Transsexuals: Arrested and forced to parade her body
New Strait Times Article
FOR many, embracing a third gender is still a taboo.
Various terms are used to describe transgender people, such as transvestite, cross-dresser, bi-gendered, androgyne, transsexual and drag queen.
Transsexuals are those who choose to medically change their gender. Cross-dressers are people who like to wear the clothes of another gender.
Nisha, a programme coordinator with Pink Triangle Foundation, said her life changed when she was in her early 20s.
"I was arrested by the religious authorities for cross-dressing in Malacca."
The prosecutor in her case told her that if she pleaded guilty, she would just be fined and released.
"So, I pleaded guilty but found myself sentenced to three months' jail."
Nisha said on her first day in the male section of Kajang Prison, she was forced to strip in front of the officers.
"I already had my breast implants at that time. I'd never felt so humiliated in my whole life."
She was forced to parade down the row of cells and flash her breasts at the other inmates.
During her three months in prison, Nisha was forced to perform sexual favours on another inmate so that he would "protect" her.
"I had to do it for my own safety. I knew I would be worse off if I didn't."
She said her experience behind bars altered her perception about people.
"I started hating people who were not like me. I felt that they had reduced me to nothing."
Upon her release from prison, she became a sex worker.
"I was working in a hotel before I was arrested. After that, it was so difficult to get a job, so I resorted to becoming a sex worker."
Her mother was supportive of her during those trying times despite not approving of her becoming a woman.
Seven years later, she stumbled upon the Pink Triangle Foundation and attended its programmes.
"I realised that I was destroying myself."
Nisha turned her life around with the help of people at the foundation and eventually started working for them in 2006.
"It was through some sessions and counselling that I regained my pride and self-confidence. For that, I'll be forever grateful to the Pink Triangle Foundation."
Wan realised she was different in her early 20s after she left home to live on her own.
Although her family loved her, they still could not accept that "he" was now a "she" as it went against their religion.
"They strongly felt that I should fight this feeling. Initially, I tried to keep it hidden but it was really difficult."
Wan said for a young transgender, life was often confusing and difficult.
"It can get scary and lonely. They cannot understand why they are different. The feeling of isolation is worse when derogatory remarks are hurled at them," said the volunteer at the Pink Triangle Foundation.
Kiki, an executive with an event management company, said her family realised that she was "different" when she was young.
She is lucky as her family has accepted her though it was difficult in the beginning.
Kiki said there were people who made fun of her at work because of her clothes and make-up.
"But I also have people who love me for who I am."
Joey, who performs as a drag queen, said it was not easy being a transgender because these people were often viewed as objects of fun and ridicule.
She became a performer to overcome stage fright and is quite a success now.
She is open about her condition and said discrimination and abuse from society was a result of the lack of understanding and education on the subject.