Monday, July 25, 2011

So What Is Wrong With The Malaysian LGBT Movement For Sexual Rights?

It has been almost a year since I promised myself never to get involved in Seksualiti Merdeka again. One of the reasons was because I knew someone I love may be part of the set-up. However, the major reason was total disillusionment with the festival and the people. From what I used to believe to be a group of well-intentioned activists determined to fight for the rights of sexuality minorities, it has become a nightmare full of backstabbing, framing, glory-hunting, lies, manipulation, politics and sex parties galore. What used to be something to look forward to has become all hope lost for me.

I do not know how to quantify my experiences there. I do acknowledge that some of them helped me heaps emotionally and financially. I admit that for a short while I had guidance in seeking direction in my life. And receiving help is no excuse, reason or justification to discredit me and attempt to rally people against me just because I have different sets of values and opinions, along with wanting what is truly the best for the LGBT community especially trans people, as proven by positives happening now overseas.

We unfortunately do not have unity. Instead, we have leaders who, as if without other topics, like to talk to teenagers as young as 18 about group sex. One of them happens to be with PFLAG, and he was earlier cornered by these leaders attempting to hijack the group (listen entirely and judge for yourself). I have been at the end of such hijack attempt before when TransMalaysia was organized, and instead of reprimanding the transgender backstabber, these activists took the opportunity to put me deeper into the ice box and made her a spokesperson for an anti-bullying video. Birds of the same feather flock together would come to mind.

Insecurities arise when I mentioned I discourage sex work. Hello? This is my opinion, and that does not mean I reject sex workers. In fact, I only criticize any LGBT movement that devalue the hardships and experiences of transsexual females such as myself, especially from one famous drag performer; but bear in mind please, have I ever forsaken or ignored any member of the community, including transvestic fetishists? Have I ever condemned anyone for being in sex work? It is utterly shameful that these LGBT leaders took this as a chance to further invalidate my work, and the responses from some of the trans leaders are ridiculous indeed. Do they realize that their expressions of grievous hurt only serve to prove my point?

The treatment lashed out to me is so similar to the treatment they gave to an openly gay Muslim writer I know, just because he pointed out the obvious to the oblivious. And as sure as they tried to hatemonger to me about him being a terrorist with connections to enough religious authorities to destroy Seksualiti Merdeka, I know exactly the kind of deceptions that has intentions to make LGBTs avoid conversing with me to maintain their dipping support while crying victim. In fact, by the same chance the self-implied leader of these activists tried to sell me another story, one about my ex co-feminist for Kakak Killjoy.

I refuse to submit to such tactics, so it saddens me when a leader of a lesbian/bisexual event organizer who was also given the cold shoulder by them last year decided to pander and has been trying to desperately seek support from LGBTs there like a lost bitch. It seems that networking and connections is the priority of the people from most of the LGBT groups as they seek to blaze the trail to self-glory and patting themselves at the back after another meeting to bring everyone together for another fellowship of internal LGBT meets while kicking out those who do not conform to their views or are rejecting their stances, refusing to take criticisms for their actions as they stampede on others to get their way.

Credit must also be given to a certain HIV/AIDS prevention foundation for doing nothing much. PT Foundation does not throw people under the bus; they are content in their position as people continuously throw them under the train. They are happy to just receive funding from LGBTs and government ministries while the latter continue to discriminate – yes discriminate – transgender people as purely lost souls whom they hope one day with some programs it will make them “masculine” while transgender males seem to be non-existent to them. And what happens when LGBT matters go to the parliament? They of course do not condone the “lifestyle” which they claim is not part of their culture while hoping transgender females will one day “change”. So after many, many years of the PT Foundation’s work with religious groups, Malaysian AIDS Council, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (etc), most people in Malaysia still know nothing about LGBTs, especially the transgender population while invalidating and trivializing our inert needs as non-existent.

As the years go by, and I have been walking side by side with these groups for the past few years, the connections to the straight world is reducing to the point misinformation about LGBTs is increasing rapidly as with homophobia and transphobia. Transgender issues are becoming more and more sidelined. Lesbians are becoming marginalized within. Ideas which were stolen are now lacking as many move on from the main LGBT activism groups. In fact, they will probably respond to this posting by insecurely trying to be in denial over everything. Well, they have the right to hide themselves from truth: they have little intention of advancing the LGBT movement to the public arena unless there are some motivation for them to do so; until then they are contented to fill their coffers and maintain their jobs, soaking up connections and basking in glory of LGBT “events” with little information for the straight public while continuing their full artistic ways of LGBT expression. Opportunists, while little gets done.

