Transgender Day of Remembrance

Thanks to an Instagram post by Pink Dot, I find out that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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According to the Human Rights Campaign website,

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for communities to come together and remember transgender people, gender-variant individuals, and those perceived to be transgender who have been murdered because of hate.

Its Wikipedia page says of its origin:

Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, and it has slowly evolved from the web-based project started by Smith into an international day of action. In 2010, TDoR was observed in over 185 cities throughout more than 20 countries

On that Wikipedia page it is also stated that the Canadian province of Ontario passed the Trans Day of Remembrance Act on 12th December 2017. This officially recognizes TDoR and even requires its Legislative Assembly to hold a moment of silence every year on 20th November.

My respect for Canada just grows and grows. They are truly a progressive and compassionate nation.

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On the Human Rights Campaign website, there is a list of women who were murdered in the past year, Memorializing 2018. There are listed under country, alphabetically, with information like this:

Carolina/Camila Angulo Paredes
Buenos Aires, Argentina
29-Dec-17
shot

or

Unknown Name
Manaus, Brazil
31-Aug-18
stabbed

Shot, Stabbed, Unknown, Stabbed, Decapitated / Dismembered, Beaten, Shot, Shot, Tortured, Unknown, Tortured, Stabbed, Beaten, Stabbed, Shot, Beaten, Throat Cut, Suffocated, Beaten and Hanged, Burned, Run Over by Car, Shot, Shot, Beaten, Strangled / Hanged, Shot, Stabbed, Beaten…

And it goes on and on and on. And that’s just the Memorializing 2018 list.

I can’t help but wonder how many of these sick acts were done in the name of religion, by horribly misguided sick f**ks. Many, I suspect.

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I remember what happened to Sameera Krishnan in Malaysia last year, and looked for her name in the Memorializing 2017 list. And there it was:

Meera
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
23-Feb-17
Victim was shot and stabbed

2016-02-malaysia-asia-lgbt-sameera

The late Sameera Krishnan

Sameera was only 26.

Rest in Peace, brave, beautiful soul.

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I can’t help but think of Aleesha Farhana as well, who passed away on 30th July 2011, also in Malaysia. She was not murdered, but I take this occasion to remember her too. She died of a heart attack, at only 25.

n_3ashraf

The late Aleesha Farhana

*al-Fatehah*

According to an article from Malaysian newspaper The Star, Aleesha and even her parents had been subjected to ‘scorn, ridicule, and cruel taunts‘. And like her, ‘an estimated 50,000 transgender people in the country are shunned by society and are often abused.’

To read my post back in 2011 which included something about her, click here.

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Not the ending I was hoping for, but I still liked it.

I came across this short (7 minute) film from Australia via Gaybros.

The ending left me scratching my head. It’s kinda silly, I thought. Okay, it didn’t have to have a predictable happy ending or anything saccharine sweet, but the one featured here left me all “huh… what?“. If the filmmaker was making some social commentary thing or some other point, it just zoomed straight by simple ole’ me.

Warning: hairy man ass shot towards the end at 6:41. A bit too fleeting with its one-second or so appearance.

What I liked about it: 1. The actors were adorable, in a scruffy derpy way. Goodlooking and funny, now that’s a combination that’s always a major turn-on. 2. The story except for the ending. It’s hilarious and entertaining.

There seems to be some outrage and unhappiness as part of its reception. I’ve read someone opined that it promotes transphobia and homophobia. Frankly I don’t agree with that. If anything, I thought the short film shows acceptance of transgenders, by storytelling the idea that attraction ultimately crosses even gender. Pete eventually is still attracted to Harry. Attracted to him as a individual person, regardless of what Harry has between his legs now.

Verbal abuse against transgender passenger, SBS Transit takes action.

I came across this article  on Yahoo! Singapore only recently. It was written earlier this month on the 4th, but oh well better late than never. I’m just happy I still caught it. It’s such a pleasant surprise, and of course I want to record it here.

Leona Lo, a transgender woman, had reported to SBS Transit that a bus driver of theirs had yelled ‘ah kua’ at her, which is a derogatory term used to taunt effeminate men and transgendered women. To make matters worse, the drivers’ colleagues joined in by hooting and clapping.

Image from Yahoo! Singapore. Click photo to go there.

Yahoo! Singapore reported that besides writing a letter to SBS Transit to report the incident, Ms. Lo also posted it on her Facebook page, and that this created an uproar in the online community.

