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AP PHOTOS: Virus left transgender Kashmiris 'on our own'

Singing and dancing at weddings used to earn Khushi Mir enough income to take care of her family. Until the pandemic.

Lockdowns to curb the coronavirus in Indian-controlled Kashmir canceled weddings and musical evenings. Bills for Mir's rented accommodation mounted.

Unable to pay, 19-year-old Mir took a job as a construction worker for 15 days. It paid $9.60 a day but left Mir’s hands bruised and skin peeling.

Bilal Ahmed, a transgender Kashmiri, carries a bag of rice distributed as food handout by a group in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, May 27, 2021. Life has not been easy for many of Kashmir's transgender people. Most are ostracized by families and bullied in society. Living in the shadows of conflict, coupled with the recent crisis of the pandemic, pushed the community further to the margins. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

“I had no other option,” Mir said. “I needed to provide for my family.”

Mir is transgender — belonging to a marginalized community in Indian-controlled Kashmir whose members are often only able to find work as matchmakers or wedding entertainment.

Prolonged coronavirus lockdowns, preceded by a strict security lockdown in the region in 2019 when India scrapped Kashmir's semi-autonomous status, left many in the transgender community with no work at all.

The 35-year-old transgender Kashmiri Shabnam Ganie prays at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, May 28, 2021. Shabnam is one of the few fortunate transgenders who own a home, where she lives with an adopted son. Life has not been easy for many of Kashmir's transgender people. Most are ostracized by families and bullied in society. They face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Left without livelihoods, some stepped up to help each other.

Mir and four others made a volunteer group to distribute food. So far, they have provided ration kits for nearly 220 people, many of them makeup artists, singers and matchmakers who have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic.

Life has not been easy for many of Kashmir's transgender people. Most are ostracized by families and bullied in society. They face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources.

Transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir rests in her rented room on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, June 4, 2021. Until the pandemic, singing and dancing at weddings used to earn Mir enough income to take care of her family. Unable to pay for her rented accommodation, the 19-year-old took a job as a construction worker for 15 days that paid $9.60 a day. Mir has set up a charity, along with four friends, to distribute food kits to members of the transgender community. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

They are a tiny minority in a region that has been fraught with violence and political instability and has known little but conflict since 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent ended and Kashmir was divided between the newly created India and Pakistan.

Living in the shadows of conflict, coupled with the recent crisis of the pandemic, pushed the community further to the margins.

“We have been ignored by everyone,” said Chandini Shaikh, a matchmaker and singer who lost her job during the pandemic. “We have been left on our own.”

Babloo Shiekh, a transgender Kashmiri, sits for a photograph at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Babloo is one of the head transgenders, one of the few who live with family. Most of Kashmir's transgender people are ostracized by families and bullied in society. They face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources. (AP PhotoDar Yasin)

Hinna Bhat, a transgender Kashmiri, cooks as Naina, face covered to hide identity, stands beside during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Life has not been easy for many of Kashmir's transgender people. Most are ostracized by families and bullied in society. They face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Sabu Sheikh, a transgender Kashmiri, walks homeward after collecting food handouts in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, May 27, 2021. Kashmir's transgender are often only able to find work as matchmakers or wedding entertainment. Prolonged coronavirus lockdowns, preceded by a strict security lockdown in the region in 2019 when India scrapped Kashmir's semi-autonomous status, left many in the transgender community with no work at all. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Transgender Kashmiris Azimi Bhat, right, Hinna Bhat, center and Khushi Mir converse outside their guru's house at the end of a special meet of their community members in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Mir, along with four young boys, has created a volunteer group distributing food kits to transgender community members. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Mehak Mir, a transgender Kashmiri, stands for a photograph at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Mir is a prominent figure among the transgender community in Kashmir as a match-maker and performer. "Marriage is once in a lifetime event and without us it is incomplete. I hope this pandemic ends soon and we will bring joy and happiness in the lives of people once again," she said. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Rinki Ahmed, a transgender Kashmiri, washes clothes at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Rinki, who worked as a model in Mumbai when younger, returned to Kashmir and became a matchmaker. "In Kashmiri we have seen a lot of bad times due to the conflict but that never stopped me from going out. But this time nobody lets us inside their homes. I don’t blame them as I am scared myself," Rinki said. (AP PhotoDar Yasin)

Rinki Ahmed, a transgender Kashmiri, smokes while posing for a photograph at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Rinki, who worked as a model in Mumbai when younger, returned to Kashmir and became a matchmaker. "In Kashmiri we have seen a lot of bad times due to the conflict but that never stopped me from going out. But this time nobody lets us inside their homes. I don’t blame them as I am scared myself," Rinki said. (AP PhotoDar Yasin)

A transgender Kashmiri Maliaka Sheikh, in tradition attire of Kashmiri dancers, poses for photographs inside the home of a friend on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. The 22-year-old transgender left home as an 11-year-old and started living with other transgenders. "At the beginning it was difficult for my family to understand me but fortunately, they have now accepted me for who I am," Maliaka said. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, right, helps her mother in the kitchen set up in the corner of a rented room on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, June 4, 2021. Until the pandemic, singing and dancing at weddings used to earn Mir enough income to take care of her family. Unable to pay for her rented accommodation, the 19-year-old took a job as a construction worker for 15 days that paid $9.60 a day. Mir has set up a charity, along with four friends, to distribute food kits to members of the transgender community. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

A transgender Kashmiri Khushi Mir, left, relaxes with friends at the end of a meeting of community members in the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, June 4, 2021. Khushi, along with four young boys, have begun a volunteer group to distribute food kits to the transgender community. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

A transgender Kashmiri Manu Babo makes an instagram video at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Babo is a 19-year-old self-taught make-up artist living who is bending the rules of conservative Kashmiri society. Her instagram account reads "A Proud Transgender". She received assignments even during the pandemic from her instagram and YouTube accounts. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

A transgender Kashmiri Manu Babo makes an instagram video at home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Babo is a 19-year-old self-taught make-up artist living who is bending the rules of conservative Kashmiri society. Her instagram account reads "A Proud Transgender". She received assignments even during the pandemic from her instagram and YouTube accounts. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)

Transgender Kashmiris interact during a special meet of their community members in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 3, 2021. Many of Kashmir's transgender people face domestic abuse and end up running away from families at an early age. Some lack housing, education and other basic resources. Living in the shadows of conflict, coupled with the recent crisis of the pandemic, has pushed the community further to the margins. (AP Photo Dar Yasin)