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From left to right: Eman CM Harundja, SAHATI, Indonesia Agniva Lahiri, People Like Us (PLUS), India and TVT Advisory Board Manisha, Blue Diamond, Nepal Carla LaGata/Dr Carsten Balzer, Transrespect Versus Transphobia (TVT), Germany
Fighting Transphobia in Asia

in THAILAND, 09/04/2013

Four transgender activists! Manisha gave a basic overview of the dangers transwomen experience. Carla talked about the work of the TVT Project: a global project by transpeople, for transpeople, creating stats for trans advocacy through legal and social mapping. Agniva focused on a South Asian context: her group’s surveyed ten states in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. And Eman, talking about her work in Makassar, Indonesia, educating young transgender people, raising their base knowledge level of sexuality, gender and human rights.

Manisha gave a basic overview of the dangers transwomen experience – mental health issues including depression, self-harm, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse; physical health issues including weight gain, blood pressure increase, skin marks, blood clots, kidney and liver problems from female sex hormones; hence the need for social services and easily available gender reassignment surgery.

Carla talked about the work of the TVT Project: a global project by transpeople, for transpeople, creating stats for trans advocacy through legal and social mapping (you can’t just read the press – e.g. South Africa has a great law, but lousy implementation); trans murder monitoring (ironically the highest stats, from places like Latin America and the Philippines, are because of better monitoring systems rather than actual transphobia); evaluation and contextualization, etc, etc.

Agniva focused on a South Asian context: her group’s surveyed ten states in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka; trying to interpret TVT’s monstrous 52-page surveys among grassroots communities, cross-cultural-contextual-thematic assessments, trying to gain funding and visibility for her little org; also telling these communities about their rights to university education, etc.

By the way, seems South Asia’s mind-bendingly inconsistent: pension schemes and free legal aid in seven states, even provisions of land (though they’re far from the city, which no sensible transwoman wants); 3rd gender status accepted in some states; but also “public nuisance” acts used for harassing transgenders, locking them up…

Agniva: Traditionally in South Asia the two occupations for transpeople are begging (and blessing) and sex work.

In Delhi there’s a prohibition on begging. Transpeople are arrested and put in shelter homes which are supposed to be rehabilitative, but end up being sites for even more transphobic violence.

And Eman, talking about her work in Makassar, Indonesia, educating young transgender people, raising their base knowledge level of sexuality, gender and human rights. (Incidentally, Ernestijk Wen put up her hand and asked about the tradition of bissus, sacred transgender women among the Bugis people of Makassar: former advisors to kings who had magical powers of summoning rain.)

Odd little interaction with a Singaporean transgender rep, June Chua, who works at the DSC. She couldn’t understand the whole idea of identity cards for being “other” or “third gender”.

June Chua: I don’t want to be respected and accepted as a creature who can make rain. I want to be respected and accepted for me.

In Singapore, transwomen can change their identity cards to "female" as long as they've had surgery, which you can do pretty easily using your MediSave. No need to protest, according to her. No need to rebel.

But yeah, thinking about it, our laws are pretty good for transgender people. It's the prejudice, the ignorance, that are the big problems. We all have our own battles to fight.

(Filed by Ng Yi-Sheng) 

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