Tag: transgender

A Roundup of Recent Children’s Books with Transgender Characters

A Roundup of Recent Children's Books with Transgender Characters

There’s been a veritable explosion of children’s books with transgender characters in 2020, so here’s a roundup of them (and one music album!) for Transgender Awareness Month. They’re great at any time of the year!

I’m including here only books published this year that have clearly transgender characters; there are a few others that show gender creative characters who aren’t necessarily transgender, which I’ll round up in a separate post in the future. (Stay tuned, too, for my annual roundup of LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books as a whole.) I’m also sticking with picture books and a couple of graphic novels that cross somewhat into middle grade territory; young adult books form a separate genre that I unfortunately don’t have the bandwidth to cover in depth. (Check out Lee Wind’s blog if you’re looking for YA.) I’ve linked to my full reviews of the books I’ve written about previously—but there are a couple of new ones below, too!

Let’s also take a moment to celebrate that just a few years ago, having this many books with any LGBTQ characters would seem like an abundance. Now, we have this many with trans characters!

Transgender Women and Girls

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution, by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley, 2020), tells the story of Stonewall icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment by police and others. Full review.

She’s My Dad!, written by Sarah Savage and illustrated by Joules Garcia (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is the first-person story of Mini, a six-year-old whose dad is a transgender woman. Mini’s explanation of their dad’s gender identity comes from a place of pride, confidence, and love. Full review.

Jamie and Bubbie: A Book About People’s Pronouns, written by Afsaneh Moradian and illustrated by Maria Bogade (Free Spirit Publishing) is a sequel to the duo’s Jamie Is Jamie: A Book About Being Yourself and Playing Your Way (my review here), but either can be read independently of the other. Both books star Jamie, a White child whose gender is never specified. In the latest book, Jamie’s Bubbie comes for a visit. As she and Jamie do things together in the neighborhood, Bubbie mistakenly misgenders several of the people they meet—a woman as a man, a man as a woman, and a transgender girl whom Bubbie had previously met when the girl was still using her male birth name. Jamie knows everyone’s correct genders and pronouns, though, and gently informs Bubbie, who is receptive to the feedback. Full review.

My Rainbow, written by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila), is based on Trinity’s own life as a Black transgender girl. In the book, Trinity wants long hair to express her true self. She explains to her mother, who has short hair, that “It’s different for transgender girls.” Growing her hair has always been difficult for Trinity, however, since she doesn’t like the feeling of the hair scratching her neck as it gets longer. (We learn that “like many kids with autism,” Trinity “loved soft things.) Her mom takes her to a wig store, but nothing is a perfect fit. Her mom therefore decides to create a colorful wig with help from Trinity’s nonbinary sibling, even while acknowledging that Trinity’s natural hair is “already perfect.” A joyful and personal story. [Thanks to Jen Rivka Schultz-Badik, who just wrote a great LGBTQ-inclusive picture book herself, for alerting me to this one.]

Raven Wild, written by Caitlin Spice, Adam Reynolds, and Chaz Harris, with illustrations by Christine Luiten and Bo Moore, is the third fantasy book in the crowdfunded Promised Land series (after Promised Land and Maiden Voyage), but can be read as a standalone tale. This one is the story of Raven, a transgender young woman who has various daring adventures and eventually finds love. I am thrilled to see a story about a trans protagonist, by a real transgender woman (Spice), that is simply a fun adventure and romance and isn’t simply “about” being trans per se. (Those stories are important, too, but we have far fewer of the former.) I love that Raven is a spear-wielding badass while also embracing her female identity. At the same time, the wordiness and number of plot lines strain the picture book format and age range. I think that it would have worked better as a graphic novel aimed at middle grade readers.

I also worry that the explanation of the character’s transition from Hawk (her birth name) to Raven is potentially confusing. The story tells us, “Hawk’s thoughts … soon turned inwards to questioning his own identity. Although Hawk had grown up as a boy, he realised he needed to be a girl.” Readers (especially cisgender ones) who are new to thinking about trans identities might not understand why he “needed” to be so. Was it because of external forces, such as girls being treated better in the society or the opportunities open to them? No—but that’s unclear. A better phrasing might have been, “he realised he was in fact a girl.” Raven also then seeks out a potion master who provides “medicine that could help.” Some young readers might mistakenly think that being trans requires medicines or a doctor’s assistance, which is not the case—but young trans readers who are likely the main audience may simply relish the idea that they could take a potion to have their bodies match their gender. Cisgender folks who may need a little more background information on what it means to be trans may be better served by other books, but that’s fine. It’s about time transgender people had a fairy tale romance of their own. Decide for yourself if this one works for you and the young people with whom you may be reading it.

