Lorong Gelap Kg. Air (Part I)

I have been working on this part for a few weeks and I never thought that this story is involving many people, including the government department. I cant say much because this is my stepping stone to improve myself in writing feature stories. Anyway, this story will be divided into 3 parts and will be published in The Borneo Post every Sunday. Pls give me some comments ya. Love ya all!

Kampung Air is part of Kota Kinabalu, that never sleeps.

There are three different kinds of business being conducted by city folks taking their turn to make money in that particular place.

It starts with opening of shops in the morning until late afternoon, followed by night market that sells everything at the evening until midnight and then, it is the turn of the “ladies” of the night.

The presence of “pondans” or transvestites are usually around Kampung Air and Asia City where in pairs and dressed in skimpy clothing, high heels, they try to attract customers.

Friendly to men but wary of women, the pondans will wave and call out to passing vehicles or passerby. During weekends, they are as popular as “hotcakes” and it is often that one can witness the actual price bargaining scene between ‘seller’ and ‘buyer’.

“Pondan” is a term used in the Bahasa Malaysia language to describe a biologically male person who appears to be female by wearing women’s clothes and make-up. This person talks and acts like a woman. Most people find it hard to distinguish them from biological females.

In medical terms, pondans are referred to as transvestites, individuals who enjoy wearing the clothes and appearing as the opposite sex. They are also commonly known as cross dressers.

Curiosity about what drive these people to be like that and why they are in the sex trade made this reported decide to spend some time getting to know the pondans who are doing business around Kampung Air and Asia City.

During my one week observation in the area, she was informed by the pondans who were obliged to talk to her, that none of them or those in the trade have undergone any sex change operations.

Most of them have only taken hormone pills or injected themselves with female hormones so that they will grow breasts.

A 20-year-old “lady boy” as they are known in the Philippines said that “she” came to the state under a six months visitor’s pass just to do business in Kampung Air.

According to Ginie, “she” returns to the Philippines before the six months visa expires but will come back to Sabah after a couple of months in her homeland.

“I am familiar with the market here because I was born in Labuan when my parents working were there few years back. We always come to KK and I always come back here with my friends for shopping.

“I born as a male but deep in my heart I know I am a woman. For me, I am trapped inside male’s body and nobody can change me… not even my family,” Ginie said adding that she was lucky to have an understanding family as they have accepted her for she is.

Ginie said she dressed like a woman at home but that is the extend of her family’s knowledge as they are not aware Ginie come to Sabah to prostitute herself.

Ginie explained that it was not easy for transvestites find a boyfriend because they are torn between two worlds.

“I am a woman inside and like any woman, I want to have a partner who loves me and to have a family with. But without a sex change, I am still trapped in a man’s body and that is how people sees me… not who I really am,” she said.

According to Ginie, initially her sexual partners were one night stands because it gave her the feeling of being loved and wanted, even though it was only for a short period of time.

She then ventured into prostitution and after some time became addicted to both the sex and the money because she can earn on a weekday an average of RM400 while her income during the weekends are much higher.

They get more tips from tourists, especially from Korea, Japan, China and western countries on the weekends.

“I need money for my food, clothing, make-up and also maintenance of my hair, skin condition and my hormone supply,” Ginie said adding that she does not think she is doing something bad.

“I do not think that I am doing bad things because I never kill anyone,” said Ginie who charges RM50 for oral sex and RM100 for anal intercourse.

Ginie also let me in on a secret, that many of the Filipino “lady boys” have regular customers in Sabah who set up meetings with them through SMS but in code.

Ginie disclosed that the demand for their services is the reason why she and here friends return to Sabah frequently and Kampung Air, according to her, is their “golden corner”.

A local pondan, Cathrine, 21, from Keningau revealed that she is a graduate from Politeknik Sabah.

“When I was a child, I liked to dress up like a girl and at that time, it did not bother my parents because they though it was funny,” Cathrine said adding that at that time she already knew that she was a woman trapped inside a man’s body.

“I hated my body so much but no one understood how I felt. As I grew up, my parents noticed by tendency towards femininity resorted to drastic measures to make me change,” she said.

Cathrine said she was sent to the mosque in her village and was whipped by the Imam there. After the incident, Cathrine ran away from home and came to Kota Kinabalu to be among those who understand her.

