Actor Riz Ahmed went to Pakistan and wrote this lovely, short note on transgender people there
By: Barfi Culture Team
Published: 7th March 2018

The British actor Riz Ahmed recently travelled to Pakistan, his first visit in 13 years, and posted some beautiful pictures to his Instagram page.

He also posted some about transgender people in Pakistan, which we republish with permission.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Here are some other pictures he took while travelling around Pakistan

No one does cars, trucks & lorries like us

A post shared by Riz Ahmed (@rizahmed) on

Opinion published on 7th March 2018 in the World section

Respond to this story
Barfi Culture is a news-magazine on South Asians in Europe and North America.
(This is what makes us different)

Editorial Policy | Contact Us