Another fantasy story that is a graphic novel is The Deep & Dark Blue, by Niki Smith (Little, Brown). In it, two twins must hide with a group of magical women after a coup threatens their noble house. For one, dressing as a woman to blend in with the group is a disguise; for the other, it is the first step towards living as her real gender. The story takes up some familiar fantasy tropes—noble families; an evil relative who takes over from a rightful heir; young people coming of age—but transforms them into something fresh and original. The publisher’s suggested grade level of 3 to 7 slides it towards middle grade territory, but I think it would also appeal to the top of the elementary school age range. Full review.

Worth a mention, too, is Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh, one of the creators of the lauded Lumberjanes comics. The protagonist of this magical realist graphic novel isn’t transgender, but her best friend is, and the latter’s transition forms a secondary but clear storyline. There’s also queerness aplenty among other characters. Aimed at children in grades 5 to 9. Full review.

Transgender Men and Boys

Max on the Farm, by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano (Reycraft),  is the third in a series by a Stonewall Award-winning author about a transgender boy and his friends, and shows it’s possible to create picture books about LGBTQ characters that neither dwell on nor ignore their LGBTQ identities. Max, a White transgender boy, going on an overnight trip to a farm with his class, including his friend Teresa, a darker-skinned girl. Teresa, though cisgender, bends gender stereotypes—she likes to get “really dirty” while playing outdoors and tends to be the leader in their adventures. Max is more hesitant, but ultimately has fun during their gentle mischief. Full review.

The Fighting Infantryman, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Little Bee), is the true story of Albert D. J. Cashier, an immigrant, a Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, and a transgender man. Sanders paints a sympathetic portrait of a young immigrant finding his way in America and putting his life on the line to keep his new country united, even while trying to remain true to himself. Full review.

Love Remains: A Rosh Hashanah Story of Transformation, shows changes in the life of a Jewish mother, father, and child as they go year after year to the grandparents’ house for Rosh Hashanah. One year, their favorite flower shop is closed and they must find another; the next year, the grandfather has died; the year after that, a cousin has a new baby. The child similarly transforms and comes into his identity as a transgender boy, which the family wholeheartedly accepts. Full review.

I’m Not a Girl, written by Maddox Lyons, a 12-year-old transgender boy, and Jessica Verdi, with illustrations by Dana Simpson (Roaring Brook Press), is a first-person story based loosely on Lyons’ own life. The protagonist struggles against his well-meaning mom’s attempts to have her dress like a girl on many occasions. “I’m not a girl,” he insists. On one page, in a nice touch, he admires a poster of famous women and says, “I know girls are really cool. I’m just not one.” That’s a welcome acknowledgment that girls may read this book, too, and shouldn’t come away with the message that there’s anything wrong with being one, if that’s who they really are.

The protagonist, however, isn’t. Eventually, his frustrated mom lets him pick out any swimsuit he likes, and he chooses boy’s shorts and a swim shirt. At the pool, he meets two new friends, who assume he’s a boy but are confused when his father calls him by a girl’s name. He insists he’s a boy, and the friends say he’s like their transgender cousin, who’s actually a girl, although the family had thought otherwise. This gives the protagonist the courage and the language to talk with his parents about his identity. The book closes with him happily getting a boy’s short haircut.

The protagonist and his family are White; his new friends are Black. An afterward by Lyons’ mother, Verdi, and Simpson (a transgender woman herself) offers additional insight, as does a list of famous transgender people and additional resources. This is a sympathetic and personal account of transition that should find many fans.

