“I wanted to find the freedom to express myself. I am so happy I can wear what I want and be myself here. I’ve gone through a lot of difficulties; being on the street is not easy.”
While Sulastri knows the range of barriers transgender and transsexual people face; disapproval from their families, discrimination from employment opportunities, disparaging remarks from strangers; she is hopeful that more people will become tolerant with time. She also finds that younger people who are coping with difficult situations are better equipped to handle them.
“The younger generation is more open, educated, and curious to get information they’ve never heard of before.”
And when members of the Mak Nyah (transgender) community come to PT Foundation with questions and concerns, Sulastri is happy to provide assistance.
“I am a role model for my community. They might think they are weird or doing something wrong, but it is different here. We tell them to be proud to be transgender—to be proud of who they are.”
As someone who has dealt with discrimination, Sulastri can identify with those who seek guidance from PT Foundation.
“I can relate because I have been through all of that. I can read their body language and know what they are feeling.”
Even though Sulastri empathizes with those who seek guidance from her, she admits that it isn’t easy counseling members of her own community.
“There are many different issues and different circumstances – homelessness, drug users, sex workers. Prevention and counseling is not that easy. The problems are complex and can be shocking.”
To assist her clients best, Sulastri listens attentively to their concerns.
“We are not here to change them. We are here to help them help themselves – just to guide them.”
Nisha, Sulastri’s colleague and Manager of the Transgender Program, chimes in, “We don’t play God here.”
Maria Skouras, The Advocacy Project