2009/12/20Since the media went to town with Fatine Young's immigration dilemma, questions have arisen on whether our society lacks compassion and kindness when it comes to transgenders. AUDREY VIJAINDREN speaks to experts and religious leaders who believe it's time Malaysians vacate the judgement seat and adopt a more sympathetic approach.RUDE whistling from passing cars, derogatory name-calling and warding off items that are hurled in their direction are only some of the many things Malaysian transgenders have had to live with for years.The story of transsexual Fatine Young, 36, who married a British man and is about to be deported to Malaysia for overstaying, is yet another plight of a transgender.But as the world evolves and society advances, is it time we got off our high horses and started acting more humane? Whether their courage and lifestyle is right or wrong, admirable or sinful, do transgenders deserve less respect and dignity than anyone else?PT acting executive director and Pink Triangle programme director, Raymond Tai, believes there is much misunderstanding and ignorance among many Malaysians regarding transgenders."There is so much misconception on what it means to be a transgender, transsexual, transvestite or gay. Because people do not understand what each term means, there is confusion and a tendency to make moral judgments."Transgender is the third gender and is often for life. A transvestite on the other hand is just a fetish to cross dress occasionally. Transsexual is a subset of a transgender, and often implies those who are on some form of hormone treatment, have done plastic surgery or sexual reassignment."Those of us who have a relative or friend who is a transgender will find that they are no different from mainstream society and that their 'transgender being' is just part of their whole identity."Tai says the general perception of transgenders is that they lead an immoral life."Because most Malaysians' main contact with transsexuals are those they see on the street doing sex work or in performances, their impression of a transsexual is based on what they read in the media."Unfortunately, most local media portray transsexuals in a negative light, stereotyped as dishonest sex workers who steal and con their clients, and are irresponsible and irreverent."The public view, he says, does affect the psychological and emotional state of a transgender."Given that most transsexuals face a hostile environment all their lives, many are conditioned to accept themselves as deviants in society and are unable to play a constructive role in it. Their self esteem is low."Many gather in urban ghettos to be with other transsexuals, indulging in the only job they know how and are appreciated in -- sex work."Tai says transgenders face stigma and discrimination from a very young age."They are forced to behave and dress according to their biological sex from young, teased and shunned by neighbourhood children and at school, and are unable to express their gender preference at school, college or the workplace."Most transsexuals never get past the job interview because of how they look and behave. Their relatives, community and religious leaders lecture them on how they need to reform -- to be 'saved'."Obstacles in their lives don't just end there."Those who are on hormone treatment, have breast transplants, and sex reassignment surgery spend their life savings for the treatment, instead of saving up for an education or a home."If not done correctly, these treatments and surgeries often result in complications and harmful side effects that are life threatening. Sex reassignment surgeries are also not allowed in Malaysia, making these operations tedious and expensive."Those who wish to practise their faith find themselves ostracised from most churches and mosques."Most are unable to change their sex assignment in their birth certificates, identity cards, driving licences and passports -- even if they may have had a sex change or look every bit like a woman."This affects their applications for jobs, housing and bank loans, and scholarships. And of course they face enormous challenges in finding a life partner, and even more should they want to get married. And what about those who wish to adopt children? It is almost impossible," he says.Tai is convinced that transgenders face countless challenges even in death."They face many legal and religious obstacles -- are they to be given a woman or man's last rites? How can their spouse benefit from their estate and savings when the law does not recognise their relationship?"Having an open mind, he says, can help change the general stigma tied to them."Malaysians should not just be tolerant of people who are different from themselves, but embrace diversity in its true sense -- just as they should accept people of other races, religions and cultures."They should also be open to people of different gender and sexual orientation. Remember that all these people have families. If you have a relative who is a transgender, would you not wish that they be treated as an equal?"Anthropologist Professor Dr Wan Zawawi Ibrahim believes dialogue sessions will help the public understand the lives and choices of transgenders."Due to globalisation and exposure, more Malaysians are coming to terms with this issue. It's a matter of overcoming initial cultural negativities and acquiring new perspectives."It takes time because people are exposed to so many prejudices and stereotypical ideologies. Unfortunately, our education system does not expose us to different views -- alternative education is important."Transgenders are misunderstood. But, when the public sees an emic view (inside view), they will be able to look at the issue from a different angle -- be it of an AIDS patient or a transgender."This group of people do exist, whether we want to accept it or not. So it's important for the public and authorities to hold dialogues with them."The problem is people with power tend to pass judgment without talking to them."Religion has its way, Zawawi says, but everything cannot be easily labelled black or white."I'm not asking anyone to throw away their beliefs, but there must be areas of compassion and negotiations."You can't understand it, without listening to their stories. Unfortunately, I don't think many care to listen."TRANSGENDERS SPEAK OUT: .....
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The issues affecting and effecting Malaysian Transgender people being are a microcosm of the issues facing Trans people on a global basis.
Education, legislation, litigation and more education will help to mitigate the issues for the global Transgender community.
Posted by De Sube at 12/20/2009 09:00:00 AM