Monday, December 02, 2013

Celebrating Transgender Day Of Remembrance In Malaysia?

Trans advocate Yuki Choe was the main speaker for the inaugural Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial event organized in Malaysia in 2008 by fellow activist Thilaga Sulathireh.   Choe has organized TDOR's in Malaysia following the principle that it is an international trans memorial service laid out by TDOR founder Gwen Smith from 2009-2012.

But this year's Malaysian TDOR event was problematic for her.  

Just like here in the United States, there have been some Malaysian transpeople who have complained the TDOR's are 'too somber' and need to be 'more festive'.  I've commented on that irritating 'more festive TDOR' point more than a few times on TransGriot, and now Yuki Choe will have her opportunity to do the same.   

In this guest post, Choe makes the case that the organizers of the 2013 TDOR event in her nation went too far in that festive direction.  By doing so, they disrespected the memory of not only the local Malaysian trans women who were killed this year like Dicky Othman, but all the people around the world we lost due to anti-trans violence. 

TransGriot Update 4 December 2013:  Well well, seems like somebody in Malaysia was pissed off about Yuki's guest post spotlighting the jacked up TDOR they had.   They complained and got the pics of their disrespectful TDOR event removed from this blog post.   

But that's okay, still doesn't change the fact that people around the world already saw them and are talking about how you disrespected the memory of Dicky Othman and other trans women who lost their lives around the world this year to anti-trans violence with your travesty of a TDOR. 

And because you pissed me the hell off with that nekulturny move, you're officially on my bad side and Yuki Choe has an open invitation to guest post here anytime she wishes.   

And now, here's Yuki


Imagine this scenario. In an unknown state, there was a year-long mass murder happening. 238 people were reported dead, while countless others were missing. The local church decided to start a memorial on the 20th of November, where they announced each of the 238 known names of the dead, along with a candlelight vigil, and begin discussions on how to stop the violent killings. Everyone, including the founder, decided it would be a day to remember the dead and the dead only.

Then someone decided to run the same event on a later date on the 29th of November, decided to invite some pretty girls to dance, gave out some awards to courageous councilmen who were nowhere to be found when the murders happen, promoted and raised funds for the group, and only mustered up 29 names out of the 238 who died.

You do not make a mockery out of your family’s funeral, memorial, wake, or whatever form to grief. Sadly, this happened recently in one country, Malaysia.

A week before the programme was announced, concerns were raised up to the fact that at a time of worldwide mourning for the dead of Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR), a group comprising of members from PT Foundation (a local AIDS prevention organization) and Justice For Sisters (a local trans group) decided to change the principles of TDOR and added several features that draws power away from the voices of our dead, which includes award ceremonies for three trans personalities, a drag queen dance performance and promotional efforts to aid Justice For Sisters.

One even acknowledged in social media that all the names of the dead from the TGEU Monitoring Project website will be announced during the candlelight vigil of the event.

In the end, when the event was held last Friday, two sources confirmed to me that only 29 were named, leaving 209 trans people thrown under the bus for the sake of self-promotion. Worse, one of their supporters who goes by the name Ineza claimed “it was empowering for everyone who attended”. 

Therein, lies the problem - you are not supposed to feel empowered during TDOR. You are supposed to be in grief, and seek solutions to aid recovery.

From a recent FaceBook discussion, this is not the first time TDOR became an event less focused on the dead; Peterson Toscano said, “ I have heard this happen elsewhere. There is such a need to face the hard tragic realities of violence against trans and gender non-conforming people. But not as just a memorial, but also as a time and place to commit to resist and work for justice and a better world. But TDOR is a somber event, a tragic, awful one and one that demands we feel the weight of it.”

But should there be room for people to revise TDOR into a less morbid event? Monica Roberts commented, “Since TDOR founder Gwen Smith is a friend, we stay in contact, and I was around in the community at the 1999 outset of the TDOR events.  They were always meant to be memorial services. What people have done over the last few years is to have other trans education events leading up to November 20. That's fine if you do trans themed panel discussions, trans themed movie nights, lectures, or community forums. 

But dances, drag shows and pageants? Not no but HELL no. You have 364 other days on the calendar to do those. November 20 should be a day where we remember our dead, use that day as an opportunity for our allies in the gay, lesbian, bi and straight communities to join us and build intersectional community links to build future political and cultural progress upon.

This writer agrees that to add other elements such as award ceremonies and drag shows, or replacing the principles of TDOR especially removing a huge bulk of the names to be announced for convenience, tortures the soul of what makes TDOR such an important event, and it should not be defaced by promoting people and organizations of the living.

But could people be allowed to change TDOR, to perk it up so it would not be too sombre or for many, boring?

Some folks do bring alcoholic drinks and sexy girls to funerals to be jolly, so should TDOR be “celebrated” like it was this year in Malaysia?

Yuki Choe is a lone transsexual advocate and ex-gay survivor, organizing TDOR events in Malaysia from 2009-2012 and the main speaker for the first TDOR organized by activist Thilaga Sulathireh in 2008, following the TDOR guiding principles. There have been trans murders yearly in her country.

Stories from previous Malaysian TDORs:

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