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Transgender influencers use platforms to promote acceptance in Asia

Indian model Sushant Divgikar has 1.8 million Instagram followers

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Sushant Divgikar (Photo by Amit Khanna)

In the time of the internet, new influencers are becoming famous every day. Some dance to someone’s else songs for viewership. Some talk about different gadgets, while others use the platform to create a powerful impact on society.

The transgender community in Asia continues to become more visible, but it still has a long way to go. Trans icons in the region who have become famous online are using their influence to spread awareness of the trans community among their fans and across their respective countries alike.

Kaede Sari, a Japanese architect, is fighting to spread awareness about trans people in her country and change society’s perspective of trans people as mere entertainment. 

She released a documentary, “You Decide,” in July 2020 that is based on her life. The idea was to spread awareness about trans people in Japan and inspire other trans people in the country. The documentary was available in select theaters and on Netflix Japan.

“I have continued to disseminate information, especially to students and families, as well as corporate employers and personnel,” said Sari in a statement to the Washington Blade. “However, society is still in the process of change. Some transgender people may not be able to come out depending on their position. I want to tell them, ‘You don’t have to come out until the environment is ready. Until we change the whole society, please find a reliable person (to whom you) can come out. And please be a person that is trusted to receive the coming out of many people.'”

The trans community has been an integral and mostly accepted part of Japanese culture since the Edo period from 1603-1868.

Japan in the late 1800s moved from a country that accepted gender fluidity to one that adopted Western gender binary norms. The trans community in Japan now faces regular humiliation, misunderstanding and discrimination. 

Japanese law stipulates a person has to show their ID โ€” which often has a gender identity marker โ€” when accessing education, health, transportation and other services. Authorities often ask invasive questions if a trans person’s picture doesn’t match their gender marker on the ID card.

Sari told the Blade she wanted to come out after finishing school, getting a job or moving into a new home.

She came out just before she began to look for employment. Sari said her trans friends either dropped out of school or decided not to come out.

“In Asia, many countries, including Japan, are conservative in change, and policies for LGBT (people) are spreading only in limited areas,” said Sari. “There are two steps to changing those who disagree with LGBT. ‘The stage of understanding LGBT’ and ‘the stage of accepting LGBT.’ I think we are in the stage of understanding now, so please get the correct knowledge.”

China, like Japan, has a long relationship with the trans community, but repression against it is a reality. Trans cultural icons in China are fighting hard to change the narrative and situation inside the country and abroad.

Fan Popo, a Chinese filmmaker and LGBTQ and intersex activist, is working to change attitudes about the country’s trans community through films and documentaries. 

Popo is known for his iconic documentary “Mama Rainbow,” which has inspired many LGBTQ and intersex people in China. The film attracted significant viewers on the internet in China and started a public discussion about the queer community. It has since disappeared from Youku, Tudou, 56.com and other popular Chinese streaming services.

Popo launched a ferocious legal battle with China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the fight resulted in a partial victory in 2015.

He continues to make LGBTQ-focused films to spread awareness in China and among Chinese people who are living abroad. 

Popo moved to Germany in 2017 and is now working on a fictional film debut. While talking with the Blade, he said the film is important for him as he feels he didn’t do enough for the queer community, and he wants to contribute more to the community in the coming years.

“Ever since I moved to Germany, I have been facing systematic racism. There are little resources are available for people of color,” said Popo. “What my colleagues in China have to face is also impacting me, so this makes me feel frustrated and unsafe. Another difficulty that I am facing right now is traveling back to China because of restrictions.”

Despite all the struggles, Popo has had a huge impact with his fans inside China and around the world. 

His creativity and films historically have inspired the trans community. He has made six films, and his last film was “Beer! Beer!” in 2020.

In India, the trans community has historical ties to traditional Indian culture. 

According to scholars and ancient Indian texts, the trans community garnered respect, but things changed once the British colonized the country. 

Section 377 of India’s colonial-era penal code that came into force in 1861 criminalized homosexuality. The Indian Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the discriminatory law, but more than 200 years of British colonial rule pushed Indian society to become discriminatory against trans people.

To create awareness about trans Indians, trans icons are using their social media platforms and creating a positive impact on society.

