TAIPEI, TAIWAN – At least in some contexts, progressive efforts have been successfully made to push for the human rights of transgender and non-binary people, but even more needs to be done. This is according to LGBTQIA advocates, as well as others working on LGBTQIA issues, here are the 2022 European Union-Taiwan LGBTI Human Rights Conference.
“People think it’s all (rosy now),” said Note Rati Tesombat, executive director of the Foundation of Transgender Alliance for Human Rights (ThaiTGA) in Bangkok, “even if the truth is, it’s still not.”
DIFFERENT CONTEXTS, SIMILAR ISSUES
In Thailand, for example, 38% of trans people experienced violence at home, in academic institutions, and in workplaces; this is higher when compared even to other members of the LGBTQIA community, with only 13% of gay and 11% of lesbian people experiencing the same.
In Japan, trans people also had higher rates of suicidal ideation (3.8 times higher than the cisgender population), with 52.3% experiencing mental health issues, 70.7% experiencing difficulties in school, 89.1% having issues with parents, 75.6% experiencing harassment or difficulties while seeking employment, and 76% experiencing difficulties while accessing government services.
“The challenges,” said Mika Yakushi, founder of ReBit in Japan, “continue to be there.”
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a country that actually affords its people the privilege to change their gender markers to a third gender (X), “(people) are still not as accepting,” said Aisha Mughal, program director of the Wajood Society. The “development” (i.e. X as a gender marker), as it stands, may serve nonbinary people well, but “changing from male-to-female, or female-to-male is still not easy. Sex and gender are still not fully understood (here).”
CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING CULTURES
This is why Mughal said that there is a need to also push for cultural changes. Because sans this, promoting the human rights of trans people will continue to be challenging. Again, in Pakistan, and even if there’s supposed to be a pro-LGBTQIA development already with the inclusion of a third sex in the country’s gender markers, “extremists” still emerged to counter LGBTQIA-related efforts. This even led to harassment of LGBTQIA advocates, including Mughal herself who had to leave her country and be based elsewhere to continue her work on trans rights.
For Victoria Hsu, who helped pass marriage equality in Taiwan, people need to know that “trans rights are human rights, and trans rights are indivisible.” This is because even in Taiwan, the first East Asian country to allow LGBTQIA marriage, “some sectors are still being left behind.”
In the case of trans people, in particular, gender markers may be changed only after the issuance of a psychological evaluation, and proof of medical intervention (i.e. sex reassignment surgery/SRS). A judge decided in 2021 that SRS is unconstitutional, but – after an appeal was made – the Constitutional Court has yet to decide on this issue (i.e. whether trans people can register their gender identity sans SRS).
That culture, as a whole, needs to be changed was similarly emphasized with Hsu adding that “litigation is taxing – financially, time-wise. And even mentally.”
FINDING WAYS TO BE NOTICED
At least for many trans communities particularly in Asia and the Pacific, advocacies are surfacing in different ways.
In the Philippines, as an example, “people think that the country is pro-LGBTQIA,” said Brenda Alegre, who is with the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). “But we (still receive) reports on difficulties experienced by LGBTQIA people there.” For trans Filipinos, this may be exemplified by the killing of trans woman Jennifer Laude by an American serviceman, Joseph Scott Pemberton, who – before finishing his jail term – was actually pardoned and then whisked off to return to his home country.
Not surprisingly, and with the “lack of (proper) representation in media and the arts”, pageantry has become as a “platform to increase representation.”
In Taiwan, as in other more developed countries, there is also a Trans March, held separate from the more commercialized Pride parade. This is to highlight the continuing challenges faced by trans people (thus “march” due to the political leaning of the gathering).
In the end, and still, “more needs to be done,” ended Mughal.