Video: Malaysian prison turned her into a trans activist

“They asked me to strip naked in front of everyone. They made fun of me, because my body doesn’t conform to what men and women are supposed to be.” 

— Nisha Ayub of Malaysia, describing her three months in prison for being trans.

Nisha Ayub of Malaysia now and as a child. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)
Nisha Ayub of Malaysia now and as a child. Click image to see the video. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

In a 6:25-minute video, Nisha Ayub tells about growing up transgender in Malaysia, and how being thrown in prison made her an advocate for transgender rights.

The video is the first of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.

The series, called “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog is a member of the advisory board for this project. In that role, it has helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers and topics.

The video is on the Quorum page and on YouTube.

Nisha Ayub promotes trans rights and trans pride.
Nisha Ayub promotes trans rights and trans pride.

In the video, Ayub says:

“The most frequent question being asked to me was always, ‘Nisha, when did you become a transgender person?’ You know what?  We don’t become one. We are born as one, and that’s a fact.”

She was arrested by Malaysia’s religious police and sentenced to three months in prison. She was commanded to commit sex acts in prison and was tempted to commit suicide.

While Ayub was in prison, her mother realized that she did not have a son, but a daughter. When she was freed, she became a transgender rights activist. She currently works with the Pink Triangle Foundation of Malaysia.

She said, “You can cut my hair. You can strip me naked. And you can take my dignity away from me. You can even kill me. But you cannot take away my identity as a transgender person.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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