The Secretís Out


A private screening of Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's new documentary on the plight of Pakistan's transgender community was held in Delhi recently.

Maggi always wanted to be an air hostess but it wasn't easy ó considering she grew up in Karachi in the '80s and was confused about her sexuality. A transgender, Maggi had a respectable job until recently. But when her employers learned about her sexual identity, they fired her. Now, Maggi has accepted her current job as a dancer and sex worker, even though she hasn't given up the hope of embracing the skies one day.

This is one of the stories in Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's latest film, Transgenders: Pakistan's Open Secret. Obaid-Chinoy has won many awards, including an Oscar and an Emmy; and this year, she has also appeared in Time's list of 100 most influential people in the world. But the Karachi-based journalist-turned-documentary filmmaker says that telling stories about the oppressed is what makes her tick.

The 33-year-old's film Saving Face chronicled the journey of survivors of acid violence in Pakistan and their subsequent reconstructive surgeries. On her way to Italy to attend the Gucci Women in Film Awards at the Venice Film Festival (where Saving Face is nominated), she talks about Transgenders, which was screened in the Capital on August 26, at an event organised by Engendered, an NGO. "Saving Face and Transgenders were filmed simultaneously. While the former was filmed for over a year, the latter was filmed in a shorter duration," she says.

As the name suggests, the new film deals with the transgender community of Pakistan, which scrapes a living through dancing, singing and begging on the streets of Karachi. "There is a huge population of transgenders in South Asia and a majority of us do not acknowledge them as a third gender. For this reason, they are robbed off basic human rights and are forced to live a life of shame," says Obaid-Chinoy. "Once people see the community from a humanist perspective, they will be forced to reassess their mindset," she adds.

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