OH MY GOD, A THREAT TO THE GENDER BINARY!
From Politics Daily:
Late on Wednesday, the Supreme Court in Pakistan ordered that the government officially recognize a separate gender for Pakistan’s hijra community, which includes transgendered people, transvestites, and eunuchs. The court told the federal government to begin allowing people to identify as hijras when registering for a national identity card.
From Reuters India:
“It’s the first time in the 62-year history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken for our welfare,” the [hijra] association’s president, Almas Bobby, told Reuters. It’s a major step toward giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognize that we are also human beings.”
Apparently, India also allows limited opportunities for people to identify as a third gender.
There are several ways that allowing another gender identification on forms of ID will help hijras and others participate more fully in Pakistani society. The official recognition legitimizes them in the eyes of some. It will allow them to appear in census data. It will be easier to get jobs, find housing, and enroll in school. They can vote.
I find this policy solution an interesting alternative approach to queer rights as opposed to the western one of maintaining a strict gender binary and trying to fit queer people into it no matter how ill-suited. Instead of the “we’re just like you!” approach of mainstream LGBT organizations, this seems to be an approach of carving space for an identity irreconcilably different from the options offered by the binary. Though simply creating a catch-all “other” gender category is somewhat simplistic a solution, I am heartened that it is at least an official state recognition that gender is non-binary, that the binary is not all-emcompassing of human gender experience and expression.
Could an official recognition of such a thing even be thinkable in the West, or in America specifically? I think we hold so tightly to our tradition of gender binary thinking that there is no intellectual room yet to move policy in this direction. I’m having fun though imagining how groups such as Focus on the Family would react to a campaign to add an official third gender category.
I wonder what real life effects this offical recognition will bring to Pakistani hijras and other non-binary individuals. Net good effects, net bad? I hope to follow up in the future.