MUST READ: High court decision on change of name & gender marker

A recent decision on name and gender change gives new hope. download and read the decision here. HC 2016 Nantha Balan Tan vs NRD

“The Plaintiff has a precious constitutional right to life under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution and the concept of ‘life’ under Article 5 must necessarily encompass the Plaintiff’s right to live with dignity as a male and be legally accorded judicial recognition as a male.” Justice Nantha Balan

Some salient points:

Page 31

Arahan Jabatan Pendaftran Negara Bil. 9/2007 paragraph 5.7.1 states that change in gender marker on identification card is not allowed except with a court order. Four documents that are required to change name and gender on the identification card:

  1. Court order that includes the details of the requested gender
  2. Supporting letter from a government doctor (if available)
  3. Letter to confirm gender affirmation surgeries by the hospital that provided the services
  4. Birth certificate (original and copy)

Arahan Jabatan Pendaftran Negara Bil. 9/2007 paragraph 5.7.1  pindaan jantina dalam kad pengenalan adalah tidak dibenarkan kecuali aas perintah mahkamah. Dokumen yang diperlukan

  1. perintah mahkamah yang mengandungi butir-butir pengisytiharan jantina baru pemohon
  2. surat pengesahan doktor kerajaan (jika ada)
  3. surat pengesahan pembedahan penukaran jantina yang dikeluarkan oleh hospital berkenaan
  4. sijil lahir (asal dan salinan)

The courts in Malaysia use Corbett vs Corbett and Bellinger vs Bellinger as precedents. Based on the precedents, four criteria are considered, which includes: chromosomal, gonadal, genital and psychological factors. However, neither chromosome nor genitals determine our gender identity. The current change of name and gender change process is based on operative status and medical intervention.

Mahkamah di Malaysia menggunakan legal precedents Corbett vs Corbett and Bellinger vs Bellinger. berdasarkan dua kes ini, empat kriteria perlua diambil kira: kromosom, gonad (organ reproduktif), genital dan faktor psychology. seperti mana yang kita tahu, kromosom atau genital tidak menentukan identiti gender kita. proses ini berdasarkan status pembedahan dan intervensi perubatan. oleh yang demikian, proses ini terbatas kepada mereka yang sudah menjalani pembedahan.

In addressing the chromosomal criteria, Judge Nantha Balan followed the approach taken by the Family Court in Australia in Attorney General For the Commonwealth v Ken and Others 2003, where “the court emphasized on the importance abandoning the chromosomal factor and highlighting the imperative need to view the matter from the physiological and physiological perspective.”

 

Gender spectrum(EN)_v3

Justice for all regardless of gender identity

Justice for Sisters is appalled by the news of a trans woman who was fined RM 700 on June 21 for failing to produce her identification card. She apparently stated that she had just been released from jail and suffered from tuberculosis. The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nur Farah Adilah Noordin urged the court to impose a heavy sentence to serve as a lesson. The woman was not represented in court.

Access to justice, and the right to redress and remedy are our fundamental human rights guaranteed in several clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution. In 2011, after hearing that ‘an estimated 80% of those tried in court for criminal offences did not have legal representation,’ the Malaysian government launched the National Legal Aid Foundation. Despite this effort, many people continue to be tried in court without representation, and as a result are imposed harsh and sometimes excessive penalties.

Because of their gender identity and the resulting systemic and social discrimination and prejudice, trans people are even more vulnerable and disproportionately face barriers when attempting to access justice. They are arrested more frequently, and hence encounter a higher incidence of trial without representation. Based on media reports and our documentation, at least 63 trans women were arrested between January and May 2016 in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Kedah and Pahang by police and the state religious departments for simply being themselves.

It is extremely distressing that the DPP urged the court to impose a heavy sentence simply to serve as a lesson to the trans woman for failing to produce her IC, while ignoring her reasons. The DPP’s heavy handed recommendations are problematic, and underscore the multiple forms of stigma, discrimination and prejudice that the trans woman was subjected to because of her gender identity, history of being jailed and having a criminal record, history of drug use, and so on.

