I am above the fights of masculinity and femininity

I am a human being

I am narman (hermaphrodite)

(Iftikhar Naseem)

 

Born in Faisalabad in 1946, Iftikhar Naseem was a homosexual poet who migrated and settled in America at a young age of 21 to escape his persecution in Pakistan. His book, Narman, marked the first ever open expression of homosexuality in Urdu poetry. As expected, the book was immediately banned in Pakistan and Naseem received severe social backlashes from both the literary and religious circles of Pakistan. Even a “liberal” person like Khushwant Singh refused to quote his poetry deeming it to be too explicitly homosexual. However, his book also inspired young poets to bravely, honestly express their selves in the poetry. Throughout his life, Nasim never shied away from openly asserting his homosexuality and kept fighting against the homophobic prejudices bravely. Besides poetry, he was also a social activist who found Sangat, a supporting organization for South Asian LGBT communities. His efforts were honored in 1996 when he was inducted in Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. Iftikhar’s activism was not limited to the rights of LGBT community only. He was also an active advocate for the rights of women and helped many Muslims in a post 9/11, Islamophobic environment of the USA. He died in 2011 and was buried in Chicago.

Iftikhar Naseem was a hero, who was brave, rich enough to break out from the suffocation of orthodox structures and live a difficult but honest life. But do we expect all the other sexual, religious, class minorities of our country to be equally heroic, lucky to live an unstifled life? Can we all please expand the horizons of norms to make them less violent, more accommodating so that the basic right of living a life would not require heroism or luck.