Posted by: Yuki Choe | June 1, 2008

Singapore Censors Healthy Same-Sex Depictions In Media.

Singapore, known for its glamorous first world city lifestyle displays third world mentality in the guise of the Media Development Authority (MDA), the country’s primary moral guardian over presentation of arts and media in the republic. Earlier this decade, depictions of LGBT as a natural progression of society were banned or censored by the MDA from any arts and media broadcast within its jurisdiction.

Taiwan’s highest grossing movie of 2004 “Formula 17”, a gay themed romantic comedy was banned from Singapore screenings for its potrayal of a “homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected”. This starts a sad premise where true positive lives of LGBTs in the world today are considered unfit to be discussed and should be removed from existence.

The mantra supposedly changed in 2006 when the MDA chose to relax on its censorship in order to market itself as a arts and media centre for the region. This move allows top LGBT movies being shown uncut such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Transamerica” in 2006. As recent as last year however, the MDA decided to grow a branch a year back in time.

A two-week exhibition of 80 same-sex kissing photos was cancelled after the MDA rejected the license on the grounds of “promoting the homosexual lifestyle” late last year. Early this year, part of the Oscar award acceptance speech by director Cynthia Wade for her documentary “Freeheld” was censored on its repeated broadcast because of its mention of equal rights for same-sex attracted individuals. Then the high profile LGBT documentary “A Jihad For Love” was also banned from public viewing.

From strictness, MDA then shows its absurdity, when they recently fined StarHub Cable Vision $10,000 Singaporean dollars for airing a commercial presenting a new song by artiste Olivia Yan called “Silly Child” which depicts two lesbians innocently kissing. The statement by the MDA reads:

Quote:

The commercial which was to promote a song by the singer, 阎韦伶(Olivia), was aired on MTV Mandarin Channel on 26 and 28 November 2007. Within the commercial, romanticised scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable. This is in breach of the TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality.

MDA also consulted the Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes and the Committee concurred that the commercial had promoted lesbianism as acceptable and romantic, especially when shown together with the lyrics featured.

In that same month, MDA fined MediaCorp TV Channel 5 $15,000 Singapore dollars for airing a home improvement show called “Find and Design” that featured a gay couple who wants to renovate their game room into a nursery for their baby. The MDA statement here reads:

Quote:

The programme “Find and Design” is a home and decor series and in the episode concerned, the host helps a gay couple to transform their game room into a new nursery for their adopted baby. The episode contained several scenes of the gay couple with their baby as well as the presenter’s congratulations and acknowledgement of them as a family unit in a way which normalises their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup. This is in breach of the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise gay lifestyles.

MDA also consulted the Programme Advisory Committee for English Programmes (PACE) and the Committee was also of the view that a gay relationship should not be presented as an acceptable family unit. As the programme was shown on a Sunday morning, PACE felt that this was inappropriate as such a timeslot was within family viewing hours.

This two cases shows a blatant lack of knowledge and understanding of the homosexual condition as a sexual orientation by a shallow media guardian. It is deeply regretful for the LGBT community in Singapore who is still trying to find an illusive dignified social position in the republic, to be swept under the carpet by governmental agencies such as the MDA. Media is supposed to represent truth, and recent events portray the MDA as unable to accept and realise the unsurmountable truth: that homosexuals are normal human beings and exist in equivalence to any heterosexual conditions.

The Singapore MDA sent a loud and clear message to the world; any representation of homosexuals as sensitive individuals capable of love or as a capable well-adjusted family unit is not to be tolerated. Ignorance to the existence of gays and lesbians as ordinary human beings is to be educated. And self-praising in the form of a rap video is the way to go while the artistry and talent of LGBT is to be shipped to Australia. Interesting step backward indeed, for an agency bent on proving their nation’s worth as a international media hub.

This is the second of two articles published by The New Straits Times Of Malaysia today.

New Straits Times – Persekutuan, Malaysia

Spotlight: Speaking up for their gender
By : Chai Mei Ling

The rude stares, jeering and often the butt of sexual jokes. For a
marginalised group of Malaysians, life is a continuous struggle at
asserting their identity, writes CHAI MEI LING.

WHEN Khartini Slamah strolled into a bank last week to learn about
personal insurance, she was told flat in the face that there is no
policy available for “people like you”.

No amount of money will get her insured.

That’s because as a male transgender, Khartini is automatically
granted a membership to the “high-risk group”.

But what is a high-risk group, questions the 45-year-old mak nyah
(woman trapped in a man’s body).
“How do you assume the person is high risk? By her appearance?

“I asked the bank officer that if she thinks my community translates
to being high-risk, what about heterosexuals who do not practise safe
sex?”

It was a question met with silence.

But if you’re a transgender, you get used to that – the resounding
silence that speaks volumes against you, because life for you is
chartered by unanswered questions.

You question who you are, why you’re born this way, if your parents
still love you, whether you’re still a child of God, and why you, of
all people, are made to face this ambiguity.

If you survive that stage, you begin to question societal norms and
the system that works around it.

When Khartini flew into China a couple of weeks ago, the immigration
officer at the Beijing airport did a double take of her and pointed to
the letter “M” in her passport.

“I said, ‘That’s my passport, you ask for my sex, I never lied.
There’s only male or female, no (column for) transgender. So they put
me as male’. The officer just looked at me.”

Khartini was granted entrance into the country, one of the 40 nations
around the globe where advocacy work and conferences had taken her to.
“I’ve no problems going into these countries.”

That’s Khartini, board of trustees and founder of the Mak Nyah
Programme at PT Foundation (PTF), a co-ordinator under the Asia
Pacific Network of Sex Workers banner, and the first transgender to
work with the United Nations in Asia.

