Trans Christians unable to worship after being told they’re ‘unclean’. So they took matters into their own hands
Trans Christians have established the first church of their very own in Pakistan where they are free to worship without being bullied by the congregation.
The First Church of Eunuchs in Karachi is a place where they can finally find peace and solace after being shunned by their religious communities.
It was formed by pastor Ghazala Shafique, one of the few female pastors in the country. She said she chose the name to make a point, citing verses from the Bible saying eunuchs are favoured by God.
“This is a great step,” she told AP, but added that it doesn’t change attitudes outside the church’s walls.
“Church elders have told me [the congregants] are not clean… that they are not righteous,” she said. “We reject them… and then they become so broken and then they get into all bad things. I say we are to be blamed, the church and the parents.”
Shafique was recruited by Neesha Rao, Pakistan’s only trans lawyer. Rao is Muslim herself, but was moved by the plight of her Christian trans friends who were afraid to announce their faith and couldn’t find solace among fellow Christians.
“I am a Muslim child and a Muslim transgender, but I had a pain in my heart for the Christian transgender [people],” said Rao.
It means everything to the congregation, who finally have a small refuge in a country that grants them few protections.
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As of 2018 transgender Pakistanis are allowed to self-identity as male, female, both or neither according to their own preferences. The old stigmas still remain, though, and parents often refuse to give their trans children their birth certificates needed to get an ID card or forbid them to use their family name.
Sodomy and same-sex sexual acts also remain illegal under the colonial-era laws and transgender people face extraordinarily high rates of violence.
“First thing I want to say is no one should have to suffer as transgender [people] suffer. People treat us worse than dogs,” said Nena Soutrey, a transgender woman who has faced a lifetime of abuse.
“This church is important for us because we are free and happy sitting here, worshipping the God who created us.”
The Church of Pakistan, a united Protestant Church of Anglican, Methodist and Reform Churches, has so far not recognised the First Church of Eunuchs.
“They tell me there are theological issues,” pastor Shafique said. “I am still waiting to hear what those theological issues are.”