In Malaysia, the system causes and reinforces the targeting and discrimination trans people. Trans people are not allowed to change their name, gender, and the last digit in their identification card number or in any other legal documents. The government’s refusal to allow trans people to change details in their identification documents to reflect trans people’s authentic identities makes trans persons vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and violence, including denial of employment opportunities, humiliating experiences when forced to use their identification card, and arbitrary arrests, among others.

The imposition of punitive measures increases the challenges and barriers for people, especially transgender persons with criminal records, to reintegrate themselves into society, as they are continuously penalised over non-issues. This has a lasting and negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. In addition, the state must understand and address the barriers that people with criminal records face in securing jobs, finding housing, reconciling relationships with friends and family among others. It is absurd and inhumane to continue penalising and profiting from people who have been failed by the system.

Media

We are further appalled by the continuous misgendering and the use of inaccurate terms by the media, such as Bernama, to address transgender persons. Trans women are not cross dressers. Overwhelming evidence shows that trans people have existed throughout humanity, and gender identity refers to a personal sense of belonging and identification to being a girl/woman, boy/man, neither, both, a combination of gender categories and more. All identities are normal.

The news focused on her clothing and accessories, which was unnecessary and sensationalist. All people, including transgender persons have the right to self-determination to their identity, and freedom of expression. We call on the media to adopt a positive role in the promotion of human rights, and not reinforce prejudices that bar marginalised people from living their lives with dignity.

 

Justice for Sisters calls for dialogues to dispel myths & end violence against transgender persons

Justice for Sisters is concerned by the unnecessary panic over the recent formation of the transgender committee in Pulau Pinang. The response completely overlooks the reality of violence, discrimination and marginalization faced by transgender persons in Malaysia. Justice for Sisters wholeheartedly welcomes the committee as a positive move in understanding violence and marginalization faced by transgender persons.

Based on media reports and our documentation, at least 63 trans women had been arrested in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Kedah and Pahang by police and the state religious departments for simply being themselves, between January and May 2016 alone.

Number of transgender women arrested by the authorities, namely police and state religious departments according to states in Malaysia between January and May 2016

State/Month January February March April May Total
Penang 13 3 16
Kuala Lumpur 4 6 5 11 9 35
Malacca 4 4
Kedah 1 1
Pahang 7 7
Total 4 6 18 12 23 63

 

In addition, there are also reported cases of transgender women arbitrarily stopped by the authorities and blackmailed for bribes. I am scared to be a woman, a report by the Human Rights Watch on violence faced by transgender persons in Malaysia further provides cases of arbitrary arrests on the basis on their gender identity, as well as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual violence experienced by trans women during arrests and detention. The report also documents violence faced by transgender persons in accessing basic rights, including education, employment, and healthcare among others.

Overwhelming evidences affirm that gender identity is an innate part of our being. Sex[1] and gender are two separate categories that all human beings have, and gender is not determined by genitalia. Gender is a spectrum signifying personal sense of belonging and identification (as a girl/woman, boy/man, both, neither, other gender identities).

In 2015, research led by brain researcher Georg S. Kanz of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Medical University of Vienna demonstrated that the very personal gender identity of every human being is reflected and verifiable in the cross-links between brain regions. The report stated, “While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being.”

This research along many with psychological, anthropological and other evidences further affirm that transgender persons have existed throughout humanity, and they do not impersonate, pretend or cross dress. Transgender people merely express their identities, like cisgender[2] persons.

Moreover, contrary to popular beliefs, most major religions and faith, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism acknowledge the reality of gender diversity in humanity. Religious leaders, including Lord Rama, Prophet Muhammad, and Gautama Buddha have shown acceptance and recognized transgender persons in their lifetime.

BuddhismTwo of Gautama Buddha’s followers were transgender – trans woman and trans man. Gautama Buddha recognized their authentic gender identity, and ensured they were treated as their authentic gender identity.

Islam – Islam recognizes diversity in sex and gender. Islam recognizes that sex spectrum and is not merely determined by genitals, evidenced by the recognition of khunsa wahdid and khunsa musykil. Mukhannathun, term used for transgender women, existed Mecca and Medina, and worked as matchmakers among others. There are also references that show mukhannathun were permitted in cisgender women spaces, and cisgender women did not have to cover their modesty around mukhannathun.

