I am writing this article in support of NGOs that have spoken out against the permission given to Jakim to arrest and re-educate transgenders. I believe that the Minister of Religious Affairs should have a deep understanding of the issue before he makes any statement with far reaching implications.
Around 2000, I made a study of the transsexual community out of curiosity as a researcher as to why this community would subject themselves to such deep discrimination and rejection from the society to be who they are. Transsexuals are those who want to have a sex reassignment surgery to change their gender. They are a major segment of the transgender community.
I also read as much as I could find books and articles on research with this community. In my quest for knowledge, I met international researchers from different parts of the world in international conferences who had carried out similar research. When we presented our papers together in the same panel, all of us could not help but noticed that our research findings were very similar.
We all concluded that it could not be a cultural or social phenomenon as we were from different cultures. There has to be biological explanations as so many scientific studies have shown.
My research with 507 transsexuals also led me to believe that social explanations that they were influenced to be who they were just does not hold water as I have done all the necessary statistical tests with my data.
Two major myths that society had about this community were: 1) they were the only son and were influenced by their sisters to be a female, and 2) the myth that their mothers wanted a daughter instead of a son and so dressed them up as girls.
Both myths have been proven to be false as majority of them have brothers and sisters, and their mothers were the ones who were most against them behaving like a girl.
About a third of them said they had other family members who were transsexuals. They had never been attracted to a girl and in their dreams, they were always a female.
Some of the important findings from the 2000 research are:
- Majority of them were in the B40 group with a third living below the poverty line income;
- Cross-dressing and having a body shape like women were important to them as they gave them the feeling of who they really were;
- They would like to have the sex reassignment surgery if they were allowed to do so legally;
- 84% did not receive moral support from family members. Out of these some were disowned by their family;
- 14% had, at some stage, tried to commit suicide because of stigmatisation and non-acceptance by their families and society;
- 55% were arrested by the police at some time and of these, majority were arrested more than once;
- About 28% of the respondents said that they had been arrested by the Islamic religious authority and of these, majority were arrested more than once;
- Almost all of those who were arrested by the police and/or the Islamic authorities said that they would not stop cross-dressing.
When I interviewed one of the directors at Jakim at the time, he said that “If there is scientific proof that transsexualism is caused by the biological nature of a person, Islam may reconsider this issue.” This statement was published in my book on “The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transsexuals” in 2002.
It should be noted that 19 respondents in the study (4%) had their sex reassignment surgery. Unfortunately, they could not change their status in their identity card to their new gender and this has posed many problems in their lives.
In another joint study carried out in 2015 with researchers from the Public Health Institute, US, and funded by the National Institute of Health, US, on 150 transsexuals in the Klang Valley, we found that the social situation of the transsexuals had worsened.
The shocking findings were that the respondents reported relatively high number of assault, both physically and sexually: 38% physically assaulted; 28% sexually assaulted as a minor; and 19% sexually assaulted as an adult.
We also found that 36% of the respondents ever had suicidal thoughts, and out of these, 59% reported attempting suicide.
One of the main factors that caused the social situation of the transsexuals to decline over the years is the stigmatisation, non-acceptance and marginalisation by the society that views them through a negative lens, fuelled by people in authority who are ignorant of the matter or who refused to accept the fact that transsexualism has a biological explanation.
I have presented my findings and quoted scientific research that explain this biological phenomenon to some of them, but I was told that this research was wrong, but I was not given references to contrary research that prove otherwise.
The implication is that these people just believe what they wanted to believe. The danger is that when they are in authority, they could do a lot of harm to others.
Even if they could not accept the scientific findings, humanitarian-wise, did the transsexuals harm anyone or cause any damage to anyone in the society? If they have not, do we have the right then to judge them?
It is their personal life and if anyone has the right to judge them, it is the Creator himself. So please stop judging them and making their lives so miserable and unpleasant on earth lest we risk ourselves being judged negatively by our Creator.
Teh Yik Koon is an academic in a local university.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.