Monday, 26 July 2010

UK: Malaysian transsexual woman married to Englishman wins asylum, couple can stay together

By Paul Canning

Fatine Young, a Malaysian transsexual in a civil partnership with an English man, Ian Young, has won her asylum claim. The couple had been told by the Home Office they had no right to live together in the UK and instead should live in Malaysia.

Fatine told us:
After nearly a year struggling I am so relieved that the Home Office has approved my asylum claim, knowing that I am safe from the prosecution back home - my plight, known through the media in the UK, has touched a nerve amongst the Muslim community in Malaysia.

Honestly I'm not angry at the UK government for keep on rejecting my application, I'm just confused and scared. I don't know what have I done wrong as I know I follow everything by the book. I called my family in Malaysia to tell them the news but received no reaction from them. Ian's family and friends are happy that I got to stay here in UK.
Fatine's forced asylum claim was based on the strongly negative media reaction in Malaysia, where she is referred to by her former, male name Mohammed Fazdil Min Bahari, and because she is in a 'same-sex marriage' and could face action under sharia law. She also received death threats in Malaysian on the Facebook page set up to support the couple. An article in the Malay Mail in December spoke of claims she had "shamed Malaysia".

They first met in 2006 and fell in love in Malaysia. Fatine Young told This Morning in December that when they first applied with a company used by the UK High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 2008 for a visa for Fatine and officials saw her passport, where because she is a pre-op transsexual she is listed as a man, she received a "terrible reaction". Fatine told us:
I was treated badly and humilated by the staff at the Visa processing centre because I look like a women but my passport is a male.
She came to the UK on a tourist's visa in December 2008, Ian proposed and they were allowed to enter a civil partnership last June and, following that, Fatine tried to regularise her situation. Her first leave-to-remain-visa was refused last September, on the grounds of an incorrect passport photo. His second bid was rejected as it was received after the visitor's visa had expired as was another using the 'Right to Family Life' provision under the Human Rights Act. Fatine was then told to return to Malaysia but by this point she had become the focus of local media attention and had no option but the asylum claim.

Though the couple say they've been accepted by Ian's family and their neighbours in Derbyshire, Ian was forced to move from his job as a school caretaker earlier this year after parents' complaints supposedly because of the media coverage in Derbyshire.

Now that the couple know they can stay together in the UK Fatine says that she wants to "start a new chapter in my life":
As soon as I've got my paperwork from Home Office, I will look for work. I know it may be a bit difficult to gain employment but I will try my best, I want to contribute something back to the government.

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  1. Congratulations, Fatine! Love from Malaysia xxx

  2. My heart goes to you, Fatine. You don't deserve to be treated that way by anyone. It's not your fault but it's just the characteristics of some human beings who do not know how to handle issues that they are not comfortable with.You are beautiful and Ian is one lucky man. May Allah bless you always.

  3. Congratulations to the both of them, but there are so many important lose ends in the reporting of this which it is very disappointing the writers have never bothered to clear up.

    In the context of clear prejudiced handling of her application, what exactly was wrong with her photograph that caused her application to be rejected? Was she perhaps smiling when the rules say the face must be straight?

    Why was theirs a civil partnership when she should, seemingly, have been eligible for UK "gender recognition" (clearly having lived as a woman for two years and intending to continue to do so, and being willing to be on pubic record) and thus a heterosexual marriage, which might have gone down better in Malaysia?

    Why did she not acquire the right to remain when she became the civil partner of a UK citizen? Was it because of prejudiced official insistence that she had to return first to Malaysia and apply there for a new visa?

    What complaint has been made about the prejudiced handling of her visa application, and what changes have been made?

    Has this been resolved as a consequence of the recent court decision on asylum claims, indicating that the Home Office is accepting that trans asylum claimants are covered by it too, not only gay claimants.

    Oh, and Paul, transsexual is an adjective, not a noun. You effectively did the same as as calling someone a "Black" by saying she was a "Malaysian transsexual". Why do we have to keep on asking for that insulting usage to end?

    Why is she still frightened and confused when she now has theright to remain in the UK?

  4. oatc

    thanks for your feedback.

    · The visa photo was rejected because of the wrong background colour - I would add that I'm not aware of, nor has Fatine suggested, that she was discriminated against once in the UK. All visa applicants are treated that way ('the rules are the rules'(.
    · I don't know why they're in a civil partnership rather than marriage but you may be right although I'd guess this might have been their easier option rather than having to assemble evidence from overseas to meet any 'lived as a woman for two years' requirement. They did have to get permission under an incredibly ridiculous rule, now being abolished ( see ).
    · The right to remain issue goes for all relationships, gay or straight. Getting married doesn't automatically mean a partner can come here.
    · A complaint of the handling of the original visa application, not by the government but by someone employed by them, is up to Fatine.
    · The Supreme Court decision would have affected the claim – it was accepted and didn't require an appeal – and yes although not specifically about trans people the principal is the same.