But how many other transgenders are empowered enough to question the
system and not buckle under the strain of interrogation, asks Raymond
Tai, acting executive director of the MSM programme under PTF.

Most, he says, will panic when faced with similar situation.

Living on the fringes of society

For the estimated 30,000 transgenders in the country, dealing with
rejections from the “normal” members of society is a daily
preoccupation. And the first rejection is almost always from family
members.

At the age of 8, Khartini realised she was a female trapped in a male
body, but it wasn’t until she was 18 that her family accepted her for
who she is.

“My father almost threw me out of the window. It took my family 10
years to accept me.”

She is one of the lucky few.

Many receive zero acknowledgement from family, let alone support and
encouragement.

Turned away from home, most mak nyahs do not finish schooling and
would later find it hard to nail a job due to lack of paper
qualifications, and harder still to hold one down because of
stigmatisation.

A research commissioned by the Malaysian AIDS Council and carried out
by Dr Teh Yik Koon of Universiti Utara Malaysia in May last year shows
that about 30 per cent of mak nyahs in Malaysia live below or around
the poverty line.

One question is whether they are educated enough to be put in the
employment market, says lawyer So Chien Hao, who is a volunteer lawyer
with the PTF legal aid clinic, run in partnership with the Bar Council
legal aid centre of Kuala Lumpur for the past 11 years.

So says: “Even if they are qualified, many prospective employers
refuse to hire them. And those employed might not have a good working
environment. They face continuous discrimination from their
colleagues.”

Pushed to the brink of survival, many transsexuals have no choice but
to resort to sex work, which exposes them to a high risk of
contracting HIV/AIDS.

A message which rings loud and clear on a poster hung in a corner of
the Mak Nyah Drop-in Centre in PTF is, “HIV/AIDS does not kill,
discrimination does”.

What breeds discrimination is the fact that mak nyahs are not
recognised as members of society, says So’s colleague Preetam Kaur.

“We have been conditioned to think of them as an ostracised part of
society, like social pariahs.”

Their greatest desire is to be able to become who they are, and so
they don women’s clothes, put on make-up, let their hair grow and some
undergo sex change operation.

But that’s as far as they can go.

Where the legal framework is concerned, everything comes to naught.
There is no avenue for mak nyahs who have undergone sex change to
change their sex stated in personal documents.

“Despite many attempts, the National Registration Department (NRD) is
quite adamant about not changing the gender because they are supposed
to live with the gender they are born with,” says Preetam.

In the 1970s and 80s, transgenders were given the liberty to change
their name and bin to binti in the identity card, says Khartini, but
the practice was stopped after 1990.

Now, a mak nyah can add a female name to her IC, but the male name
will be maintained.

Further dialogues with the NRD have allowed a transsexual to change
her name to a female one, but the alteration is put under the “error
in name” clause, meaning the parents had misspelled her name when they
applied for her IC.

“But what’s the point of being known as Azlina when the IC shows you
are a male?” asks Preetam.

“It’s your identity as a person. If that itself is questionable,
everything else you face in life will be a stumbling block -
employment, buying a house, marriage, adoption, getting a bank loan,
EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund). It’s already dodgy from day one and
it has a domino effect.”

Under watchful eyes

Transsexuals are wary of anti-vice enforcers, and for those who are
Malay, they have to be doubly cautious with the religious authorities.

If caught with more than two condoms in their possession, they can be
charged for soliciting business for sex work. Detained mak nyahs might
be subjected to body searches.

Currently, they are searched by male police officers because
policewomen feel that mak nyahs are not men, so they are not
comfortable doing body search on them, says So.

So far, PTF has received many cases of mak nyahs who have been
subjected to violation of their basic rights while under detention.

Sexual harassment is one common complaint, says Preetam.

“We’ve heard incidents where mak nyahs had their breasts groped at and
were continuously taunted with the question, ‘Ini betul kah’?”

One doesn’t have to be touched to be sexually abused, says Khartini,
as vulgar language aimed at mak nyahs is a form of abuse, too.

“At some religious anti-vice raids, mak nyahs are asked to strip just
to see if they are wearing female underwear, so that they can charge
the mak nyahs. Isn’t that crazy?”

“In a rape case, they’ll ask – how can a mak nyah be raped?”

Requests for sexual favours, money extortion, and wrongful arrests are
other grouses received.

Sometimes, family members of the transsexuals are scolded for “failing
to bring up their son the right way”.

The advocates understand that the police have a duty to perform, but
what they ask is for mak nyahs to be treated equally and not be
abused.

In recent years, tenacity in advocacy work by PTF and the legal team,
such as holding dialogues with the authorities, has carved inroads.

For example, KL police in Dang Wangi, Sentul and Hang Tuah have agreed
to place detained mak nyahs in a cell separate from male and female
detainees.

A life with an identity

The term mak nyah was coined by a group of male transsexuals in a bid
to define themselves in 1987 with the formation of the Federal
Territory’s Mak Nyah Association, of which Khartini was one of the
pioneers.

“Transgender is a Western term and we wanted to adopt our own. That’s
how it came about,” she says.

Lumped under the umbrella of gay men then, together with other sexual
minorities like transvestites, drag queens and cross-dressers,
transsexuals wanted to break away.

“We don’t accept just about anyone into our group, not gay men. If you
want to become a mak nyah, you have to believe, think and want to be a
woman.”

The identity accorded transsexuals some form of dignity as it was
meant to replace derogatory labels such as bapok, pondan and bantut.

Because of the formation of the association, which has since been
closed down, mak nyahs in Malaysia are given more visibility compared
to other sexual minorities.

Now, PTF has taken over the lead in empowering transsexuals – one way
is by ensuring that they know their rights as citizens of Malaysia.

“Mak nyahs are ‘boxed’ already, their self-esteem is very low. That’s
why we have to reach out to them,” says Khartini.

