Sunday, December 20, 2009

Transgender People And The New Straits Times Factor.

There was this disgusting editorial opinion on the NST today, with the writer presumably being either the Group Managing Editor Zainul Arifin Mohammed Isa, and/or Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, who is the Group Editor. This letter was published on the same newspaper that a two-page special on transgender people was featured. The letter offered ridiculous suggestions that probably confirm New Straits Times as a confused third world newspaper with little authority.

EDITORIAL: Sex and the Fatine factor

BUT for a few sexily-dressed individuals who flaunt their dubious assets in certain streets of the city to earn a precarious living, by and large these controversial members of our society keep very much to themselves.

Until someone like Mohammed Fazdil Min Bahari, or Fatine Young as he calls himself now following his same-sex marriage to a doting Briton after they were issued a certificate to marry by the British Home Office, comes along and triggers the nation into a polemic over the issue of transgender. It may not have been Fazdil's wish to be in the limelight but for the very fact that he is a transsexual and that another arm of the British government, the UK Border Agency, is not allowing him to stay in the country because immigration procedures were not followed. Fazdil is now awaiting deportation pending his third application to remain in Britain.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman has declared that Fazdil has "brought shame on the country" by his same-sex marriage and for overstaying in Britain. "The penalties may be more severe than the two-year passport issuance deferment as she (he) has brought great shame to us," declared Rahman. Several non-governmental organisations and concerned individuals have rallied around "Fatine". While society in Britain and the laws of that country, and the West, generally, may accept Fazdil, whose predicament has been described as a "woman trapped in a man's body" and who has yet to go under the surgeon's knife to make him a female, it is not the case in Malaysia.

The laws and regulations of the land are quite clear where issues of transsexuality, homosexuality and cross-dressing are concerned and it has seen the authorities -- police, religious and others -- acting decisively against them. Homosexuality and other "unorthodox" sexual practices are frowned upon by the Quran and Bible. Islam recognises four genders -- males, females, khunsa (males who are hermaphrodites) and mukhannis (effeminate males). While a khunsa may undergo a sex-change operation and be reclassified as female and accepted, the mukhanni is forbidden to change his sex, and cannot enlarge his breasts with hormones, cross dress or enhance his "female" looks with make-up.

While we can sympathise with their predicament, there are no two ways about interpreting the law of the land. Until and unless Parliament and the religious authorities see it fit to decide otherwise, Malaysians in the "grey sexual areas" have to abide by the laws and keep their sexuality to themselves.

If it is not annoying enough that either writer continuously called a transsexual Fatine, by male pronouns, they even called transsexuals “controversial members of our society”. This is a blatant act of discrimination, by attempting to segregate and stigmatize transsexuals. If that is not enough, the writer placed “scare quotes” around Fatine’s name.

Not contented of being a bigot, either writer then suggested by both religion and the “law of the land” to keep (our) sexuality to ourselves. Now this is where complete idiocy of either writer strikes me. Firstly, the law of the land does not criminalize homosexuality as per se, but “carnal intercourse against nature”. Penal Section Code 377, also applies fully to heterosexuals; sadly only people in same sex relationships are persecuted using it. This is called heterosexism and bias. But Sodomy, is also a heterosexual activity.

Secondly, there is no law against transsexuality, and transsexuality is a medical condition; it has its own researches and medical professionals, and recognized by the World Health Association. To outlaw people on the basis of a medical condition is stupid, if not mentally unsound in today’s age. I wonder just how can either of them miss that.

Thirdly, the talk of religion is already out. Homosexuality, as oversimplified as a form of lust in the Abrahamic Holy Books, is not even related to the homosexuality as per known today. The word defining “homosexual” does not even appear in the Quran, and “homosexual” in the Bible has been placed into it by political meddling, reinterpretation only since 1949. To argue religion is to misuse it especially when other religious laws are not observed.

Homosexuality is a word to signify attraction, as with heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. To scrutinize homosexual oral sex and ignore heterosexual oral sex is plain selective discrimination, influenced by the wave of heteronormality Malaysia is being bombarded with. No one complains of Britney Spears’ sex-with-2-guys-song, did we?

For either editor to lay claim that we should closet our sexuality is the show of their oximoronism. This is about gender identity. How do you closet gender? Can we then ask them to keep their malay identity face? Or keep their religious identity to themselves? I am not sure what kind of editors they are to fail to see this simple point.

In the end, it is obvious either writer is not stupid. They are just blatantly choosing to show their intolerant, ignorant and prejudicial ego. It is impossible for someone to lay claims to being "group editors" of a "national newspaper" to write such illogical and unknowledgeable claptrap. Or perhaps it is yet another example for selective presentation of information?

Even if either editor is biased, with an estimated ratio of 1 out of 500 people being born transsexual, and 1 out of 60 people being born with sexual ambiguities ranging from Klinefelter Syndrome to 5ARD to Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome; they stand a good chance of tasting a burden of a lifetime; having a classic transgender child. Perhaps only then they will learn.

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