Queer is an umbrella term, used as an alternative idea, concept and way-of-being to the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, transgender and other non-binary gender categories. Beginning in the late-1980s, the label queer began to be reclaimed from its pejorative use as a neutral or positive self-identifier by LGBTQ people. It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term - like the ‘n-word’ is by African-Americans, queer is used by the community themselves as a method of representation.

The heteronormative civilisation has mostly always tried to kill, cure, or curate the queer identity- it has pathologies it, scientized it, classified it, fined it, imprisoned it, dissected it, admonished it, demonised it - it fears what it thinks is different, and its ignorance translates into queer loss. In Pakistan, this queer loss shows a dangerous upward trend.

In 2015, armed men in Swabi abducted and gang-raped a transgender person on Monday after killing two others in a pre-dawn incident, Qamar Naseem, the coordinator of the Blue Veins programme, said that 45 transgender people were targeted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since January 2016 alone. And this Sunday night, Alesha, a 23-year-old transgender District Coordinator for TransAction in northern Pakistan, was attacked and shot eight times. Her friends rushed her to the hospital, where she died Wednesday morning.

During the five-hour long wait, in which Alesha conversed in whispers with the spectre of Death, she was asked to go to “a male ward and from the male ward to the female ward.” Upon repeatedly spiralling up and down staircases at the Lady Reading Hospital her party came to know that the hospital had “not a place where a transgender in a critical condition can be treated no place in (sic) ICU no place in (sic) ward.” And so Alesha was “put on a bed in front of the lavatory” to wait for some tabib and some pity. She was put in front of the lavatory, perhaps, because her people wanted to demonstrate their powerlessness in a society that prides itself on its hyper-masculine and heteronormative power. Perhaps, she was put in front of the hospital lavatory so as to demonstrate the costs of infra-humanisation borne by the queer being in any heteronormative civilisation. Perhaps it was done because, as ‘things-to-be-done’ go, this was the only thing that could be done.

If you’re wondering has this scene been played out before, then the answer is: yes, this scene has been played out before. In fact, irrevocable despair has been performed so many times that it has seeped into the very bones of the queer being. Because it has always been the case that the queer one’s existence, in a heteronormative civilisation, becomes an endless tape of repeating horrors; an eternal recurrence of fear and trembling. Since heteronormativity fears the visibility and normalisation of the queer identity, it attacks the most visible of the queer ones first, in order to terrorise the least visible into hiding.

Consider, for example, a time, not so long ago, when a mad demagogue, with an ill-placed moustache, on April 4, 1938, passed a Gestapo directive indicating that men convicted of homosexuality could be incarcerated in concentration camps. Between 1933 and 1945, 150,000 men were arrested and most of them were interned in these concentration camps. ‘How many’ you wonder? This cannot be validated with absolute certainty since very little data exists on the number of queer ones butchered by what was seen as the pinnacle of Man’s civilisation at the time with its Autobahns and full-employment. Neither can we account for the percentage of the total population the queer ones lost? As the United States Holocaust Memorial puts it “there are no known statistics for the number of homosexuals who died in the camps.” All we know is that they did die - isolated and dehumanised. And the two-hour long video evidence that the Allied Powers showed at their Palace of Justice, in Nuremberg, didn’t allot a single minute to queer loss. Even as good men won against evil men, the queer remained isolated and dehumanised. As they do today. Incidentally, in Pakistan, we, too, don’t have any statistics about the queer population or their losses.

This is how infra-humanisation works - as a belief that one’s in-group is more human than an out-group, which is less human, and therefore not deserving of the same considerations. Infra-humanisation arises when people view their in-group and out-group as essentially different - different in essence - and accordingly reserve the “human essence” for the in-group and deny it to the out-group. The other is treated as sub-human, human but inferior or, in the case of Alesha and many others, not human at all.

Thus, I see no difference between the treatment of the queer ones in our republic when compared to their treatment in the Third Reich simply because though the Reich only pushed the principle of infra-humanisation to its logical conclusion, it is a principle we, too, nonetheless, follow. We ban the queer state of being and consciousness using section 377 of the penal code. And we disallow all methods of countervailing heteronormativity and hyper-masculinity - even on international forums. In 2011, when the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 17/19 which requested “the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission a study, to be finalised by December 2011, documenting discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world”, Pakistan voted against it. Pakistan voted against the asking of the queer question! And again, in 2014, when the same body adopted Resolution 27/32 which has put “the U.N. on a trajectory to address the discrimination and violence LGBT persons suffer daily across the world”, we voted ‘No’. But it doesn’t matter since the resolution is not binding on us - even though our hegemonic masculinity would never have been bound by it.

But even if we were to agree to the claim that the Pakistani state and society are not complacent in this infra-humanisation of the queer ones that occurs in Pakistan, and we were to still acknowledge (as is self-evident) that state and society do utterly fail in being preventative of said infra-humanisation and the consequences it generates, then what real difference remains in the suffering and grief wrought on the queer one by their heteronormative kin? How are we to distinguish between these total failures of justice as being legitimate and illegitimate? Is there any real distinction in the despair of this population, does desolation take a different shade of sorrow if it’s not mandated by society per se but still happens “in” society because of its otherising social arrangements and mindsets? These questions are worth thinking about for their answers might help us in saving human lives.