We celebrate transgender women who are braving the boxed and restrictive society to express who they really are. The love for self gave them courage to move through life despite the dire consequences.
We celebrate the transgender women who not only stood up for their rights, but also put their feet forward to march and demand for services that their community needs.
We celebrate the transgender women who radiates beauty and inspiration to the world.
In celebration of the International Women’s Day, APCOM shares some of the stories that we have collected from the community. These stories are about the transgender women from different countries whom we met during our work. We aim to share the real-life struggles for survival and acceptance experienced by our communities because of stigma and discrimination.
Most important of all, through these stories, we aim to put the spotlight to the inspiring and selfless transgender women who believed in themselves to make the world around them a better place.
Growing up was not easy for Diana as she was bullied and was told to leave home because her father could not accept her being a woman. Her courage brought her through the hardships she faced. Being a nat ka daw (spiritual dancer), she was able to support herself to university, and also set up a beauty salon.
Calling herself ‘Diana’ was her honor to the late Lady Diana who was not afraid to touch people who are living with HIV and those who are suffering from AIDS. She was inspired by Lady Diana’s work that she started a self-help group. Through her own group, Diana provided care to people living with HIV and other diseases in Yangon General Hospital. Her courage inspired many people living with HIV in the hospital.
Hailing from Malaysia, Elly is a dedicated advocate working towards equal treatment of MSM and transgender women, and equal access to sexual health services. As a transgender woman, she had difficulty in securing herself an employment due to stigma, discrimination and limited acceptance of gender diversity.
Being aware of useful information on sexual health, Elly ensures that she has access to sexual health services in the country. She expanded this passion by sharing her knowledge and information to the transgender community about sexual health. On her own personal ways, she empowers transgender women to feel confident to reduce self-stigma.
Tamani Rama (Fiji)
“It is not how I like to box myself in a particular group. I’m just a person who identifies as a woman and is attracted to people of all genders.” Tamani identifies as a young transgender queer. She believes that her sexuality is her own, and she is taking her time to explore and to love her body more. Tamani has a very good message to young people who are exploring their sexuality. To them she says, “You do not have to put yourself in a box. You do not have to conform into what the society or even the LGBT community thinks you should be. Be different. Be yourself. Be somebody who wakes up everyday who feels liberated and celebrated.”
Many transgender women are victims of social stigma and discrimination. Daina is no exception but her years of experience with discrimination has made her strong. Today, she does not shy away from standing up for herself. However, she was not always able to protect herself from the hardships in her life. Because of financial difficulties, she went into the line of sex work. She was locked-up, beaten and stripped in front of many people. She was abused and blackmailed.
“I want to be a role model for people. That is why I am pursuing my education. I do not want anyone else to face what I have gone through.”
Diana aspires to be a fashion model, and become an example of a transgender woman who is educated, beautiful and strong. She is also a dedicated activist in India creating awareness on transgender rights in colleges.
Yasmine (Bali, Indonesia)
Born to Muslim and Hindu parents in Bali, Indonesia, Yasmine began life as the only boy in a family of five children, and took on the Islam religion of her father. At the age of 17, Yasmine began her transition. However, publicly expressing herself as a transgender woman (waria) resulted in losing the support of her father and his family. Leaving her family at the demand of her father meant a hard life full of struggles, one lived primarily on the streets, where Yasmine had few employment options and began sex work in order to support herself and stay alive.
Together with friends and supporters, Yasmine established Waria Gay Singaraja (WARGAS) – a community based organisation focused on improving the standing and supporting the lives of transgender woman and gay individuals in the local Singaraja community in Bali. With over 70 active members and still growing, WARGAS served as a stepping stone for Yasmine’s community outreach work, and in 2016 she began a position as an outreach worker. This has led her and her community to have their voices heard on human rights issues in Bali which in effect is brining about positive changes to their community.
Meghna Lagan (Nepal)
Meghna is a transgender woman from a rural area in Nepal. She moved to Kathmandu and opened Pink Tiffany, a restaurant first of its kind in Nepal. The place caters to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their allies, providing them with a space where they can be themselves.
Her advocacy for equality was further strengthened when she joined Blue Diamond Society, a non-government organisation working on HIV and human rights in Nepal. She continues her advocacy in creating an open and safe space for LGBT community in Kathmandu. She aims to change the mindset of her community that they too can grow a business.