The music video is set to a catchy tune and starts out with two transgender women in bejeweled pink and red outfits, primping before a mirror. But it soon turns dark. They get disapproving stares in the marketplace and outside a mosque. And while they dance for cash at a bachelor party, the guests rough them up.
Although the video “Madam” is fictional, it features two real-life Pakistani transgender women, Lucky Khan and Nirmal Chaudry. And it sheds light on the reality that transgender people in the country face. Many are shunned by family, educators and employers. And some must turn to dancing, begging and prostitution for work.
But if “Madam” sketches out grim scenes of how transgender women can suffer in Pakistan, the visibility it offers signals another step forward for Pakistan’s transgender community, which has spent years steadily notching small victories. Most recently, on July 14, a task force formed by the national ombudsman submitted two bills before the parliament which would expand protections for transgender Pakistanis. And last month, Pakistan issued its first gender-neutral passport.
Jimmy Khan, the Pakistani singer and songwriter behind “Madam,” wanted to start a conversation. The caption for the video notes that it’s “a reflection of how cruelly we as a society treat the transgender community.” And the title of the video encourages viewers to “Watch. Absorb. Reflect. Change.”
“There is a very strong message behind this video,” says Jannat Ali, a transgender activist in Pakistan. The day portrayed in “Madam” is three-dimensional, she says, involving harassment, tenderness and fun. It also “shows they try to support each other [as if they were] like relatives, like sisters, like family.”