My biggest achievement in life has nothing to do with graduating from a university, marriage, building a family or having a stable income and a steady career. The one thing that I am proudest the most is my ability to finally make peace with myself, to accept every flaw, to be happy just being me. Because no matter what I went through, I have always told myself over and over again that I was going to be alright.
But 42 years of going through this journey in a conservative country like Malaysia, as a transgender, is a bitter pill that I had to swallow for years . Especially when you are born in a Muslim family, cocooned in a small town where there were hatred towards LGBTQIA in general. But I have accepted that. Not everyone can accept me, even some of my family have had a hard time accepting me for the choices that I’ve made.
I did NOT choose to become a transgender. Trust me. I do not look into the mirror, day in and day out to whisper to myself “Let’s toss a coin today, heads I’m going to be a boy and tails, I’m going to be a girl” For many, many, years, I was made to believe that, all this was a phase, it was just a phase, a passing transition. But over the years, it stayed. And I stayed the same.
I have known that was who I am from the very beginning. I am a girl that is trapped in this boy’s body. Then of course, there were frequent verbal abuse from people around me, be it close family, friend of a friend or even strangers. I have had slurs thrown at me so constantly and persistently that now, I have grown mostly immune to it. But I am only human, some days I would still get impacted by it, and some days I just ignore it. Sometimes I wonder, why have I opened myself to such attacks and why do I allow myself to face these abuses. Fighting back is not an option for me, not because I am not brave or strong enough, it’s just that violence has never been a part in my life’s vocabulary.
I’ve heard and read many stories of violence against transgenders in my community, and some of them actually lean towards prejudice and misinformation. We are often judged based on our appearances and many use religion and faith as a way to defend their opinions. It’s disheartening to see such behaviour existing and being accepted in this era of digital age and the peak of human civilisation. Gender orientation and sexual behaviours are still considered as taboo and must not be widely discussed. And if you do discuss it, it will be used to tarnish instead of to empower.
I have managed to stay this way because of my strong pillars which were my own parents. My father especially, his acceptance was what mattered the most to me.
Lately, I have not personally encountered any physical threat or verbal abuse especially where I lived. The people here have grown more ‘chilled’ or they just simply ignore my existence. But most would just pretend they are OK which is completely fine with me. My idea of co-existing now no longer requires validation and attention from anyone, I just want to live harmoniously and be a part of the community around me.
I’m lucky as I have the means and access to do so presently. With ways that you can only dream of. Social media plays an important role in this, helping me to connect with people who are going through the same thing as me, a vessel that I can use to express myself, a vessel for me to sail in. Which is often the rough and stormy sea of life. But navigating myself within a community that preach a religion that does not condone my gender orientation which they see as a lifestyle choice is NEVER smooth sailing. It is something that you just have live with, taking it one day at a time.
We are told to be silent , even when we have a voice to speak . We are told to keep quiet, and our actions are always restricted . But I do believe someday, all this will change. With more awareness and accessibility to information hopefully everyone will become more informed, and more tolerant. Meanwhile, with whatever limited resources that I have now, I will speak up and I will try to be that little voice that many of my peers are not privileged to have.
Neyna is a transgender Telecommunication Device Specialist, Poet, Writer, Spoken Word Artist and Fashion/Runway Model based in Sarawak. Passionate about transgender rights, she is not afraid to speak her mind and talk about topics that some may consider taboo.
The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of EMPOWER Malaysia.