Nonbinary People

My Maddy, written by Gayle Pitman and illustrated by Violet Tobacco (Magination Press), is a gentle story told as a series of reflections by a child about her nonbinary parent. A Note to Readers at the end, by clinical psychologist Randall Ehrbar, explains that “Maddy” is used by some families “to describe a parent who is transgender or gender diverse.” He also notes that while some trans people have nonbinary identities, others may identify in a more binary way as men or women. It’s unclear from the book whether this Maddy is trans, but since they could be and there are very few books about nonbinary trans parents, I’m going to include it here for those seeking such a story. Full review.

Music

Detail from cover of "Trans and Nonbinary Kids Mix." Art by Wriply M. Bennet

Detail from cover of “Trans and Nonbinary Kids Mix.” Art by Wriply M. Bennet

The Trans and Nonbinary Kids Mix is a multi-artist, multi-genre music album offering transgender and nonbinary children and youth songs that reflect and support who they are. It’s  is the brainchild of Julie Lipson, one half of children’s music duo Ants on a Log, and contains 21 songs from musicians representing hip-hop, pop, folk, country, and other genres. Full review.

 

 


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IBM finally apologises for firing transgender computer pioneer 52 years ago

IBM, Lynn Conway

Lynn Conway was fired by IBM in 1968 as she began her transition (Screenshot: YouTube)

It’s taken 52 years, but IBM has finally issued a full apology for firing the pioneering computer scientist Lynn Conway because she was transgender.

In 1964 Lynn Conway joined IBM Research, where she made major innovations in Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) chip systems. She is credited with several key discoveries that would go on to power smartphones, the internet, and national defence.

Despite her many foundational contributions to computer architecture, she lost it all in 1968 when IBM’s medical director outed her to the CEO, who fired her on the spot.

Conway struggled to support her family as a result, and the situation worsened when California’s Social Services threatened a restraining order if she attempted to see her children post-divorce.

But it wasn’t the end. Conway overcame the adversity IBM threw at her and worked as a computer architect at Memorex Corporation before moving to Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre. In the 70s and 80s she pioneered new VLSI technology that now underpins current microprocessor chip design.

Later in 1985, the University of Michigan hired her as a professor of computer science and electrical engineering and associate dean of its engineering school. She eventually retired in 1998 with the honorary title of professor emerita.

Now an 82-year-old trans activist, Conway has finally got the vindication she deserves after IBM apologised for its actions, having avoided the issue for decades.

“We deeply regret the hardship Lynn encountered,” the business giant told Forbes, admitting full responsibility for Conway’s firing all those years ago.

IMB agreed a formal resolution with Conway, and in early October the company emailed its employees an invitation to attend a virtual event titled “Tech Trailblazer and Transgender Pioneer Lynn Conway in conversation with Diane Gherson”, IBM’s senior vice president of human resources.

The event began with a heartfelt apology for Conway’s mistreatment, in front of 1,200 people.

“Diane delivered the apology with such grace, sincerity, and humility. Lynn was visibly moved,” said Anna Nguyen, a software engineer who attended the session. “I struggled to hold back tears.”

Conway was also awarded the rare IBM Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals who have changed the world through technology inventions.

But it pales in comparison to the long-awaited apology, which finally gave Conway closure to an event that shaped her life.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2020 – KitschMix

Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2020 – KitschMix

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Our community began marking this day in 1999 in response to the brutal killing of Rita Hester, a Black Trans woman.

Hester was a member of the Boston LGBTQ+ community who worked locally on education around trans issues and nurtured many of the city’s LGBTQ+ youth. She was killed in her home on November 28, 1998, a few days shy of her 35th birthday. Twenty-two years later, her murder has not been solved.

On the first anniversary of Hester’s death, trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith organised a vigil to commemorate Hester and all transgender people lost to violence since her death. That vigil began the tradition that is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“When the Transgender Day of Remembrance first began, trans people were nameless victims in many cases,” Smith wrote in 2014 for The Advocate. “Our killers would do their best to erase our existence from the world. And law enforcement, the media, and others would continue the job.”

Researchers have documented 350 homicides of trans and gender-diverse people around the world from October 1, 2019, through September 30 of this year have been brutally killed.

That’s a 6 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, and the researchers have recorded 3,664 homicides since the effort began in 2008. The yearly total has gradually increased since then.

This number is likely higher; victims are, to this day, often misgendered in local police statements and media reports, which can delay awareness of deadly incidents.

