My understanding and perception of the trans community, like most others, was limited to what I would see at traffic signals around the city. This changed when I randomly came across the documentary ‘How Gay is Pakistan’ in 2015, which was also the first time I heard of Kami and I realized there was more to the community than we see, or choose to ignore really.
The other day, when I got to meet Kami thanks to her rapidly increasing internet fame, it was no less than meeting a celebrity. She was full of life, had big dreams, a great interest in fashion, and of course; she was a complete diva (in the positive sense of the word). “Mein aaj bilkul tayaar ho kar nahi ayi, mera make up bhi subah ka he hoa hai! (I really didn’t dress up today, my make up hasn’t even been touched up since this morning)” she told me, putting me to shame for my not-subah-ka make up, yet not half as fab look.
Of course I had done as much research as possible before the interview, but the first thing Kami said to me was “Please ask me some interesting questions, not the same old done-to-death ones!” and I decided to put aside my list of usual questions and try to get to know the model whose photographs many of us have been musing over. “And also don’t use that same old frontal view profile of mine; it’s everywhere now!” she added jokingly, and I joined in, delighted to see how like anyone else in the fashion industry she was.
The fact that Kami’s get-up in the photo shoot styled by Waqar Khan came mostly from her own wardrobe said a lot about her. Kami defines herself as a creative person who loves dressing up in unique looks; her favourite designer, like most of us, happens to be the very creative Nomi Ansari too! “I would’ve probably become a make-up artist myself,” she told me when we spoke about the fashion industry’s acceptance of the LGBT community in the beauty department. “But I didn’t want to be the ‘behind the scenes’ person. I wanted to come forward and show the world what I am. Plus I’d never have been able to tolerate the models’ nakhray, I have too many of my own!” she exclaimed jovially.
When asked if she had thought this campaign would attract so much attention, and whether she thinks there is any future scope, or if this is merely a short lived fame for her, she said; “I never thought that the photo shoot would get this sort of feedback; my phone has been buzzing nonstop all day! But what I hate about Pakistan is that until and unless something doesn’t get international recognition, we don’t give it importance either. One Buzzfeed article is what did it for this too…I know this is my weekend happiness, it’ll die out by next week or everyone will move on to the next new thing.”
But what Kami aimed to do was open doors for her community, and try to show people that the trans community, is capable of anything. “We have arms and legs don’t we? Can we not do what everyone else is doing? Why restrict us to clapping on traffic signals and call us to entertainment shows just to play the dhol. I’d like to see them call Sharmeen Obaid or someone else to do something like that! Call us to talk, to hear us out, there are so many of us who can come forward when given the chance.”
Even though her local fame is a very recent phenomena, Kami got international recognition thanks to the two documentaries she was a part of, ‘Chuppan Chupai’ (Hide and Seek) and ‘How Gay is Pakistan.’ But being recognized in her home country is what Kami’s main aim has always been, as she works tirelessly for equal rights and recognition for her community. “I feel so lucky seeing people like Sania Saeed, Nomi Ansari and Hassan Nisaar talk about me on social media.” Kami questions that while the majority of our society chooses to be ignorant and turns a blind eye towards her kind, why have big influential names never taken a stand for them? “What are they so scared of? Why did it take so long for something like this to materialize. I can think of so many well-known designers who could’ve done the same and made it bigger than it is.”
In the early years of her self-discovery, Kami was contacted by the award winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and asked to become part of Chinoy’s documentary about the trans community in Pakistan. Back then Kami was shy and scared to be a part of something of that sort. A year or so later, her impulse decision to star in ‘Chuppan Chuppai’ gave her the insight or the awareness she can bring in society regarding her community. And since then, this has become her number one priority. Kami has been part of multiple extensive organizations in Pakistan that are aiming to bring about a change, but sadly they have not gotten enough coverage, despite their talks and attempts. She has now moved on to starting her own organization called Subrung Society Pakistan, which aims to not only counsel transgenders, but also provide them with some basic vocational training.
Facing backlash from society is common for Kami, but it is also likely for some within her community to get skeptical, she says, “They say that I’m just promoting myself, but why shouldn’t I? They can do it too, I’m just trying to set an example aren’t I?”
The Mukhtaran Mai campaign has impressed her and she thinks the next step should be for trans individuals to be invited to the catwalk. “I’d love to do fashion shoots for designers who do commendable work. It has to be quality work though, don’t ask me to model lingerie please!
When asked about her transition, Kami admitted, “People ask me if I’ve taken hormones, or gotten surgery. I say no! I have natural feminine beauty; no need to be jealous if you don’t have it! I don’t agree with faltering with nature. I want to leave the world as I came in it; after all God has made me this way.”