Hinduism – Hinduism is rich with narratives that acknowledge diverse gender identities. In the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama, who is banished from kingdom, is followed by a group of people into the forest. He asks all the men and women to leave, and they do. However, those who do not identify with both categories did not move. Lord Rama was impressed by their devotion, and blessed them. In Mahabaratha, Arjuna transitions, and changes her name to Brihannala. Brihannala lives in a harem where she teaches women art, dance and music. Some transgender women also believe that they are descendants of Mother Goddess Bahuchara Mata.

Social justice and liberation from misery and oppression, including slavery, patriarchal systems, poverty, have been central themes of religion. Overwhelming evidence show that transgender persons being subjected to arrested simply for being who they are; experience bullying and violence in school; lack employment opportunities; mistreated in healthcare settings and more. Transgender persons as a population is misunderstood, marginalized, and face multiple forms of violence and discrimination because of their gender identity.

We now live in a time with increased visibility, understanding and research regarding gender identity and transgender persons. We call for dialogues to dispel harmful myths and assumptions about transgender persons, and to understand the marginalization faced by trans people in Malaysia. Together we must end marginalization and violence towards transgender persons, and liberate each other from oppression.

[1] Sex refers to a combination of our chromosomes, external and internal sexual reproductive organs, hormones, and secondary sexual characteristics. The common misconception is that sex only consists of female (XY) or male (XX) chromosomes. However, there are also people with diverse types of chromosomes (XXX, XO, XXY, etc.), hormones, and physical characteristics outside of the male/female binary, who are known as intersex.

[2] A person whose lived experience match the gender assigned at birth based on genitals is known as a cisgender person.

Police must be sensitised to understand the real issues faced by LGBTQ persons, and address violence against LGBTQ persons

Justice for Sisters strongly criticises the Deputy IGP’s statement on LGBT persons. It is important to understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are innate parts of our identity, and these categories are a spectrum, meaning not made out of only two identities (binary).

Gender identity is a spectrum signifying personal sense of belonging and identification (as a girl/woman, boy/man, both, neither, and other gender identities). Further, and most importantly, gender identity is not determined by genitals. A person whose lived experience match the gender assigned at birth based on genitals is known as a cisgender person. While a person whose lived experience does not match gender assigned at birth is known as transgender, gender queer or fluid and others. The growth in our understanding of the spectrum of gender has moved gender recognition legislations in many countries that now no longer require medical intervention before recognising gender identities.

Sexual orientation on the other hand refers to our romantic and sexual attraction towards others. Sexual orientation is also spectrum, which includes

Heterosexual – person who identifies as a woman who is attracted to people who identify as man, vice versa

Bisexual – person who identifies as a man who is attracted to people who identify as man and woman, vice versa

Gay – person who identifies as man attracted to people who identify as man

Lesbian – person who identifies as woman attracted to people who identify as woman

Asexual – no or limited sexual desires towards others. Romantic attraction may or may not exist

Pansexual – people whose attractions are not based on gender identity or sexual orientation

Queer – people whose attractions are not based on gender identity or sexual orientation

All sexual orientations are normal, fluid, and personal. Our romantic and sexual attraction, a feeling that most people have, cannot be dictated by anyone, including the state and its institutions.

The claim of being LGBT is a western idea or culture is historically, factually and scientifically inconsistent. Overwhelming evidence show that gender diversity had existed throughout the world throughout history, including sida-sida in Malaya; manang bali, basir and balian in Borneo; hijra in India; calabai, calalai and bissu in Indonesia; asog/bayugin in the Philippines; mukhannathun in Mecca and Medina; Fa’afafine in Samoa and New Zealand; Māhū in Hawai’i; two-spirit in North America, and more.