“I don’t want to be born like this if I know I’m going to face all
sorts of discrimination. I’d rather be a man, a ‘normal’ man. I tried
to change, but I can’t. I’m what I am. No one forced me.”

This is the first of two articles published by The New Straits Times Of Malaysia today.

New Straits Times – Persekutuan, Malaysia

Spotlight: Mak nyahs have not abandoned God

Khartini Slamah says it is a misconception that transgenders do not
believe in religion.

Recently, she had been given a Quran by her superior, who enrolled her
into a counselling session and asked her to bertaubat (repent).

At the Mak nyah Drop-in Centre of PT Foundation, mak nyahs have
religious studies, too.

But a marked difference is they are not asked to “repent”.

Instead, every Thursday and Saturday for two hours, Ustaz Muhamad
Kasim Mohd Osman from the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department
(Jawi) explains Islamic teachings to his students using simple terms
in a non-judgmental manner.

Mak nyahs learn about fardu ain – the fundamental obligations of an
individual, which include solat (prayers), zakat (tithes) and puasa
(fasting). They are also given guidance in self-motivation,
personality-building and personal development.

Response, ever since classes started four years ago, has been nothing
less than exceptional.

It’s a misconception that transgenders do not believe in religion,
says Khartini Slamah.

“I’m a Muslim and a transgender. I don’t feel a conflict.

I still believe in God. Many Malay mak nyahs believe in religion. We
pray five times a day, but we don’t have to tell people that. We don’t
have to.”

Twenty-five years ago, it was almost impossible to string the words
“Islam” and “transsexuals” in one sentence without creating some sort
of confrontation.

After all, it was in 1983 when the edict on the ban for Muslim males
to undergo sex change operations was declared.

However, 20 years of relentless efforts in getting the religious
authorities to engage in dialogues with transgenders bore fruit when
they decided to listen to the silenced community.

“When we talked to bodies like Jawi, Jakim (Department of Islamic
Development) and Pusat Islam 10 years ago, we were not entertained.
Now, at least they listen to us.

From then on, religious classes started in PTF, anti-vice raids were
not so hostile and a few issues were resolved, albeit only a handful
out of a sea of questions which remain unanswered till this day.

One of those seen as “solved” is the issue of bathing of the body of a
dead Muslim, which must be done by people of the same sex, except if
they are related.

In the case of transsexuals, the religious bodies taught them how to
bathe a body, so that they can do so for their friends who have died.

Issues that remain in the grey area include will writing, inheritance,
and burial (male and female Muslims have different tombstones), among
others.

Kasim says more can be achieved if the definition of mak nyah can be refined.

“The definition is still unclear and much debated on by any side. We
should define who a transgender is, what her characteristics are, what
the issues are, before we decide on the rulings that pertain to them.

“Relevant parties should hold a discussion on where transgenders stand.

“In the scope of Islam, God created all humans to be perfect.

“The society’s perception is that transgender is wrong and sinful in
religion and culture as well as values. This causes them to be viewed
as a group that is not normal. By right, they are normal.

To me, the society’s perception has to be corrected.”

Posted by: Yuki Choe | April 7, 2008

Announcement: Reflections Asia Looking For Writers.

We take great pleasure in the work of Reflections Asia. But at just two writers, we have a dearth of supply versus the demand for more articles here. As Blueforest and I have to partake in other advocacy commitments, time is something we do not really have. As such, we therefore extend this invitation for volunteers of any gender, race, colour, religion, sexual orientation to be writers here at Reflections Asia.

There is no quota involved and it could be of any matters concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. So, if you are from the Asia Pacific region including Australia, and interested in taking on advocacy work for the community throughout Asia, please e-mail to me at vivian_choe@yahoo.com.

Thank you and take care.

Regards,

Yuki Choe.

Posted by: Yuki Choe | March 27, 2008

Beijing LGBTs Targeted By Police.

Account of police raids targeted at LGBT in Beijing

Wan Yanhai

First instance: in the second half of January 2008, the police in Chaoyang District visited the residence of a LGBT activist. They enquired about her ex-roommate residence permit, asked for her picture, and enquired about the nature of her job. The police made an appointment with the landlord and acted as if they were investigating the residence. They enquired about issues not exclusively related to her residence permit. At the same time, another LGBT activist received a phone call regarding a matter related to his residence permit. In the afternoon of 21 March 2008, the day after releasing the news about the signature exhibition of supporting homosexual marriage , the police paid another visit to this residence and enquired about the nature of her job, a LGBT website etc.

Second instance: on 9 March 2008, a popular LGBT night club in Beijing, called Destination, was visited by the police. The police said the club was too crowded. As a result, people’s access to the club was restricted and the music stopped. The club was shut down and resumed business only a few days after.

Third instance: in the afternoon of 17 March 2008, a number of police officers visited Dongdan Park, in the East District of Beijing. Public security officers and armed police carried out the interrogation at the park, taking away the gay people in park to the police station inside the parkㄛwhere more than 40 people were waiting to be enquired. The people taken away by the police were all requested to show their ID, and their details were checked on the computer. They were all requested to write their name on a white paper, and hold the paper with their names before their chest to be photographed. Some people refused to be photographed and released without being photographed. Some others, as a result of refusing to be photographed, and because their details were not found in the computer records, were taken to the police station for further interrogation. A gay volunteer of Aizhixing Institute was taken to the police station because police said that his name was not found in the computer records, and released after the lawyer of Aizhixing showed up at the police station. When the individuals were taken away, the police reported that a person was killed inside the park a day before, and everyone had to cooperate in the investigation. But after being walked to the police station, the individuals were not asked any question related to a criminal case.

