Malaysia: Parents of transgender reach out for help

New Straits Times

"It's easy to heap unkind words on our family but nobody has tried putting themselves in our shoes,” said Mak Yah, 50, the mother of medical assistant Mohd Ashraf Hafiz Abd Aziz, 25, the transgender whose application to change his name to Aleesha Farhana was rejected by the High Court here on Monday. Eyes brimming with tears, Mak Yah lamented to the New Straits Times the pain and humiliation she felt when she read the negative comments about her and her husband, Abdul Aziz, 60.

“They accused us of being bad parents.

It hurts to read such reports.” Although they had noticed Ashraf’s effeminate tendencies since hewas a toddler, Mak Yah said they were still horrified when they found out t h at their eldest son had undergone a sexual reassignment surgery in Thailand in 2009.

“Wewere in Mecca performing the haj, and as far as we knew, our child was working in Putrajaya,” she said, adding that Ashraf had never mentioned about the medical tests and hormone level monitoring he had gone through at the Pantai Medical Centre for two years prior to the surgery.

At first, their anger and sadness over what Ashraf had done led the couple, who have four other children, to disown him.

“We burnt all his dresses and told him never to return home, but we knew that Ashraf, or Aleesha, often came home, spending nights in the car, instead of in his room.” As an ex-serviceman, Abdul Aziz had no problem instilling discipline in his children and meting out punishment if they misbehaved, but he had no answer to Ashraf’s problem.

“Our other son had even cut Ashraf’s hair as short as an army recruit, but instead of a man, we saw a short-haired woman.

“I realised then that we would have to deal with the problem, rather than continue to be in denial,” Abdul Aziz said, adding that he was sad when some quarters dismissed them as evil parents. He said the problem could have been avoided if he had sought expert opinion on why Ashraf did not have male characteristics as he was growing up.

“His voice did not deepen when he reached puberty and he walked with a woman’s gait, but it never crossed my mind there was a deeper problem,” he said.

Abdul Aziz said if upbringing had played a part in Ashraf’s condition, their two adopted children who were older than Ashraf would have had the same problem.

“They are normal and so are our other two children, Ashraf’s younger brother and sister,” he said.

Although he had heard of a fatwa by Jakim allowing those with questionable genders to go for sexual reassignment surgery, Abdul Aziz said he was unaware of it as there were no guidelines.

“The results of Ashraf’s medical tests showed that he had more female hormones in his body. Does this indicate questionable gender? I wish issues like this are made clear so that genuine cases can be assessed properly,” he said.

Mak Yah said the family would appreciate it if someone could come up with a solution to their problem.

“Making harsh comments is easy, but it won’t help. I welcome those who said Ashraf should be a man again and we can revert the process. ” Ashraf, who was present during the interview, said he accepted the High Court’s decision and admitted that there were weaknesses in his case as pointed out by judge Datuk Yazid Mustafa.

“I could not get a lawyer to represent my case. When counsel Horley Isaacs volunteered his services, it was almost at the end of the hearing ,” he said.

He confirmed his intention of appealing the court’s decision.

“Like it or not, I will follow through with my case until I have exhausted all legal avenues. People may wish that I could just shut up or die, but I just want to live a peaceful life.”

By Satiman Jamin