Labels

By Dorian Wilde

I was asked a question this weekend… a question that challenged my thought processes and beliefs. Yet it was a question that I have asked myself many times a long time ago, a question I have forgotten until last weekend.

“Why do you need to label yourself? Why can’t you just identify yourself as a human being?”

This is the question that has kept me staring into space when I shouldn’t be and kept me awake at night, searching my heart and head for an answer. I had gotten my answer a few days ago, but only today I have had the time to write it down. It might not be an answer that might appease the person asking the question, but at least it cleared my doubts… which is always the most important thing.

No one in the world is the same. Not one person can accurately match their lives, interests, preferences, thoughts, emotions, etc. with any other person living now or ever on this earth. How then, can labels accurately describe the people it categorizes?

If I were asked to describe myself in full, I would probably say, “I am a part of the endless energy of this universe, and I’m here in this human form to experience the experiences assigned to this character named Shamin.” If I were asked to describe my gender identity and sexual preference, I would say that I am a pansexual transman with drag queen tendencies. So am I the same as other pansexuals, or other transmen, or other people with drag queen tendencies, or someone who also identifies with all those labels?

No. So why use labels? Why can’t we just go without them?

I think to answer this question, we have to look at the world through a more realistic lens. Let’s be clear here, I don’t like labeling myself. Most of the time when people ask me who I am or what I am, I would just say I’m human. Because that’s how I want to be seen, as just human like all the other humans of this world… not a transman, not a pansexual, not an Indian, not a Malaysian. Just human. I firmly believe that we will be able to achieve true peace and enlightenment only when we are able to see each other as nothing more and nothing less than human beings who are equal to one another.

However, the world is far from that. Everywhere, people are still being discriminated, penalized, killed for some attribute that should be insignificant compared to the similarities they share with the perpetrator. Everywhere, people still have conditions when selecting the people they would show unconditional love to. Everywhere, inequality and injustice persist, either politically, socially or economically.

The way I look at it, the labels I use do not define me. Instead, they are just shortcuts I use when explaining how I define my external self, what sex I was born with, what gender I feel more affiliated to, what kinds of people I’m interested in (which is everyone), where my recent ancestors originated from… the list goes on. So instead of writing a book on the kinds of people I’m interested in, I’ll just use the label “pansexual”. Instead of stripping and displaying my non-surgically-modified body while having a full beard and a baritone, I’ll just say that I’m a “pre-op, on-hormones transman”.

More important than this though is the fact that when I use these labels, I take myself away from the faceless majority by identifying with the plight of people who see whatever attributes of themselves the way I do; who are being discriminated against. In doing that, in counting myself with them, it makes us stronger and more able to demand for equal rights for people like us. Hopefully when the equal rights are achieved, when discrimination against this particular label is no more, then perhaps we can move on past the label and let it dissolve in the procession of time.

A long time ago, people of Indian origin used to fiercely identify by themselves by the castes they were born into. If you were born into a particular family, you are treated a certain way, you have to do a certain job, you have to marry someone with the same circumstances as you (or higher/lower, depending on your sex)… if you ever went against that, you will be ostracized and shunned by the entire society, even your own caste. However now, people are able to see past their castes and do all those things that seemed impossible before… and in some places where there are large numbers of people of Indian origin, many such kids grow up without even knowing what castes they are supposed to belong to, or the existence of such a thing until the read India’s history. This would not have been possible if people did not fight to achieve equality among the castes. Most of these people were people of the “lower” castes, who would not sit there and take the degradation and inequality anymore from the people of “higher” castes. What they achieved was not just the equality between castes, but also a near future without the existence of such a thing as caste.

Hopefully the same thing will eventually happen to labels of colour, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation and all other labels we now use to divide ourselves and obscure the fact that we all share more similarities than differences. But this can only be meaningfully achieved when equality is achieved for each of these groups and when discrimination becomes a thing of the past.

National Colloquiem on TG Community Issues

1. Introduction

Penang Family Health Development Association (FHDA) to conduct a national two (2) day colloquiem in December 2011 regarding health and rights of transgender (TG) and trans sexual (TS) Malaysians. The theme is WE HAVE A DREAM.

The aim of this colloquiem is to achieve recommendations on purposeful next steps towards decreasing discriminatory practices by private and public authorities towards transgender and trans sexual community.

The colloquiem’s proposed Advisers are YB Puan Lydia Ong Kok Fooi, YB Teh Yee Cheu and YB Puan Chong Eng. The proposed Project Chairman is Dr M. Dinesh. The organising committee will involve Penang TG and other individuals based in the Klang Valley, as well as TG volunteers, supporters, friends and clients from the outreach, clinical and counselling services of Penang FHDA.

 

2. Objectives of “WE HAVE A DREAM”

a) To increase awareness among participants regarding the effects of stigma and discrimination on transgender and trans sexual individuals.

b) To recommend resolutions to health authorities towards providing services relevant to transgender and trans sexual community.

c) To  propose strategies for moving forward to decrease stigma and discrimination faced by transgender and trans sexual community in Malaysia.

 

3. Date:

10 – 11 December 2011 (Saturday & Sunday)

 

4. Tentative Duration:

Two days

 

5. Venue:

Paradise Sandy Beach Resort, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Penang, Malaysia.

 

6. Registration Fee :

RM50.00 before 5pm, 15 November 2011 and does not apply to L.O.
RM80.00 after 5pm, 15 November 2011 and L.O. payments

Group discount for five persons and above @ 20%, ie group of five persons registration is RM200.00 before 5pm, 15 November 2011.
Group discount for five persons and above @ 10%, ie group of five persons registration is RM225.00 after 5pm, 15 November 2011.

