(Published in Sedaa-Our Voices)
Transgender people have long been a part of the history of South Asia. Their stories are told in the Kama Sutra and they have existed in the Indian sub-continent for centuries. They were part of the courts of both Muslim and Hindu emperors and performed various spiritual and gender-liminal roles.
Subsequently, while they were not openly ostracised by society, they tended to live on its edge, making their living by performing at functions, begging and as sex workers — but never as full members of the population with rights equal to hetero-normative people. That is until recently, when Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal recognised them as a third gender, even on identity cards and passports.