Express Entertainment has recently released the teaser trailer of the upcoming drama ‘Guru’ about an intersex character, with the main character to be played by Ali Rehman Khan.
The announcement has received backlash on social media, with transgender activists like Shehzadi Rai taking to Twitter to criticise how such castings prevent opportunities for members of the khwajasira community to tell their own stories:
“Cisgender men taking opportunities in acting roles that intended for transgender individuals. It is important to promote diversity and inclusivity in all fields, including acting. Kuch tu chor do.”
Speaking to The Current on the use of ‘intersex’ to describe the khwajasira community, as well as giving third gender roles to men, Rai said:
“People who do not want to declare themselves as intersex, why are you pushing the label on them? And roles that are about the third gender, you should give them to people who identify under it. A man’s role would be played by a man, while a woman’s role would be played by a woman.”
Other Twitter users have slammed the announcement as a disservice to the khwajasira community, by profitting of their stories but refusing to lift up members of the community. One user added:
“Most Pakistani celebrities will never utter a word in support of the khawajasira community when their rights are being taken away but would be the first ones to accept roles to portray khawajasira characters in dramas. Token inclusion at its finest.”
Another user compared the response of this casting to the backlash the film ‘Joyland’ had received, for which the transgender actress Alina Khan had been cast, and how the backlash began because an actual person from the marginalized community had stepped forward to tell their own story:
“This is hypocrisy. When Joyland featured an actual khwajasira person, the entire country is up in arms. But we seem to be totally okay with basing our movies and shows on their lives as long as we’re not actually giving them opportunities in the process.”
Many also criticised Express Entertainment for representing a marginalised community with someone who does not belong to it.
“Express tv really think they are making difference by representing marginalised community featuring a cis man in mainstream media & capitalising from it? when u could hire someone from the community because Im sure there are talented trans people who deserve this opportunity.”
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