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Treat transgenders positively

in MALAYSIA, 04/08/2011

Even more systematically targeted than lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are the transgender community in Malaysia whose rights are ‘non-existent’.

KUALA LUMPUR: Oscar Wilde in his book ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’ wrote: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

To exclude someone who just wants what is rightfully theirs, or to deny someone their right to live the kind of life that’s best for them is a travesty in every sense of the word.

But it’s a life that is familiar to Malaysia’s transgender community.

As Seksuality Merdeka activist and co-founder Pang Khee Teik pointed out recently, “it all boils down to the Golden Rule; that we should treat each other positively as we would like to be treated.

“The Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others.

“It’s the essence of treating everyone with consideration.”

Denial of an opportunity to make a living is the single most damaging and pervasive form of discrimination against transgender people.

Transgender people are routinely targeted for work place discrimination and almost universally unprotected under existing laws.

There are few transgender people who have not experienced loss of employment, denial of employment, or underemployment solely because of their transgender status.

For transsexual people in particular, initiating the process of gender transition frequently means permanent loss of a profession or career.

In addition to the impact on individual transgender people and their families, this discrimination has a tremendous social and financial cost.

But because so many transgender people are excluded from employment, this group is disproportionately driven into poverty and or unwanted dependence on public assistance.

Transgender people are also confronted by many related forms of discrimination, including denial of basic civil rights and protections in housing, public accommodations, and health care.

Transgender people are also frequent targets of hate crimes.

They are constant targets for verbal threats, hate mail, harassing telephone calls, and acts of physical and sexual violence committed by the same persons who target lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

Defunct social system

Pang believes that transgender issue should be given the same ‘privilege’ as issues such as womens rights, education and the electoral process.

In current circumstances, he knows its a tall order. The reality is that transgender issues are hardly given its just time and space in the media.

“Sexuality is part of the same privilege that should be given to women’s rights, education equality, and electoral concerns just to mention a few.

“We are being governed by a system that has gone defunct – by a corrupt government who have placed their priorities in the wrong place at the expense of the people’s rights,” he said.

It was thus, that with this deep sense of conviction that Phang and Jerome Kugan formed Seksuality Merdeka in 2008.

Everyone involved in this organization is a volunteer, doing what needs to be done to empower a community.

Phang adds that it serves as platform for voices to be heard through advocacy work.

“We don’t claim to be the only non-governmental organization doing this.

“But what I will say is that if there are quarters that feel that we aren’t doing a good job, then they should go ahead and do what they feel we aren’t achieving.

“That’s something we must all do – create our own platforms for what we believe in. No one asked me to do it.

“I do what I’m doing because my happiness matters and to live the kind of life worth fighting for,” he said.

Personal rights and self belief

Phang also said that an affirmation of one’s sexuality is a journey to which a thoughtful process should be applied.

Self-believe takes precedence of course and Pang feels that people must recognise their personal rights.

Human Rights is already in existence, it’s something we already have, the trick is to get other people to recognise this.

“Very few Malaysians understand equal rights because many have been weaned on special rights.

“Personal activism takes centre stage here and this happens when a person activates their friends, family into understanding them.

“When this happens, everyone who knows the person who has just come out will take this thought to the ballot and they will ask: ‘will my vote exclude or include my friend, relative, co-worker’.”

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