So what do we have from them lately? Oh yes – The 29 ways toward an LGBT friendly Malaysia, which can easily be boxed into 3 (1 – Tell everyone to treat us right, 2 – Tell people in authority / representatives of the people to treat us right, 3 – Ask everyone to create / attend those LGBT events) boxes. The first question I could think straights would ask is – Why should I? So one wonders just how this “29” is going to be executed. I can imagine silent politicians, police arresting LGBTs, and LGBTs getting laughed at because we ask the public to stop calling us names. But I am sure the LGBT events will get them more fresh meat to fuck – oops! I mean more avenues to increase their FB friends while enlarging their connections.

The LGBT movement in Malaysia has come to the point where they are so used to having their little internal discussions, meetings and events, that they become too exclusive instead of inclusive and fail to engage with the world – the straight world. Year after year, straight people’s participation of Seksualiti Merdeka has been dwindling, and so is the straight crowd, while the LGBTs increased. As LGBTs in activism groups, being so busy with politics, or as aspiring activists wanting to get famous in the community and an ultra-liberal collective that still lacks so much knowledge in LGBT issues ending up with preaching half-truths and opinions, we have ultimately failed to provide adequate information to the rest of the non-LGBT population, to the point we only call ourselves victims quietly while sucking our thumbs when tabloids like Metro and Kosmo become the source of “LGBT education” to the straights. Yes, we failed to engage Malaysians to get to know us. And to some with best opportunities to speak for us, the fear of losing funding and social status creeps in.

Activism in Malaysia has become a popularity contest. We are too ignorant to assimilate into the norm of society and instead choose to just continue to sell creative artistic thoughts instead of getting the public to know us. We lost the battles, so there is no war to be won. So what else can we expect from LGBT activism? A hijacked and mangled “It Gets Better” campaign with videos which are mostly sharing and confession videos and not PSAs, without a next course of action (Around 425 young people reportedly killed themselves in the first 9 months of last year. Where is the push to question our government to get them to check how many of them committed suicide due to prejudice and discrimination toward LGBTs)? Lady Gaga failed to inspire us to create a wave of activism to remove censored parts of her song. International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in Malaysia was a horribly done mash up that absolutely nothing came out of it to fight homophobia (and talks to ourselves 29 times again). Things only gets done when it is convenient.

We wait for the next big hoo-hah to send whatever letter thrown towards brick walls. We can accept the blatant fact that there are no updates on almost all researches done by PT Foundation on behalf of Malaysian AIDS Council and the Health Ministry, no news on meetings with religious groups / political leaders in conferences or privately, no follow ups on previous letter campaigns and fund raising activities after they have gone silent, no next course of action after tons of forums done; in fact, I personally expect nothing whatsoever from SM, PT, or whatever, to give any individuals any glimmer of hope that things can change for us. We expect them to be absent again when Transgender Day Of Remembrance comes this year, boycotting a dissenting voice, instead of focusing and supporting – the cause. (Or worse, they may even hijack it to do their own one that rejects almost all of TDOR’s guiding principles).

We can expect more dissenters being rejected unless they toe the line. And some may even pander back for favours. But many of us left on our own accord, hoping that in the years to come, the LGBT community will start to see that nothing concrete had ever come out of some of their beloved organizations, and that new organizations will be formed to seriously addresses the LGBT issues, and most importantly, improve support from society by simply letting them get to know us. And I sincerely hope the current movement takes a hard look at what they intend to accomplish, and analyze whether they are truly going in the right direction, for the sake of everyone involved. By then, we would not create useless steps and “ways” that will end up hit by a train of incomprehension, misinformation and ignorance. We would instead concentrate on practical LGBT population building and assimilation to society, as well as education and information dissemination to the public, along with handling discrimination and prejudice at jobs, healthcare and others. We seriously do not need to talk among ourselves anymore. Let us start speaking to a Malaysian population and build beautiful bridges on our world.

Yuki Choe is a Chinese transsexual feminist who believes it can only get better when the world can get to know us. After all, there is more to advocacy than sex and glory-hounding; the main solution is simple, the movement should stop throwing tear gasses and shoot chemical water, and start communicating with those "banned" “illegal” voices.

