For a transgender activist in Penang, the most important thing she believes her community needs is acceptance. By acceptance she means a transgender can be a transgender without having to suffer discrimination or marginalisation.
“To make people understand, I say we’re not OKU, we’re OK. Please don’t get me wrong. We respect the disabled people but just to stress the point that we’re capable with our body, we don’t want society to think that we’re disabled (OKU – Orang Kurang Upaya).
“We are OK just like most people,” said Hezreen Shaik Daud, a transgender who created history by becoming the community’s first political secretary to a State Assemblyperson.
As human beings are born equal, there is no need for anyone to discriminate anybody based on sex, gender, race or religion, she added.
Hence, acceptance by society is important because it would pave way for any transgender, as a human being, to be provided with equal opportunities in the job market.
“This is what most of us transgender people suffered from – discrimination. When we apply for a job, sometimes we were called for interview. But when a potential employer saw us, they immediately dismissed us.
“Shouldn’t job or work be based on skills and merit, and not what shirt or dress you wear?” she asked, admitting that she too had suffered such humiliation for the past 15 years.
But for 33-year-old Hezreen, she would never give up the fight for equality. At the same time she wants the transgender community to know and understand health issues as well as their rights to health services.
Due to public discrimination and unfair societal pressure, there were cases of transgender people resorting to drugs; hence the needs to get help over substance abuse as well as avoidance are important for them.
In July last year, Hezreen made media headlines when Tanjung Bungah State Assemblyperson, Teh Yee Cheu, announced her as his political secretary. Teh had been fighting for the rights and welfare of the transgender community for past few years, and last year the state government approved a committee to look into the matter; Teh heads the committee.
For Teh, a transgender person is a human being and thus must be treated like any other human being without any form of discrimination.
“I appreciate YB Teh’s daring move but more important is that we’ve worked together on many people’s issues in the past, especially when I was involved with the NGO Penang’s Family Health Development (FADA) and the state Red Crescent.
“Actually I was scared when he offered me the position, not only because of the nature of work as a political secretary but also being with the DAP politician,” she said, referring to never-ending racial attacks against DAP by UMNO-Barisan Nasional apparatuses.
She decided that there was no point delaying, it was better for her to accept the position and use it to enhance further he work in helping the needy, including the urban poor as well as the transgender community.
Hezreen admitted that all her family members are BN supporters, and because many of them had marginalised her since she came out from the closet years ago, she didn’t feel bad about joining DAP.
“When some of your family members ostracised you, what could be more painful than that? So whatever people want to say about me being with DAP, it’s up to them. I feel comfortable with DAP, at least the party believes in equal opportunity for all.
“And I’m doing what I’m doing for the sake of the people. Basically I’m helping people who need help. If some people don’t like it, what can I say?” said Hezreen who would like to see more Malaysians to be more caring and open minded.