Fridae.asia’s article has more details. They had contacted the company and a spokesperson told them that they had conducted an investigation and identified the ‘Bus Captain’ (we call our bus drivers here ‘bus captains’ LOL) who committed the act.

“He is deeply apologetic and we will be taking disciplinary action against him. I would like to extend my deep regret to the complainant and to assure her that this is not something we at SBS Transit condone.”

However the spokesperson, a Ms. Tammy Tan whose post is the ‘Senior Vice President of Group Corporate Communications’ at ComfortDelgro which owns SBS Transit, declined to elaborate what disciplinary action exactly will be taken, citing company policies. She added that the incident was not something the company takes lightly, and that ‘this is the first time the company has received a complaint involving an employee using a gay slur on a passenger or member of the public.

Kudos, SBS Transit. I have to say I can’t help but feel touched and proud to hear that a Singapore company stepped up and addressed such a complaint and taking some form of action.

Okay, it could have been better and clearer if she had elaborated what exactly is the disciplinary action. Plus, from my understanding of the Fridae article, it seems that SBS Transit had declined an offer from Ms. Lo to give ‘a talk on diversity’, with the spokesperson saying instead that the company has in place “internal training processes which cover a wide range of topics.

But that’s okay. To me it’s like, ‘baby steps’, although this feels more like big strides, to be honest. I hope it’s not just me, being impressed that they have done the right thing firstly by taking Ms. Lo’s complaint seriously and conducting an investigation, and then by acknowledging that the verbal abuse act did happen and for apologising to Ms. Lo, getting a customer service representative to call her. Even Ms. Lo said that she is “happy with how SBS has handled the matter”.

Kudos also to Fridae.com for picking up the story and contacting the company, and most of all to Ms. Leona Lo for pursuing the matter instead of just suffering in silence and brushing it aside, even though the incident had initially made her feel intimidated. What an inspiration, not just to trans folks, but to everyone.

Ms. Lo told Fridae that she hopes it will be a learning experience for all, that such incidents need to be reported so that they can be stopped.

“I’ve received emails from transgender women humiliated by bouncers at nightclubs but when I ask them for an incident report they back out for fear of ‘reprisals’. In 2007, Lo offered to conduct diversity training for the employees of a bar where she was asked leave after she was told that the venue did not welcome “lady boys”.

Her compelling account and thoughts on her blog is a must-read.

Transgender women can take part in Miss Universe Singapore from 2013.

Jenna Talackova. Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni. From http://www.reuters.com. Click photo to go to site.

After Donald Trump overruled the decision to disqualify transgender Jenna Talackova from the Miss Universe Canada pageant, the Miss Universe organization which he owns now decides to allow transgender women to take part in all its competitions from 2013 onwards. This decision was reached after discussion with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Yahoo! Singapore reported last Monday the 23rd that the organiser for Miss Universe Singapore, Derrol Stepenny Promotions, will follow the new ruling. This means transgender women here can join naturally-born females to compete for the crown from next year onwards. A spokesperson from Derrol Stepenny told Yahoo! Singapore:

“Even though we have not received any official communication from Miss Universe organisation stating that  all countries will have to adhere to the new ruling, we are nonetheless open to it. That is the new ruling and we will not discriminate against transgenders who apply.”

I think that’s great and commendable of Derrol Stepenny. A few days ago, I found that Yahoo! Singapore posted a poll asking “Would you accept a transgender as Miss Singapore Universe?”, and I voted yes. A few minutes ago I checked on that poll again, and found that only 29% voted yes as well (1674 respondents). 71% (4159) responded no. Disappointing but not surprising somehow.

So I hope Derrol Stepenny will continue to be brave and stick to their decision even if it turns out that not all countries need to adhere to the new ‘transgenders allowed’ rule for the main Miss Universe pageant.

I can’t believe I’m writing about pageants. Even more than that I can’t believe I just typed ‘naturally-born females’ earlier. Surreal.

I don’t know why but this issue makes me think as well of the seemingly massive numbers of immigrants and migrant workers (we call them ‘foreign talent’ here or FT for short) that I feel us Singaporeans are inundated and trying to cope with. Now that they live in public housing estates and are everywhere, I can’t tell if a Chinese I stand next to is a Chinese who was born and raised in Singapore or Malaysia, or a China Chinese, until he or she speaks and lets me hear the accent. Or that brown-skinned person who looks like a fellow Malay to me, who I greet in Malay but he turns out to be Filipino, so I feel embarrassed for the assumption and greet him again, in English. Or if that Indian guy was born and raised here as I was, or migrated from India or someplace else just some years ago. Does it matter? Of course not, but only if we are all treated fairly.

