LGBT rights activists in Kuala Lumpur have launched a campaign to encourage more people to be allies to the transgender community in Malaysia.
The I AM YOU: Be a Trans Ally was launched at an event last month where three videos made for the campaign were screened (see below), followed by a Q&A with Malaysia trans women and trans men and a mock trial showing what happens when a trans person tries to get their name and gender changed.
‘Some were familiar faces, but this event also attracted many people who were not from the activist scene and have never attended events like this. I think it’s safe to say that we have garnered quite a few trans allies from the launch, and hopefully much much more from the rest of the campaign.’
In Malaysia Sharia law criminalizes ‘impersonating a woman’ and transwomen are frequently arrested and fined 1,000 Malaysian Ringgit ($310,€230) and/or jailed for six months. Trans men are also targeted in the states of Pahang and Sabah.
In general trans men are much less visible in Malaysia than trans women ‘which is both a good thing and a bad thing’ said Wilde.
‘Trans men in Malaysia are usually more prone to discrimination and harassment prior to going on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT),’ said Wilde.
‘However, trans men who have become “passable” after HRT still face violence and discrimination if they are “outed” as being assigned female at birth. Trans women in Malaysia face the brunt of the discrimination, violence and harassment in Malaysia as they are the visible faces of the community and are more known about in Malaysian society.’
In one of the videos made for the campaign, Part 2: Discrimination, a trans woman talks about being made to walk naked past the male inmates after she was sent to prison. ‘And they were making fun of it, a joke of it,’ she said. She recounts how she was forced to perform oral sex on the inmates and then had to give sexual favors to a warden to ensure she was protected. ‘And I always asked myself, what did I do? What did I do to deserve all this?’ she said.
The political situation for LGBT people in general in Malaysia is bad as politicians are using the repression of their rights as way to appeal for electoral support.
‘Political parties are competing to see who can be harsher on the LGBTs in order to appeal to the Muslim-majority population as being more “righteous” than the other side,’ said Wilde. ‘As such, the courts often make decisions that are unfair to the trans litigant based on this current climate of animosity towards trans people.’
Last October, four trans women who filed a constitutional challenge against the law that prohibits ‘impersonating a woman’, even though the Malaysian constitution includes the right not to be discriminated against.
‘Hopefully someday in Malaysia, it will be politically unpopular to discriminate,’ said Wilde.
Watch the videos in the I AM YOU: Be a Trans Ally campaign here: