A lawmaker in Penang has appointed a transgender political secretary, considered the first of its kind in the Malaysian state or perhaps the entire country.
Democratic Action Party assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu has enlisted the help of Hezreen Shaik Daud, 33, to push for the transgender community’s welfare, after the proposal to set up a committee was approved last week.
The committee, to be formed within two months, will collect data and lessen the social stigma associated with the transgender community. It also aims to conduct forums.
Hezreen, who speaks Malaysian, English, Mandarin and Hokkien, admitted to The Star that she feels nervous and yet also excited for officially starting work Monday (15 Jul).
‘I am grateful to [Teh]for offering this job to me and I am looking forward to the challenge.
‘It is difficult for us to be hired by companies so I hope that with my appointment, we can show that we are as capable in our work as others,’she said.
Hezreen, a demure lady, was once employed as an NGO project officer, but other companies had refused to take her for fear she would not fit into work places with male workers.
Even with qualifications, transgender people were often turned down for their looks, she noted.
At a press conference Wednesday (10 Jul), Teh announced the appointment and said: ‘They have rights over their bodies, and have a right to decide what gender they are most comfortable with.’
The transgender committee’s top agendas include basic needs like accessibilities to healthcare, employment and equal treatment at public places such as schools and hospitals.
It is not technically illegal to be transgender in Malaysia although transgender people who are Muslims can be hauled before religious sharia courts and fined and people deemed to be of the same gender can be jailed for having sex.
According to State Women, Family, and Community Development Community chairman Chong Eng, there are between 10,000 and 50,000 transgender individuals in the country.
Watch an interview below: