Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Transgender visibility still needed: advocates



Transgender visibility still needed: advocates

A participant speaks at the launch of a CCHR report on discrimination against transgender women in urban centres last year in Phnom Penh.
A participant speaks at the launch of a CCHR report on discrimination against transgender women in urban centres last year in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Transgender visibility still needed: advocates

Today marks the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an event civil society organisations say is much needed in Cambodia, where transgender men and women face daily discrimination.

Say Seaklay, an advocacy officer at LGBT-rights NGO Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) and himself a transgender man, said acceptance was low in Cambodia and discrimination occurred in everyday life: in schools, at the workplace, in local communities.

One of the most prominent examples of discrimination, he recounted, was when he got fired from his internship at a local NGO working in the development sector about three years ago because they found out that he was transgender.

“They just stopped me from working there,” he said. “They said they used to have experience in working with transgenders, and they think transgenders cannot work for that organisation.”

Meanwhile, he said his neighbours “think the LGBT [people] decrease the population ... They always say ‘you should marry a man and have a child’.”

While he was “very grateful” that the government had been “very supportive of the transgender community” and transgender visibility had increased over the past year in media and the public, he said the government could still do more.

He argued the government should offer services such as hormone treatment to accommodate the needs of some transgender people. Em Chan Makara, a Ministry of Social Affairs spokesman, said his ministry should write guidelines to combat discrimination, but that research was needed first.

He acknowledged, however, that his ministry so far had no plans to conduct such research. He explained that he believed transgenderism was either caused by karma or by food.

“Today, the food can have a lot of chemicals … When pregnant mothers have a baby, they can eat something [that causes it],” he said.

He added that one of his relatives, Em Tit, was also a transgender man. Tit yesterday said that his family was not happy when he told them that he was transgender, but that he kept trying to explain what he felt.

“For now, my mum, she opened [her] heart with me,” he said, but added that his family’s friends often looked down on him. But, he said, “I don’t care.”

“Nowadays I have my own business and I can make my dream come true.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting