I WAS ONCE APPOINTED THE GENERAL MANAGER OF A COMPANY and it was my responsibility to hire people to staff the company. We advertised in the newspaper as per the normal practice and soon a few people called in to arrange for interviews. One of them was a person who spoke in a soft voice. I immediately recognised it as a male person trying to sound like a woman. The voice asked if I would grant him an interview for the position and I said, yes.
I said “yes” not because I was curious to see this abnormality of a human being but because I did not discriminate against gender or race; I felt it was more important the person suited the position and could deliver the results expected by the company than his physical appearance.
For years, I have been conditioned to think it was against nature for a person to behave or feel any way but according to the sex of their birth. But a few years ago, after searching the Internet for knowledge, I began to open to the fact that Mak Nyahs (a Malay term for a male-to-female transsexual) are mere human beings with their own personalities, just like you and me. I was also fortunate to meet one of the foremost experts in our country in the field of sex change operations. He candidly explained the facts about such people to me and lamented the problems of abuse of Mak Nyahs by their families, friends and even their government.
The Mak Nyah who came for the interview suited the job and she asked if I would consider her two friends to fill the rest of the positions on offer. I said, yes, and that week I ended up hiring these three ladies as part of my staff.
In the beginning, I was unsure how the other staff would accept these three ladies but I soon set the rules in the company. Everyone in the company would be treated the same: with respect and professional acceptance. Maybe one or two of the male staff did feel squirmy but they soon got used to see the three manly looking ladies with outlandish clothes and make up.
Over the months, I got to know these three unique ladies better and they opened up to tell me their stories. As part of my management style, I try to get to know my staff as much as possible in order to foster good working relations with everyone. These three ladies’ life stories fascinated me.
They explained that it was difficult for them to find jobs as many employers did not accept such people in their staff. Even if the employer did not discriminate against them such as McDonald’s Restaurants, their colleagues would taunt them and make their working life miserable. As such, they drifted from one job to another, unable to make ends meet while spiraling down the abyss of discouragement and despair. These three friends lived together and helped each other out as much as a family would. They were shunned by their families and only had each other for comfort.
They helped each other to pay the rent and put food on the table. One of them had a manly haircut and would take off her make up when going to work. She felt unhappy because she could not be herself. She dressed as a man and behaved like a man at work. She resigned for that job soon after.
If I had to wear a dress against my will for work daily, I would feel the same!
I am pleased to report, the three Mak Nyahs’ work performance in the company were no different from the other staff. Just like everyone else, they scrambled to meet their quotas weekly, had the same anxiety when I raised my voice to chide those who underperformed, felt the same rejection feeling when customers turned them down and the same exuberance when they closed a sale. In short, there was nothing special about them; they were just like the other staff.
So there you have it, the story of how I paid 3 Mak Nyahs their salaries every month for the services they provided to the company.
Pepper Lim supports LGBT rights and believes a person’s sexuality is no concern of others. In his spare time, he authored “The Troublesome Prince Lucky Mole”; a best-seller children’s story book. Available at all good book stores.