KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — For the general population of Malaysia, the right to use a public toilet is a given, without any questions asked.
But for transgender activist Nisha Ayub, having a minister acknowledge her right to use the female toilet is already “progress”.
Speaking to the Malay Mail, transgender activist Nisha Ayub said she was very happy when Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa acknowledged that transgender women can use the female toilet.
“A reporter brought up the matter. She asked if it was okay for a transgender to use a female toilet. Datuk Mujahid said it’s basically a washroom and if she looks like a woman, she should go to the female toilet.
“Before this no one at his level, who comes from the Islamic ministry, has acknowledged our basic human needs to use public toilets. This is the first time our most basic needs are recognised,” said Nisha, referring to the joint press conference she had with Mujahid yesterday.
Mujahid pointed out that people generally will not question a female-looking person using a female washroom but that same person would definitely stand out and create an awkward or problematic situation if she entered the male washroom.
Nisha also said she was very pleasantly surprised and happy with the meeting that took place prior to the press conference, saying that there is finally some progress.
“Datuk Mujahid has a very different approach. Before this they (the authorities) would tell us to listen to them. They don’t try to listen to us. They would say that we are wrong and we need to be corrected.
“Now he (Mujahid) approaches us with a different angle. He listens to the community and the most incredible part is he acknowledges that transgender people exist, that we are part of Malaysia, not just a behaviour that can be changed or influenced by Western culture,” said Nisha.