This post is supported by “Kakak Killjoy” and “PFLAG Malaysia”.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Transsexual Woman Who Needs Gender Change On Personal Documents, Is Discriminated And Misrepresented.

I wish I can find his photo but there was none. I am talking about the picture of Judge “Justice” Mr. Mohd Yazid Mustafa, who was reported to have formally rejected the application of transsexual woman Aleesha Farhana Abdul Aziz, 26 (formerly known as Mohd Ashraf) to change her name to that of a woman, and also the gender markers to “perempuan” or female. I really want to display the judge’s photo because I need to show exactly what the face of total ignorance and bias looks like, one of third world mentality.

Two months ago when the news of Aleesha’s request broke out, Mr. Mohd Yazid claims the judgment was a difficult one to make because, quoting him, ‘it might have an impact on society’. I would ask Mr. Mohd Yazid, what kind of impact, asteroids falling into earth? Or does he think because of 1 out of 1,450 who is born with gender identity disorders causing transsexualism seeking to correct a birth defect and hopes it would be reflected on her birth certificate and identification card, society would end? To him, probably.

His excuses which was explained today, is even more ridiculous. He claims ‘there was no legal statute to grant such an application based on the factor of a sex change’. Hello? There was no legal statute to NOT grant it either. It seems Aleesha had been treated at Pantai Medical Centre here in Kuala Lumpur, so I believe she has her medical documents, but it seems that both Mohd Yazid and the other idiot, Adha Abu Bakar, seems unified in their uneducated and uninformed thinking that Aleesha’s female nature is only “external and not internal”. Furthermore, Adha claimed that there is no doctor’s report that psychologically, Aleesha is a natural woman. I say, What The F**k?! Why do I smell an obsession to sex organs here? If a female nature is external in expression, that is her gender, you f**ktards!

Mohd Yazid further shows he has total zero knowledge on gender and sex (something he shares with Adha) that Aleesha did not satisfy his poor understanding of “criteria for being declared a woman – chromosome count, and exterior as well as internal organs”. Again, What The F**k?! Someone should ask Mohd Yazid to further his studies to find out about how XY women are still women, why women with no uteruses and cervixes are still women, because he just insulted some cisgender women worldwide born with these conditions!

With his kind of medically void argument, women with breasts removed due to cancer and surgically implanted a new pair of breasts, are not women. In fact, XYY women would not be considered women to him either. I think he has a problem with women in general to make that statement. Perhaps he needs a woman with a big gaping womb that covers his face and giant breasts for him to declare her a woman. This invalidation of people’s medical condition known worldwide as Gender Identity Disorder is disturbing. Adding to that, the insistence of “The Star” newspaper journalists to be fixated with calling Aleesha with the wrong pronouns and attempted to make her a circus show, with both the article titles having the word “Man” in front.

Well, we can expect no world standard for reporting from “The Star” that has been churning out junk news for the past few weeks due to Bersih 2.0, so I doubt they would even adhere to international class guidelines such as those from Associated Press Stylebook that was updated for one sole reason - to respect transgender people, especially transsexuals. What we should expect, is a judiciary that is familiar and up to date with the medical world in regards to people living with Gender Identity Disorder. We also hope to see real judges that is learnt and informed about gender issues. Our country is severely behind in intellect and mentality, so we need judges that work based on real time information. The ultimately obtuse Mohd Yazid just does not cut it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

BERSIH 2.0: Another Way Of Looking At It.

I was still, at 11am, rushing to an appointment at Summit Subang USJ, excitingly wanting to join the Bersih 2.0 rally after that. However, I was stuck in a massive police induced bottleneck that reduced 5 lanes to 1 including the new highway towards Persiaran Kewajipan, causing a drive that usually needed 10 minutes becoming an hour (and there were not much private transportations on the street). Busses were not spared. On the Bersih 2.0 twitter, crowds were mushrooming at locations near Sogo Mall, Pudu Jail, Maybank Tower and KLCC, while the radios announced that no one had turned up just yet. After lunching and discussing business at the Summit, I tried to rush home to change only to be caught in another 3 roadblock induced jams, one across the street from Summit, near Persiaran Tujuan and another on Federal Highway. If the police were this hardworking, the crime rate here will be at an all time low. I managed to get home onboard a near empty LDP highway.

