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Trans Comedian Verbally Harassed by Audience Member During Live Show

Trans Comedian Verbally Harassed by Audience Member During Live Show

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Anaya Sheikh, renowned stand up comedian and vocal trans-activist has performed in venues across Lahore and other cities in Pakistan for more than four years now.

She has given over 30 performances that have left audiences in awe of her wit and the rapport she establishes with her fans. What’s more, Anaya has also trained a troupe of comedians under the umbrella of ‘The Tutti Frutti Show’ which she co-founded with fellow comedian Hazik Ali. 

However, on the 17th of November while performing a set at Cafeyat in Johar Town, an interaction with a member in the audience forced Anaya to leave the stage and even consider leaving stand-up altogether.

Stand-up comedy events have increased in number in Lahore over a short period of two years alone.

However, more often than not, untoward incidents take place at these events, despite the fact that such spaces should ideally be ones that afford safety and protection to performing artists. 

While backlash from the audience is common when subjects such as politics and religion are broached, what’s worse is when a personal attack is made on the comedian. That is what happened with Anaya. 

Anaya was performing alongside an all male comedian troupe wearing a shirt which aptly stated ‘We should all be feminists’. When her turn came, she started with a set on women empowerment and addressed jokes which are usually aimed at the trans community. 

While performing, she was interrupted by a member of the audience; Shahrik Shah who used derogatory remarks that targeted the trans community specifically, directing the taunts at Anaya.

Sharik Shah proceeded to step on stage and make obscene gestures at Anaya. 

Shahrik Shah belongs to a group called ‘Lahori PrankStar’ which is active on Youtube and racks up views by conducting pranks on unsuspecting bystanders and uploading the videos. However Shahrik’s antics on this occasion went far beyond a “water gun spray prank” or “scary uber driver prank”. For the sake of capturing ‘viral content’ he ridiculed and harassed a member of a community which already lacks visibility and is marginalised.

Prior to this incident, at the same event, a fellow male comedian made a joke about ‘shemales’ which Anaya quickly shut down.

The comedian has since apologised to Anaya, but the incident shows an unfortunate trend of using ridicule to stereotype and oppress individuals.

“When Anaya came to perform she addressed his comments (like a comedian would) and hit him hard. Sharik came on stage during the performance and used derrogratory words for her as a transgender,” shares Hazik Ali who was also performing at the event, “Props to Anaya for staying composed despite the offensive words that were used. Also, the organizers and crowd showed total support for her. That one lewd individual and his comments highlight the fact that we need to educate people on how to behave with and be around transgender people.”

Despite the rude interruption, Anaya returned on stage for an encore performance on encouragement from the crowd but the experience has her questioning whether stand-up comedy is worth it. 

The show was managed by Lahorified, which has issued an apology on behalf of the incident. ProperGaanda has reached out to the group for comment on the issue and is awaiting a reply. 

“I love my audience but I can’t go through this stress and shame which I faced last night,” shared Anaya with ProperGaanda, “I have the video of the event but I don’t have the courage to watch it.”

Anaya Sheikh has made a name for her self in stand up comedy circles of Lahore by performing with Auratnaak, The Tutti Frutti Show and ProperGaanda. Moreover she is a thespian who was a part of the critically acclaimed play Teesri Dhun and is the Marketing Manager of DukanLay.

While speaking to ProperGaanda after the incident, Anaya stated, “I made something of myself despite all odds and I still have to face discrimination because of my gender.”

Cafeyat, managed by Lahorified, who issued an apology on behalf of the incident. Members of LahoriPranStar have not issued an apology to Anaya. Propergaanda has reached out to the group for comment on the issue and is awaiting a reply. 

The fact that we are still using gender to discriminate, discredit and suppress members of our society is deplorable and beyond comprehension.