Everyone knows that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community in Malaysia has it rough. Most people think we’re doomed to the life of an outcast. However sometimes, on the bluest of moons, there are happy stories. Mine is one of them.
My name is Jameel. I’m a female-to-male transgender.
Like most transgenders, my journey of self-discovery was a long and winding one. However, mine had a different ending compared to many of my peers. This is my story.
Growing Up in Conservative Pendang
I was born in Ipoh, but the whole family moved to Pendang, Kedah when I was small. My Dad was a policeman, which meant he got relocated often. Pendang is a small rural town where everyone knows everyone else. It wasn’t a very exciting place.
Everyone was conservative, and my family was no different. They sent me to religious classes after school because I couldn’t recite the Holy Qur’an smoothly and didn’t pray regularly. Still, it didn’t affect how I felt about my sexuality.
I didn’t know anything about sexuality, sexual health, and gender identity growing up. Nobody talked about it. The first time I had my period, I panicked and called my mom. I remembered asking her what the hell was going on.
She was driving and told me she’d talk to me when she got home. When we finally discussed it later I asked her whether I could choose not to have it. She said “No, it’s in your system. You’ve got to deal with it”. And that was that.
Still, that didn’t stop my curiosity. Thanks to the internet (which I used primarily for gaming) I eventually found out that I was transgender. I must’ve been 16 or 17 when I finally realised it. It explained everything I had been feeling while growing up.
Leaving Home & The Actual Physical Transition
I was 17 when I moved to KL for college. I had made the decision to change my body, and I wanted to prepare myself for my physical transformation. Between 17 – 24, I researched on how to become a man, and learnt more about the transgender community in the Klang Valley.
I started with taking male hormones about 5 years ago when I was about 24 or 25. At first, I self-medicated. However, since then, I’ve learnt that complete gender transitioning requires more than just hormones. There’re plenty of steps to complete the journey.
The first step is to be assessed by a Psychiatrist who will confirm that you’re actually transgender. Once he or she clears you, then you’ll have to take a trip to the endocrinologist (the doctor in charge of hormones). The endocrinologist will do a blood test to certify that you’re healthy enough for hormone therapy.
My mistake was that I only started seeing these professionals and getting certified two years after self-medicating. Thankfully nothing bad happened.
I found a psychiatrist willing to assess me, but he was all the way up north. I took some time off work and travelled there myself. Usually, assessments take several sessions, but when the doc saw how far I was willing to travel, he gave me my cert within 10 minutes.
When I first started hormone therapy, I had minor side effects. My voice grew hoarse, and it felt like I had a sore throat. My face started breaking out with some serious acne problems, but thankfully, that’s as far as it went.
With the psychiatric assessment certificate, I could now get surgery. I went to Thailand to get some work done on my chest. Alone.
Yes, I’m the adventurous type. It went quite smoothly. They kept me for a few days until I recovered from the anesthesia. Then I came home.
Coming Out To My Family
My family has always known that I have masculine tendencies. I didn’t have one specific moment for coming out. I was dropping hints constantly for about a year, and then one day my mom got all angry and snapped “What are you, a boy is it?”
I replied, “Yes, I am.”
My mom stormed out of the kitchen. My Dad showed up shortly after because he heard the commotion. I was crying. But what he said next really touched me. He told me I should be whoever I am, and live my life for God. He didn’t scream or shout so I just sobbed to him.
After that, I rarely went back. I didn’t want a confrontation with my mum and my sister, both of whom didn’t approve of me. My sister would threaten to find me a husband in order to ‘change’ me back. There would be arguments whenever we met, so I avoided them to avoid confrontations. I just hated it.
Sometime in the middle of 2017, Dad contracted pneumonia and was admitted to the ICU. I rushed home to be with him. I had to shave off my facial hair so as not to shock my relatives. Mom and all my siblings were there at the hospital.
But the first thing I noticed was how Mom seemed to change. I don’t know if it was because Dad was sick or because she missed me. She wasn’t angry or upset with me, and just comforted me at Dad’s bedside.
Over the course of the day at the Hospital, I came out to all my extended family; cousins, aunts, uncles. The lot. Surprisingly they were supportive, especially this particular aunt who was very open. I found out later that her son, my cousin, was gay too.
It was one of the saddest days because my Dad was getting weaker, but also one of the happiest days because I came out and got unexpected support. Dad passed away a few days later, but I felt at peace because all of us were there together.
Finding My Own Happiness
After Dad passed, things actually went well. My Mom remarried early this year, and the day after her wedding, I told her I had a boyfriend and we were planning to get married. She was like “Wow, there’s still someone who’s into you when you look like this?” and I just said, “It’s magic”.
Today, I’m engaged to this wonderful guy, and we plan to marry by next year once he finishes his studies. I’ve met his family and they seem to be accepting of the idea as well. My boyfriend is gay and out, so it will probably be the first wedding of this kind.
I realize how lucky I am that the law still recognizes me as a female, so a legal union with a man is possible in this country. Other same-sex couples don’t have this luxury. Hopefully, someday they will.
Note: Jameel has his own comic strip detailing his experiences as a transgender man at Just A Little Twist which is a bit inactive now, but he says he wants to get back to updating it real soon.
You can also read about another transgender who was a former Transgender Sex Worker in Malaysia.