Regional transgender groups speak out on health needs

Published: February 20, 2014

For the first time, transgender NGOs have been invited to a major medical symposium in Bangkok – the World Professional Association for Transgender Health

Transgender groups say too often, members of their community miss out on testing or treatment, because of stigma and discrimination.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Joe Wong, spokesman, FTMA – Fronting Trans Movement, Singapore
WONG: It has been rather a neglected group because you won’t be able to see a trans-man on the street. They evolve from being lesbians then realising they don’t want to be in this female body, and then they try to go through different procedures to get their gender aligned. They don’t feel like they’re female at birth and they will do things to change the way they look to a more trans-masculine appearance. It doesn’t necessarily equate to a sex change but it could be simple things like umm, getting hormones, perhaps they’re deepening their voices, also some increase in facial hair.
LAM: And Joe in terms of HIV AIDS, what are some of the issues facing trans-men in Singapore?
WONG: Well there is no existence of any HIV services available for trans-men, there’s no access to prevention brochures, no access to prevention messages and there is just no healthcare providers who are sensitised enough to talk about such issues that there is still not much acceptance within the community that gay trans-men do exist. It makes individuals feel kind of reluctant to access HIV services because there will be a lot of pressure on why you need to be accessing HIV testing.
Disclosing as a gay trans-man, there’s always some kind of risk attached to it and the community is just too fragile for this to know that there are gay trans-men existing.
LAM: Singapore in the 1970s and 80s was the pioneer nation if you like, in Southeast Asia for sex change operations. But how would you assess health ministry attitudes towards the transgender community, particularly trans-men?
WONG: It has been on the media, known in the ministries that only trans-women exist and primarily in the entertainment industry. And there doesn’t seem to be anyone talking about it (trans-men). It seems that the prevention programs are always targetted towards trans-women and no one is picking up that there is an emerging need to recognise trans-men specific issues. The ministry hasn’t come to recognise that there is this group of people existing in Singapore. As I said there are gay trans-men having sex with these trans-men and the main mode of transmission is the exchange of bodily fluid and semen from their gay male partners.
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