BY DIAA HADID
In a Muslim shrine in Lahore’s ancient quarter, men and women pray around the tomb of a local saint. They hurl garlands and flower petals toward the tomb, each from their own, gender-segregated side: men from the left, women from the right.
On each side, transgender women lead the believers in song.
Among the men, they sing flamenco-style laments. A teenage trans woman leads the women. They struggle to keep up with her urgent chants in praise of the Prophet Muhammad’s family.
Across Pakistan, transgender women are a fixture in these Sufi shrines, which tend to be more tolerant than other religious sites. Inside these holy sites, they are revered as belonging to a sacred third gender — a legacy of ancient South Asian traditions that have embraced gender fluidity.