Transgender people in Pakistan: a first and last birthday party

Pakistan
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© Reuters/Caren Firouz

This party is a chance to celebrate the life of 40-year-old Shakeela. According to the guests, transgender people are supposed to get a ‘birthday’ party once in their lives.

Authorities in Peshawar, the capital of the Pakistani province of Khyber, usually refuse permission for transgender parties, and police often raid them. But this time guests were able to dance and enjoy themselves, although armed police guarded the entrance.

‘It's the first time in a decade that we have openly hosted such a function,’ said Farzana Jan of Trans Action Pakistan, a campaign group that estimates there are at least 500,000 transgender people in the country of 190 million.

‘I was afraid that I may not be able to experience this occasion, as it took us a lot of time to convince authorities to allow us to host it,’ Shakeela told Reuters.

‘This is the first and last birthday of my life. It is an important, and the happiest, occasion of my life.’

Shakeela works in the kitchen at home in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Bubbly helps Shakeela with her dress as guests get ready for the party.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Shakeela lights a cigarette as she prepares for her party.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Police provide security at the front door of the party, patting down guests to search for weapons and blocking those without invitations.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Guest Farzana Jan poses for a photographer ahead of the party.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Guests enjoy dancing at Shakeela's party.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Related: The transgender revolution, New Internationalist magazine, October 2015, Issue 486.

A guest counts money she plans to throw at friends. People are usually expected to bring gifts of money to help the person to start a small business or project.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

Guests cut a cake in honour of Shakeela.

Reuters/Caren Firouz

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