The Comprehensive Personal Finance and Support Guide for LGBT in Malaysia
Let’s face it: Malaysia is NOT a good place for LGBT individuals to freely express themselves. But no one can choose where they’re born at, can they? Discrimination is sadly common, usually justified by religion.
If you disagree with ‘the LGBT lifestyle’, I ask for your empathy. This is not a ‘guide to be gay’ article, this is a ‘what to do when you need help’ article. Know the distinction. Don’t kick people when they’re down. No religion teaches that.
This article answers the following questions (in order):
- My family kicked me out after they find out I’m gay / lesbian / bisexual / trans / queer. What can I do?
- I need to check my STD / HIV / AIDS status and find out where to find information about medical help, treatment and support
- My colleagues at work are bullying me because of my sexual orientation / gender identity. I need the job. What can I do?
- I need to talk to someone. What are my options?
- My gender does not align with the sex I was born with. How can I transition and what kind of expenses can I expect?
- I can no longer/do not want to stay in Malaysia. What can I do?
- I am in a committed, if unrecognised relationship with my partner. If anything happens to me, how can make sure she/he can inherit my money and properties?
- I don’t have immediate problems but would like to prepare myself financially, in case anything happens. What can I do?
- I’m LGBT individual / ally with financial means. How can I help?
1) My family kicked me out after they find out I’m gay / lesbian / bisexual / trans / queer. What can I do?
Your immediate needs are shelter and money for daily expenses like food. I can connect you to support groups who can help you find a place to stay and job opportunities so you can get back on your feet as soon as possible.
Please comment to reach out and I’ll link you to these support groups after verifying your identity. Your privacy is guaranteed. I won’t publish your comment unless you give explicit consent (i.e a one-liner ‘you can publish this’ works).
You may also reach out to these LGBT-friendly shelter homes:
- SEED Foundation (elderly-friendly too)
- KLASS (PLWHIV (Person Living with HIV)
If you know more LGBT-friendly shelters, please add in the comments section. I’ll add them.
Note: If you’re still living with your family and conditions are strained, it’s not a bad idea to prepare an emergency overnight bag that you can grab quickly. Include things like:
- A few sets of clothes and underwear
- Copies of your important documents like IC (you can also snap and pic and keep it in GDrive, or keep in a thumbdrive)
- Some money
- Some snacks
- Small towel and/or wet wipes
- Chargers for your phone and/or a full-powered powerbank
2) I need to check my STD / HIV / AIDS status and find out where to find information about medical help, treatment and support
Many Klinik Kesihatan branches offer STD / HIV checks for just RM1. Check the following Twitter thread:
Letak sini je la senang eh.
Step by step for HIV test!
1 of 3 pic.twitter.com/g3cX2Bd8MX
— Indra (@ardnie) June 30, 2018
What I’ve heard is some medical officers can be judgemental and hostile to LGBT individuals, especially to trans individuals. It really depends on your luck and who you get on that day.
Other places you can get yourself tested, which can assure non-discrimination to LGBT individuals:
- PT Foundation – STD / HIV Testing and Counselling from RM40
- KLASS – Hospital Peer Support Programme and Workshops & Support Sessions
Please add more, if you know them.
3) My colleagues at work are bullying me because of my sexual orientation / gender identity. I need the job. What can I do?
Your first priority is your safety. If you get verbally harassed or physically attacked, and your employers are unlikely to take action, consider terminating your position and look for other jobs, preferably in urban areas where people tend to be more open-minded. It’s okay to lose the battle so you can win the war.
Your health, mental health and sanity are worth more than what your company can pay you. Unfortunately, Malaysian laws do not and cannot give you protection if you’re discriminated because of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
I understand the job market can be harsh and being selective is only going to narrow your options. Here are tips to improve your chances. You may also want to consider earning online. Here’s how I do it.
4) I need to talk to someone. What are my options?
If you are not able to talk to friends or family members, please reach out to any of these organisations:
- PT Foundation – offers telephone and face-to-face counselling (HIV / AIDS)
- Befrienders – offers 24-hour hotline (suicide prevention)
- SEED Foundation – Peer support and referral case counselling (trans)
- Facebook groups – Leave a comment with an email and I’ll help you get in touch. Your privacy is guaranteed.
- You can also leave comments here (please make it anonymous) for virtual love and support from all of us
If you know more options, including professional therapy, please comment.
5) My gender does not align with the sex I was born with. How can I transition and what kind of expenses can I expect?
There are medical professionals in Malaysia you can go to get transition-related advice. The community has recommendations for doctors and clinics who may be able to help, but I will only give you the info after we vouch your identity. Leave a comment with an email – I won’t publish the comment unless you explicitly give consent and use an anonymous name. Your privacy is guaranteed.
Note: If your immediate environment is not supportive of your transition, and you rely on them for financial assistance, it’s okay to wait. I know gender dysphoria is hard, but I need you to hang in there until you have enough money to support yourself. I don’t want you to end up on the streets and have higher risk of being abused.
Information received from a transwoman contributor:
M : Transitioning is a serious decision. It is advisable to get an evaluation done prior to undergoing HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), and prior to undergoing SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery). Cost for evaluation varies from RM150-500, depending on the specialist you go to.
