Written by: Aisha Mughal
Organization: Wajood, Pakistan
I was in my teenage when I heard my aunt, who is a gynecologist, telling us that her boss (owner of the hospital where she worked) had performed a sex change surgery on a 24 years old woman and changed her into a man. This news generated a ray of hope in me and after few months I developed the courage to go and see that doctor. When I visited him, I eagerly asked him how did you do that sex change surgery and my curious eyes made him sense where I was going. He responded by saying that it was a very simple surgery, that person was not a complete woman and some of her body parts were not visible which he operated on and got them corrected. He further clarified it was a corrective surgery rather than sex change surgery. I told him that I wanted him to do my surgery and make me a girl (as that time I was too young to realize that I was a girl even without body modification). Surprised at my confidence, he did my medical evaluation by looking at my genitals and said that I am perfectly a normal boy and did not need any operation. He went on to say that I am going through some mental issue and need to see a psychiatrist. I was too young to have a debate with him but I was very determined to have my sex change done. I agreed to see the recommended psychiatrist but this very incident of being labeled as mentally ill by such a renowned doctor and surgeon of the city was extremely unnerving for me.
I went to see that psychiatrist and after that I saw several other psychiatrists and was labeled mentally ill by all of them. Few of them also referred me to religious scholars for the spiritual healing, I was being treated as if I am a sinner and needed spiritual and mental uplift. I still recall those days, when I was supposed to enjoy and celebrate my adolescence but instead I was found waiting in the corridors of hospitals, clinics and religious centers.
But today when I look back, I realize how important it is to educate the medical fraternity and psychologists so that they can understand the turmoil which a transgender individual goes through. Doctors are seen as someone we all look upto but when we are attacked my these highly respected professionals, it further damages our self esteem, self image and throws us into the darkness of self stigma and guilt. I worked really hard to gather the researches and studied the medical protocols, gender, sexuality and religion myself, only then I was able to come out of self stigma and accept my true self with dignity and pride. Had I not been well educated and well read, I would not have been able to overcome this pressure of being labeled as “mentally ill”. Today, it is my mission rather dream to see the depathologization done so that my community and my people should celebrate their true selves with respect and honor.
Aishais a transgender woman, an activist, a qualified researcher, trainer and one of the co-founders of Wajood. Aisha has the honor of becoming Pakistan’s first Transgender university teacher and she has successfully broken the negative stereotypes about transgender community in Pakistan. She has done the first ever Mphil Thesis on the disclosure decision of transgender employees at workplace in Pakistan and have several other academic publications. Recently her research paper on transgender individuals has people has been published by Tailor and Francis in Journal of homosexuality (impact factor publication). Aisha is a certified trainer by IRGT- MSMGF and successfully completed her training in Bangkok, Thailand this year.
Aisha is currently appointed by National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Pakistan as the focal person for transgender community. She is also a member of National Task Force on Transgender and is actively working on transgender rights bill and lobbying with the government along with her Wajood team and other activists. She also represented the transgender community in the upper house of the parliament and is actively following up on the legislative developments. She has also conducted sensitization sessions with mental health professionals at the institute of psychiatry, Benazir Bhotto hospital Rawalpindi and is a strong advocate for the depathologization of transgender identity.
She and her organization Wajood (Community based and trans-led) have been working for trans health and rights in Pakistan and have achieved several milestones.
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