Sushant Divgikar is an Indian model, actor, singer, drag queen and motivational speaker who won Mr. Gay India in 2014. With 1.8 million Instagram followers, Divgikar has been spreading awareness about the country’s trans community. 

“The transgender community has shared a very beautiful status in the context of Indian cultural history in the pre-colonial area. After things changed because the British had very narrow-minded thoughts on the queer community. They talk about how the British divided and ruled the country based on caste, but they do not talk about how British rule divided the country based on gender diversity,” Divgikar told the Blade. “Over the past 16 and half years, I have been performing as a drag queen, actor, model, and motivational speaker, so of course, it has been a roller coaster ride, but I have never imagined this anything else. If I had not struggled this much, I would not have known what I have today and what I did not have.”

Divgikar since 2012 has appeared on many TV shows and participated in numerous competitions. They have also been using Instagram to talk about the queer community and start a public discussion. Divgikar has inspired many fans with their inspirational posts and stories. 

Divgikar in 2020 appeared on Forbes 30 under 30 list.

“At the time when people were not ready to talk about their orientation, I was on TV, risking my life because I used to get death threats, I used to get rape threats. When I was younger, I used to get frustrated because of threats, but now I feel bad for them,” they said. “They are the ones who really need a big hug and some therapy. I don’t mind paying for their therapy.”

Divgikar also talked about their appearance on the third largest billboard in New York’s Times Square for an entire month. 

While talking with the Blade, Divgikar said trans Indians feel represented when they see them on big stages. Divgikar feels pride in representing every Asian, and especially trans Indians, on the world stage.

“When you harm another person, you are not just harming that person,” said Divgikar while talking about hate crimes against the trans community in Asia. “You are killing the whole humanity.”

Ankush Kumar (Mohit) is a freelance reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached atย [email protected]. He is on Twitter atย @mohitkopinion.ย 

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Japan court rules country’s same-sex marriage ban is constitutional

Case filed in Osaka

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Activists hold a press conference outside the court in Osaka, Japan, on June 20, 2022. (Screenshot/YouTube Al Jazeera English)

In a ruling issued Monday, a district court in Osaka said that the country’sย ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional. The case had been filed by three same-sex couples โ€” two male, one female โ€” and is only the second legal challenge to have been filed in Japan.ย 

In March 2021, the Sapporo District Court ruled the countryโ€™s constitution does not ban same-sex couples from legally marrying and ensures them a right to marry. Under current Japanese law, same-sex couples are banned from legally marrying, which means partners cannot inherit each otherโ€™s assets upon death and have no parental rights over the otherโ€™s child.

In the Sapporo case, Nikkei Asia reported three couples โ€” also two male and one female โ€” tried to register their marriages in 2019, but local officials turned them away.

The couples sued and the court ruled the governmentโ€™s actions violated two provisions of the Japanese Constitution: Article 14 that ensures the right to equal treatment and Article 24, which does not expressly deny the right of marriage to same-sex couples.

Reuters reported that the Osaka court ruling said that marriage was defined as being only between opposite genders and not enough debate on same-sex marriage had taken place in Japanese society.

“We emphasised in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples,” said the lawyer for the couples, Akiyoshi Miwa, adding that they would appeal.

Reuters also reported that while Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be carefully considered, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has disclosed no plans to review the matter or propose legislation, though some senior party members favor reform.

An upcoming case in Tokyo will keep alive public debate on the issue, particularly in the capital, where an opinion poll by the local government late last year found some 70 percent of people were in favor of same-sex marriage.

Japanese court upholds same-sex marriage ban:

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Pakistan’s transgender community struggles to overcome marginalization

Country’s trans culture dates back centuries

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Pakistan National Assembly (Screen capture via YouTube)

Pakistan’s transgender community remains largely visible, yet marginalized and ostracized.ย 

Pakistani society makes little or no distinction between public order, morality, sexual orientation, or gender identity. With the introduction of new thoughts, cultures and religions in Pakistan during different periods of time has come a whole new understanding towards lesbians, gay men and trans people who find themselves included in wider terms, such as LGBT and queer.

Trans rights in Pakistan

Pakistan is a country located in southern Asia. The region now straddling the border of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan is one of the most war-torn regions of the world. For trans people, life can be especially difficult in Pakistan. They face challenges with family, friends, co-workers, strangers and the government.

