world and community, I realized that these are my own people, we are all alike and there is nothing strange about us. We are all similar. All the world rejections and depravities we have left here in this transgender community we have left behind and we are very happy because we are sharing the sorrows of each other.”

“The people who have been grown up in the depravities and miseries and like rolling stone they don’t rejected or neglect others. They don’t create trouble for others and always spread the smiles in the world and like this they pass from this world.”

“The Pakistani community is a long way from giving rights to transgender people. They always treat them badly but they should know that the third gender are also human beings and should be treated like this.”

“Transgender life started from the sexual abuse by the various people in their families, neighbors or somewhere else. Due to their beautiful looks and female similarities they are an easy target for the sexual desires of others, subsequently these transgender people become sex workers and then society cannot accept him or her.”

“I am working for the rights of the transgender people in Pakistan and have founded an Organization called “Wajood”. We are working for the welfare and the medical treatment of third gender people because there are a lot of issues regarding health.”

“A Guru is basically just like mother or father who helps out and guides the children because these transgender pople are just like our own kids. The Gurus give them the love of a parent. These are all my children and I am their Guru. They came here for the solution to their problems. The government of Pakistan has issued them with the Identity Card but there is no value of this card and it is also a source of disrespect to him because there is written Transgender in his sexual category.”

Muhammad Ijaz:

“The transgender people are really very nice and friendly to us, they never ever create any problems for us. They always smile and are happy with others. In fact they are great people.”

Nazia:

“The Guru is very important for us, like our mother or father. It’s just like a family and the Guru fulfills all our needs and requirements.”

Bubli:

“There are several myths about the funerals of the transgender people, as people think that they have been buried without funeral prayers and very secretly because the society even don’t accept them here in the graveyard. People generally mock it, it’s really deplorable but now there are a few graves here in this cemetery because people have now a little awareness and are starting to treat transgender people as human beings.”

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