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Malaysia commemorates the Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is often left out in many LGBT event calendars in Asia, with Malaysia being one of only three Asian countries to remember the dead this year, and Kuala Lumpur among 187 cities in 19 countries worldwide, writes Yuki Choe.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

6th December 2010 13:49

Alessia Valenza

The Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Malaysia was held on Saturday, Nov 20. Organised by this writer and Hafidz Baharom, the venue sponsored by Good Samaritan Metropolitan Community Church (GSMCC) and the event was supported by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Malaysia.

The event started with myself speaking on the implications of transphobia and the dangers gender non-conforming people face in a society that views them as subhuman or second-class citizens. She also explained the sad fact that 179 names that appear on the list maintained by the “Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM)” project by Transgender Europe (TGEU) year’s list were there by fortune of them having families and friends; most transgender people’s deaths are widely ignored, their bodies unclaimed, and many of them died alone.

Hafidz Baharom also shared about the hateful climate LGBTs have to live under, and how it contributed to the infamous 10 gay suicides between early September and early October in the US, and many more. Hafidz, an openly gay Muslim man, also spoke about being target of abuse and bullying when he was with someone he loves who happens to be a man, because he does not conform to society’s expectations of him dating a woman.

The Good Samaritan Metropolitan Community Church then sang a song for the audience, which included Edwynn Yeap, president of PFLAG Malaysia; and all prayed for a day of unity against transphobia as Pastor Joe Pang led them to a moment of silence. After the candle was lit, all the names of 179 trans people, who had their lives in front of them but taken away in extreme and hateful circumstances, were read with the echoing of “we will remember” after each name. At the end, they all applauded, as the dead were given a good and deserved sent off. The night truly belonged to our fallen sisters and brothers.

As the candle’s flame continued to burn, the movie Prayers For Bobby was presented, which shows just how at times people hurt the ones they love to the point of death without realising it, and for some they finally learned the value of accepting instead of denying one’s true self, whether it involves sexual orientation or gender identity. At the end of TDOR, one is reminded that violence and brutality towards LGBTs could happen to anyone, even straights perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person.

TDOR 2010 is often left out in many LGBT event calendars in Asia, with Malaysia being one of only three Asian countries to remember the dead this year, and Kuala Lumpur among 187 cities in 19 countries worldwide. Therefore, it is vital that more public events to bring forth awareness of the plight of transgender people be initiated, to reduce the stigmatization of trans people by religious fundamentalists and shorten the influence of a heterosexist society determined to treat gender variant people as lesser human beings.

The lesbian and gay movement in some states should also stop throwing transgender people under the bus, because gender non-conformity includes homosexuals, who are expected to present and express themselves as heterosexuals do in a socially constructed hierarchy. The “T” after LGT must not be silenced, and more efforts could be put in place by the movement to see them through, instead of making them a sub-context in lesbian and gay events. There are many transgender people born different, surviving with any jobs for a life and harm no one, and they too deserve rights and equality as anyone else.

As sure as transgender people are perceived as gays, and vice versa, anyone in the LGBT population can be a target for hate crimes. Transgender Day of Remembrance is for all.

About Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

TDOR is a day held every year to commemorate those who have been killed due to the climate of intolerance towards gender non-conforming people. This is also a day to create awareness on transphobia and hate crimes towards the transgender population of the world. Starting off in the United States back in 1998, TDOR is now held throughout the world on November the 20th every year.

According to the “Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM)” project by Transgender Europe (TGEU) that started off in April 2009 to collect data and research homicides of trans people worldwide, there were 487 murders in 39 countries since January 2008. A report this year mentioned “Yet, we know, even these high numbers are only a fraction of the real figures; the truth is much worse”. This is due to many unreported cases worldwide that cannot be accounted for, making it impossible to highlight a more accurate figure.

Based on the findings of the TMM project, of 179 deaths reported this year, 75 of them were shot and 36 were stabbed. Most of the dead were sex workers, while the 20 to 39 year age group is most vulnerable to the violence and brutality towards transgender people. The TDOR website recorded the youngest reported death of any year; a 17-month-old toddler who died of a cardiac arrest, after his mother’s boyfriend shaken, boxed and choked him to death in an attempt to stop the baby from behaving in a feminine manner.

Yuki Vivienne Choe is a transgender lesbian activist in Kuala Lumpur.