Increase of state sponsored homophobia and transphobia

We are concerned that the Deputy IGP’s statement will further perpetuate homophobia and transphobia within and among police officers and departments. I am Scared to be a Woman, a report by Human Rights Watch also documented multiple forms of violence experienced by transgender persons by the police. This includes arbitrary arrests based on gender identity; arbitrary urine tests, which makes trans women vulnerable to sexual violence, body shaming and humiliation by police officers, who are typically cisgender men; extortion of money or sexual favours; lack of urgency and bias in investigating police reports lodged by transgender persons; sexual violence, amongst others.[1]

Other anecdotal evidence by trans women further shows similar trend of persecution and abuse by the authorities. Gay men on the other hand are subjected to blackmails, extortions and more. Underlying this impunity by the police are the discriminatory, colonial and archaic laws that criminalize consensual non heteronormative sexual acts (the Penal Code 377), state syariah laws that criminalize transgender persons based on their gender identity and gender expression (male persons posing as a woman), the consistent anti-LGBT rhetoric, including hate speech from the state and its institutions, among others.

Police departments and officers must reflect the diversity of the community that they serve. The reality is LGBTQ people are part of society, and the state has the duty to protect all people, not just some people. Further, it is extremely counterproductive when people fear the police. LGBTQ persons often do not report cases of violence because of the attitude, lack of urgency and bias by the police in investigating police reports lodged by LGBTQ persons. Further, LGBTQ persons are subjected to intrusive and irrelevant questionings about their gender identity (e.g. “Are you a man or woman?” based on IC, misgendering), gender expression (e.g. “Are you a man or woman?” based on appearance), and sexual orientation. As a result, many cases go unreported and uninvestigated. This is also a deprivation of our fundamental right to redress and remedies.

Good practices in South East Asia

Police officers in the Philippines have undergone trainings with LGBTQ groups to further understand the issues faced by LGBTQ persons, and to reduce violence by the police towards LGBTQ persons. In 2013, a national Gender and Sexuality training program to sensitize police officers when engaging with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.[2]

“The aim of this engagement with the LGBT sector is to sensitize the police force to bring about attitudinal change that greatly affects how the police enforce the rule of law and to make the necessary recommendations to incorporate inclusion of LGBT issues and rights in the formal training program of instructions (POI) in the policies and standard procedures of the police force,” said Police Chief Superintendent Nestor Fajura, Chief of the Philippines National Police Human Rights Affairs Office.[3]

All persons have a right to employment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression remains a problem for LGBTQ persons in seeking employment opportunities. LGBTQ persons are forced to hide their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression at work, and live double lives, which increases stress and anxiety of being found out. In addition, transgender persons and gender fluid or gender queer or gender non-conforming persons are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression during job interviews, which effectively reduces their job prospects.

We call the Deputy IGP to understand the issues faced by LGBTQ persons, review his statements, and engage with LGBTQ groups in a meaningful way to address the issues faced LGBTQ persons in relation to the police.

[1] I am scared to be a woman, Human Rights Watch, page 34-36 https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/09/24/im-scared-be-woman/human-rights-abuses-against-transgender-people-malaysia

[2] Special Report: Philippines National Police Undergo LGBT Sensitivity Workshops: Part 1, https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/special-report-philippines-national-police-undergo-lgbt-sensitivity-workshops-part-1

[3] Philippines: Police Officials On Board with LGBT Sensitization Training, https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/underway-philippines-education-police-officers

 

Memahami seks dan gender: perbezaan, andaian dan keganasan.

Memahami seks dan gender adalah penting dalam menghentikan keganasan serta peminggiran individu transgender.

Bukti-bukti kukuh mengesahkan bahawa identiti gender adalah semula jadi kepada semua orang, dan seks/jantina serta gender adalah dua kategori berasingan yang dipunyai oleh semua manusia. Seks mahupun gender bukanlah binari, bermakna tidak terdiri daripada hanya dua identiti.

Seks – gabungan kromosom, organ-organ reproduktif seksual luaran dan dalaman, hormon, serta ciri-ciri seks sekunder – adalah sebuah spektrum, dan ianya tidak menentukan identiti gender kita. Anggapan umum adalah bahawa seks hanya terdiri daripada lelaki iaitu kromosom (XX) atau perempuan (XY). Walau bagaimanapun, terdapat juga individu yang mempunyai pelbagai jenis kromosom (XXX, XO, XXY, dan lain-lain), hormon, dan ciri-ciri fizikal di luar binari lelaki /perempuan, yang dikenali sebagai interseks atau khunsa. Individu dengan ciri-ciri interseks menghadapi cabaran yang unik akibat tekanan untuk menepati lelaki/perempuan binari, termasuk pembedahan alat kelamin tanpa persetujuan mereka, isu-isu imej badan, dan sekatan untuk bersaing dalam acara sukan.