Prostitution was the only way to earn a living and after some time she started to enjoy it, Cathrine said adding being a pondan was not cheap as they have to spend a lot of money on clothes and maintaining themselves because it is very competitive.

Cathrine however does not bear any grudges against her parents and said, “deep in my heart I cannot blame them because people here in Sabah and Malaysia are not very open and understanding about our feelings and what we are going through.

“They do not understand how it feels like to be trapped and not being able to show who we really are. We are only humans, we have feelings too… all we ask for is that people, especially our family understand and accept us for who we are,” she said.

Cathrine pointed out that they are not doing anything wrong and their only crime is wanting to be a woman and accepted by society.

When asked about the competitiveness in their business field, Cathrine said that 30 precent of the pondan plying their trade in the City at night were from the Philippines and are the local pondanss main competitor because they speak English therefore able to get more customers.

“They are charging around RM100 per service and we are charging around RM50 but I can asssure you that our service is still the same because they also have not done any surgery ‘down there’” she said.

“But I have to admit that their PR is much more better than us because they can speak in English to attract customers with money to spend,” said Cathrine she said adding that she has been arrested by police a few months ago but released by the police after spending one night inside the lock-up.

A newspaper report in 2007, shocked the readers after two diploma holders were among 16 local pondans arrested by Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam Negeri Sabah (JHEAINS) via Ops Ayu .

Being Muslims, they were charged under Section 90 of the Syariah Criminal Offence Encatment which states that a man who dresses up like a woman is liable to RM1,000 fine or three months jail or both. For non-Muslim pondans, they are release after their statement is recorded by JHEAINS.

As we know, most religions of the world do not recognize transvestites and in Malaysia, transvestites are considered as deviants and unlawful.

Transvestites are also considered as being against human nature and it contradicts the natural reproductive functions.

Many pondan prostitutes have seen the insides of a court room of prison cell but they still revert to their old ways because old habits die hard.

*Lorong Gelap Kg. Ari PART II

*Lorong Gelap Kg. Air PART III

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12 Responses to Lorong Gelap Kg. Air (Part I)

  1. Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be subscribing to your site.

  2. Yuki Choe says:

    Instead of looking at government departments, which would probably give you biased and partial answers; why not study properly what transsexuals are all about? It is now common medical knowledge that transsexualism (or Harry Benjamin Syndrome), is a genetic condition. Have you perused on the effects of being born having one of 200 biological intersexed conditions on this earth, or having chromosomnal variations such as 17BHDD and 5ARD and the Klinefelter Syndrome or Turner Syndrome, or have Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome; or worse having a brain neuron count that is opposite of the birth sex? Did you study on these sciences stretching to the latest that show a longer androgen receptor gene that determines some cases of transsexualim?

    Do you know the difference between transsexuals and transvestites? What is transgender? Your part two demonstrated even more inaccurate reporting by having a pastor determine that transsexualism is a variation of homosexuality. For your information, homosexuals have same sex attraction. They would never like skirts. They like men. Have you talked to an actual gay person before, or are you prejudiced as well?

    And what is with the “scare quotes” when you pronounce “she”? The “feeling” of being different is biological. They have no choice. I will admit some quarters of the transgender community do choose prostitution. But a majority, especially the malays, are heavily prosecuted. The same way you are misrepresenting them now, and misinforming the public as to who they are. They are intersexed beings. They are misunderstood. Have emphathy when you write, because you are hurting another human being who is just different, who has done nothing to hurt you back. I wonder what do you hope to get from all this biased reporting. Get them even stigmatized more so that they could not get decent jobs? Disriminate them further so that they will be forever shunned?

    And sorry, you are wrong. Only abrahamic religions such as Islam and Christianity have problems with it. If you bother to read the proper history of these religions you would know why. Buddhists and Hinduism has plenty of provisions for them. Even up to the Goddess Guan Yin who changed from a male to a female.

    With all due respect, this is a very boxed view point. I hope with all sincerity you would look outside the box, and another part of the story when you report. I exist in front of you right now. I fear God as much as you. I work at an international company. I have all sort of friends. Should I discriminate against you because you come from such school of thought that paints me as some sort of deviant creature? I would not. Hope you think of it.