Trans people have a long history in Pakistan. There are references to trans people in ancient Hindu texts, and trans people have been part of Pakistani culture for centuries.

The first public trans beauty pageant was held in Pakistan in January 2017. The event was organized by the Khawaja Sira Society, a support group for trans people. The pageant was a major step forward for trans rights in Pakistan.

Despite some progress, trans people in Pakistan still face many challenges. Family members may reject trans people, leading to homelessness and poverty. They may be ridiculed or humiliated by strangers. They may be denied basic rights and opportunities, such as education and employment. And they may be subject to violence and abuse.

The government of Pakistan has taken some steps to protect the rights of trans people. In 2018, the government passed a law that prohibits discrimination against trans people in employment.

Major concerns for Pakistan’s trans community

Trans people in Pakistan face many challenges when it comes to their rights. One major concern is the lack of legal recognition of their gender identity. This means that trans people are often unable to get identity documents that match their gender identity, which can make it difficult to access many basic rights and services.

Another concern for the trans community in Pakistan is violence. Trans people are often targets of physical and sexual violence, as well as verbal abuse and harassment. This violence is often perpetrated with impunity, meaning that the perpetrators are rarely held accountable for their actions.

The trans community in Pakistan also faces discrimination when it comes to employment, housing and health care. Many trans people are forced to work in the informal sector because they cannot get formal employment due to their gender identity. This often means they are paid less than their cisgender counterparts and have fewer protections at work. When it comes to housing, trans people often face eviction and discrimination from landlords. And when it comes to health care, trans people often have difficulty accessing quality care that meets their specific needs.

These are just some of the major concerns facing Pakistan’s trans community. While there have been some small steps forward in recent years, much more needs to be done.

What international agencies can and should do for trans Pakistanis

There are a number of things that international agencies can do to support the trans community in Pakistan. This includes but is not limited to: 

1. Providing financial support to organizations that work with and for the trans community in Pakistan. 

2. Lobbying the Pakistani government to ensure that the trans community has legal recognition and protection from discrimination and violence. 

3. Working with Pakistani civil society organizations to increase awareness of trans rights issues and promote social acceptance of the trans community. 

4. Encouraging Pakistani businesses to create inclusive workplaces for trans employees. 

5. Supporting research on the health needs of the trans community in Pakistan. 

6. Providing training and capacity-building assistance to Pakistani police and other law enforcement officials on how to better protect trans people from violence and discrimination.

Resources for more information about Pakistan and transgender interests

There are an estimated 500,000 trans people in Pakistan, and they face a great deal of discrimination. They are often not allowed to use public bathrooms or changing rooms that match their gender identity, and many are denied access to education or employment.

There has been some progress made on trans rights in Pakistan in recent years.

In 2012, the government began issuing national ID cards that included a third gender option. And in 2017, a trans woman was elected to the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 2022 Sarah Gill became the first trans doctor in Pakistan.ย But much more needs to be done in order to achieve full equality for trans people in Pakistan.

If you’re looking for more information on trans rights in Pakistan, here are some great resources.

Trans Action Pakistan is a grassroots organization that works to defend the rights of trans people in Pakistan. They offer support and advocacy services, and they also run awareness-raising campaigns.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was introduced in the Pakistani Parliament in 2016. It contains a number of provisions aimed at protecting the rights.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act

The trans community in Pakistan has been fighting for their rights for many years, and finally, in 2018, they achieved a major victory with the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018. This act provides legal recognition and protection for trans people in Pakistan and includes provisions for things like identity documents, anti-discrimination measures and access to education and employment. While there are still many challenges faced by trans people in Pakistan, this act is a major step forward in the fight for equality.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act is a piece of legislation that was enacted in order to protect the rights of trans people in Pakistan. The act prohibits discrimination against trans people in all areas of life, including employment, education, healthcare and housing. It also provides for the recognition of trans people’s gender identity and gives them the right to change their legal gender.

The act has been widely praised by human rights organizations and is seen as a step forward for trans rights in Pakistan.

On the positive side, the act provides trans people with basic rights and protections that they did not have before. For example, it prohibits discrimination against trans people in employment, education, and other areas of life. It also allows them to change their gender on government-issued documents.

