Crossing borders as a transwoman ― Maya Ova

MAY 21 ― Yesterday morning, I was travelling through KLIA. The usual process is to go through a security check.

You may not understand but this is something that transgender individuals like me dread the most.

When I went past the metal detector, I triggered the alarm; the first in a very long time.

It was probably from the underwire of my undergarment. It is normal to get a pat down by a security officer.

At this point, a male security officer approached me and immediately patted me including my chest. I jolted and needless to say, he knew how awkward it was because he realised what he had just been in contact with.

It was embarrassing for me not only because I was called “Encik”, but also because I was groped by a man in uniform.

It was also embarrassing for the man to have touched my body in front of his colleagues. The only thing I heard was, “Oh, rambut dia cantik!” by other female officers who were somehow aware of the situation.

There were problems on many levels with this situation. For one, physicality is obvious. Why would a man approach and physically touch a woman at security, even if she is a transgender woman?

As a paying passenger and law-abiding citizen, do I not deserve the same respect as others?

I was furious about the entire episode but I live in a society where you and I know that people do not confront or want to resolve issues like this immediately but rather talk about it or laugh it out with their friends or co-workers afterwards.

As a transwoman, I've already received my fair share of discrimination as a result of political indoctrination.

This same rhetoric that has been playing over and over again like a broken record all over the media for decades: that something is wrong with transgender people and that they do not deserve the same fairness as other regular citizens of the country.

Instead, people like me need to be “fixed” through conversion therapy, and what I am, my existence is trivialised to being merely a “lifestyle.”

For those who think this is a lifestyle, try to walk in the shoes of transgender people and you will not find this anything close to being glamorous or flamboyant.

I constantly face the threat of being hurt by unwarranted hatred or persecution just for being myself.

Unfortunately, the “don't-glamourise-LGBT-lifestyle” notion perpetuated by our politicians ignores of the reality that diversity exists beyond just ethnicity.

All I want is to go about my own life without being prejudiced in every aspect for being alive. I want to be able to go to a job interview without being asked to leave because my gender identity does not match my IC's, I want to be able to earn enough so that I can take care of my elderly parents, I want to be in a public space without those looks of disgust by society, and definitely, go through the security at the airport and not get groped by men.

All I am asking for is respect. With the situation at the airport, it should be a no-brainer that if one is unsure about a situation, one should ask.

In my case, I would have been comfortable and pleased if I were asked whether I'd rather have a female officer do the pat down instead.

I've been fortunate to travel to many countries and they have been respectful in this aspect.

India has shown me kindness, Japan has been very polite, and even our neighbour, the Indonesians have been addressing me as “kak” when I'm in their country.

Why can't Malaysia be a little bit more like them? What happened to common courtesy?

How does our society even jive with the Malaysia Truly Asia slogan when Asian cultures teach respect?

When I voted for change last year, my biggest hope was to be respected and to have a sense of belonging in my own country, and I hope this comes true.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.