MFA Thesis Advising 2018: Sidra Zubairi

Sidra Zubairi captivated the crowd during her MFA thesis defense entitled “Gender Beyond Binary: Pakistan’s Hijra Community.” Her project is a vital exploration of how to support the transgender community in Pakistan through adaptable and transformative clothing. I am honored to have served as one of her thesis advisors and look forward to her continued work bridging the gap between what people need to fully express themselves—and how to cope with hostility in their day-to-day lives. Since the dominant religion in Pakistan is Islam, this thesis avoids providing any religious implications of gender and instead discusses gender from a theoretical perspective by proposing design solutions based on primary and secondary research findings.

Title: Gender Beyond Binary by Sidra Zubairi.

Abstract: Transgender individuals challenge the binary definition of gender accepted in Pakistani society and as a result, Pakistan’s transgender community is highly marginalized. Pakistani society regards transgender individuals as “abnormal,” because their physical appearance and behavior fail to conform with conventional expectations. Based on contextual research and interviews conducted with transgender individuals in Pakistan, my thesis explores the obstacles transgender individuals face in the course of everyday survival. My research responds to the physical realities of being transgender in Pakistani society and analyzes cultural norms associated with gender, which trigger harassment. By designing transformable apparel for these individuals, informed by primary and secondary research, my goal is to help them cope with the everyday struggles of being transgender in Pakistan.

First Advisor: Diane C Derr
Second Advisor: Basma Hamdy
Third Advisor: Denielle Emans
Reader: Rab McClure

Read the full thesis document at::