On 19th April 2019, a panel of speakers consisting of Putri Ariyana, Mohd Al Khusyairi Mohd Ariff and Mohamed Bakri Abu Bakar came together with moderator Nur Ariff to discuss the topic of gender dysphoria to fourth year medical students of IIUM. They shared their own experiences and enlightened important issues regarding the LGBT community.
Hj. Bakri spoke of a difficult childhood and gravitated towards his own gender in his teenage years. Although his family did not accept his decisions, the streets and alleys did, welcoming him for almost three decades. Despite it all, chasing pleasure felt like chasing shadows and he felt perpetually lonely.
His drastic transformation was triggered during an emotional visit to his mother’s bedside in the ICU. Now he is a chairman of Persatuan Insaf Pahang, an NGO that focuses on medical and spiritual needs of the LGBT community in order to help them. Always yearning for change, always bettering himself in the memory of his late mother, Hj. Bakri was eventually offered to do his Umrah. He felt both honoured and humbled to able to see the Kaabah with his own eyes.
Puteri Ariyana is adamant that change comes in stages. It starts small, but gradually builds. That is how he, a soft, feminine boy in the past converted to a male-to-female transgender. That is how one enters the community, but it is also how one leaves.
Mohd Al Khusyairi revealed how his environment and circle of influence was an important factor in his own story. Risky recreational activities contributed towards his problem. After being diagnosed with TB meningitis and HIV, he had a change of heart and with strong family support, was able to push through. Now he is a chairman of Pertubuhan Hijrah Republique Network, aiming to assist and educate the LGBT community as well as the public in order to reduce stigma and discrimination.
“I don’t change what’s in a person’s heart, that’s under Allah’s authority. I just want to help and educate them with hope that they will be aware of what they do and reduce their activities.”
Open minds and kind, encouraging words are exactly what’s needed. Puteri Ariyana is adamant that one should only preach if their actions follow suite. Religion, if mixed with both hypocrisy and poor delivery, yield poor results. All three have been spurned by careless and harsh words in the past.
The sad reality is that customers as young as preteens can be absorbed into sex work themselves simply for the money. Older customers, even professionals such as doctors and lawyers, enjoy their young entertainment. There is rampant spread of HIV and other diseases without protection. Anyone of any background can be affected. A fourty-four year old Ustaz had decided that he wanted to become transgender and have a sex reversal operation.
A rather controversial question came from the audience. “Do you sometimes think that Allah’s creation isn’t perfect because of these inborn desires?”
Absolutely not, both Mohd Al Khusyairi and Puteri Ariyana countered. Perhaps due to his past experiences, Mohd Al Khusyairi is uniquely suited for his NGO work, with a higher degree of empathy for the community. Puteri Ariyana is adamant that one should try to only see the positive side. “Allah makes everything perfect and for a reason. We are the ones who bring ourselves to ruin. Allah gives us the chance to change and repent despite everything that we’ve done.”
And finally, as parting advice, they hoped that the audience as future doctors can use the weight of their words and profound ability to care to help the community. Be gentle with their hearts and treat them with compassion. “Remind them of Allah and let your actions speak for themselves.”