 

7. Target participants:

  • Transgender and transsexual community from all over Malaysia
  • Academic researchers on TG issues from Malaysia and neighbouring countries
  • Religious personnel from Malaysia and neighbouring countries
  • Health service providers, medical , surgical, psychiatrists, nurses, midwives
  • Psychologists, counsellors and sociologists
  • Educators, young people, parents, lawyers, registration department personnel
  • Media
  • Policy makers
  • Rights advocates

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION KINDLY CONTACT

MS HEZREEN SHAIK DAUD @ 019-4063090 / 04-2813144.

 

Sponsors in cash or kind are welcome. Those who wish to contribute might like to consider the following:
- scholarships to deserving key population attendees in Penang
- sponsor booths
- materials such as registration bags, banner, poster
- services as videography and editing

Petition against slander and defamation by the media towards transgenders in Malaysia

On 14th October, TV3 aired a talk show titled “Pondan Ancaman Wanita” (“Tranny Threatening Women”). The next day, Berita Harian published an article claiming “Salah Makan Punca Pondan” (Wrong food is the source of trannies).

For several years, the media has consistent used transsexual phenomenon as a tool to raise viewership of the station or newspaper. Often than not, transsexuals are portrayed negatively – as sex workers, husband snatchers, causing family disputes…

There is also little help from the government in recognizing LGBT rights. In an Harian Metro article dated 11 October 2011, Dato Seri Jamil Khir Baharom of the Prime Minister Department of Malaysia claimed that LGBT rights are not recognized or accepted in Malaysia because it is in contrast with the Islamic teachings, the official religion of the country.

We as transsexuals of Malaysia has had enough of this nonsense and has started a petition against the media for such defamation against us.

Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/petitions/petition-against-slander-and-defamation-by-the-media-towards-transgenders-in-malaysia

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Below is the letter that was sent to TV3 in response to the controversial programme. We have also directed the letter to the Prime Minister’s Department and the Minister of Women and Family Development.

Dear Sir,

13th October 2011

Reg: Demand for Public Apology from TV3

In reference to the episode of Wanita Hari Ini, titled “Pondan, Ancaman Wanita”, aired on 4th October 2011 at TV3, we, the Mak Nyah community of Malaysia, are appalled at the defamatory and slanderous statements made by the hosts of the program as well as the invited guest speakers towards the Mak Nyah community. We feel that as a national TV station, it is your responsibility to foster national unity in the spirit of 1Malaysia. By providing publicity to unsubstantiated statements and relying on sensationalism, you have shown you are no better than the tabloids that rely on cheap publicity. We demand a public apology.

Your public apology should acknowledge that your station, by airing the show, had unjustly incited fear and prejudice towards the transgender community in Malaysia, which included, but were not limited to the following acts:

1)     Making statements based on assumptions, perceptions and personal views;

2)     Basing arguments on personal opinions instead of factual or research data;

3)     Inviting unqualified individuals as guest speakers and introducing them as “experts” for the sake of backing slanderous statements;

4)     Humiliation, including but not limited to; using terms like “sotong” and “geli”, derogatory hand gestures, asking questions in a degrading intonation.

We demand that you formally apologise for:

1)     Airing a show that promotes further persecution and prejudice against a group of already marginalised people, who are stigmatised and discriminated against from young, who have been denied education and employment opportunities and other types of benefits that the larger Malaysian society enjoys;

2)     Allowing slanderous and defamatory remarks used on national TV, inviting unqualified Guest speakers to talk about a topic that is not their area of expertise, encouraging undue discrimination towards a group of people on baseless grounds, using assumptions, personal views and perceptions instead of statistics, research and facts.

Your station should be aware of its role in educating and disseminating information to the public. Many Mak Nyahs are firced to work on the streets as a result of rampant discrimination while seeking employment, in the form of rejection on the basis of appearance and gender expression without regard to their qualifications.  To suggest that an employed Mak Nyah is conspiring to take away the jobs from women, would cause them to suffer suspicion, mistreatment and discrimination at their workplace both by fellow colleagues and employers.

In June 2011, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak set a target for women to fill up 30% of top management positions within a span of 5 years. Yet, in the airing of this show, your station has portrayed women in stereotypical “female only” occupations. This is a violation of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, as your action can be interpreted as an attempt of halting women’s progressive developments as equal to their male counterpart.

Furthermore, by proposing the idea that Mak Nyahs are taking husbands from women, your station has only served to drag Malaysia back into the dark ages and patriarchal age-old tactics of blame — if it’s not the woman’s fault, then it’s the Mak Nyah’s fault. This is again a dangerous act on your part in stereotyping women’s roles and responsibilities in relationships.

Since the program is targeted to women in general, the producer should be aware that there are women who are mothers and sisters of Mak Nyahs, and they accept the Mak Nyahs as their own flesh and blood. Broadcasting such incriminating statements would be an indirect insult towards them as well.

TV3 has been very unprofessional in it’s insensitivity towards the Mak Nyah community and women of Malaysia. It has become an international embarrassment to know that despite being an advanced country in so many other ways, we are still promoting thoughts and positions that are so archaic and demeaning to Malaysia. We demand a public apology for the defamatory broadcast made, clearly citing the reasons above, as well as a commitment from TV3 not to air any shows that promotes prejudice and discrimination of any minority groups.