This 31st March, the world commemorates Transgender Day of Visibility. While Transgender Day of Remembrance honours the memory of transgender lives lost to transphobic violence, Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the living and the contributions the transgender community have made to society. For our TDOV feature, we had the privilege of speaking to 27-year-old Farainna, who immediately radiated the room with her presence during the interview.
Farainna, or more affectionately known as Inna, began her transition at the tender age of 17 and has since bloomed into a woman who emanates joy quite effortlessly. One can’t help but to wonder what inspires such positive energy from her. We spoke to Farainna about trans visibility, what it means to be truly seen the way she sees herself and how important community is to her. The following are excerpts from my interview with her. It has been edited and reordered for the purpose of coherence and concision.
Farainna at the age of 21
N: To be visible is to be seen. What does it mean for you to be truly seen for who you are?
F: For me, I’ve always been into fashion and beauty, especially pageants and competitions. Beauty. However, I want people to see me not only from my outlook, but also my inner beauty.
My intentions are pure. I’m a happy go lucky person. It comes naturally within me. I don’t like being sad or heartbroken. I love to spread joy and love regardless of who they are. I want to be seen as somebody who helps others by being positive. Through positivity, I hope to be a role model to the next generation, regardless of gender and orientation.
Farainna at 21
N: Would you say that this positivity that you have comes from being surrounded by that? Who were your role models that shaped you into who you are as a person now?
F: I am not the first transgender woman in my family. My late auntie was my first role model. I love her not only for her beauty and her style. She had a golden heart, was very positive and helpful. The other role model I had was my grandmother from my chosen family. She taught me to have discipline with myself and to treat myself with class so that the community will look up to me not only as a transgender person, but also as a role model.
An Instagram story from Farainna’s account, reminiscing about her late aunt.
N: Can you tell us about the other trans people you celebrate in your life?
F: Around 8-9 years ago, I met a few older transgender sisters during my retail job. What I like most about them is the experiences they share from the hard times they’ve gone through. From them, I learnt the things I needed to be my own self now. They taught me the value of hard work in order to achieve what I wanted. I’ve also learnt that it is important to save for emergency purposes. We will never know when the next pandemic or economic crisis will happen.
Hearing their stories, I thought to be more grateful. The younger transgender community are fortunate that things are easier for us. For the sisters around my age, what I like is the bond we have. We grow together, from ground zero till we achieve what we want. Not only surgeries but also achievements in our careers. The trans community has saved me from danger. If we go out and party, sisters will protect me from men or accidents. They’re always looking out for me. And when I’m working at the red light district, we look out for each other’s safety. When one is in danger with a client, another sister will help us immediately.
Farainna at the age of 27 in 2022
N: In what ways have sex work help you actualise you truest self?
F: I started sex work at the age of 21. I was having a hard time with my day job and quit. Within a month, I managed to save SGD3000 for my breast augmentation. That was the first procedure I did that I was so happy with. We need a body figure to look and feel like a woman. Daily job can’t earn that much.
Sex work is a fast earning method. But it also taught me to be more cautious during work time. To look after other sisters. Sex work has taught me not only beauty, but how to portray myself to others. Like marketing skills. Ways to talk to different clients. From there, it taught me to be more mature and also how to control my temper.
To me sex work makes me feel freedom. You feel empowered. Sex work has given me more opportunities to connect with men without being judged. You can do whatever you want. You are your own boss.
N: Transitioning is one aspect of the transgender experience. What other parts of this journey do you also celebrate?
F: My favourite part is anytime an organisation does an event for us to gather. That is the part I like the most. Making friends, bonding. Meeting long lost trans sisters. The transgender community can be role models too when we show discipline and punctuality during work.
N: What do you wish for cisgender people to understand or do better for the trans community?
F: I want cis people to understand and accept us regardless of our outlook. Respect us. I understand that for some, there was no proper education or awareness about us. The current generation are now being taught that we have to live together regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. We even came up with nonbinary as a term. Support us by not mentioning our sex at birth, or our birth names. Simple things like us going to the toilet… Since we portray ourselves as a woman, accept us as one.
N: What are your hopes for yourself?
F: Since I’m currently pre-op, I want to move on to the next level. So people won’t make fun of me. My vision of the future is to be successful. I want to be an entrepreneur. Not only cis people can do entrepreneurship. Trans can also do the same thing as cis. I hope to achieve financial freedom and I want to explore a fashion business.
N: If you could give any advice to any trans person reading this, what would you say?
F: During my transition, what I learnt is to always endure the hard times, especially when you’re financially down. Hard times won’t last if we really put in effort into the things we want to achieve. There is success at the end.
We also need support from our loved ones during hard times. Not everyone can be physically and mentally strong during those times so it is important to have someone whom you trust. I’ve always felt affection and being fulfilled from the love I received from my family and friends. For those who feel alone, keep working hard on your goals and what you want in life. Efforts will always reward you with achievements.
N: Finally, how do you wish to be celebrated?
F: 3 words – loving, enthusiastic and positive.
End of interview.
Farainna’s joyous spirit was simply irresistible and I couldn’t help but to feel hopeful after my interview with her. She also shared that to her, being a woman is not only about femininity and being beautiful. Being a woman means showing to society that we can do more than what men can do. That we can break stigma beyond staying home and being pretty. She believes that women can also build themselves to success. Having lived through hard times, Inna’s optimism is not only endearing, but also necessary in a world that often tells us to shrink ourselves, or even disappear. It reminded me of a quote by Laverne Cox:
“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tell us we should not exist”
Community is a pillar of who we are at Project X. Our days at our drop-in centre are always the brightest when we have people like Farainna fill up our rooms. While the road to decriminalising sex work, intertwined with liberation for both cisgender and transgender women’s rights, is a long and arduous one, the community we have, the smiles we share and the memories we make make it all worthwhile.