There is always a connection between the trans community around the globe. We face the same prejudice, the same bias, the same discrimination, the same hatred, and at times the same violence. People cannot seem to accept gender variance, and although the limitations on understanding of the gender binary may differ from country to country, most still choose to base gender on just a small part of the human body, the sex organ. It is my personal belief that the more obsessed the country is with sex, the less people in that country understands and accepts transgender people. Some even ignore we exist.
In some backward countries, and perhaps even in some states at the US, it may boil down to the question of manhood. The male species is viewed as dominant and more superior than females. In my life, I have heard questions asked among our society about trans people; for trans women, “Why do they want to be women when they can be men?” For trans men, “They can never be real men.” All of these are based on the ‘existence’ and ‘strength’ of sex organs. Unfortunately, I come from a country with such mentality.
In my country, ‘jantina’ is the malay word used to describe sex. Gender, as we know it, does not exist in Malaysia. And when it is mentioned, it also means sex, based on that organ. My country is a model Islamic nation. It persecutes trans people on the basis of their identity. It punishes trans women for ‘dressing up as women’. It has moral policing that treats most trans women as prostitutes. It voids trans people as ever existing in the media. And when we are mentioned, trans women = transvestites = deviant cross-dresser = bad, bad criminals. Trans men hardly get attention, even any mention in this country.
Our government refuses to explore current medical consensus in regards to trans people. Religion trumps over Harry Benjamin Syndrome. Myth is truer than Gender Identity Disorder. Faith means transsexualism does not exist. As we attempt to fight off bias and pseudo-science from creeping into the APA’s DSM-V, in Malaysia we are not even considered within this psychological framework. This country is so behind times that they do not even know or heard of World Health Organization’s opinion on trans people.
I am lucky I am not Malay. If I am, I stand a chance to be one of the 80% of trans people in Malaysia who are sex workers. Of course, some of them have full time jobs. But there is no recognition of trans people in Malaysia. So there is no regulation for those trans people who resort to any method possible, to get their greedy hands on cash to splurge on hormones without care or doctor’s advice. I mean really overdosing themselves to the point of insanity. When news of this reach the media, the trans community gets the blame. Because of that, people here assume trans people are hormone-popping addicts.
I am blessed to be currently clear off all the worse things that can happen to a trans person, and still am floating above that line of Malaysian transgender stereotypes. It is not easy being mislabeled ‘transvestite’ every time we are on the newspapers by writers who lack better vocabulary. It is frightening to hear stories of the brutality towards Malay trans women by religious authorities. It is saddening to hear some of my sister’s passing, some by murder and some by suicide, year after year. But I promised myself I am going to write about all these, and let people know what is going on at this side of the world.
My last article for Ex-Gay Watch (XGW) was around 6 months back, and I hardly write on my own blogsite, though I hope to get back to work on XGW. I do know that I have to commit more time and energy into writing, which is my passion. There are a lot of stories to share, both from the ex-gay survivors’ perspective and as a trans individual living here with so-called asian values’ scorn and religious fundamentalism demeaning trans people.
Knowing that there are people wanting to hear a trans Asian gal’s rant is perhaps an encouragement for me to climb above my depressed state and regroup my life again after a series of personal setbacks. This blogsite has always been a good read, so I am proud and honoured to be invited as a guest writer for Questioning Transphobia. It is a joy to be in the company of brilliant writers and commenters voicing out our hearts, coming of age. I am known to be a melancholic person, but I will try to crack a joke or two. Thank you.
Hello, I am Yuki Choe.