a short story by Haider
art by Mia Nazir @ohwhybread
I do not have an identity, I do not have a voice, and I am whatever you want me to be for the night. My name is ———, I am nineteen years old. I am what the media will call, “transgender,” a “she-male,” but more openly and publicly, a “disgrace.” I don’t know what it is about my appearance that made my family kick me out - telling me how I bring shame to their faith, and having me around is a curse from God - but neither do I know why a lot of the religious clerks stop on their way to pay me a sum of money so I can be of some pleasurable service.
We work at the local market called, “The Diamond Market,” but there is nothing glamorous about us. On the side of every block, you may find a needle that still has remnants of heroin, married men in search of a prostitute, men gazing into your soul as you walk past them — and the list goes on. As much as the night scares us, that’s the only time we’re allowed to come out. The traffic dies down, children are no longer out, and there are many, many lonely people roaming our streets.
I see girls of all ages, usually in their early-to-mid teens come by, hoping I’ll let them in for a job, but I must refuse, as part of our community’s work standards. We’re not allowed to take a teenage girl in for our services. However, when I arrived, I was forced to lie to the mentors of the community and say that I am much older than I appear. I was seventeen at the time. I told them I just take good care of myself. I don’t know if they bought it. By the looks of me, it seemed like I was never cared for in the first place.
We’re not safe, we’re not sanitized and we’re sure as hell not doing anything honorable. This is out of necessity. Not all of us are half of the other. Some are “women by birth,” as they put it. They too are in the business. No one particularly loves being a sex worker. Especially after the horrific incident that ——— went through with the four men.
We tried reporting it but it was of no use. Our names won’t even show up in the system. We don’t have a voice and we’re not even registered as citizens of the country. It’s almost as if we do not exist. The court ruled out a bill where the trans-community can finally make their Identity Card, but ironically enough, the process has been more than a year. Not a single one of us girls has managed to attain an ID. It’ll be of great use if we could. It will allow us to get a decent enough job without having to inject ourselves with weekly-to-monthly doses of hormonal needles to help induce our breasts larger, so we can appear pretty enough — yet risk the chances of contracting breasts cancer. Sure, we provide pleasure, but just because we can give it doesn’t mean we have it.
There is a song one of the girls from our community wrote. She said she couldn’t decide if we should dance to this as we usually do, or let this one be for the heart. So we decided we’ll have both. We decided to dance with tears in our eyes and hearts in our hands.
It has now become an anthem for us girls.
I am part more of one than the other
and I wouldn’t ask forever
‘cause now hurts more than ever
and I miss my mother
but I bring a shame, so she cut my feathers
and my father hates me
says I should have been someone’s brother
he never wanted a half daughter
so now I sell my body, and I pretend that’s better
I met a girl on my journey, she said she was afraid,
she had dark brown eyes and was about to cry,
I held her hand, and told her it’s okay,
I took her in and I took care of her
we lied awake, dreamt of making our escape
life is whatever you find in her eyes
and I found a home
with a few broken windows to her soul
so I climbed through and fell right underneath
what I discovered, you wouldn’t believe
there were so many bluebirds besides me
all waiting to be free
they’ll only come out at night
when they thought everything was alright
when everyone was asleep
she’ll cry herself to sleep
so they’ll sing her this song
reliving her old memories.
a few words by the writer about the inspiration behind the story:
I’ve been reading a lot into the history of feminism, and I have been writing a lot of feminist pieces (and a novel) for a while now. A topic I began leaning towards was the struggle of identity for trans-women. I’m from Pakistan, and I’ve encountered a lot, a lot, of trans women. In my time of visits and encounters, I have always found them to be either beggars or working street corners (sex work, of course). I watched a couple of documentaries that helped me educate myself on their lives & their work, as well.
My intention was not to really shame their work of field, nor discourage anyone who works in that field. I guess, what I wanted to do was shed light on so many women out there who just happen to be “trans,” at the same time. I believe if feminism is the inclusion of all women, it’s an inclusion of trans women too. Their health and lives matter just as much.
“The Diamond Market,” is an actual market. It’s the name of a famous yet a controversial area in one of the cities of Pakistan. A lot of sex workers, both trans and cis women, happen to work there. It’s a very low-income neighborhood, and there are usually high cases of sexual assault — as a lot of unprotected and unsafe sex work takes place in the area, which explains the unfortunate crime cases.
There has also been a rising cases of rape & sexual assault & violence against women in the country too. My aim was to go for an article, but I figured it’s best to kind of put the reader in the shoes of someone experiencing such a life, than to plainly narrate it.