The radio at home was still declaring that though there were arrests at Sogo, Pudu and at the LRT stations, generally there was no one at the rally. However, my friend who was at Jalan Hang Tuah seems to brisk-walking while talking to me on the phone while many people were chanting in his background. That was when I knew who was telling the truth. Going without the Bersih 2.0 shirt to avoid detection at the LRT, I quickly drove to the Kelana Station where surprisingly policemen were no longer there. The KL Sentral, Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek stations were closed, and I only managed to alight at Dang Wangi Station. At 2.30pm, while walking through dozens of people seemingly taking a stroll, I FaceBooked and found out shots of tear gasses and chemical laced water were already fired in some Bersih 2.0 hotspots around KL city. I was hoping to be part of the action when I was met by a large group of policemen at Jalan Raja Chulan.

Seriously, if there were “not much civilians involved at the ‘illegal’ rally”, you would not need a hundred of them in one location. By the time I reached Jalan Tun Perak, it was an awesome sight. On my right, like a scene from a Hollywood made movie, an endless flood of thousands of people were walking through the streets, with sudden rushes all over the place as water cannons were deployed. Many attempting to walk in to join this crowd were arrested by the police. I knew that it was too late to join that large gang. On my left however, were another hundred of policemen and FRUs arresting anyone suspected of wanting to join the rally. As I strolled quietly towards the Pudu bus station, with very heavy scent of tear gas still surrounding that area, one by one the police were walking with civilians, all whose hands were bound by a plastic rope, including a young couple that was somewhat surprised they were arrested.

Chasing after my friend who was running about to not be spotted by mobilizing policemen while avoiding getting caught as a stray myself, was not an easy task, but I did manage to reach Jalan Bukit Bintang, and then the Jalan Hang Tuah and Jalan Imbi intersection by directly walking to the policemen and asking for directions. After all, “berani kerana benar “, right? This would probably keep me safe. The police themselves seemed red-eyed and dazed, so knowing they were still distracted by the gigantic scenery upfront, I took the opportunity to go along Jalan Hang Tuah on foot looking for my fat guy friend in pink and found him with the group at Stadium Merdeka which was guarded by the police at all entrances. Then it dawned upon me that we at least reached the targeted destination safely. Elsewhere, the Bersih 2.0 Twitter reported that their memorandum was unable to be handed over to the Istana as they were blocked.

We walked through Jalan Petaling where I was told how it all started. By then, Bersih 2.0 was over. We ended the afternoon at the mamak around central market, where Bersih 2.0 supporters and police force who ended their hostility were also around. There, through social media, we were able to get all the latest news of the aftermath, involving several people from the steering committee. Some of whom were even arrested. As we FaceBooked and twittered away, revelations of Bersih 2.0 supporters being beaten bloodied, and hospitals around the Puduraya area getting tear gassed made me sick to my stomach. As evening comes, at home in my room, news of this rally made international headlines throughout the world making them our witnesses, as videos after videos were released via social media showing the violence of policemen and FRUs against a peacefully done rally. The mass media again lied through their teeth to contain the government wrong doings. And many of us were witnesses of what really happened at Bersih 2.0.

I am deeply regretful to have missed the crux of the action before me, because I believe one has to go through the ordeal to really understand what was won there. It was freedom. The Bersih 2.0 supporters knew exactly what they were doing. No trash was thrown. The streets were clean. No building was vandalized. But what happened today perhaps vindicated my presence there and validated what Bersih 2.0 is for. “Peaceful?” the New Straits Times declared. “Defiant” was how the Star painted the Bersih 2.0 supporters. And within the first few pages, attempts to downplay Bersih 2.0, lies and deception, wordplay that attempted to demonize participants, and even a show of inflated ego by the Home Minister, showed exactly why we need reforms not only in the election system, but the government system as well.

This is the truth; I saw with my own eyes many more on the streets itching to join Bersih 2.0, but were not allowed to join the rally with the threat of arrest by the police. And many who tried to sneak in were arrested after all. The police did their best to stop supporters from all states at bus terminals to the highways to the LRT. In the end, please do not insult my intelligence; I have been at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium at near full capacity to judge. It was indeed easily tens of thousands of supporters on that road near Jalan Tun Perak, as many peeking down the LRT train at Central Market can see themselves, and even on ground. (I do not know about KLCC because I am not there, but I heard it was a huge group as well). Yes, as most would realize, the number could have been much, much more. Also, a friend once told me, a good liar needs a good memory. The mainstream newspapers backtracked on their words, were inconsistent in their reporting and clashed ideas in terms of what happened. The police were able to control the situation simply because the protest was peaceful; until they started firing.

