In January last year (how time flies!), I wrote a commentary on how the Straits Times reported the asylum status of a transgender woman (read more).
In that instance, I felt that the Straits Times, exacerbated the ignorance of society towards minorities who do not necessarily fall into categories that society may impose.
Further to that commentary, I had the opportunity to meet the courageous protagonist behind this journey to seek asylum in the UK. It was important for people to see "Vanessa" as a human being with the same fears, dreams and aspirations as the rest of us.
Like any other person, she wants to be free to live a meaningful life without having to be curtailed or held back just because she happens to be born transgender. (Read here)
Prejudice often occurs when people do not understand why someone might be different. As a result of this lack of understanding, it is easy to be flippant or dismissive about a struggle for acceptance that is so real and so difficult. It is therefore important for understanding to be fostered through awareness and education.
Fast forward one year and a bit, I am happy to report that "Vanessa" has finally won her battle to remain in the UK. (Read more)
While I am saddened that she does not feel able to live her life freely in the country of her birth, I am heartened that she can now live the rest of her life to her full potential in a society that accepts her for who she is; where she can work and socialise as a transgender woman without discrimination.
I am certain that "Vanessa" is not alone in her struggle and there are others in Singapore who may have to suppress their sexuality as a result of society's intolerance. As a result of being different, they have to either pretend to be someone else or risk being held back in their careers or ostracised by family and friends.
Hopefully in time, as Singapore becomes more progressive through greater awareness and education that this will no longer be an issue. For now, I hope that "Vanessa's" story can be a beacon of hope and inspiration to others who may be going through the same struggles.