Identiti jantina pula merujuk kepada perasaan peribadi kita dan cara kita rasa, lihat, dan mengenalpasti diri kita, sama ada sebagai lelaki atau perempuan, kedua-duanya, tidak kedua-duanya atau kombinasi mana-mana kategori.

Pada tahun 2015, penyelidikan yang diketuai oleh penyelidik otak Georg S. Kanz, Klinik Universiti bagi Psikiatri dan Psikoterapi Universiti Perubatan Vienna menunjukkan bahawa identiti jantina adalah sangat peribadi bagi setiap manusia, digambarkan dan boleh disahkan dalam pautan silang di kawasan otak. Laporan itu menyatakan, “Walaupun jantina biologi biasanya dimanifestasikan dalam penampilan fizikal, identiti jantina individu tidak segera dapat dicerap dan penubuhan yang utama dalam jiwa seorang manusia.”

Apabila kanak-kanak dilahirkan, mereka diberikan gender berdasarkan alat kelamin mereka. Sebagai contoh, seorang kanak-kanak yang mempunyai faraj ketika lahir diberikan jantina/gender sebagai perempuan, dan kemudiannya dijangka untuk melaksanakan peranan gender khusus untuk identiti tersebut seperti memasak, mengemas, dan akur, dan sebagainya. Manakala mereka yang ditentukan sebagai anak lelaki ketika lahir dijangka menjadi kuat, agresif, bersifat sebagai pelindung bagi yang lain dan sebagainya. Walau bagaimanapun, penentuan dan andaian sebegini tidak selalunya tepat, kerana alat kelamin tidak menentukan gender seseorang. Seks dan gender adalah dua kategori yang berbeza,dan juga ditentukan oleh komponen yang berbeza dalam badan kita.

Orang yang mempunyai pengalaman hidupnya yang sepadan dengan seks dan gender yang diberikan semasa lahir, mereka dikenali sebagai cisgender, manakala orang yang mempunyai  pengalaman hidup tidak sepadan dengan seks dan gender mereka ketika lahir dikenali sebagai transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid dan lain-lain.

Satu kajian yang dijalankan pada bulan Januari 2015 dengan 32 kanak-kanak transgender berumur antara lima hingga dua belas, yang diketuai oleh ahli sains psikologi Kristina Olson dari Universiti Washington, mendapati bahawa “identiti gender kanak-kanak ini amat tepat dan keputusan yang dihasilkan bukan daripada kekeliruan tentang identiti gender atau berpura-pura”. Para penyelidik menyatakan bahawa “keputusan kami menyokong tanggapan bahawa kanak-kanak transgender tersebut adalah tidak keliru, tertangguh, menunjukkan respon di luar norma gender atau gender a-typical response, berpura-pura, ataupun disebaliknya. Mereka sebaliknya menunjukkan respon sepenuhnya secara biasa dan dijangka untuk kanak-kanak dengan identiti gender mereka tersebut”.

Para penyelidik mendapati respon daripada kanak-kanak transgender tidak dapat dibezakan daripada kanak-kanak cisgender. Data daripada kanak-kanak perempuan transgender menunjukkan corak yang sama dengan data dari kanak-kanak perempuan cisgender, dan data dari kanak-kanak lelaki transgender menunjukkan corak yang sama dengan data dari kanak-kanak lelaki cisgender. Sebagai contoh, kanak-kanak perempuan transgender lebih suka berkawan dengan kanak-kanak perempuan lain dan mereka cenderung dan lebih suka dengan mainan dan makanan yang gadis-gadis lain suka, sama seperti kanak-kanak perempuan cisgender.

Memahami dysphoria gender.       