And yes, Tung Shin Hospital was hit by the tear gasses and chemical water as well. At the time I was not there, so how did I know? Because everyone I asked were consistent with their story of what happened with pictures to prove. Unlike the media that brushed off this unthinkable act, along with contradicting reports all the way on radio and newspapers. The government again acted indecisively; they knew the international media is watching and Bersih 2.0 would love to let the world see how the policing works here, so why the hell did they step on a seen trap? Why would they react violently against peaceful protests? The latter was a question our dear information minister stuttered like a child to answer at Al-Jazeera’s channel.

The incredible traffic jams that lasted two days were due to the police, not Bersih 2.0. Any person of a reasonable thinking capacity knew that it was just the police being desperate enough to avoid more people coming in to Kuala Lumpur city, not “maintaining order” as claimed. If the police had really wanted to guard the rally, they would have just stopped all intercity roads going towards Stadium Merdeka like the MRR1, Jalan Kinabalu, Jalan Syed Putra and many others. The police force was just paranoid and overreacted to the situation by blocking all access roads across the whole territory of urban Selangor. The same paranoia that caused the Home Minister to declare a call to action for a peaceful march for a clean, fair and just election, as “illegal”. And correct me if I am wrong, there is not one single law available to arrest people with shirts associated with any movement, yet the police force who was supposed to protect its people, found just simply wearing a symbolic yellow Bersih 2.0 shirt a big offence.

Bersih 2.0 somehow brought out the worse of the federal government and their authorities. Whether it is the fact that the police, with such commitment and hard work at stopping a peaceful rally, failed to stop the mat rempit menace and snatch thefts. Or the thoughts that came out from some minister’s mind about the alleged “damage” to economy amounting to billions. Even lazy-to-drive-outside-KL-for-clients-during-demonstration taxis were given wasted space in the newspapers for giving excuses on staying back and charging ridiculous rates, and much more. However, I would look and say the Bersih 2.0 rally did bring out the best in people. 1Malaysia happened in the most extraordinary circumstances, where all races, all religion, all education backgrounds, all ages, all gender, all sexuality, and all the factors of Malaysian people, gathered in the midst of scorn by orders of the Home Ministry. A proud, priceless moment in Malaysian history however the government will try to spin and ignore its importance.

Democracy also happened. What cannot be expressed in votes, were expressed in numbers of marching people who came against all odds, who braved the wave of tyranny, in friendship of the strangers around them that they can now call friends, to absolutely get their voices heard, voices that were usually silenced by the media and the government. Chants of reforms, realizing that there is a better future for Malaysia beyond the walls of the coconut shell we have been living under for so long, resounded for that brief couple of hours amidst the pain in their eyes and nostrils caused by tear gasses. The worse kind of freedom is one that you do not even know you have and are bound far away from it. However, the 9th of July 2011 will be remembered by many as the day many awakened and realized that they have been had, and the news will spread fast on what we have missed from the government for so long, and what they have not been telling us, to the lies they have been feeding the public for decades.

I sincerely, as a citizen of Malaysia, really hope that the federal government, instead of being defensive, would effectively join us to seek change. I humbly ask the federal government to finally look in the mirror themselves and start serving the people instead of attempting to brainwash and keep them out of the loop with the media. The people’s interest should come first, not themselves. It is time that countless letters to the government be replied, services be improved, corruption be addressed in the best possible manner, and stop wasting money on projects that will drain our finances for the sake of pocketing from the people. The rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer, so it is time that we Malaysians step out as equal partners to each other, with equal opportunities. One may wonder why I am writing this, that negates from Bersih 2.0’s demands. It actually transcends even that. One clear message we have sent on this day, is that we can unite as one, for a common Malaysian cause and to defend anything that is worth risking our lives and livelihood for. I can finally say, seeing what happened in those few hours, being in the climate of love and courage during a time of atrocity, I am very proud to be Malaysian. Thank you Bersih 2.0 for the experience, showing our hearts out to the government. We hope our future leaders will one day take the same lead, to overcome all the roadblocks for a better Malaysia.

(Many thanks to those who were there one way or another and saw a part of our Malaysian history in the making, especially my few transsexual sisters who represented our small community with their big hearts on fire in love.)

(This post is dedicated to the illusive fat guy in pink: Read his first hand account here in DubMeShalom)