Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One happy woman - Part III

As I have posted news reports on this earlier, it only makes sense that I continue doing so.

I believe most major dailies covered the wedding of Jessie Chung and her fiancé, which took place on Sunday.

Chung is no celebrity but her wedding to Beh, an accountant, is the talk of the town and has attracted hordes of pressmen here and from Singapore.

The high-profile wedding is believed to be the first of its kind in the country – the stunning bride was born a male here more than 30 years ago.

Chung, whose original name was Jeffrey, underwent three major operations to become a woman three years ago.

To look at it in a positive light, I suppose the publicity generated is good in bringing visibility to the marginalized members of society. To raise the fact that marriage is a covenant of love for everyone, and is not the exclusive right of straight couples.

However, a lot of other people do not share my view on marriage, of course. We have to realise that a wedding is not a sign of acceptance or even tolerance from the public. Far from it.

This was aptly proven when the Home Affairs Ministry and National Evangelical Christian Fellowship's views were published yesterday.

The Minister said that “Malaysian laws do not allow its citizens to change their gender in their identity cards despite having gone through a sex operation.”

In addition, the Marriage and Divorce Reform Act 1976 does not allow marriages between two people of the same sex, even if one of them has undergone a sex change operation.

What the Christian guy said was typical: "It’s clearly stated in the Bible. There is no such thing as creation of half-half. Therefore, biologically and genetically, there is only male and female."

Clearly, he has no knowledge whatsoever about the intricacies of sexuality and sexual identity. Furthermore, he is clearly ignorant of the fact that the brain is the largest sexual organ. And definitely more indicative of sexual identity than visible sexual organs.

In another related news report today:

The help of local universities and experts will be sought to conduct research on transgender issues to enable the Government to deal with issues affecting this group of people.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the time was right to make a thorough study of the problems and issues affecting the transgender group, such as homosexuality, bisexuality and same-sex marriage.

She said it was important to first understand why people resorted to sex change or were attracted to the same sex.

Research papers on transgender issues done overseas would be studied, she added.

Shahrizat said such matters could not be swept under the carpet and while the ministry was prepared to assist any marginalised group.

“It also has great social impact and, personally, I believe we should not punish or discriminate against anybody,” she said.

Is this good or bad? I applaud the logical approach that Women, Family and Community Development Minister is taking, i.e. that there has to be an underlying cause for such things and that she is interested to know why.

At least, she is not judgmental and did not take a religious point of view. Moreover, she is willing to learn and explore the issue and not stick with conventional stereotypes and prejudices.

Obviously, she wouldn't need to spend as much money and resource on the study if she had done a little reading and thinking of her own. Based on the all available information and research done worldwide, and if she was really fair, she is likely to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is very much genetically-caused.

An example of being religion-biased and yet failing to see it for yourself is this interview with a Singaporean minister:
As a Christian, do your religious beliefs affect you in your decision making?
You have to make decisions according to policies, what is right for Singapore, and Singapore is secular.

But as a mature religious person, your values are internalised. That's how you act, speak, present yourself. But you don't think, oh, as a Christian, what should this policy be?

At temples for instance, I attend festivals and so on, just that I don't hold joss sticks.

You said gay sex is 'not natural'. Is that something that comes out of your religious beliefs?
Yes, could be. Well, I won't attribute it directly. I look at it more as a family bedrock thing, that a family is based on a man and a woman. I think all the main religions in Singapore believe it's how we are made.

Anyway, from what I know, a UM researcher has already approach PT Foundation to arrange a meeting with a group of gays. The meeting took place a couple of months ago and those who volunteered to be interviewed fall into a specific demographic – 18 to 45 years old and speaks Chinese.

The rationale for the criteria of the participants was questioned. Apparently, the researchers have also done a discussion with English speaking participants and they intend to conduct a few more group discussions with different ethnic groups and different age groups.

It all seems promising, yet somewhat scary, doesn’t it? But I am withholding judgment and keeping my fingers crossed. Let’s just wait for the results of the study to be published, if ever.


Kit said...

It's still long way to go for our country to achieve what's the western countries already have, as long as we never give up .

Most people view towards GLBT community will not change overnight, we still have more works to be done.

MrBunnyBan said...

Again with the comments from the church! Is the couple getting married even Christians in the first place? But those three pastors; really unusual to find one pastor willing to hold the ceremony, let alone three. The backlash is going to be incredible - who are these noble pastors?

Jessie's really brave to allow her marraige to get so much spotlight. Now everyone knows she was born with a man's body. For a trans, that's really really bad.

Chaichakri said...

Derek, you are one step faster than me! I have actually written a post on the same topic, but I am only posting it tomorrow.

I just wanted to point out that the Charismatic church only performed a 'blessing' ceremony, it is slightly different!

Remember the Anglican Church and Prince Charles? His current marriage is only a morganatic marriage, where the Church of England performed a 'blessing'

Can there be more than one type of 'union' between two people?

Derek said...

kit: I agree it's still a long way to go.

But I think it's a good thing that everyone is talking about it now. Better still if some people change their way of thinking at the same time ...

mrbunnyban: No, I disagree that it's a bad thing.

How can one gain acceptance if one is not truthful about yourself? Surely you can't lie to your future husband and your parents would definitely know.

It's a brave move and I hope that it's a catalyst for more positive things in the community.

kitjar: All union is man-made. Marriage is something for the masses anyway. And then there's civil union.

Whatever it is, it is the emotional and spiritual union that is more important.

MrBunnyBan said...

I was actually trying to say it was bad *for her* that the whole community knows she's transgendered. Most PLUs of do their best to keep it a secret - She's opening herself to loathing everywhere she goes.

But you're right, it is a positive move on the whole - its just like coming out for all of us. Having said that- Who here dares to come out to EVERYONE though, plz raise your hand.