Manual Diagnostik Statistik (DSM) 5 menjelaskan gender dysphoria sebagai sesuatu pengalaman yang dialami oleh individu yang mendapati pengalama hidup mereka berbeza dengan gender yang diberikan ketika lahir. DSM-5 juga memberikan cadangan untuk mengurangkan tekanan dan kebimbangan disebabkan oleh ketidakupayaan untuk menyatakan identiti gender sahih mereka.

DSM-5 juga menekankan bahawa dysphoria gender adalah bukan satu mental heath disorder. Gender identity disorder (GID) telah digantikan dengan dysphoria gender dalam DSM terkini untuk mengelakkan stigma dan memastikan akses kepada penjagaan serta sokongan bagi individu yang mendapati pengalaman hidup mereka berbeza daripada gender yang diberikan ketika lahir berdasarkan alat kelamin mereka.

Kepelbagaian gender dalam sejarah manusia                                                                       

Transgender dan individu daripada pelbagai gender, telah dan sentiasa wujud sepanjang sejarah manusia. Michael Peletz di dalam bukunya bertajuk ‘Pluralisme Gender di Asia Tenggara’ mendokumenkan kewujudan sida-sida, yang sama dengan identiti transgender hari ini seperti di istana Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Johor, dan bahagian-bahagian lain di Malaya dan kawasan di Indonesia. Sida-sida tinggal di kamar dalaman istana, dan telah diamanahkan dengan urusan adat istiadat istana serta pemeliharaan kuasa yang khas pemerintah.

Rujukan lanjut kepada sida-sida boleh didapati dalam Hikayat Melayu, seperti Hikayat Amer Hamzah. Profesor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, seorang ahli antropologi Malaysia yang pernah melihat sida-sida di istana semasa beliau seorang kanak-kanak, menggambarkan mereka sebagai diberikan identiti lelaki ketika lahir, yang berpakaian dan berperanan perempuan.

Di Borneo, terdapat beberapa identiti seperti manang bali, basir dan balian, yang digambarkan sebagai individu-individu yang telah diberikan gender lelaki ketika lahir, yang termaktub identiti perempuan serta melaksanakan peranan gender yang dilakukan oleh wanita cisgender. Basir, dalam Gender Pluralism in South East Asia, pula digambarkan sebagai seseorang yang “pakaian seperti seorang wanita dan juga dalam kehidupan peribadinya, membahagikan rambut mereka di tengah-tengah dahi mereka sama seperti seorang wanita (cisgender).” Manang bali, basir dan balian juga pakar ritual, dukun dan bomoh, dan sebagainya.

Identiti yang sama dilihat di seluruh dunia – Hijrah di India; calabai, calalai dan bissu di Indonesia; asog/bayugin di Filipina; Mukhannathun di Mekah dan Madinah; Fa’afafine di Samoa dan New Zealand; Māhū di Hawai’I; two-spirit di Amerika Utara, dan banyak lagi.

Perubahan sikap.                                                                         

Dengan pencerahan and perkembangan dalam pemahaman gender, banyak negara di Amerika Latin, Asia Selatan, Eropah, Amerika Utara dan lain-lain telah memperkenalkan undang-undang pengiktirafan gender yang membolehkan individu transgender menukar nama dan penanda gender (gender marker) dalam dokumen undang-undang tanpa apa-apa intervensi perubatan atau pembedahan. Proses ini dijangka”cepat, telus dan boleh diakses”, berdasarkan penentuan dan keazaman sendiri. Sebagai contoh, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act in Malta di Malta, memerlukan perisytiharan yang mudah berdasarkan prosedur penentuan sendiri oleh seseorang sebelum notari, dan melarang permintaan untuk mendapatkan maklumat perubatan untuk proses tersebut. Keseluruhan proses tidak melebihi 30 hari.

Realiti di Malaysia.                                                                                        

Diskriminasi dan keganasan terhadap golongan transgender adalah satu fenomena yang bermula pada tahun 80-an. Sebelum waktu itu, individu transgender juga turut menikmati beberapa hak, termasuklah penukaran nama dan identiti gender mereka di dalam dokumen rasmi, seperti kad pengenalan berdasarkan status pembedahan.

