Current Affairs

Non-binary Pakistani Muslim who came out to President Obama: ‘It was now or never

Joseph McCormick April 24, 2016
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A non-binary transgender person who came out to President Obama during a live Q&A session in London yesterday has said it was “now or never”.

Maria Munir told Obama that they do not identify as a binary gender, and asked the President to do more, and to urge David Cameron to do more to include non-binary people in laws to protect LGBT people.

They said: “I’m about to do something terrifying which is come out to to you.”

Adding that they were sorry for being “emotional”, fighting back tears.

“It means that I don’t fit because I’m from a Pakistani-Muslim background which inevitably has complications .. I wish that yourself and David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people.”

Obama responded to the 20 year old to say that he was “incredibly proud of the steps it sounds like you’ve already taken”.

Going on, Obama said he thought Cameron had been “ahead of the curve” on LGBT issues.

He added: “You should feel encouraged just by virtue of the fact that social attitudes have changed on this faster than I have seen on any other issue.

“It doesn’t feel fast enough for you and those impacted by it and that’s good. You shouldn’t feel satisfied. You should keep pushing.

And now Munir has said their “blood ran cold”, and that they were “aware of the burden and the pressure” of coming out to their parents.

They told the Guardian: “But then I thought: it’s now or never – this is my one chance to really make a statement, and if I do then hopefully people from around the world will be able to unite on this issue, and maybe using the impetus we’d actually be able to exact some real change. So I went through with it somehow.”

After a few hours, and many messages of support, Munir said: “All I could think was my parents are probably so confused right now. It wasn’t for a few hours that I got to talk to them, which was really difficult for me because they are one of my biggest beacons of support. Their response has been positive. I’m really grateful that they opened their minds to this issue and are understanding it better.”

They hadn’t actually planned to ask about non-binary issues, saying: “I had actually intended to ask Obama about his regrets with regards to intervening in Libya, but then it occurred to me that this is a brilliant time to put the spotlight on an issue which has often been ignored or superseded by others.

“I realised that if anyone was going to accept me for who I am, it would have to be Obama, one of the most powerful men in the world. I thought if he can’t do that or if he says anything negative then that will galvanise a lot of people into contemplating what it is we really mean when we say we are a liberal society.”

They have now appealed for those wishing to use the publicity found to push ahead on non-binary issues.

Check out the exchange below:

Despite Obama’s words, Munir said they thought he could have said more to support nonbinary person.

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat afterwards, they said: “It was something the President said about acting crazy – that if you need to get a social issue across sometimes you need to act a little crazy.”

“At that moment I felt my pulse intensify and thought that I’ve been sitting on this issue for such a long time. I haven’t come out to my parents, I just thought, it anyone in the world is going to accept me for who I am it should be the President of the United States.

Related topics: nonbinary, oabam, obama, president obama, US

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