If two women stand on stage for a pageant and one was ‘naturally-born’ as a woman, and the other went through a sex change to become one, does it really matter? Can we tell which is which? Well maybe when they open their mouths to speak. So as long as they are fabulous-looking enough, and sound like women enough, yeah let them get on stage to compete as equals. As for any “but they had surgery to achieve beauty so it’s not fair!” argument, well who’s to say the ‘naturally-born’ contestants have not had any surgery to enhance their looks as well?

The move to include transgender women might also be the thing to spice things up, in terms of having a bigger ‘talent’ pool of qualified women. Because really, in my opinion there are always so many contestants in our Miss Singapore pageants who are not only not beautiful but such Plain Janes, including those who actually managed to win the crown and represent the country. Just take a look at some of the previous winners, as shown on the Derrol Stepenny site. To me only Jessica Tan (2007) and Rachel Kum (2009) are pretty. The others were like so… meh.

Transgenders in Malaysia (and Iran)

I don’t buy the papers everyday, but on the 4th I was in JB and happened to buy both The Star and the New Straits Times. Coincidentally, both English dailies feature commentaries that very same day about the plight of transgenders in Malaysia.

Mr. M.Veera Pandiya wrote ‘Have a heart for trans folks‘ for The Star, and Ms. Chok Suat Ling wrote ‘Help transgenders, not judge them‘ for the New Straits Times.

The articles were triggered by the death on Saturday 30th July, of Aleesha Farhana, a 25 year old medical assistant who was born male, and who underwent a sex change in Thailand in 2009. Doctors diagnosed one of the causes as cardiogenic shock. People who knew her said she died from the deep depression caused by the failure to get a court order to have her name and gender officially changed.The articles highlighted the terrible and cruel stigma faced by transgenders in Malaysia.

The late Aleesha Farhana. Photo source:thestar.com.my

Here’s a short excerpt from Mr. Pandiya’s article:

Before her death, she and her parents Mak Yah, 50, and Abdul Aziz, 60, were subject to scorn, ridicule and cruel taunts.

On the day she died, the page one headline of one newspaper was: Pondan gagal tukar nama, masuk ICU (Transvestite fails to change name, enters ICU).

Like Aleesha, an estimated 50,000 transgender people in the country are shunned by society and are often abused.

As highlighted in a statement by 17 NGOs and 600 people on Tuesday, they face stigmatisation, violence, mental torture and sexual assault.

The inability of policy makers to understand the transgender community has led to many of them having to leave their families, schools and jobs.

They are also prevented from getting health services, housing, education, employment and other basic rights and are also left without legal recourse to redress injustices and abuses suffered.

I can’t even imagine being in that sort of situation. What a horrible existence. Why must we treat fellow human beings that way? It’s just terrible the vile hatred some people have for others just because they are different.

When it comes to sex change operations, what’s totally unexpected is that in the Muslim world, Iran allows it. Not only that, they even provide subsidies for those who need the financial assistance. Then, the sex change is legally recognised by the state. Official documents like passports are changed accordingly.

Okay, if that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, here’s something that turned my head round and round so fast it almost flew off my neck, so to speak: As of 2008, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand.

Wow, too bad I don’t care for having tits and a vagina. Otherwise I would so go to Iran to do it, instead of Thailand, if only for the novelty factor of having done the sex change in a Muslim country. To try back up the legitimacy of it, maybe? “But, Pa, I got it cut off in Iran!”

“Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death”, said this BBC article. And even though sex change operations are legal there in Iran and comes with official recognition of the new gender, acceptance by society is a different matter altogether.

Back to the story of Aleesha Farhana in Malaysia, an earlier Star article by Farik Zolkepli and Nurhidayah Ramli includes some kind words by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development’s Minister, who said that she was saddened her ministry did not have the chance to provide counselling:

“In Mohd Ashraf’s case, he knew our doors were open and that we were there if he needed us.

“We were concerned for him but we could not force him to come to us,” she said after chairing the Wanita Umno supreme council meeting yesterday.

The article also included that about 50 people had held a candlelight vigil for Aleesha outside the Malaysian Bar Council Building. It was organised by Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik, who said they wanted to highlight that Aleesha’s rights for justice had been denied.