In the following days, many people in the park were asked to show their ID. Every evening after 7, a police car drove into the park to inspect the surroundings. For a small imprudence, people would be taken away by the police. Later in the evening, the police would clear out the park. In the afternoon of 22 Marchㄛ 2 young people were taken away by police officers as soon as they walked into the park.

Fourth instance: in the afternoon of 20 March 2008, more than 10 police cars visited “Oasis” club, the most popular gay bath house in Beijing. More than 70 people, including all the members of staff and clients were taken away. After more than 30 hours, in the early morning of 22 March, the clients of the house were released. But the members of staff were kept detained. In the early morning of 21 March, the police visited another Oasis bath house near Dongsishitiao Bridge, and took away all members of staff, but not the clients. At present, these two bath houses have been shut down. It was reported that at the same time, in another part of the city, another gay bath house was also shut down.

Fifth instance: one evening around mid March 2008, in one of the alleys of a gay park in Haidian District, the police conducted an interrogation among people strolling in the area.

Sixth instance: according to information from Beijing Tongzhi (LGBT) chat rooms, the police have detained over 80 male sex workers via those chat rooms in Beijing. A chat room announcement reads as follows: “these days, Beijjing is clearing out the city and carrying out a crackdown on sex work, the police has currently detained more than 80 sex workers, this website does not welcome people with illegal intentions, and hopes everyone works together to fight illegal behavior, thanks for your cooperation!”

Finally, in recent days, a gay bath house in Shanghai has been shut down. Evidence shows that this time, crackdowns are being carried out at national level.

. . . . . . .

壽衾控儔華眈壽劑舷渀勤肮俶蟋氪俴雄腔佽隴

勀晊漆

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掛桴祥辣茩衄準楊砩芞腔懂森謐毞ㄛ洷咡湮模乾誘謐毞弅ㄛ珨萋秶峊楊俴峈﹝郅郅磁釬ㄐ

郔綴ㄛ輪ㄛ奻漆珨模唌喀掩壽敕﹝衄慫砓桶隴ㄛ掛棒湖僻俴雄岆弊俶腔.

Many thanks to Mr. Jeremy of PT Foundation for the story.

Posted by: Yuki Choe | March 21, 2008

Transgender Hate And Violence In Australia.

This is an article publised a few years ago by The Gender Centre Inc.’s magazine in Sydney Australia in regards to hate crimes and discrimination faced by transgenders in Australia. It is worth reflecting on, the situation facing transgender sisters down under.

from Polare: issue 62

Organisational and Institutional Violence Against the Transgendered

by Katherine Cummings.

In 2002-3 I researched and wrote a report on violence against transgenders, commissioned by the Crime Prevention Section of the New South Wales Attorney-General’s Department, a report which ran to more than a hundred pages and will, if all goes well, be published this year.

For the purposes of this piece I have chosen not to deal with some aspects of violence, such as domestic violence and random acts of prejudiced violence since these are common to the community at large, including gays and lesbians.

There are, however, some forms of violence which are not shared by our gay, lesbian and bisexual sisters and brothers, or only marginally, and some which are probably more common to the transgendered and intersexed than to G, L, or B.

I will deal primarily with institutional violence which is as frequently based in sins of omission as in sins of commission. I will deal with institutions such as schools, prisons, and hospitals, with organisations such as the police, community and health services, and with our lawmakers.

Before I start giving examples I should repeat that there is a lot in common between transgenders and intersex people which is not shared by lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Transgenders and the intersexed are usually subject to pharmacological and/or surgical treatment and often their self-affirmation must be endorsed by various gatekeepers in the medical and legal professions. I will deal with these gatekeepers at a later stage and, for the sake of brevity, will confine my remarks to transgenders, although many, even most, of the problems exist for the intersexed, to a greater or lesser degree.

In the case of schools, prisons and hospitals violence occurs at three levels. There is the violence inherent in policies which are outmoded or inappropriate. This may be thought of as official violence. There is the violence perpetrated by officials based in their own prejudice and inherent cruelty even when these acts contravene official policy, and there is peer group violence which can result from a number of motives, including pecking order, peer group pressure, the desire to expropriate property from the victim, and so on.

Prisons
To take prisons as a paradigm; until quite recently there was no official policy in New South Wales prisons on appropriate treatment for incarcerated transgenders. For a long time pre-operative transgenders were placed in the prisons appropriate to their birth gender. As a result transgenders, particularly male-to-female transgenders, suffered physical and verbal violence from corrections staff and from other inmates.

It took the rape and consequent suicide of a transgendered inmate in 1997 to create the necessary pressure to install a policy dealing with appropriate treatment for incarcerated transgenders in New South Wales prisons. The policy now exists yet we are still made aware at the Gender Centre of repeated abuses of transgenders, and various forms of victimisation from correctional staff and from other inmates. The situation will not be remedied until correctional staff are trained more thoroughly in the necessity to know and observe the rules, training which will need to be enforced at all levels, with persistent transgressors being disciplined and/or dismissed.

Schools
A similar pattern exists in many schools. The Education Department does not have a policy on the treatment of transgendered children and as a result teachers and peer groups have relative freedom to abuse and mock “sissies” and “tomboys” and verbal abuse can easily lead to physical abuse.

Most transgenders have stories to tell of either having to put up with vilification and physical abuse at school, or having to develop camouflage to conceal their needs and feelings. The educational authorities should look specifically at the transgendered and not suppose that their policies on the gay and lesbian in their community, or their policies against bullying will provide a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem.

