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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Malaysian transsexual says she won't challenge government to recognize her marriage

Mainichi News

KUALA LUMPUR -- A Malaysian transsexual woman said Tuesday she won't fight a decision by the government to declare her marriage to a man as illegal, because she wants "no trouble" over what is believed to be the first such union in this mostly Muslim country.

Jessie Chung, a Christian businesswoman who was born male and underwent sex change surgery in China in 2003, said she was "satisfied and very much in love" after marrying Joshua Beh in a ceremony conducted by independent church pastors in Malaysia's eastern Sarawak state Saturday.

"I respect the laws in this country," Chung said in a telephone interview. "I want to cause no trouble for the Malaysian government. My husband and I want a peaceful life. We will be content as long as no one tries to interfere with our marriage."

Home Minister Azmi Khalid said Monday their marriage was invalid, because it was considered a same-sex union. Chung's identification papers state she is still a man, since Malaysian transsexuals cannot legally update their gender status even after changing their sex.

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship comprising 2,000 churches said it also won't recognize the marriage.

Malaysian newspapers said it was the first marriage involving a transsexual in this Southeast Asian nation.

A U.S.-trained ethnic Chinese nutritionist in her 30s who runs a health therapy business, Chung, whose original name is Jeffrey, expressed hopes that the publicity might encourage further public awareness about the struggles of transsexuals.

"I cannot force people to change their minds, but I hope they will learn to accept us," Chung said.

Many transsexuals in Malaysia face discrimination and cannot find employment, forcing them into illegal sex work, activists say. (AP)

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