    Apologies with the headline.

    With 'confused and scared' - this is a translation issue I think. She's referring to her experience rather than how she feels now she has the right to stay.

    As I mentioned in response to your comment on, many of your questions are answered in background links from here or the previous stories we've carried about Fatine and Ian. Your comments are welcome though.

  5. Headline edited as per your comment.

  6. Thank you Paul for that careful and full response.

    Of course you are right that all applicants once in the UK see to be treated equally officiously. However, there are two big lose ends there which this case raises:

    Equality (which public bodies and there agencies must, by law, have regard to) is not just in action but in effect. If rejecting an application (as opposed, for example to sending a quick query on whether a correct picture is available) is going to cause one applicant much more hardship then that is not equalty. Where, perhaps in conjunction with handling delay, it will put the applicant out of time, requiring them to return to another country, costing them considerable money, and where they will be in danger, for example. I know that such queries are sent, and the choice to reject rather than query can be a point at which prejudice is easily exercised.

    And of course we know, from several exposes, that it is common for borders agency staff to exercise prejudice, There are few transsexual applications but I would be very surprised if, given that Stonewall reported on prejudice against lesbian and gay applicants, and we know of active prejudice against "ugly" women (and demands for sexual favours as a price for attractive women), there were not such prejudice at work.

    My point about gender recognition and a heterosexual marriage also covered a concern I have that there may be some prejudice in the gender recognition system. I have heard remarks about "worries" that "so many" trans girls and women from South East Asia are applying, and it might be that barriers are being placed in their way out of prejudiced (racist and transphobic) assumption that most are sex workers. perhaps even being trafficked, when in fact they are such as Fatine, or quite legitimate students or workers who have chosen the UK because they can gain legal recognition that is denied in their own countries, and be accepted as women when, in their country of origin they might still stand out as tall, for example. There are ample points in the gender recognition system where delays or difficulties could be created.

    The wrong use of "transsexual" is also in the first line.

    Thank you again, Paul.

  7. Hi again

    Of course you are right about how prejudice can manifest. This is why change is needed to the system and the Supremes decision won't do it on its own.

    There are numerous ways in which prejudice happens, for example in how services employed by the Home Office treat transsexual people. Fatine's experience with a company employed by the Foreign Office is similar to the, albeit few, published accounts of LGBT experience in detention or when 'dispersed' and housed.

    However, as the Stonewall report points out, the context is a culture of disbelief and where, I'd add, other prejudices go unchallenged. This has got worse in the last decade, I would argue.

    On your point about transsexual migrants from SE Asia - this is news to me but doesn't surprise and if you can point me to anything/anyone which could talk about this I'd appreciate it.

  8. Women falsely accused by Border Agency staff of being sex workers will usually be just wanting to forget the sordid matter.

    The "gender recognition" system in the UK is at odds in every respect with how women from south-east asia see themselves. They understand themselves to have been born with a female nature due to events in a past life, whereas the UK law requires one submit to a psychiatric examination and provide a finding of a mental disorder, a declaration of having acquired a "new gender", and documentation of having lived in that new gender role for at least two years. Most south-east asian countries (being ashamed of their trans citizens) won't provide any documentation that would assist with that.

    The UK system requires that applicants employ a mental health professional from a restricted list of supposed "gender specialists" (for which there is no set qualification) to create a dossier and provide the required diagnosis, retrospectively. These are all dedicated to the system, and very mindful that any of the could be ruined if they deviate at all.

    You will recall that the best and most experienced psychiatrist in the UK on gender issues, Dr Russell Reid, was dragged through the GMC, grossly libeled in parliament, and effectively forced to retire by a judgement that all future contacts with trans people had to be reported to the GMC, making confidentiality impossible, by other colleagues who felt he was not requiring his patients to jump through enough hoops.

    It is at that point that women from south-east asia are most likely to hit problems. Conflicts with the "gender specialist" would be impossible to prove. If the dossier does not suit the official tribunal applications are referred back, time and again.

    It is "gender specialists" I have heard express concerns at the number of south-east Asian applicants.

    It is a badly conceived system a good many UK women have declined to be subjected to. For those from abroad it is far worse.

    The time constraints of immigration procedures probably make the uncertain and protracted gender recognition procedure impossible. Those wishing entry to marry will instead be forced into civil partnerships, which would then have to be ended before a gender recognition process could be completed. Although a marriage can be created immediately after, the fact that residence in the UK depends upon the civil partnership is likely to cause great concern and be a deterrent to the accessing of the right to regularised status, which in turn will cause more problems.

  9. Many thanks for the feedback.

    I would be really interested in publishing about this. I know this would be filling a vacuum in terms of information and would be widely read and reach the sorts of people who need to know this stuff. Please get in touch.


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