Academic and activist Dr Mehrub Moiz Awan decries transphobia after being removed from TEDxISL speaker roster

Academic and activist Dr Mehrub Moiz Awan decries transphobia after being removed from TEDxISL speaker roster

The International School Lahore said, in a letter, that some parents had issues with portraying Dr Awan as a "role model to impressionable children".
17 Aug, 2022

Transgender rights activist Dr Mehrub Moiz Awan (whose pronouns are she/her) has been excluded from a TEDxISL (International School Lahore) panel in a move the activist has decried as transphobia.

“As visibility increases, so does violence. And the hegemonic always use moral policing to gatekeep alternative voices and opinions. It’s happened before; it’ll happen again. That’s the cycle of struggle for redistribution of power,” Awan captioned a post discussing the matter.

She also took to Instagram stories to break it down for her followers. Re-sharing a photo with her featured as guest speaker in the talk, she hid her face with a red banner, calling out the censorship.

She explained that though her talk was approved and meets the rules and regulations, she was told that “some parents” have an issue with her being transgender.

The activist called on the other speakers to stand with her in solidarity and boycott the talk. “Enough is enough,” she said, bringing attention to the transgender genocide in Pakistan and the continual transphobia and dismissal.

She made her talk public and attached the link for her followers.

In a tweet, Awan voiced her suspicion that seems to point to the senior management of the school instead of the parents having issues with her.

She shared a legal document and circled the laws ISL has broken by discriminating against a member of the transgender community.

Actor Ushna Shah called ISL’s behaviour “pathetic” and hoped “the other speakers walk out”.

ISL’s letter to Dr Awan

ISL shared with Images the “formal letter of regret” they sent Awan on August 17. Apologising for the “inconvenience caused”, the school representative said they were “confronted” by a section of their parent body upset by the views the activist has previously expressed on “usage/legalisation of drugs, homosexuality and differing interpretations of religious conjunctions along with very often explicit use of language”.

Recognising Awan’s efforts to “comply with etiquettes expected in the environment and talk with minors”, they believed it would be “against the value system of ISL” to portray her as “a role model to impressionable children against the wishes of a responsive and cooperative parent body”.

Suggesting future plans to invite the activist to talk about issues faced by the transgender community to “a mature audience of parents, teachers and legal aged students”, the representative clarified that the rescinding of the invitation has no connection with her “transgender identity or activism”. They reiterated that it was linked to Awan’s “controversial views” that “remain unsuitable for gullible minors and students”.

Maria B vs Dr Mehrub Moiz Awan

Maria B stands with ISL

Designer Maria B (short for Butt) shared a screenshot of the academic’s Twitter thread, mapping the series of events, on her Instagram story and praised ISL for its decision. She revealed her kids go to the school and said the parents will decide who their role models will be.

Butt has checked out one of Awan’s live sessions and felt that the language she used was “inappropriate” and “abusive”. She feels like the activist is not worthy of being a “role model” for her kids and questioned her achievements.

The designer also made transphobic comments, separating Awan from the khwajasira community, labelling her “genderless”. She also said Pakistani people have “misconceptions” about who qualifies as khwajasira, making the term “synonymous with hermaphrodite”.

Dr Mehrub Moiz Awan asks for a legal ‘conversation’

Awan took to her Instagram stories to clap back at Butt. “So I just realised that Maria B the designer has been posting disinformation about me and saying that I do not belong to the khwajasira community and the term that should be used for me is hermaphrodite which is, by the way, incorrect.

“First of all, let me educate you Maria B, open up Pakistan’s Transgender Persons Protection Act 2018, number one. Number two, we all know your brand is failing which is why you feel compelled to perform such stunts and your children also go to ISL whose mindset you’re so, uff Allah, concerned about,” she said.

The activist directed the designer to first take a look at the law and look up the definition of transgender. “And perhaps if you still want to continue spreading disinformation, my lawyer and your lawyer can have a great conversation. How do you feel about that?” she concluded.

Awan shared several more photos of legal documents to back up her point.

She addressed Butt once more on her story saying she feels bad for her children having to “endure a classist parent” and brought up a recent scandal of hers. The activist claimed that Butt’s transphobic behaviour was just an attempt to keep her brand relevant.

Awan told Butt she had only exposed herself whilst the “brainwashed bigots” supporting ISL have established a new brand image. She also revealed that four of the speakers have already walked out and she has only benefited from the exclusion.

She posted one last story sarcastically asking ISL to make Butt a teacher at the school so everyone can be blessed with “such impeccable knowledge” about the “latest gender concepts”.