I recently got selected to attend an informal “seminar-cation,” which was made possible by Tajassodat, a collaborative initiative launched by Qorras and the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR). The meeting was about advancing Trans Rights And Justice In Muslim Societies. I was super elated when I first learned about it and was very much looking forward to it. I soon understood afterwards that I was the only applicant from Singapore and this was a little funny to me, though I still counted myself to be very lucky!
The gathering took place between 25 May and 31 May 2019 and it was in lovely Kathmandu, Nepal. As it was my maiden trip there, I could not help but be overly excited even as I was a little apprehensive, given that it was a solo trip.
We were checked into a gorgeous and magnificent resort in an upscale area with a jaw-dropping backdrop of beautiful mountains. Staff at the resort were very polite and well-trained, much to my amazement. Shortly after we settled in, a sumptuous dinner spread was served, followed by an array of drinks to chill, with the main purpose of breaking ice amongst the participants as well as the organisers.
It was a casual setting and posed a golden opportunity for us to build our networks and interact with each other. Participants were made up of transmen, transwomen and non-binary folks from the Middle-east, South-Asia and South-east Asia. Some of them have masters’ degrees and are in professional positions with vast experiences; many are very knowledgeable, and pretty eloquent, which gained my utmost respect.
Some of the heated discussions we had concerned disorganized and unprofessional medical procedures. We also agreed that compassionate medical care is, unfortunately, universally deficient. It was also noted that structures of healthcare and delivery for transgender people in the Midde-east and North African region are complex and tedious.
On a different note, Pakistan’s passing of their landmark Transgender Rights Law makes them currently the most progressive in the muslim world – which, according to its two representatives, ought to be acknowledged and celebrated. However, they cautioned that while the transgender community is very happy about it, the general population is not. The ladies then added that this law was passed after a couple of murders and violent acts inflicted on the trans community.
Another piece of good news came from India with the repeal of Penal Code 377, which means gay sex is now decriminalised in India.
We plan to have more informal meetings in future where we will discuss further dilemmas and issues plaguing our fragile community as a whole. I, for one, absolutely cherish and treasure every connection I have made in Nepal. I look forward to more get-togethers as a lot needs to be done, especially in issues of healthcare. The mental health of our community needs to be cared for, just as our general well-being must be attended to. Healthcare professionals need to be specially trained to deal with sensitive matters affecting the community – for example, the violence which plagues our vulnerable community.
Thank you very much to the organisers for having made it all possible, and the cool participants for the camaraderie!