Image credit: Graham Barratt

Something beautiful happened today, so I commute a lot in public transport across Karachi. Around 98% of my commuting throughout the “city of lights” is through public buses or Chin-chi rickshaw (tuk-tuk as they call them in South-East Asia).

So earlier the day before when I was commuting to work in a Chin-chi rickshaw, I saw two seemingly effeminate gays joining the ride with us.

Now don’t judge me, when I say “effeminate gays” it’s because for a reason and that is because these gay men had a very expressive nature of their sexuality with a visibly effeminate body language.

I noticed when one of them saying to his friend just before he was to drop by his stop saying: “Narkay shaar kay ja” meaning (Give the money for the ride), now what he said wasn’t Urdu because it’s “Hijra Farsi”.

I replied to him in Hijra Farsi and said “Farsi bolri ho” (Sis you’re speaking Farsi) and he replied Jee (Yes). I said Chees (Beautiful), I went on further saying “Mujhay be Farsi Kalaam chandar hai” (I can understand Farsi Kalaam too).

I went on to say “Kharey ki moorat ho may, mera moorato may uthana behtna hai” (I’m more of a transqueer & I do hang out with the transgender community).

I asked “Tum kis ki Chela ho?” (Are you an apprentice of some transgender?) and he said “May khud apni chela ho, may khud apni guru” (I’m my own apprentice, I’m my own master) and I replied to that “Joban” (Perfect) going to say “Aj kal toh dunya daro ko be Farsi Kalaam ki chandar hai” (Even the laymen are getting an idea of our secret language nowadays).

His stop came early and he dropped, we shook our hands like two departing “sisters” would after meeting one after a long time. Just when he said to the rickshaw driver to stop, he made a very homophobic remark.

My newly made friend said, “Rukho rukho mera stop aya” (stop, stop my destination is here) and the rickshaw wala ridiculed him by saying “ Rukhta ho tujhay kiya Ghar lay jao gah” (Definitely I’m going to stop, not taking you home either).

Things wouldn’t change overnight and such homophobic/ transphobic views are unfortunately all but common across our society. Just with me, I was always more gender fluid in my expressions but in a very rigid, patriarchal and conservative society of Pakistan, I, unfortunately, do not conform my sexuality and gender fluidity to not give off direct hints that could make me an easy target to be ridiculed and bullied in public.

I was bullied in the past and as a teenager growing up, I was brutally targeted for my effeminate nature. I was called “larki” (girl) and even worst names e.g. “Khusra” (tranny) and “Gandu” (derogatory term for gays in Urdu) by boys in my neighbourhood.

Language empowers you, now in an only cisgender and heterosexual dominated society of ours most cannot speak this language and it’s called “Hijra Farsi” or “Farsi Kalaam”.

This isn’t the “Farsi” that is referred to in Urdu as the Persian language of Iran, it’s a coded and a secret language that’s unwritten, purely oral and somewhat slang that can be called the language of the Hijra community (South Asian transgender community).

Though some academic research validates the claim that Hijra Farsi is indeed a language and not simply a collection of secret code words. It has its own syntax that differs from other mainstream languages. Much like any other language, Hijra Farsi is shown to have nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and other parts of speech, with verbs used to complete a sentence.

Many gays men coming from the working class and low-income middle-class segments of the Pakistani society are influenced by the transgender culture and that’s how we can speak this language. It’s unique to our culture, it’s spoken across South Asia by trans and queer communities.

It’s been three and a half or four years when I hung out with the transgender community and learned this secret language. It has definitely empowered me and given me a sense of identity that’s unique to the indigenous culture of the South Asian queer/ trans community.

We have always been told by the conservatives in the country that the whole “LGBT+ agenda” is foreign and alien to our culture, society and tradition and we have never existed here in the holy land of Pakistan but to their surprise they are not wrong because they themselves have lost their indigenous identities in wake of increase in “Islamization” that followed the last decades notably since Zia era in the 1970s.

The synergy between queer and trans communities in Pakistan is centuries old. It can never be erased forever it will survive in the fringes and margins but it will always exist and thrive for the good of our culture, communities and people to empower us and connect us to our roots. ♥️🌈♥️

By Salman Khan (Founder/ Editor at Queeristan)