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Learn about us first, transgender activist tells Terengganu over proposed rehab course

Transgender activist Nisha Ayub criticised a Terengganu state executive committee member for proposing an ‘awareness course’ aimed at converting members of the community ‘back to the right path’. — File picture by Choo Choy May
Transgender activist Nisha Ayub criticised a Terengganu state executive committee member for proposing an ‘awareness course’ aimed at converting members of the community ‘back to the right path’. — File picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — A transgender activist has lashed at Terengganu state executive committee member Ghazali Taib for proposing an “awareness course” aimed at bringing the community “back to the right path”.

Nisha Ayub from Justice for Sisters said today that state authorities should first educate themselves on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and the history of the community here, before even trying to organise any outreach programme.

“Stop assuming that you can change a person into the mould of your own beliefs or understanding. This is not about a puppet but about a human being,” Nisha said in a statement on her Facebook page.

“They need to see that actually we the community are not the problem, but it’s the system that they created that causes the problems to the community.”

Nisha said it is the community that is facing problems because they are being denied the rights to their own identity, with critics using religion to dictate their lives and discriminate against them.

“This is not the matter of religion but it’s a matter of being inclusive towards your citizens from different diverse backgrounds towards the developments, health and economical point of view,” she said.

Ghazali, who is the state communications, multimedia and special functions ex-co, was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying that a census would be conducted next month to determine the size of the community.

He reportedly said that the state would work with the Village Development and Security Committee, the police, and state Islamic authorities to identify the community and “rehabilitate” them.

“They would also need to look into why all the previous corrective approaches did not manage to so-called change the community and bring them back to whatever right path,” Nisha urged.

“They need to know that all this kind of correction approaches and trying to change our gender identity does not help but create more harm to the community.”

Conversion therapy which consists of psychological treatment or spiritual counselling to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is widely seen by medical and scientific community as potentially harmful and a form of pseudoscience.

The practice is opposed and has been legally challenged, or even banned, in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In 2014, Malay Mail had reported the “spiritual camps” that Islamic authorities claimed to have successfully addressed transgenderism were deceptively positioned as outreach programmes that turned out to be “rehabilitation” programmes.

Several medical and gender experts have also questioned the “success” of spiritual rehabilitation camp for transgenders, insisting they need medical care to transition them into their affirmed gender identities rather than rehabilitation to return them to what some may consider “normal”.

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