Not only should there be a policy of equal rights and protection for all in the educational system, there should be pro-active teaching at the earliest levels and beyond, informing children that transgender exists, that there is nothing wrong with it and that some children feel from the earliest age that they are in the wrong gender group. Just as elementary schools can now use teaching texts to show that there is nothing wrong in a child having same-sex parents, or a single parent, or being an AIDS sufferer, so there could be lessons in the fact that some boys feel they are really girls and some girls feel they are really boys. Not only would this result (eventually) in a more accepting climate for transgender children, it might also encourage such children to admit that they have transgender feelings rather than bottling up their desires and hiding their true nature. Given admissions of this kind at an early age children could be watched over and, if they seem to be genuinely transgendered, guided compassionately to an earlier realisation of their needs. Note that if this policy were adopted another group would need to be educated – the parents. Often prejudices exhibited by children are the prejudices they see in their parents and older siblings, and a policy of meeting with parents to inform them of the phenomenon of transgender might eventually result in better attitudes being taught to the peer group both at home and in the school milieu.

Hospitals and Retirement Homes
In hospitals and retirement homes it is necessary to have official policies which cater to the gender needs of patients and clients, and these policies should again result in education of those administering directly to the patients and clients, so that nurses and carers are prepared for transgendered patients and for clients whose bodies may not be formed as expected, particularly in the case of female-to-male transgenders. Such clients may also have special requirements in the area of medication.

Nurses and carers should not violate the privacy of their patients and clients by discussing them among themselves or with other patients, clients or the friends outside the system. Violence against privacy and self-respect is still violence.

Police
The New South Wales Police Service has not yet put in place a policy specific to transgenders and as a result there is a constant stream of complaints from the transgendered about their treatment at the hands of the police. If a transgender is assaulted, even by a gang, it is as likely as not to be the transgender who is accused of starting the fracas and is therefore the one to be charged. Despite the existence of GLLOs in the Police Service (Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers), this is often an add-on duty handed to a junior member of the police at a given station, and little training is provided to make the classification meaningful. In the State of New South Wales there is only one full-time GLLO (and he seems to be committed and good at his work). To date there are no GLLTOs.

Nor is there adequate protection for the transgendered in public. Consider the matter of street assault. This can occur in any locality and to any sub-group within the community, but there are some localities where it is predictable and therefore preventable. Transgendered sex-workers are assaulted ten times more frequently than non-transgendered sex-workers. Sometimes these assaults are the result of a customer realising during the transaction that he is dealing with a transgender, and assaulting his victim from a misguided sense of macho outrage (vide “The Crying Game”) but in many cases the customer asks for a transgendered sex-worker, or goes to a house which specialises in transgendered workers.

There are frequent impersonal long-distance assaults of transgendered sex-workers on the streets. These assaults usually take the form of abuse, or thrown objects (coins, eggs for example) from passing cars. Sex-workers sometimes supply the registration numbers of these cars and/or descriptions of their attackers, but the police seldom take any action and frequently the only use made of the information is in the compilation of a newsletter called “Ugly Mugs”, distributed by the Sex Workers Outreach Project to sex workers on the streets and in brothels and safe houses used by sex-workers.

If the police wished to be more pro-active in this area it would surely be simple enough to station a few police in the area where transgendered sex-workers are known to work, in order to apprehend the villains where possible, or take car numbers and follow up with warnings to the owners.

THE MEDICAL PROFESSION
Unlike gays, lesbians and bisexuals, transgendered and intersex people are almost always involved in some kind of treatment by medical professionals. This treatment may be cosmetic, surgical, endocrinological or psychiatric. It is theoretically possible for a transgendered or intersex person to go his or her own way without the benefit of medical intervention but this would be very rare, and sometimes this mode of behaviour would stray across the borders of gender fuck, which is diametrically opposed to the needs of most transgenders, who wish to be seamlessly translated into their affirmed gender, and to live their lives, maybe not unnoticed, but at least unnoticed for vagaries of gender.

The medical profession has adopted a strangely interventionist and paternalistic attitude to the intersexed and to transgenders. Not only do they insist on a person having reached the age of majority before his/her needs are acted upon, but even after they are adults they have to satisfy a series of gatekeepers that they really want what they say they want and can handle the life they wish to lead. Those who are intersexed at birth, or simply have non-standard genitalia, often suffer intervention even more intrusive and violent than that suffered by transgenders. Arbitrary decisions are made on their behalf about which gender role they should adopt, and these decisions are made by doctors and by parents who are usually trying to force a non-standard person into a standard role, a role which may or may not work for the individual and will, in any event, mean commitment to a series of surgical procedures and lifelong medication.

There is a growing belief that intersexed babies and those with indeterminate or non-standard genitalia should be left alone until they are of an age to make an informed and mature decision. The corollary to this is that those around them (relatives, peer group, medical professionals) need to be educated in these areas so that they understand that difference need not be inimical and that all people are deserving of compassion and respect.

With regard to transgenders the medical profession takes a controlling position over the administration of medical procedures necessary for the transitioning transgender to achieve the physical changes consonant with their gender role requirements. Violence can consist of acts of omission or prevention just as much as it can consist of acts of commission. Perhaps the greatest violence committed against transgenders is the general refusal to allow medical intervention before a person attains legal majority.

This means that transgenders are condemned to go through puberty before their needs can be addressed and puberty is, for most transgenders, a time of agony and deep depression. No wonder the suicide rate of teenagers is seen to be high. Before puberty male and female bodies are similar in somatic appearance and in characteristics of voice, hair distribution etc. With puberty the male-to-female has to contend with a breaking voice, new distribution of body hair, the growth of facial hair and a redistribution of muscle and subcutaneous fat which creates a male appearance. The female-to-male transgender begins to menstruate, grows breast and subcutaneous fat is redistributed to create the “hour-glass” shape seen as stereotypically female.

Even if a transgender manages to struggle through puberty and can convince the gatekeepers of her/his need to transition, many of these physiological changes resultant from puberty must be undone, surgically and through the administration of hormones, resulting in tediously long, often embarrassing, always expensive, and sometimes painful procedures. How much better if the growing trend to accept the evidence of minors were followed in cases where children self-define as transgendered, rather than forcing unnecessary and counter-productive delays simply to satisfy an arbitrary age barrier delimiting those legally responsible from those who are not. It should be noted that this legal age is different in different countries and tends to move downwards as society matures.

