By Mohd Fiezreen Ahmad

The transgender community are known in the society for so long, in fact in 1986 there was a designated organization called Persatuan Mak Nyah Wilayah Persekutuan created especially for transgender people. Recognized by the government, this organization received support from Ministry of Community Welfare or currently known as Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (Azid et al, 2020). However, the lifespan of this club was not long after it received rejection from the Islamic Council, as it was deemed to attract people to become transgender. In one research by Wei et al (2012) on 100 respondents, only 31% respondents felt that members of the transgender community are accepted as part of the society in Malaysia, while 69% do not accept them as such. This is because religions such as Islam and Christianity prohibit transgenderism. However this unacceptance does not mean they wish any harm on transgender person, it is just the idea of transgenderism is against their belief.

As we are living in the digital era where everyone can express themselves through social media platforms, a lot of transgender individual has become more vocal regarding the issue and oppression received by their community. One of activists addressing this issue vocally is Nisha Ayub, who co-founded Seed in 2007 and Justice for Sisters in 2010 (Chin, 2020). Both of these organizations are in response to help and educate transgenders around Malaysia who often face violence, injustice and oppression. The issue of injustice faced by transgender in Malaysia has caught international attention. In a report by Human Rights Watch, it stated that there were a few cases of assault that have resulted in death or badly injured of transgender people committed by authority personnel or other civilians (Goshal, 2019). International organization recognized this issue and show their support towards this community. As an example, Nisha Ayub received the International Women of Courage Award at the White House in Washington DC (Indramalar, 2016). In 2019 she was among BBC 100 Women of 2019 (Tan, 2019) for her works in seeking justice for the transgender community in this country. These recognitions means that her activism campaigns travelled well and are heard at international level.

As a Muslim-majority country with conservative views on gender and sexuality issues in general, binaries of gender and sexuality are frequently maintained and enforced without doubt, fostering the stigmatisation of transgender people (Luhur et al, 2020). This draws international attention and negative perspectives on how the government and our society deal with this community. In 2018,  Dato’ Dr Mujahid Rawa who was a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department under the portfolio of Religious Affair issued a statement that his meeting with Nisha Ayub did not implied his support for LGBT culture but he stressed that the harassment and any form of discrimination against people who are transgender in Malaysia must end because their rights as Malaysian citizens cannot be denied (Pillay, 2018).

The society in Malaysia and transgender community must work together to achieve a common ground. Without both participation, the dilemma and acceptance will never be resolved. Transgender in our society is no longer an isolated issue because we had long embraced one another in living together. In fact, transgenders were once an actors or even characters in dramas, films and comedy filling our television show in the 80’s and 90’s. Now let’s live together in peace and harmony with an instil respect for one another.


Azid, M. A. A., Subri, N. S. M., & Ahmad, K. (2020). Mak Nyah dan Perkembangannya di Malaysia. RABBANICA-Journal of Revealed Knowledge1(1), 19-34.

Wei, C. L., Baharuddin, A., Abdullah, R., Abdullah, Z., & Ern, K. P. C. (2012). Transgenderism in Malaysia. Journal of Dharma37(1), 79-96.

Chin, K .(2020, December 03). Activist Nisha Ayub On Fighting For The Rights Of Transgender Community. Malaysia Tatler. https://my.asiatatler.com/society/malaysian-activistits-nisha-ayub-fighting-for-transgender-rights

Ghoshal, N. (2019, June 25). “The Deceased Can’t Speak for Herself:” Violence Against LGBT People in Malaysia. Human Right Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/25/deceased-cant-speak-herself-violence-against-lgbt-people-malaysia

Indramalar, S. (2016, April 22). Nisha Ayub’s tough fight for transgender rights is ongoing. The Star. https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/people/2016/04/22/nisha-ayub-will-not-stop-fighting-for

Tan, M. Z. (2019, October 16). Win for trans community: Malaysian activist Nisha Ayub on BBC 100 Women of 2019 list. Malay Mail. https://www.malaymail.com/news/life/2019/10/16/win-for-trans-community-malaysian-activist-nisha-ayub-on-bbc-100-women-of-2/1800823

Luhur, W., Brown, T. N., & Goh, J. N. (2020). Public Opinion of Transgender Rights in Malaysia.

Pillay, S. (2018, August 11). Mujahid: Meeting with Nisha Ayub does not imply support for LGBT culture. New Straits Times. https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/08/400350/mujahid-meeting-nisha-ayub-does-not-imply-support-lgbt-culture

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