Trans women or those who identify as transfeminine made up 98 percent of the victims in the 2020 report. Eighty-two percent of the deaths were in Central or South America, and 43 percent in one country in that region, Brazil. Sixty-two percent of those killed were known to be sex workers.

The majority of these victims, like Hester, were Black transgender women living at the intersection of racism, homophobia, and transphobia.

“Behind the statistical representation of numbers and percentages, there are people whose lives we value and who we, as societies, failed to protect,” the release says. The group blames social stigma and criminalisation of sex work for exposing trans sex workers to exploitation and violence, while adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has put the lives of trans people at even greater risk, especially the young, the poor, sex workers, migrants, and people of colour. Racism and police brutality are contributing factors as well.

“At the same time, those groups are repeatedly silenced and underrepresented within our communities and societies,” the release concludes. “Although COVID-19 affects us all, social differences and inequalities are deepened by the pandemic, emphasising gaps in lack of legislation and systemic protection of trans and gender-diverse people.”

We must do better by continuing to condemn all acts of violence against transgender people. Vigils and celebrations will look different this year due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, today we pause to recognise the lives of those we have lost.

The following organizations are fighting for that change.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020

Today marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor the lives of those who died because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. I wish all of my transgender friends and readers love and support on this day of mourning.

Candles. Photo by Zoran Kokanovic

Here is the memorial list for this year. It is far too long, though even one name would be too many.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor Rita Hester, murdered on November 28th, 1998,v in Allston, Massachusetts. Morgan Collado’s 2014 piece at Autostraddle, “Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More,” remains a must-read.

Last year on TDOR, I quoted fellow blogger and advocate Monica Roberts of TransGriot, who reminded us that TDOR memorial lists “are overwhelmingly made up of trans women of color, and in the US, overwhelmingly Black trans women under age 30. Internationally, they are disproportionately made up of trans women from Latin America and Brazil.” She also wrote way back in 2007 about Rita Hester and the origins of TDOR. Monica herself died this year, of natural causes, after having spent much of her time tracking and identifying transgender victims of murder, many of whom were reported by the mainstream media under their previous, not chosen, names. She showed the injustice in their deaths—but also showed us stories of transgender lives. Her loss will be felt by many today—but there is also a story and a loss behind each and every one of the names on the memorial list. They will all be missed.

For those of us who are cisgender, today is a good day to reflect on what each of us can do to end the violence, starting with our own actions, e.g., using someone’s self-stated name and pronouns, speaking out when we hear anti-trans remarks, and educating our children, no matter what their own identities are, about what it means to be transgender or gender nonconforming. We can celebrate and support the lives of trans people and listen to their stories. We can urge lawmakers to pass trans-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation, to reject legislation that demeans and ignores trans people’s gender identities and right to public accommodation, and to uphold trans people’s right to serve in our military.

May the lives of those lost not be forgotten. May they inspire us to continue working for justice and peace.

In Memoriam: Monica Roberts, Transgender Activist and Mentor

In Memoriam: Monica Roberts, Transgender Activist and Mentor

The LGBTQ community has lost a light this week. Monica Roberts, a groundbreaking transgender journalist and blogger, died in Houston at age 58. She started her blog, TransGriot, shortly after I began this one. I had the honor of meeting her at several conferences, and was always struck by her strength, knowledge, and commitment to lifting up trans youth.

Monica Roberts - photo courtesy National LGBTQ Task Force

Monica Roberts. Photo courtesy National LGBTQ Task Force

In addition to reporting on transgender news generally at her blog, Monica focused on tracking and identifying transgender victims of murder, many of whom were reported by the mainstream media under their previous, not chosen, names. She showed the injustice in their deaths—but also showed us stories of transgender lives, part of her mission “to become the griot of our community,” as she said at her blog. A “griot” is a West African storyteller and oral historian. She asserted:

I will introduce you to and talk about your African descended trans brothers and trans sisters across the Diaspora, reclaim and document our chocolate flavored trans history, speak truth to power, comment on the things that impact our trans community from an Afrocentric perspective and enlighten you about the general things that go on around me and in the communities that I am a member of.

