Transgenderism and confusion
IN 1965, German born American psychiatrist, Dr. John Oliven, coined the term Transgender in his book titled: Sexual Hygiene and Pathology.
It is considered to be an umbrella term which refers to people who do not conform to their biological gender and carry the social identity of the gender opposite to theirs.
The term Transsexual refers to people who undergo gender reassignment surgical and medical procedures to achieve their desired genders, while Transvestite people simply cross dress as their opposite biological sex.
The same distribution can also be seen on a cultural level in Pakistan’s transgender culture. Hijra is the umbrella term which further includes people who are born with ambiguous genitalia (Khusra), men who simply cross dress without altering their biological sex (Zanana) and men who surgically modify their bodies to associate with the female sex (Narban).
In a study conducted in the transgender populations of Lahore and Karachi in 2011, genital examinations were conducted on 400 transgender women.
It was discovered that out of the 400 people examined, 397 were physically men, one had a birth defect and two had undergone gender change surgeries.
The Khwaja Saraa community has existed in the Indian sub-continent since antiquity.
The literature named Kama Shastra the ancient Hindu text in which they have been referred as ‘tritiyapakriti’ or third gender has been an integral part of vedic and puranic literatures, it classifies men who desire other men as a ‘third nature’.
The recent Transgender protection act has only added to the confusion regarding the issue. It is a hastily written document that ignores many cultural realities.
It includes three entities into the definition of transgender people; intersex people with congenital birth defects, surgically modified individuals and those whose gender identity preference differs from their assigned sex at birth.
The government aims to facilitate the human rights of these minority groups, which is an excellent idea, however these physical definitions completely disregard the mental health conditions like Gender Identity disorders, gender dysmorphia and Transvestic fetishism.
If considered as mental health conditions, these conditions need to be approached in a completely different fashion.
A developing child who develops a mental health condition during the process of growth and development should be facilitated in a way that they attain social normalcy, facilitating a change in perceived gender identity can be equated to facilitating self-harm in people who suffer from severe depression.
During my years of experience of working with high risk groups for sexually transmitted diseases I discovered that many cross-dressing men who otherwise behave as women, are married to women in other cities, and even have children with them.
The law also creates further issues with regards to inheritance, as it opens up the possibility of changing one’s gender on the National Registration, and the laws of inheritance will use the gender mentioned on the ID card.
In my opinion this law, like all laws, is just an eye-wash with no intended implementation.
It is just a clever tactic to divert the public’s attention from other more pressing issues, while the rich and powerful continue to loot and plunder, while we are stuck in a confusing gender based debate.
What else can be expected of people who practice their politics while standing on the graves of flood victims?
—The writer is Assistant Professor, Islamabad Medical and Dental College.