Malaysiakini Letter

My hairy experience at the Immigration Dept

Kho Ngee Liang  |  Published:

LETTER | I am a Malaysian citizen, a male-to-female transgender with a healthy lifestyle. There are many discriminating events I face every day as a transgender but the following two incidents triggered me to write this open letter to our Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to seek answers.

Dear minister, how is your new government with a reform agenda going to help me and many of my friends to allow us a life of peace as ordinary citizens?

On Dec 22, 2018, I sought help from police personnel at the Jelutong police station in Penang to witness the repossession of my unit after my previous tenant failed to pay the rent.

However, one of the police personnel threatened to arrest me. Upon advice from Suhakam and after I lodged a police report on this, an inquiry file was opened.

After several subsequent reports to Penang’s Police Discipline Division, the Public Complaints Bureau and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission, I managed to get the contact of the inspector-in-charge and he told me in early March that he was waiting for the report and that the entire process would be time-consuming because it involved police personnel. Do police personnel enjoy privileges even if they are involved in misconduct?

Another case just happened on April 16, 2019. I was intentionally humiliated by at least two immigration officers at the Seberang Jaya passport office in Penang who requested me to tie up my hair before taking my photo.

This despite a statement from the deputy head that just tidying-up my hair and making it presentable would do. To elaborate, during my first attempt to apply for a change of photo on my passport, one lady staff told me I must tie up my hair but after communicating with the deputy head, the deputy head apologised and told me I only needed to tidy up my hair.

Due to the unpleasant discussion, I met with a higher-ranking officer from the corporate affairs department (I failed to meet the director or the deputy as both of them were not in) and she told me again that I need not tie up my hair.

However, upon returning to the passport office after lunch for a second attempt to change my photo, another male personnel said he would not take my photo unless I tied-up my hair.

I then asked the deputy head, how could this happen? And how could she allow her staff to openly discriminate and humiliate me? The lengthy procedure and inconsistent practices made me exhausted and I requested them to return my passport immediately.

My respected Home Minister, almost all transgenders are born and much medical research has been done to show that being transgender is not a choice. It is highly probable that it is due to genetic/brain structure/ hormone receptor differences.

Many of us only hope to live as an ordinary person. Many of us have proper jobs (though many are denied a proper job as well) and many of us contribute positively to society.

Therefore, please advise us - where can we seek help and remedy when such incidents as the above happen?


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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