Her writing appeared at the Bilerico Project, where we both wrote for some time, Ebony.com, The Huffington Post and the Advocate. This past January, she was given the 2020 Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity In The Movement from the National LGBTQ Task Force. Her many other honors include the International Foundation For Gender Education’s Trinity Award, the transgender community’s highest meritorious service award; the Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award; the Robert Coles Call of Service Award; the Barbara Jordan Breaking Barriers Award; and a GLAAD Media Award for her blog. She was a founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition and was the political director of its board from 1999 to 2002. She also served on the board of Louisville, Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign and its political action committee, C-FAIR. She advocated for transgender rights in her local community of Houston; at the state level in Texas and Kentucky, and at the federal level.

Critically, too, she embraced her position as a mentor and role model for the rising generation of transgender children and youth, and would regularly tweet messages to her “trans kids,” like this one from March: “To my trans kids. Just wanted to let you know that your Aunt Moni and your trans elders love you and will always fight for you.” And in July, she tweeted, “Hey trans kids! Just your reminder that Aunt Moni loves you! Don’t be afraid to dream big dreams and work to make them come true. Your trans elders will continue the fight to make the world better for you when you hit our age.”

In a poignant 2017 blog post titled, “My Sisters, I Want You To Grow Old,” she wrote of the anti-trans violence that has taken so many young lives:

My sisters, I want you to know what it’s like to be my age, Tracie Jada O’Brien’s, Justina Williams’, Gloria Allen’s or Miss Major’s age. I would love to see some of y’all with gray hair. or how fab you will look when you hit 35, 40 or 50. I want to see how your fab trans lives evolve, I can’t be a mentor to you if I don’t have you around to pass down your history and some of my life experiences to as was done for me by my trans elders.

I want my Black trans sisters to be able to age gracefully, have and experience the amazing lives I know they are capable of having.

I want to see you grow old. Is that too much to ask for, society?

We do not yet know the cause of Monica’s death, but what I do know is that while she proudly bore the mantle of a trans elder, 58 was still far too young for her to be taken from us. I wish that she, too, had had the chance to grow much older. As a White, cisgender woman, I can only imagine the incalculable loss being felt right now by the Black and transgender communities of which she was part. My heart is with them today—and I hope my actions as an ally for transgender people will be with them in the days to come. Yet as Monica wrote publicly at her Facebook page, she was also “trying to do my small part to make the world better for everybody.” Her loss is a loss for all of us. May the light of her memory continue to shine.

For more about Monica and her work, see:

Police shot Black transgender woman 16 times

Roxanne Moore: Police shot Black transgender woman 16 times

Police said it was ‘reasonable force’ to shoot Roxanne Moore 16 times. (Getty)

Police officers who fired 16 shots at Black trans woman Roxanne Moore used “reasonable force”, says the Pennsylvania district attorney.

Moore, 29, remains in hospital, in critical but stable condition, after being fired at by officers on September 13.

At a press conference on Wednesday (September 23), Pennsylvania district attorney John T. Adams said that the police shooting Moore 16 times was “justified” and confirmed that she was hit multiple times.

“Based on the facts of what took place here, the law that we must follow here in Pennsylvania, I have determined that the shooting was a reasonable use of force, which was justified under the law here in Pennsylvania,” Adams said.

Moore allegedly pointed a gun at officers before they fired at her. Authorities later found that though the gun she was wielding was loaded, it was unoperable due to a safety mechanism that wouldn’t allow it to be fired.

“The only person who knew that that gun could not fire, most likely, was the owner of the gun, from whom it was taken,” Adams said. “There’s no way anyone could have determined from a distance that that gun could not be fired.”

He added that footage from the body cameras worn by officers had not been released, as local activists have been urging, because Moore will be charged once she is medically fit.

“I would have released the body cam footage, but it’s evidence in a criminal case,” he said. “We would be happy to release it.”

Police had been called to reports of “shots fired” at 7am on September 13 in Reading, Pennsylvania. The first officer to arrive on the scene saw Moore holding a gun, ordered her to drop it, and fired when she didn’t.

Moore had reportedly just left her apartment after having an argument. She was known to police as having mental-health issues and Adams said she was “displaying erratic behaviour” during the incident on September 13.

All three officers involved in the shooting have been put on temporary administrative leave.

Roxanne Moore: Family and friends show support.

Friends and family of Roxanne Moore gathered last Sunday (September 20) to show her their support, as she remained in hospital following the shooting.

