Hostile stares and friendly words on the streets

Although Ms Cassandra Thng received some hostile stares while walking around various places with her sign on March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility, she also found support. About 65 people took photos with her, and three girls prayed that she wo
Although Ms Cassandra Thng received some hostile stares while walking around various places with her sign on March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility, she also found support. About 65 people took photos with her, and three girls prayed that she would have the strength to be herself.PHOTO: CASSANDRA THNG/FACEBOOK

Around two weeks ago, about 65 people took photos with Ms Cassandra Thng, 20.

This happened along the shopping belt from Bugis to Orchard Road. But she is not a celebrity.

Ms Thng was raising awareness of a group of people who often face discrimination worldwide.

She was walking around on March 31 - declared the Transgender Day of Visibility - from 5.30pm to 10pm. A sign around her neck read: "I am trans. Will you take a photo with me?"

Ms Thng is a transgender woman, meaning she identifies with a gender different from the one she was born as.

 

"I was visible by choice, out of the bubble that is my progressive friends," she wrote on Facebook.

She told The Sunday Times it was a scary affair at first, and she was worried about her safety.

"I was afraid of being verbally disparaged, receiving threats of physical violence, experiencing harassment, experiencing physical or sexual violence, and being stalked," she said.

"It sounds like paranoia, but such is the atmosphere of discrimination that surrounds us.

"We are at a much higher risk... and with me being as visibly out and attention-seeking as I was on that day, I felt like I was at an inordinately high risk."

Overseas, transgender people are regular victims of hate crimes, with 21 killed in the United States in 2015.

But while Ms Thng did receive some hostile stares, she also found support on the streets.

"The most interesting thing that night... was three Christian girls asking to say a prayer for me - and they prayed that I may have the strength to be myself, and have the labels not put on me by God to be cast off.

"I really experienced the kind of extremes that faith can bring people to that night," she said.

"I could not have asked for things to go better."

Kok Xing Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline 'Hostile stares and friendly words on the streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe