Through the Lens of Television: Progression in Portrayal of Pakistani Trans* Community (A study of TV shows from 2010 to 2018)

Saleem Abbas 1 *

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This paper studies the representation of transgender in Pakistani television after a legal breakthrough of transgender laws in 2009. In this development, the Supreme Court of Pakistan provided identity rights to the oppressed trans* community. This study focuses on 24 transgender characters in five Pakistani Urdu TV shows (drama serials and telefilms) aired from 2010 to 2018. Following the research design of Capuzza and Spencer (2017), I employed the methodology of qualitative content analysis and coded 18- minute self-created mini-episodes for casting, visibility, identity, embodiment, and social isolation. My finding suggested that the visibility of transgender people is improved over the course of time in Pakistani Urdu TV shows. However, it does not apply across the spectrum of LGBTQ identities. Although the medium has started presenting transgender in a less conventional way and a verity in characterization is visible, they are still depicted in stigmatized and blue-collar jobs. The socially excluded hijra (bisexual) community is portrayed struggling for its basic human rights and respect. The trans* narrative of “Wrong body” is still the main discourse and reason of subjectivity. Narratives about homosexuality, which are considered contrary to the Islamic perspective, are absent. Mainly the TV shows represent the activism against trans* discrimination that disapproves the inequitable socio-economic and moral practices and emphasizes basic equal rights for the transgender community.


Pakistani TV Shows Khwaja Sara transgender portrayal Urdu drama LGBTQ


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Article Type: Research Article

Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 9, Issue 4, Article No: e201919

Published Online: 28 Jul 2019

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