Monday, 21 May 2012

No Need To Discriminate Me-lah.

I went up to the counter and handed the immigration officer my passport and boarding pass. He checked my boarding pass first, and then he opened my passport. His expression changed. His eyebrows cocked.

"Oh God," I said to myself. "Please don't ask that question....!"

He looked at me, and then my passport. He looked at me again, then my passport. Me. Passport. Me. Passport.

Finally he said, "You Cina ke? Cina apa?? (You're Chinese? What kind of Chinese are you??)"  Another officer came over to look at the passport. Together, they queried me with their solemn facial expression.

I sighed. Yup, that's the question I dreaded to hear. "Saya campur (I'm a mix)," I said.

"Ooooh, mix what?" they would ask.

And then I'd have to tell them, "Dutch, and Chinese."  I was aware of the line behind me, but the immigration guys didn't seem to care.  When they were satisfied with more clarifications from me -- I studied in which local school and I speak Bahasa,  they gave me back my passport and let me through.  I heard the two of them giggling behind my back.

For years I have been facing the same passport problem over and over again. My 'race' is defined as 'Chinese'. There were many times where I had to present my IC ( identification card ) as well as my passport, because they thought my passport was a fake. How many mat salleh ( Bahasa : white person ) in Malaysia have 'Chinese' as their 'race'?

This problem arose when I was twelve years old -- the year to be recognized as a citizen in Malaysia.

I went to get my IC done at the Dept of Registration.  I asked the officer if I could put my 'race' as 'Mix'.

"Tak boleh! (Nope!)" she said firmly.  I only had three choices: Chinese, Indian or Malay. It didn't make sense to me. I'm a mix of two bloods, not a pure breed Chinese! I pleaded again and again to the officer to let me put my 'race' as 'mix'.  

I told her that a friend of mine was half British and half Malay, so he became a 'Malay' but he also wanted to be a 'mix'. I asked, "Why?" 

The more I pleaded for her to reason with me,  the more she was annoyed.

Finally, I asked if I could tick the last box and be a "lain-lain (others)".  And I got a 'no' as well. So in the end, the only choice I had was 'Chinese'.

And so began the "What kind of Chinese are you?" question every time I present my passport at the Malaysian immigration.  Obviously, I don't look like a typical Chinese if I have European blood.

At one point, a Singaporean immigration officer thought I was being kidnapped and smuggled into Singapore by a whole car load of Chinese  -- my uncle and his wife, my grandparents, my mom and my cousin sister.

When I attended the 2011 Fashion and Sense (Miss Transgender Malaysia) competition, the question given to Miss Sarawak was, "Do you think passports should be issued for transgenders?" Her answer was obviously a 'yes', and the crowd went wild as most attendees were from the transgender community.

I sat there and thought about it.

I could imagine what they have to face when they present their passports to the officers. Instead of the immigration officer asking, "Cina apa?" like what get, the immigration officer would probably ask, "Lelaki apa? (What kind of man are you?)"

How are they supposed to answer that????? "Saya campur..... ( I am a mix?????)

How would a transgender feel when she is asked a question like that ( with officers giggling behind her?)  Does she feel 'injustice', anger, slighted?

If I feel 'unfair' being categorized into boxes that don't define who I am but being forced to be who I am not, and I am utterly unhappy, then how about the transgenders? They don't get this treatment just at the immigration offices, they get it at clinics, hospitals, job interviews and everywhere!

How can we be 1Malaysia if we are still categorized like this? If Malays, Chinese, and Indians are 'Malaysians' and they have their own little 'categories' in ID cards and passports, what about those of mixed parentage, especially those who are half European, half African or do not have the typical Malaysian Malay, Chinese and Indian looks?  Does that mean I am only HALF Malaysian?

It is easy to wear a 1Malaysia t-shirt and say 'Satu Malaysia!" and see all sorts of money being poured into campaigns. But just how 1Malaysia are we?

If we claim that we are 1Malaysia, then does any one of us have any right to stop a transgender to be who she is?

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