Semua 14 negeri di Malaysia mempunyai undang-undang yang menjenayahkan wanita transgender berdasarkan identiti gender dan ekspresi gender, manakala 3 negeri mempunyai undang-undang yang melarang orang perempuan yang berlagak sebagai lelaki atau memakai pakaian lelaki di tempat awam untuk tujuan tidak bermoral. Undang-undang ini telah diperkenalkan antara tahun 1985 dan 2012.

Sebelum fatwa itu dilaksanakan dalam tahun 1983, yang mana melarang pembedahan peneguhan gender untuk golongan trans, pembedahan peneguhan gender ada disediakan oleh doktor tempatan di Hospital Universiti. Selepas itu, golongan transgender tidak lagi boleh menukar nama mereka dan penanda gender dalam dokumen undang-undang mereka. Undang-undang dan fatwa diperkenalkan pada tahun 80-an telah menyebabkan akses kepada hak asasi manusia, termasuklah pendidikan, pekerjaan, kesihatan dan perumahan, lebih bertambah merosot lagi, yang sekaligus meminggirkan komuniti transgender.

Ini adalah masanya untuk orang ramai memahami bahawa golongan trans adalah normal, tidak berpura-pura,’cross-dressing’, melalui satu-satu fasa, atau tidak pasti identiti gender mereka. Individu transgender hanyalah menyatakan dan mengekspresikan diri mereka, seperti individu cisgender.

Kekurangan pemahaman seks dan gender menyebabkan stigma, diskriminasi, keganasan dan halangan bagi individu untuk mengekspresikan diri mereka serta menjadi diri mereka yang sebenar. Oleh itu, adalah sangat penting bagi orang ramai untuk mendidik diri mereka sendiri dan antara satu sama lain tentang konsep asas seks serta gender yang berpandukan pengalaman hidup seseorang dan pendekatan berasaskan bukti.

 

Understanding sex and gender: distinctions, assumptions and violence

Understanding sex and gender is imperative in ending violence and marginalization of transgender persons

Overwhelming evidence affirms that gender identity is an innate part of our being, and sex and gender are two separate categories that all human beings have. Neither sex nor gender are binary, meaning consisting of only two identities.

Sex – a combination of our chromosomes, external and internal sexual reproductive organs, hormones, and secondary sexual characteristics – is a spectrum, and does not determine our gender identity. The common misconception is that sex only consists of female (XY) or male (XX) chromosomes. However, there are also people with diverse types of chromosomes (XXX, XO, XXY, etc.), hormones, and physical characteristics outside of the male/female binary, who are known as intersex. Persons with intersex characteristics face unique challenges to fit into the male/female binary, including genital mutilation without consent, body image issues, and restrictions to compete in sporting events, among others.

Gender identity, on the other hand, is our personal sense of how we feel, see, and identify as a boy/man, girl/woman, both, neither, or combination.

In 2015, research led by brain researcher Georg S. Kanz of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Medical University of Vienna demonstrated that the very personal gender identity of every human being is reflected and verifiable in the cross-links between brain regions. The report stated, “While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being.”

When a child is born, she/he/zie[1] is assigned a category based on their genitals. For example, a child with a vagina is assigned female/girl at birth, and subsequently expected to perform gender roles specific to that identity such as cooking, cleaning, and being submissive, among others; while those assigned male/boy at birth are expected to be strong, aggressive, protective and so on. However, these assignments and assumptions are not accurate all the time, as our genitals do not determine our gender. Sex and gender are two different categories, and determined by different components of our body.

People whose lived experiences match the sex and gender they were assigned at birth are known as cisgender, while people whose lived experiences do not match the sex and gender they were assigned at birth are known as transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid and others.

A study conducted in January 2015 of 32 transgender children aged between five and twelve, led by psychological scientist Kristina Olson of the University of Washington, found that “the gender identity of these children is deeply held and is not the result of confusion about gender identity or pretense.” The researchers noted that “our results support the notion that transgender children are not confused, delayed, showing gender-atypical responding, pretending, or oppositional – they instead show responses entirely typical and expected for children with their gender identity.”