    PS – contradict natural reproductive functions? now you are discriminating against those men who are infertile, and women with medical conditions who cannot give birth. So they are the same with trans?

  3. Yuki Choe says:

    Lastly, just to mention this. If you want a “peak into the life of a transsexual”, you can talk to me. Unfortunately, I am not a prostitute. Sorry that my story would be too normal to even make jokes about.

    Take care, dear.

  4. ladymariah says:

    Hi, Yuki. Thanks for posting. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for the knowledge. Thanks for the cares. So sorry for the biased report. If I could have another part of the series, I really appreciate if you can help me to “peak into the life of a transsexual”.
    Thousand of thanks, dear. Keep in touch.

  5. Yuki Choe says:

    There are a lot of overlaps. And misunderstanding. But it starts with knowing. With that in mind, thanks.

  6. hye kopivosian…i have read this article through the newspaper before this..i would love to share sumtink with u…i am a graduated student from polikk since last year…i ended up my diploma within dec 2007… i am actually a gracefully man but still in control and able to stay away from this kinf of stuff… basically i have another 3 friends who was unactively continuing their job in kg air…they are amanda…annabella and mimie…
    i just can put their unofficial name for sensitivity aspect…mereka pernah menjadi sebahagian dari kegiatan ini di kg.air…i have tried so much to stop them but i failed coz i just able to advice and reminding the disadvantage of what they have done but basically the reasons why they wont stop because they need money to cover their education cost…thankfully it doesnt being a long term career for them…
    ok just frankly speaking…among all the lelaki lembut in polikk during my in take yang well known is me…so apa2 perkara buruk dan jijik yang berlaku di luar kuliah orang akan mempersalahkan saya sebagai punca utama sedangkan saya tidak pernah menggalakkan mereka melakukan perkara seperti ini…ive been accused for being a virus…saya sangat terkilan…
    just for ur info…satu polikk termasuk lecturer pada waktu pengajian saya tahu akn perkara ini tetapi yang teruk dipandang serong adalah saya…i dun know what to do pada waktu itu…go on dan terus menghabiskan pengajian…apapun…kepada kawan2 yang memilih utk menjadi seperti ini…renunglah ibu bapa yang ada kat rumah..jgn jadikan alasan x dpt keja sbb mcm perempuan sedangkan byk kawan2 saya yang juga pondan punyai kerjaya yg bagus..asalkan usaha dan cukup…thats all…..

  7. ladymariah says:

    yeap. yang penting berusaha and ikhtiar tinggi. sedangkan yang straight pun susah mau cari kerja.

  8. Yuki Choe says:

    As I said, some have a choice not to indulge in vice. I guess it has a lot to do with contentment. The feel of belonging in a place overules the spirit to explore horizons and opportunities beyond the boundaries. Such boxed thinking may also be because of hormonal abuse, as I have seen many that are affected by the wrong intake of endo medications.

    And the word pondan is not a good term. I do not agree with the term mak nyah, but it is the most proper term to use in Malaysia. Lelaki lembut may not be transgenders. Please keep this in mind. Thanks. :-)

  9. Aeeman says:

    Nice post.. I like to read it and understand most of it. So these activity really exist huh? I heard it once from my friend, but seriously all I ever heard is prostitution, I mean ‘girl prostitution’. My question is, what those man thinks when they “bargain” these pondan huh? I felt sick, man+man?! I mean c’mon… Get married if want to have sex, they are safe, halal and you don’t need to pay for it! Sounds like a desperado? I always said to all my friend that these things doesn’t exist because… how can you put that thing in… back hole?! That’s just sucks! How can there are man who ever thought of having sex with one of their own??

  10. Yuki Choe says:

    Unfortunately Aeemen, those men were specifically looking for trans women, not men. If they were looking for men, they would have done so. There are gigolo services in Malaysia too, as I have found out.

    As for back hole, what is wrong with it? Men to it with their girls all the time. If you are so disgusted with back holes, then do not do it with your girlfriend lor. But how people have sex is really non of your business. How would you like anyone to comment on how your girl have oral sex?

  11. Ksatriya says:

    You’ve pretty much said everything I want to say, Yuki Choe. I think the article, though not deliberately malicious, is indicative of many misconceptions that Malaysian society has in general. I would gain great respect for the writer if she uses this opportunity to correct that wrong.

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