On the negative side, some activists feel that the act does not go far enough in protecting trans people’s rights. For example, it does not allow them to marry or adopt children. It also requires them to have surgery before they can change their gender on official documents. This can be a costly and difficult procedure for many trans people.

Overall, the act is a step in the right direction for Pakistan’s trans community. However, more work needs to be done to fully protect their rights and give them equality.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly in May 2018. This act provides basic rights and protections for trans people in Pakistan.

Under the act, trans people are allowed to self-identify their gender. This is a major step forward, as trans people in Pakistan have previously been forced to undergo surgery or hormone therapy in order to change their legal gender.

The act also prohibits discrimination against trans people in employment, education, healthcare and other areas of life. This means that trans people will now have equal access to opportunities and resources.

The passage of this act is a major victory for trans rights in Pakistan. It provides much-needed protections and rights for trans people.

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Out K-pop star attacked in ‘hate crime’

Holland said incident took place on Wednesday in Seoul nightlife district

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Screenshot/YouTube

Out K-pop star Holland, real name Go Tae-seob,ย was brutally attacked Wednesday in the Itaewon commercial district of the South Korean capital city of Seoul. A spokesperson for the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency confirmed that the singer had been attacked.

The Itaewon district is known for its cosmopolitan dining and nightlife, with Korean barbecue restaurants and upscale bistros, as well as low-key kebab shops catering to a late-night crowd. Casual beer bars and gay pubs sit alongside hip dance clubs where DJs spin hip-hop and house music.

In a tweet about the incident, the out gay pop star wrote; “Last night, I was walking around Itaewon with my manager and a friend. Suddenly, a stranger man approached me and hit me on the face twice, calling me โ€˜a dirty gay.โ€™ Now I have a scar on my face and Iโ€™m going to the hospital soon.”

Holland also noted; “This is obviously a hate crime. The fact that my sexuality as gay is public should never expose myself to this kind of violence. Nor any other LGBT+ and all elders, women and minorities in this world. This happening in 2022 shows the sad reality of LGBT+ human rights.”

At the end of March earlier this year, the singer revealed during a live stream with fans that he is currently seeing a special someone, but he didnโ€™t give many details about his new partner. 

PinkNewsUK reported that the K-pop singer was questioned by fans in the chat during the live stream about his relationship and does indeed โ€œhave a boyfriend now.โ€ Holland repeated the happy news while smiling, adding โ€œdamnโ€ cheekily at the end.ย 

โ€œHeโ€™s very handsome and kind, tall,โ€ Holland said, describing his boyfriend to fans.

In an interview published by Daily Mirror journalist Zahna Eklund, she noted that being anย LGBTQ celebrity in South Korea isnโ€™t always easy. The subject is still very taboo and same-sex marriage is yet to be legalized. So when Holland, burst onto the K-pop scene in 2018 as the industryโ€™s only openly gay star, he had to fight tooth and nail to get recognized.

Holland first told his friends about his sexuality when he was a teenager, but admitted he didnโ€™t tell his parents until he debuted as an idol in 2018. The 24-year-old singer has also said that he was bullied in school because of his sexuality, Eklund wrote.

In its annual Global Human Rights Report for 2022, Human Rights Watch reported;

“The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is an established democracy that largely respects civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, although significant human rights concerns remain.

Discrimination against women is pervasive, as well as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, racial and ethnic minorities, and foreign migrants and refugees. 

The LGBT rights movement in South Korea is growing but continues to face hostility and severe discrimination, especially in the armed forces. In October, a South Korean court ruled that the military unlawfully discriminated against Byun Hee-su, the countryโ€™s first openly transgender soldier, when it discharged her after she underwent a gender affirming surgery in 2019. The court ordered her reinstatement, but Byun died by suicide in March.

In schools, LGBTQ+ children and young people experience severe isolation and mistreatment including bullying and harassment, a lack of confidential mental health support, exclusion from school curricula, and gender identity discrimination. 

Activists and progressive legislators have actively advocated for the National Assembly to develop and pass a broad-based national anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ persons as well as women, children, people with disabilities, older people, and foreigners. But the government did not make meaningful progress on such a law, citing a vocal Christian conservative groupโ€™s anti-LGBTQ+ opposition.

Evangelical Korean churches and religious organizations also continue their efforts to attempt to effectively erase LGBTQ+ Koreans by marginalizing and demonizing them.”

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