In some countries (the United Kingdom, the United States, Holland, some Scandinavian countries) it is possible to have hormonal treatment to delay the onset of puberty until the subject is of an age to make a legal decision on his/her own behalf.

If a transgender has been treated in this way and makes the decision to go ahead with full transition there are overwhelming advantages for the subject compared with the problems involved in having to backtrack through the negative effects of puberty, correcting hair growth, removing body parts, changing voice patterns, treating the body soma hormonally and so on. If, on the other hand, the subject decides not to go forward with transition then hormonal treatment can be withdrawn and the subject goes through a delayed puberty with no harm done.

The case of Alex who, at the age of thirteen, was given permission by the Family Court in 2004 to commence treatment intended to delay his puberty, was a first, and highly significant step towards a necessary reform, but although it is a precedent it does not guarantee that future cases will be treated with the same compassion.

Summation
It is clear that violence against the transgendered is to be found in almost every milieu where transgenders interact with authority organisations. From the moment they are born until their days end they are forced to contend with gender classifications and unwelcome forms of documentation which can only be amended after difficult, expensive and often painful reassignments and modifications and must fight to be allowed to adopt lifestyles which other humans take for granted for themselves yet strive to disallow for others.

Whenever transgenders find themselves involved with gatekeepers, carers or authority figures they are likely to find that their wishes and wills are overborne, simply to make society’s definitions simpler. Schools, religions, hospitals, police services, the medical profession, medical insurers, retirement homes and correctional institutions find themselves in conflict with the needs and desires of the transgendered clientele whom they should be guiding, helping, treating and protecting.

Possible Strategies
The first element in solving a problem is recognition of the problem, which involves education, commencing with education of the educators. Those who teach at the most elementary level must be educated to provide information on the existence and right to exist of transgendered and intersex children, and these teachers should be trained to deal with such children when they appear. Much could be done to ease the way of transgendered and intersexed children if teachers were prepared to make the way easier, by advice and by compassionate nurture. Most transgendered children know their situation very early and most learn to hide their innermost needs almost as soon as they know them.

Education should continue throughout a person’s school career, with subjects on sexuality and gender difference the norm in schools, and specialised courses provided at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Nor should schools be allowed to evade this responsibility on the grounds that such teaching and learning in some way conflicts with their spiritual or religious convictions. Ideology is no excuse for inhumanity and inhumanity should not be subsidised by public monies.

Vocational education for those proceeding to employment in prisons, police services, retirement homes and hospitals should also include instruction in respect for, and appropriate treatment of, the transgendered. Those who assume the responsibility for transgendered clients should also be tested from time to time to ensure that their skills are maintained at an appropriate level, and sanctions against those who abuse their position should be mandatory.

Legislators must be prepared to revise the legal code to bring legal rights and the provision of appropriate documentation up to date, so that the law remains in step with medical advances.

Society as a whole must also be educated, to eliminate the bigotry and prejudice which still exists. This can be achieved not only through formal education but through entertainment media and through a pro-active attitude from the transgendered community itself. It is not until transgender is seen as simply another human characteristic, like eye-colour or intelligence level, and it therefore becomes virtually invisible to the broader community, that we will have come close to achieving the human and legal rights which are being grudgingly yielded by a society which still feels the need to establish pecking orders and to assert rights over those who are perceived as being in any way different from the norm, whatever that is, or who contravene primitive taboos which should have no place in a modern world.

Posted by: Yuki Choe | March 3, 2008

What Transsexuality Is: Definition, Cause, and History.

What Transsexuality Is: Definition, Cause, and History.
(Unknown Source)

INTRODUCTION:

Transsexuality, also termed ‘Gender Dysphoria’ is now reaching the point of being reasonably well understood, though many myths and general foolishness about the subject still abound. This document concerns the classic definition of Transsexuality, as defined by Benjamin, Money, Green, and so forth. Intersexuality and transgenderism will not be addressed other than obliquely.

IN A NUTSHELL: This is about standard, classical transsexuality.

SUMMARY DEFINITION:

Gender Dysphoria, literally a misery with regard to gender, is the condition of being in a state of conflict between gender and physical sex.

A transsexual is a person in which the sex-related structures of the brain that define gender identity are exactly opposite the physical sex organs of the body.

Put even more simply, a transsexual is a mind that is literally, physically, trapped in a body of the opposite sex.

IN A NUTSHELL: Transsexuality means having the wrong body for the gender one really is.

GRAND OVERVIEW:

Gender and Sex are very separate things, though the terms are often considered interchangeable by the less aware. Sex is physical form and function while Gender is a component of identity. There can be considered to be some legitimate overlap in that the brain is structured in many sex-differentiated ways, and the brain is the seat of identity. However, with regard to the dilemma of the transsexual, the difference between sex and gender are at the very core of the issue.

A transsexual person, born to all appearance within a given physical sex, is aware of being of a gender opposite to that physical sex. This conflict, between gender identity and physical sex, is almost always manifest from earliest awareness, and is the cause of enormous suffering. It is common for transsexuals to be aware of their condition at pre-school ages.

This agony can and does lead to self-destruction unless treated. The incredible difficulties that surround achieving treatment are themselves often agonising, the sum total of which can play havoc with the lives of the gender dysphoric. Indeed, it is apparent that some fifty percent of transsexuals die by age 30, usually by their own hand. This morbidity is known as the 50% Rule

Being a transsexual is not something that can be ignored or suppressed forever. Unlike the fascinations of the crossdresser or the partially altered transgenderist, the absolute compulsion of classical transsexualism is a matter of life and death. Social oppression, culturally indoctrinated shame, self-loathing, and bigotry slaughter transsexuals. With treatment and support, come survival and a successful life. The success rate for the treatment of transsexuals is among the highest in medicine.