The researchers found responses from transgender children were indistinguishable from those from cisgender children. The data from transgender girls showed the same pattern as the data from cisgender girls and the data from transgender boys showed the same pattern as the data from cisgender boys. For instance, transgender girls preferred to be friends with other girls and they tended to prefer toys and foods that other girls liked, just like cisgender girls.

Understanding gender dysphoria

In addition, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) 5 explains gender dysphoria as something experienced by people whose gender assigned at birth differs from their lived experiences. The DSM-5 further provides recommendations to reduce stress and anxiety caused by inability to express their authentic gender identity.

The DSM-5 further rightly emphasizes that gender dysphoria is not a mental health disorder. Gender identity disorder (GID) was replaced with gender dysphoria in the latest DSM to avoid stigma and ensure access to care and support for people who do not identity with the gender assigned at birth based on their genitals.

Gender diversity throughout the history of humanity

Transgender and gender-diverse persons have always existed throughout the history of humanity. Michael Peletz in his book Gender Pluralism in South East Asia documents the existence of sida-sida, gender-diverse identities similar to present-day transgender persons, in the palaces of Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Johor, and other parts of the Peninsula Malaya and parts of Indonesia. Sida-sida resided in the inner chambers of the palace, and were ‘entrusted with the sacred regalia and the preservation of the ruler’s special powers’.

Further references to sida-sida can be found in the Hikayat Melayu, such as Hikayat Amer Hamzah. Professor Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a Malaysian anthropologist, also provides a first-hand account of seeing sida-sida in a palace as a child, describing them as people who were assigned male at birth, who dressed and performed gender roles of women.

In Borneo, there are accounts of identities such as manang bali, basir, and balian are described as people who were assigned male at birth, who embodied female identity and performed gender roles performed by cisgender women. Basir, in Gender Pluralism in South East Asia, are described as someone who “dresses like a woman in private life as well, and parts their hair in the middle of their forehead just like a (cisgender) woman.” Manang bali, basir and balian were also ritual specialists, shamans and healers, among others.

Similar identities are seen through out the world – hijra in India; calabai, calalai and bissu in Indonesia; asog/bayugin in the Philippines; mukhannathun in Mecca and Medina; Fa’afafine in Samoa and New Zealand; Māhū in Hawai’I; two-spirit in North America, and more.

Changing attitudes

Given developments in the understanding of gender, many countries in Latin America, South Asia, Europe, North America and others have introduced gender recognition laws that allow transgender persons to change their name and gender markers in their legal documents without medical interventions or surgeries. The process is envisioned to be ”quick, transparent and accessible” gender recognition procedures, based on self-determination. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act in Malta, for example, requires a simple declaration based on a person’s self-determination procedure before a notary, and prohibits requests for medical information. The entire process does not exceed 30 days.

Reality in Malaysia

Discrimination and violence towards transgender persons is a phenomenon that began in the 80s. Prior to that time, transgender persons enjoyed some rights, including being able to change their name and gender identity in their legal documents, namely identification cards, based on operative status.

All 14 states in Malaysia have laws that criminalize transgender women based on gender identity and gender expression, while three states have laws that prohibit female persons who pose as men or wear men’s attire in a public place for immoral purposes. These laws were introduced between 1985 and 2012.

Prior to the fatwa in 1983, which prohibited gender affirmation surgeries for trans people, local doctors provided the surgeries in University Hospital. Consequently, transgender persons were no longer able to change their name and gender marker in their legal documents. The laws and fatwa introduced in the 80s further deteriorated access to fundamental human rights, including education, employment, healthcare and housing, and further marginalized the transgender community.

It is time for people to understand that trans persons are normal, and are not in any shape or form pretending, cross dressing, going though a phase, or uncertain of their gender identity. Transgender persons are merely expressing themselves, like cisgender persons.

The lack of understanding of sex and gender has caused stigma, discrimination, violence and barriers to people being their authentic selves. Thus, it is imperative for people to educate themselves and each other about the basic concepts of sex and gender guided by lived experiences of people and evidence-based approaches.

[1] Gender-neutral pronoun. Other gender-neutral pronouns include they/their