A Muslim country is about the last place you’d expect to be at the forefront of transgender rights. Yet Pakistan has been taking steps to recognize its transgender citizens that would be considered far too radical for a supposedly tolerant nation like the U.S.
Pakistan’s latest move is especially bold: sending transgender youth to serve as volunteers for this year’s Hajj, the annual trek to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. The decision is a de facto challenge to conservative Muslims who vociferously oppose any form of LGBT rights.
In fact, the decision by Pakistan is just the latest in a line that undermines widely held notions about Muslim attitudes toward transgender people. As an added sign of just how far advanced Pakistan is relative to the U.S., the Hajj volunteers are being drawn from the Pakistani equivalent of the Boy Scouts. Some 40 transgender Scouts took their oath to the organization last week.
We're still fighting over who gets to pee where.
The article cites a couple of other countries that have, by our standards, very advanced policies in place regarding their transgender citizens: India and Nepal.
Just on a wild guess, I'd say it has a lot to do with their cultural histories, but I don't know enough to make a definitive statement. I do know that, given the age of the civilizations of these countries, Islam is a late add-on, in the case of Pakistan; Hinduism doesn't have the same attitude about non-binary identities as the desert religions. In America, Christianity came with the first settlers. (It's worth noting here how Americans magnified some of the less admirable qualities of European culture; for example, the male dominance so prevalent in Europe was largely show. In fact, psychologists call it "mythical male dominance": women not only had their own spheres of authority, but had a fairly substantial amount of behind-the-scenes input into decisions made by men. In America, this mythical dominance became real.) Given the spatial dislocation of the early settlers, and in some cases the conscious rejection of the culture they had left*, it's not really very surprising that America is, socially, backward, especially in areas having to do with sex and sexuality.
At any rate, this is a pretty good take on where we rank in terms of dealing with our trans citizens -- nowhere near the top.
* Think about the Puritans, who by all reports were fairly awful people; sadly, they've been idealized as part of the American mythos, with a concomitant effect on our cultural attitudes.