Transsexuality occurs roughly equally in both physical males and physical females, and is caused by factors (such as a critically timed hormonal release caused by stress in the mother, or by the presence of hormone mimicking chemicals present during critical development) which interfere with foetal development. Transsexuality occurs independently of sexual orientation, and occurs in humans and in other animals, such as apes, monkeys, dogs, cats, rats, and mice, among those studied.

The standard treatment for a diagnosis of transsexuality is to reassign the transsexual to a physical sex congruent with their gender identity, a process involving the administration of appropriate hormones and surgery. The success of this treatment is exceedingly high, and many transsexuals go on to live successful lives.

Although transsexuality is not the same thing as homosexuality, the two can sometimes occur in conjunction with each other, and there is evidence that both are created by the similar mechanisms, in utero.

Transsexuality differs greatly from the commonly – and erroneously – associated terms “Crossdressing” or “Transvestitism”, as well as “Transgenderism”.

Whereas transsexuality is concerned primarily with gender identity and the correction of physical form to fit that identity, transvestitism is primarily a sexual fetish that occurs after puberty, and the transvestite has no desperation to redress a physical incongruity. The transvestite gains satisfaction from appearing as the opposite sex only, and the behavior is apparently not rooted in a biological, pre-natal basis, but is learned. Transvestitism, unlike transsexuality, primarily is the activity of males.

A recent term in usage is “Transgenderism”, essentially an empty word conjured up as a neutral label for any individual not conforming to common social rules of gender expression. The term was created to help unite very disparate individuals under a vague commonality of interest in gender, in order to provide a basis for mutual benefit and support within an often violently antagonistic society.

Transgenderism can refer to those who crossdress, those who are intersexed, those who live in the opposite societal role of their physical sex, those who play with gender expression for any purpose whatsoever, and transsexuals as well. While there is potentially great survival benefit in this mutual association labelled as ‘transgenderism’, the primary function is social and political, and not clinical, despite the efforts of some to legitimize this essentially meaningless term.

The exact number of transsexuals in any given population will probably never be accurately known (the best current estimate is one per 30,000). Because transsexuality is most commonly caused by stress-related hormonal changes in the womb, the number of transsexuals in any society would logically flux, based on the current state of affairs within a generation. There is evidence that more transsexuals are born during times during or following war, for instance. Even so, the condition is fairly rare.

Several interesting physical and mental indications have been statistically shown to occur in relation to transsexuality. One factor is intelligence, the transsexual is on average two standard deviations in intellect greater than the base population, and one standard deviation higher than those defined as homosexual. This probability of high intelligence is currently not explained, though there are suggestions that it may be the result of the unique and somewhat mixed brain ‘wiring’ of the transsexual, who may benefit from a combination of male and female structures or functions.

Another curious correlation is creativity, transsexuals tend to possess a high degree of artistic and general creative ability.

Transsexuals commonly show some physical indications of their condition that may cause trouble for them from parents or peers.
The male-to-female transsexual may be slow to develop male sex characteristics such as body hair, voice change, and overall physical development compared to the general population. The Female-to-Male Transsexual may display evidence of masculinization of bone structure, hair, or voice. These traits are generally very subtle, but often present.

There is tremendous social bigotry -and often outright violence- expressed towards the transsexual, and this often makes the life of the transsexual very difficult. Some transsexuals who have completely successful in transition to the appropriate sex therefore choose varying degrees of secrecy about their state and history. Other transsexuals never succeed in transforming physically to the point of being undetectable as transsexuals, and tend to suffer accordingly.

Transsexuals suffer many hurdles to achieve their required correction of the error of their birth. They must face society, the medical establishment, the common loss of all family and friends, the cost of treatment, the extreme difficulty of the required ‘half-way’ phase of transition which may last up to two years, and the inner turmoil of self-doubt and conditioned self loathing of their condition. It has been estimated (in 1981) that about 50% do not survive the malady, ending up dead by the age of 30, usually by their own hand. Almost all of this morbidity is attributed to the additional burden caused by the violent unacceptance of society, the rejection of family and friends, and the inability to find decent care.

The drive that motivates the transsexual is essentially a matter of life and death.

IN A NUTSHELL: Transsexuals suffer because they are trapped in a body of the wrong sex. This hurts so much that they are driven to fix that problem, or die trying. Transsexuality begins in the womb and occurs in many animals besides man. Transsexuality and homosexuality seem to share a common prenatal causality, but are not the same thing. Transsexuality is sometimes associated with things it is not really related to, such as crossdressing, for social or political reasons.

The Natural History Of Transsexuality:

Since transsexuality is caused by hormonal alteration of the nervous system of developing foetuses, and occurs in perhaps all mammalian species, it would be reasonable to infer that it has been around for a very long time. Indeed, since birth defects in general are just part of nature, it would be unthinkable to imagine an era of Man devoid of transsexuals. We have always been, and from time to time, history has recorded that fact.

The only clues we have of Palaeolithic transsexuals would be by considering the societies of aboriginal peoples still living with stone age technologies. The few left remaining on the earth, in the rain forests of South America, or the remaining unspoiled lands of Africa, all have reverential positions for the transsexuals that are born to them. In such societies, Transsexuals are considered magical, kin to the gods or spirits, and possessed of shamanic powers.

Every society in history has had some name, role or way of relating to the transsexual, from ancient Canaan and Turkey to India, even to the present day.

