The Strange Treatment of Trans People in Malaysia’s Media

Malaysia’s media is under fire for airing two bizarre explanations about transgender (‘mak nyah’) and effeminate gay people (‘pondan’). One claimed that they are a ‘threat to women’s livelihoods,’ another that ‘wrong food consumption the cause of effeminate men.’

“Pondan Ancaman Wanita” (Effeminate Men A Threat To Women) aired on the Wanita Hari Ini talkshow on TV3 on October 4 accusing effeminate men and transgender people of “stealing” women’s husbands and jobs.

Trans activist Jellene Eva told Free Malaysia Today:

“I would like to remind TV3 that all citizens of Malaysia are protected under the Federal Constitution and Defamation Act 1957.”

“Under no circumstances may any discrimination or defamation be broadcast to incite hate towards Malaysians, regardless of gender.”

“I hereby insist that the station release a press statement to apologize for the slanderous broadcast made to enact fear and hatred towards the transsexual community in Malaysia.”

The show was further accused of stereotyping women as makeup artists and wedding planners and also for suggesting that women are “whiny and weak” when faced with a competitive environment.

“A point that was made in the show,” said Jellene, “was that women are threatened because effeminate men are monopolizing the makeup industry. This is wrong as the culinary arts, makeup and hairstyling industries are dominated by masculine men.”

“So the title of the episode should have been “Lelaki Ancaman Wanita” (Men A Threat To Women) because these men are doing what used to be women’s jobs.”

Jellene said that Malaysia has come a long way in recognizing that women are no longer confined to careers in beauty alone but have now expanded into previously male-dominated industries like the police force, engineering and entrepreneurship.

In the October 6 Malay daily, Berita Harian posted “Salah makan punca pondan” (Wrong food consumption the cause of effeminate men.)

Quoting Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Dr Siti Mahmud Mohd Setapar, he claimed that artificial hormones, preservatives and flavoring led to excessive hormonal imbalance and contributed to the causes of modern illness. These included, he wrote, ‘a crisis of gender,’ obesity, stress, stroke, heart disease and ‘changes in human behavior.’ The ‘wrong’ food leads to hormone imbalances effecting fetuses in the womb, he said.

He claimed that “once the number of effeminate men .. was one in a million but now the number may be one in 100 thousand.”

To avoid the ‘gender crisis,’ he said:

“The role of government should be taken in changing the eating habits of the public, including reducing the fast-food ad impressions and adding information in the mass media.”

Transgender people in Malaysia face extreme levels of stigmatization and discrimination which is often exacerbated by biased media reporting. They often face abuses “ranging from physical violence to mental torture to sexual assault” to being “prevented from accessing health services, housing, education, employment and other basic rights enjoyed by all Malaysians.”

In August, the suicide of a 26-year-old transgender woman, Aleesha Farhana, who lost her case in Malaysia’s High Court July 17 after the National Registration Department refused to update her name and gender on her identity card despite her having undergone sex reassignment surgery, received widespread media coverage in Malaysia.

Her death led to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development issuing a unprecedented statement saying that it provides counseling and guidance to transgender people without the “intention of ‘correcting’ behaviour etc in line with socially accepted norms.”

She also said that she would meet with Seksualiti Merdeka, a sexuality rights advocacy group, and members of the transgender community to understand and address the needs of transgender people in Malaysia.

In two Asian countries, Pakistan and Nepal, ‘third sex’ is accepted as a category for ID cards.

Picture Dr. Siti Hamidah


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

tiffany t.
tiffany t.5 years ago

prob the wealthy middle aged Caucasian male getting more then he bargained for on his "business" trip.Human trafficking esp. children is enormous problem in Asian countries.

Charlie Parkinson

"...suggesting that women are “whiny and weak” when faced with a competitive environment..."

They should come over and meet the girls in my family :)

scarlett g.
scarlett g.5 years ago


Lani S.
Lani S.5 years ago

Thanks for the info

Dominic C.
Dominic C.5 years ago

is quite alright with the whole situation. The reason here is because they do not want to panic tourists and travelers who may be gays, lesbians, transsexuals or transgenders. They do not want to make Malaysia look like freak democracy - there are enough Muslim countries which can be freakish. So as long as these peoples do not break any laws the Government just do not care or perhaps have a quick jibe about them and forget about them.

Dominic C.
Dominic C.5 years ago

- which is actually a good thing rather than swept under the rug and be very emotional about these behaviors. When the issues are debated, talked about and discussed, there are consensus and somewhere and somehow conservatives have to agree to disagree at some point that we cannot "CHANGE" these people. They are what they are and eventuality they also will realize that as long as they do not break any laws so be that. Perhaps they have broken Islamic Sharia laws so what - spanked them till the cows home - well there will be no cows - they are still the same queers quaking for freedom. Racism in America took about 4 to 5 decades and if today if any of us surf the net, there are still tons and tons of racists jibe and comments and Obama is getting his full load of share. The program may denigrate but at the same it offers a backdoor discussion to somehow legitimize such behaviors. It may seem weird but look discussions, debates, talks, understandings, etc. are better than keep quiet and be emotional and angry about things. For me, the program (even though I have not seen it) offers some hope rather than closure. I think gays, lesbians, transsexuals or transgenders or anyone with some sort of weird sexual fixations should come out of the closets, what better not a program highlighting their existence rather than their disquiet. Another thing I want to highlight is that despite all these denigrations by the conservative Islamists and elders, actually the Malaysian Government (wh

Dominic C.
Dominic C.5 years ago

Malaysia is an Islamic country. Despite it is a democracy, conservatism rules the country. Homosexuals and transgenders or transsexuals are constantly denigrated in Malaysia, whether its on the media or in the mosques. The main race in Malaysia are the Malays and they are Muslims and cannot practice other religion. The other ethnic Malaysian races, namely the Chinese, Indians, Euro-mixed and Indigenous peoples can practiced other religions like Atheism, Ba'haism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Paganism, Sikhism, Taoism, etc., and they can also do anything they want as long as their behavior do not pose problems against the non-Islamic laws of Malaysia. Having said that homosexuality and transsexuals are prevalent with ethnic majority Malays and conservative Malay elders, clerics, community leaders, etc., do not like what is happening to their race. For these conservative elders, unnatural sex (for behaviors such as homosexuality and transsexualism) are exports of degrading Western exploits. As such they wanted to treat these delinquent behaviors as "social symptomatic behavior" which also perhaps have connections with drugs, drug addictions and Western exploits. For me, I did not see this program or read it but only now via this blog. This generalized denigrating of homosexuals or transgenders is not that bad... Remember, you are talking about a bunch of Islamists who wanted social control of these differences. At least, (if I am not wrong), the program debated the issue -

Marie W.
Marie W.5 years ago

Ignorance is bliss.. maybe.