In Darkness: KL's Transgenders Shed Light on Deaths and Violence

In Darkness: KL's Transgenders Shed Light on Deaths and Violence
REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (MALAYSIA)

What you need to know

An annual memorial brings attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

A group of transgenders and their allies in Kuala Lumpur marked the International Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016 with a candlelight vigil and sharing session last night.

Held at the SEED Foundation office in Chow Kit, the session started almost literally in the dark, as the area was facing an electricity blackout.

"Perhaps it is a sign," said one participant as she joined the group to light candles in remembrance of their friends who died as a result of transphobia.

The annual memorial, which first started in the United States in 1999, was also held to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

Earlier, in the dark and fanning themselves to keep cool, they recalled incidents of gruesome deaths or assaults within their community - several of which were allegedly ignored by the authorities.

The electricity supply was restored shortly after they finished lighting the candles.

An outreach worker with SEED Foundation, who introduced herself as Erin, recalled an incident that occurred in 2006 in a rented room Chow Kit, where the body of a transwoman was found hanging from a ceiling fan.

"We don't know whether she was murdered or she hung herself," Erin said, adding that the police were reluctant to investigate the case.

Erin said she eventually had to collect donations from the victim's friends to cremate the body, as it was too expensive to conduct burial rites according to the woman’s religious belief.

Another participant, Misha Majid (photo), shared the story of her former housemate - a transwoman who was abused by her then partner.

Misha said she witnessed her friend being beaten up repeatedly with a hammer, the final straw in what she described as an issue of domestic violence.

"It was about 2 a.m. and I was woken up by loud screams from the living room.

"I walked out and saw him holding a hammer, having already beaten her repeatedly," said Misha, adding that the incident ended with the man breaking up with her friend and leaving their house for good.

At the time, Misha said, she alerted her friend's mother of the incident, but was later told that the police had refused to investigate their report.

Others who shared their experiences include a transman who introduced himself as Nazrul.

The 43-year-old touched on the importance of family support for their community, expressing gratefulness over that fact that he had gained the acceptance of his parents before they passed away.

SEED Foundation project director Nisha Ayub said the office is a safe space for the transgender community, in encouraging more of them to seek assistance when faced with any problems.

Nisha, who received international recognition for her work as a transgender activist, had last year sustained injuries after being assaulted by two unidentified men.

The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published on Malaysiakini.

Editor: Edward White


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