Examples abound. For instance, in ancient Rome existed the ‘Gallae’, Phrygian worshipers of the Goddess Cybele. Once decided on their choice of gender and religion, physically male Gallae ran through the streets and threw their own severed genitalia into open doorways, as a ritualistic act.
The household receiving these remains considered them a great blessing. In return, the household would nurse the Gallae back to health. The Gallae then ceremoniously received female clothes, and assumed a female identity. Commonly, they would be dressed as brides, or in other splendid clothing.

In India, ritual practices for transsexual individuals continue to the present day. Called Hijiras, this sect also worships a Goddess, and undergoes a primitive sort of sex reassignment surgery. The Hijiras are treated in a rather hypocritical fashion within Indian society however, in that they are both despised and revered at the same time. Hijiras often are paid to attend a bless weddings, and to act as spiritual and social advisors, but are also shunned as less than worthy eunuchs. Yet in other circumstances, such as social situations, they are accorded the status of true females.

The Dine, or Navajos of the southwest United States, recognizes three sexes instead of only two. For the Dine, there are Males, Females, and Nadles, which are considered somewhat both and neither. While those born intersexed or hermaphroditic are automatically considered Nadle, physically ‘normal’ individuals may define as Nadle based on their own self-definition of gender identity. The Nadle once possessed far greater respect before the Navaho were conquered and their culture all but obliterated by the forced assumption of Catholicism.

Among the Sioux, the Winkte served much the same function, and individuals could assume the complete role of their preferred gender. Physical females lived as male warriors, and had wives, while physical males lived their lives completely as women. In Sioux society no special magic was associated with this, it was just considered a way of correcting a mistake of nature. Winkte would also perform primitive reassignment operations of a sort, and history records the process used by physical males: riding for days on a special hard saddle to crush the testicles and thus effectively castrate the individual.

Being transsexual in ancient cultures took a special form of courage too, even if society may have been embracing of the Transsexed!

Whether it is the Sererr of the Pokots of Kenya, the Xaniths of Islamic Oman, the Mahu of Tahiti, or even the Sekrata of Madagascar, the story is essentially the same: transsexuality was a fact of life, and a place in society was made for the gender dysphoric to be themselves.

The modern classification of transsexuality and the medical intervention of sex reassignment was first attempted in Germany in 1930. Einar Wegener sought treatment and was operated upon. Afterwards, she lived as Lily Elbe, but alas not for long…the surgery had tragic complications. The first well known, surviving post operative transsexual was American ex-G.I. George Jorgensen, who became Christine Jorgensen in 1953. Christine became the center of a whirlwind of publicity despite an effort to avoid it, and had little choice but to capitalize on the misfortune. Christine became the first ‘Media Transsexual’ – or as some transsexuals put it ‘Transie Martyr’ , and suffered both the benefit and curse of fame. Christine starred in several hollywood movies as a result, and became celebrity enough to bring transsexualism out of the closet and into view of post-industrial society.

For decades only the rare individual physician dared treat the transsexual, while the mainstream medical community considered transsexuality to be a mere mental disorder without a biological basis. The first professional to truly try to help transsexuals with compassion and scientific study was Dr. Harry Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin carefully treated and studied the cases of transsexuals, essentially devoting most of his career to the project. The results of his carefully documented studies were published in 1966 in his book “The Transsexual Phenomenon”. This work led directly to the benefits that we modern transsexuals enjoy, for it opened the door to serious study of the condition. Currently, the worldwide Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association continues his work, and helps to set standards of care for the treatment of transsexuals by the medical establishment.

Recent study of brain functioning has shed important light on the causes of transsexuality, and surgical techniques as well as overall treatment continue to improve. Society is slowly becoming accepting once again of the inevitable transsexual in it’s midst, and it may well be that the future will hold even greater help for the transsexuals born into future ages.

IN A NUTSHELL: Transsexuals have always existed. In the ancient world, transsexuality was both accepted and respected. Throughout the ages, transsexuals have attempted to correct the error of their bodies, with varying results. The modern, technological world at last provides a real chance for the transsexual to finally, truly correct the errors of Nature.

Posted by: Blueforest | February 19, 2008

My Commitments to My Future Soul Mate

Like everyone else in the world, I hope to find a soul mate who is willing to be with me in future. Since I am a homosexual girl, my soul mate will be a girl as well. Although I am single all this while and have not yet met my soul mate, I have a few commitments for her. These are summarized in the following short poem.

Dear girl
though I still do not know what is your name
                                              how do you look like
                                              where are you at the moment
I hope I will be able
to do the following things to you
if we are together in future

I will
          love you as I love myself
          respect your family and friends
          be a good listener of you
          share your ups and downs
          wipe away your tears when you are hurt
          be with you in going through various trials and challenges in your life,
               if you are willing to let me

I will not
                hurt you unnecessarily
                act or speak equivocally and make you feel at a loss what to do
                treat our relationship as a game and make you feel uncertain and insecure
                treat our relationship as a warfare and make you feel tortured

And
I hope you will do the same to me too

Posted by: Blueforest | February 19, 2008

A Brief Info about Blueforest

Blueforest comes from a middle class family in Malaysia . She is a girl who only loves girl. She hopes there will be more people who understand and respect the LGBT community in the near future. She hates dogmatism, “kampung” mindset and “syok sendiri” attitude.

Posted by: Yuki Choe | February 18, 2008

Announcement: Reflections Asia Back With A Difference.

In this past one month plus the Christmas season had come and gone, and so is Chinese New Year. It is now back to the action as we welcome some changes to this site. Author Yuki Choe had undertaken another commitment in writing for Ex-Gay Watch, and the direction for Reflections Asia is now more diversed. We also welcome a new writer in our midst, and I will leave it to my sister to introduce a bit about herself. With these changes, we would grow stronger with faith, hope and love to our community in Asia. A new season for all of us commences now. Sit back and enjoy!

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