Wearing Black Trans Lives Matter buttons and T-shirts, friends and family spoke of their love for Moore.

“I just want my sister to know I love her,” her brother reportedly said, according to the local newspaper Reading Eagle. “That’s all.”

Moore’s family and friends also criticised the police’s handling of events, saying that officers should have used deescalation tactics or crisis intervention instead of opening fire.

They claimed someone who was experiencing visible trauma should have been met with “patience and compassion […] not violence, felony charges, and hospitalization,” as the Reading Eagle reported.

A date has not been set for the return to work of the three officers involved in the shooting.

Jane Palmer, executive director of the progressive group Berks Stands Up, said: “We see in their treatment centuries of racism and homophobia, and we have had enough.

“Do Black people ever get the benefit of the doubt in a situation involving the police? Add trans or gender-nonconforming on top of that, and you’re in real trouble.

“We’re here today for Roxanne, who is, at this very moment, still in the hospital in critical condition because of who she is: a Black trans woman.

“Any one of those things, being Black, being trans, being a woman, would make her vulnerable, but she lives at the intersection of all three.”

Florida student regains bathroom access in major win for transgender rights

Florida student regains bathroom access in major win for transgender

A federal appeals court delivered a major victory in transgender rights by ruling a Florida high school violated the law by refusing to allow transgender student Andrew Cody Adams to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity.

The decision relies heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination.

Adams, now 19 and a former student at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., said in a statement he’s “very happy to see justice prevail, after spending almost my entire high school career fighting for equal treatment.”

“High school is hard enough without having your school separate you from your peers and mark you as inferior,” Adams said. “I hope this decision helps save other transgender students from having to go through that painful and humiliating experience.”

Tara Borelli, counsel at the LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal, which represents Adams, said in a statement the court “sent a clear message that schools must treat transgender students with the same dignity and respect as any other student.”

“The trial court was correct when it ruled that the law requires that Drew Adams be treated like every other boy and be allowed to use the boys’ restroom,” Borelli said. “We are glad the court saw the school board’s policy as unjust and discriminatory, and affirmed the inherent dignity of transgender students.”

via Washington Blade

Pakistan’s first transgender policewoman becomes victim support officer

Pakistan

Reem Sharif, the first trans police officer in Pakistan, is fighting to change the prejudices that previously held her back (Twitter/@zofeen28)

After enduring death threats, slurs and sexual harassment, Pakistan’s first transgender police officer is using her experience to help others as a trans victim support officer.

Reem Sharif has gone from victim to protector as she resolves disputes and shields trans people from abuse in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.

She has been in the post just two months and she’s already helped protect 16 trans people, reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The other day we got a call from a trans woman that her brothers had threatened to kill her. I went and talked them into accepting that who they thought was their brother had always been a sister,” 32-year-old Sharif said.

“In another [case], a tenant was being thrown out of her home for being a trans person and I was able to stop that.”

Sharif works at the Tahafuz centre, a pilot project of the Rawalpindi police formed to protect transgender people. Since it opened on May 12 she has received around 40 trans visitors who came to the station “out of curiosity”.

Pakistan
(Facebook/Reem Sharif)

Her success is hard won: she had to endure constant abuse through college, which she described as “the worst years of my life”, in addition to being ostracised by her own family.

“For my brothers, I was always a source of humiliation,” she said.

“One of them told me he would have a problem getting his kids married off if people found out about me. I was very hurt but I said they don’t have to tell anyone about my existence; in any case we live in different cities and I support myself.”

Pakistan is becoming increasingly accepting of trans people after the passage of a 2018 bill which grants broad legal protections for the transgender community.

However, abuse and discrimination are still pervasive in Pakistani society, and the experience of being shunned by families is all too common. This marginalisation makes it harder for trans people to access jobs, education and healthcare.

(Facebook/Reem Sharif)

Leading by example, Sharif intends to prove trans people are capable of leadership roles, inspiring others like her to help change the prejudices that have held them back.

“Unless (trans people) have role models to follow, they will continue in the same footsteps of their predecessors who have survived by begging, dancing or carrying out sex work,” she said.

“But when they see a transgender policewoman or a television anchor or a lawyer, they will realise they can dream and aspire to reach for the stars.”