Gender, Sexuality, Islam & Science – Spring 2023
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Hope without Fear amidst Suffering with HOPE (Have Only Positive Expectations)

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The situation of LBQT people in Pakistan is complex, as most of them face fundamental survival challenges. HOPE is one of those very few non-profit organizations which are providing safe spaces to sexual and gender minorities for socialization. Currently, HOPE is working on building a sense of community through mini get-togethers in a private household, which will allow community members to feel psychologically at ease by sharing their struggles and traumatic experiences with one another. Moreover, in these get-togethers HOPE also plans to hold various fun activities, for example, gaming, watching movies etc. which will further add to the positive psychological effect.

The idea of advancement of psychological health within community brings to the second most important point—which is, taking necessary steps for the treatment of mental health issues directly. HOPE are living in a society where it is difficult to find medical service provider who are even sympathetic to the situation of LBQT people. But from own experiences in transitioning, and through some other relevant connections, HOPE have finally come up with a list of reliable private doctors (including psychiatrists and psychologists) who are friendly and sympathetic to our situation.

HOPE also intends to provide emergency funds to those members of the community who, for example, do not have money to access government or private health care services. It is important to note here that the reason why most of the transgender people do not afford private healthcare services is because they are dysphoric and hence jobless. Their dysphoria, mainly, results from the fact that whatever society deems as normal is all imposed on them. This includes the requirement of dressing in feminine or masculine clothes, non-provision of resources to finish education, restriction on mobility, coercion into early marriages etc. Under these conditions, providing them with emergency funds, short-term shelter or a safe space and a livelihood (by hiring them) is a form of activity in itself.  In short, HOPE wants to provide LBTQ people with a healthy lifestyle—leading to self-acceptance and eventually self-confidence. It wants to provide transgender persons with maximum choices they can pick out of in terms of their physical transition. Moreover, it also aims to provide psychological support to lesbians, bisexual and queer individuals.

At government level, HOPE—the members of HOPE—have been part of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018. HOPE have been part of meetings held for the drafting of the Act in order to highlight the presence and struggles of transgender men in a country where transgender women are very vocal about their rights unlike transgender men who have remained nearly invisible in the public domain, perhaps because of the fears of female body that society instills into them. The purpose of our efforts had been provision of basic human rights to transgender men in particular and lesbians, queer and bisexual women in general.

In sum, HOPE strongly believes in creating safer spaces for gender and sexual minorities which is extremely important in Pakistan. Our situation constantly reminds us of the fact that HOPE live in a third world country with immense security challenges faced especially by lesbians, bisexual and queer women and transgender people. Hence, it is important to create a safe space for them where they can discuss their issues and socialize in peace. A safe space will not only be of great use to the community activity but will also work as an emergency shelter to the people who are in vulnerable situation and need a place for short stay. Moreover, it will add to the psychological health of the community by providing essential tools to help its people cope with their situation.

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