By Kamelia Daud
On the 14th of December 2019, we had the pleasure of attending Bissu’s second FTM (female-to-male) workshop entitled “FTM Workshop 2: The Sequel?” Bissu is a non-profit community building group existing to act as a guide to channel relevant recipients to support groups, that has been established within the LGBT friendly community. Due to the overwhelming response received from their first FTM workshop, Bissu decided to organise a second run. The workshop was conducted for individuals who are going through, starting or require support for their transition journey. Allies were also welcomed to attend.
The workshop kicked off with an introduction of Bissu and the origins of its name. Bissu; a shaman transgender priest, is derived from one of the 5 genders in the Bugis community and this name was chosen to invoke a need to remember the rich history that had been largely forgotten by the Malay community. ‘Bisu’ in Malay actually means ‘mute’ and although the LGBT community is visible, to an extent, in Singapore, the weight of homophobia still hang upon our society and many Malay LGBT individuals have to suffer in silence.
Speakers explained the concept of SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) and introduced local resources for transitioning individuals. Organisers also used an anonymous Q&A online app to create a safe and lively environment to ask all types of questions with regards to transitioning such as name changes, costs of transitioning and differences between going through public or private health route, local or overseas.
Some important and common questions that were asked was about the cost of transitioning. Top surgery could range between $15,000 to $20,000 when undergone locally, and some may require or ask for multiple corrections. The financial cost of transitioning was a major concern that was brought up by participants. This cost is rarely ever publicly discussed nor is it covered under insurance in Singapore. The lack of support from society, family, workplace, and the financial precarity that transitioning puts the community in, it is no wonder why so many in the workshop were most concerned about the cost of transitioning. Some other questions also included whether parental consent is needed for those under 21 and how to come out to parents. (Check out Transgender SG for more infomation)
During the Q&A, other participants also generously shared their knowledge and experiences. Some provided personal accounts about going through the process of transitioning, advice, or shared LGBT-friendly contacts, a testament to the safe and helpful space the workshop provided.
There was also a Kinesiology demo (tape binding methods) on how to how to bind with tape safely and effectively. There was even a free binders giveaway! After lunch, participants took part in a set of engaging games that required the room to get up and work off the post lunch sleepiness. It was a fun way to socialize and get to know one another.
At the end of the workshop, an anonymous poll was conducted with participants that showed how many shared similar worries ie. social transitioning, workplace discrimination, NS, binding, packers, and most importantly, the financial stress to sustain everything. Some participants were keen to extend the 4-hour workshop even longer, and wanted more time to mingle with each other.
Overall, the workshop was able to create a supportive space for participants. We appreciated how everyone felt comfortable as they are and did not have to contend with the tiredness of explaining. A million thanks to Bissu for organising this event and allowing everyone to share, care, and have some much needed community care.
Involve Volunteer Network: Borne from the amazing volunteer body that has supported Pink Dot SG since the beginning, Involve Volunteer Network (IVN) is an independent non-profit organization whose aim is to engage both the LGBTQ community and Straight Allies to create a more compassionate society through volunteerism.
The T Project is committed to supporting Singapore’s trans community in living their fairytale lives. Its aim is to support and provide a positive impact on the transgender community , enabling them to lead a more dignified and fulfilling lives.
TransgenderSG strives to help trans people in Singapore have safer, smoother transitions, through creating resources and doing advocacy work aimed at combating discrimination and improving trans people’s lives.
Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement (PFTM): PFTM is a nationwide-based organization for Filipino Transgender men. Started as a support group in 2011 with advocacies focusing on SOGIESC and Human Rights education, Transgender Health, HIV education among trans men and promoting positive visibility of trans men in the Philippines.
Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN): We work to improve the lives of trans and gender diverse people by engaging regional partners to advocate for fundamental human rights. As a trans-led organisation, we are deeply committed to building empowered and self-reliant trans movements, and implement programmes at both country and regional levels for members of the community as well as policymakers, healthcare providers, and beyond.
QICS: An organisation which provides financial literacy education and finance related advice for the GLBTQ community, with a primary focus on the transgendered community.
The Heartweavers: The Heartweavers is a grassroots initiative that aims to create a safe space to inspire and guide LGBTQ+ people in Singapore to live full and free lives in spite of our circumstances. Our vision is a strong LGBTQ+ community of individuals that have the life skills in various aspects of their lives – physical, emotional, societal, intellectual, and spiritual – to form.
Verizon Media: Verizon Media’s employee resource group for LGBTQ+ people & allies. We strive to create a workplace that celebrates diversity & promotes inclusion and equality. Prism focuses on creating positive impact on the Verizon Media culture and its products, and also giving back to our external communities. We are building a safe environment where each individual feels safe being their authentic selves, and are committed to being the best place to work for the LGBTQ+ community.