A trans comedian from Lahore, Anaya Sheikh was harassed on stage with abusive slurs by a Youtube prankster Shahrik Shah at a comedy night organised at a cafe in Johar Town.
According to Anaya, a theatre artist, researcher and trans comedians in an improv group, Shahrik repeatedly came too close to the stage during her performance, made her uncomfortable and passed transphobic and petty comments about Anaya’s physical appearance.
“I wore a top which said ‘We Should All Be Feminists.’ I started with jokes about women empowerment and then I replied to those jokes, which were based on trans people. Then Shahrik Shah of Lahori Prankstar, and another comedian named Usman made fun and used the derogatory terms like khusra and shemale while the whole audience was enjoying my performance,” Anaya wrote on Facebook.
Anaya further shared: “He forcibly tried to come onstage. I asked him to leave. He kept showing me his middle finger and I said even my fingers are not worthy of you but he kept abusing me.”
“I completed my performance and I was shivering when I left the stage,” Anaya wrote recounting her traumatising experience.
The event organiser, Lahorified, has since come out in Anaya’s support and apologised to her.
Speaking to a private media outlet, Anaya said, “I love my audience but I can’t go through this stress and shame which I just faced. I have the video but I don’t have the courage to watch it, and the more I think that many people were recording it, the more I feel depressed and angry. I know this will be out and I’m imagining how happy that will make transphobes.”
Though the Youtuber was reportedly removed from the venue by the organisers who also apologised to Anaya, Anaya said that the society’s mindset in this era still upsets her.
“I was excited obviously [to perform that night]; it was a new audience. I kept thinking I’ll do a different set and the moment I went on stage, I broke the ice and everyone laughed out. They were enjoying the performance so much. I was scared when I was called again onstage [for the encore] but had to do it — the audience kept shouting ‘Once more, Anaya’. I took a breath and went back, but I was shivering so I had to end it,” she said.
“There were some people who laughed at Shahrik’s comments, which made me think that people still find us as a joke. There should’ve been a pin-drop silence. This was not a joke. I was not a joke. I work hard to write stuff to make them laugh to give them a good time, even in such stressful times. I was shocked that such people are still existing in this society and people follow them,” she said.