Next is to get advice from an endocrinologist. AFAIK, not many are willing to work with transgender, especially Muslim ones. Their rates are unknown at this point. Once they’ve identified your suitability for the treatment, they’ll prescribe you hormones. Do not overdose yourself; overdosing will kill you faster than giving you visible results.
Cost of the hormones varies depending on the regiment and brand. For surgery, Thailand is the place, rates vary depending on what procedure and extent of aftercare.
I can only give estimation based on the regiment I’m familiar:
- Top surgery (removal) – RM3-5k (citation needed)
- Top surgery (construction) – RM4-5k
- Bottom surgery (vaginoplasty) – RM5-45k
- Anti-androgen – RM300-450 (lasts for at least 2 months)
- Combination of estrogen & progesterone injection – RM250-300 (for at least 5 weeks)
Several online shops in Malaysia sells binders. Google them and you will find. Please do not use bandages or duct tape as binders. Important: there are health risks to chest binding, especially for those with larger chests (source: 2017 study).
If you have recommended brands/suppliers, please comment.
Information received from a transman contributor:
D : You must give consideration to medical insurance (post-transitioning), because trans people who have undergone medical transitioning will have a lot of issues with this. If you have insurance and don’t tell them you’re trans, they will disqualify and void your claims based on non-disclosure even if your claim has nothing to do with transitioning. They can find out from your doctor or hospital. Trans people who disclose to insurance companies are either declined coverage or offered an expensive plan with many exceptions that it’s virtually pointless to take it. The excuse is that we are a risky demographic.
Top surgery (mastectomy)
- Keyhole: RM6k – RM10k
- Double incision (for larger chested guys): RM9k – RM15k
- Hysterectomy: RM5k – RM8k
- Metoidioplasty: I only found one price listed in 2003 from a what we call “5-star” establishment, and it’s USD12k. No idea the price now or if other hospitals in the region do this. Will update if I hear from the guys.
- Phalloplasty: RM30k – RM125k. Only quoting prices in the region, not the good types you can get in Europe or elsewhere. That can go up to RM500k.
Hormone replacement therapy (many methods to this):
- Testosterone (usually self-administered/dosed):
– RM18/3 weeks dose
– RM800/3 months dose
- Clinic helping to inject: RM15 – RM20
- Endocrinologist: RM850 – RM1500 (for initial consultation, blood work and hormones)
- Personal account of male-to-female (MTF) transitioning (US)
- Personal account of female-to-male (FTM) transitioning (US)
6) I can no longer/do not want to stay in Malaysia. What can I do?
We have lots of anecdotes of LGBT individuals who choose to live in another country due to Malaysia’s unsupportive stance on it.
If you choose to leave Malaysia, here some financially sustainable options:
- Apply for jobs in LGBT-friendly countries and work there. These countries are friendly towards LGBT expats. You can also join myGwork, a global networking platform and job board for LGBT+ professionals (thanks Samuel!)
- Earn online or get remote jobs. This is what I personally did to earn online. Here’s a list of high-demand, well-paying remote jobs
- Study in LGBT-friendly countries. If you don’t have funding, check Aseanop.com for scholarship opportunities
- Save money and/or create multiple streams of passive income to support your daily expenses
Admittedly, the suggestions above work best for more privileged individuals. Please comment if you know of other options for the less-privileged.
7) I am in a committed, if unrecognised relationship with my partner. If anything happens to me, how can make sure she/he can inherit my money and properties?
As luck would have it, I’ve asked a will/trust agent about this. In a nutshell, you can give anything you want to whoever you want before your passing. The tricky part is inheritance after your passing. Note: It’s easier for non-Muslims than for Muslims.
First, a distinction. Wills/wasiat is for distribution after death. Trust is kinda sorta similar, but you can also add clauses like ‘to allocate person x your money for medical care if you’re in a coma/have permanent disability or cannot make sound judgement’ and ‘to give person y staggered payments according to agreed schedule after your passing’.
For Muslims in Malaysia:
- Wills/Wasiat: You’re bound by Muslim inheritance laws. Muslims can only give up to ⅓ of their wealth to non-faraid (simplistically, non-family) members.
- Trusts: I’ve been told you CAN give more than ⅓ of your wealth to non-faraid members, BUT need to lock in a fairly large cash amount (I believe I heard RM50k). You may also have to do a wasiat before you can do trust.
For non-Muslims in Malaysia:
- Wills: You can give to whoever you want, regardless of religion
- Trust: Same
If you have information to improve this section, please comment.
8) I don’t have immediate problems but would like to prepare myself financially, in case anything happens. What can I do?
Please save as much money as possible as emergency savings. A good rule of thumb is 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. Depending on your situation, you might need the money to move out, get medical or mental health help, or support yourself if you lose your job due to discrimination.
After you have saved up your emergency savings, make investments to grow your money. I’d suggest avoiding non-liquid investments. Non-liquid investments are things like properties and high-value art – you can’t cash the money immediately if you need it urgently; selling might take ages.
Investments that are more liquid in nature include:
- Foreign currencies (USD, etc)
- Mutual funds (if you’re Bumi, get ASB)
Here’s my what to invest with RM1000 guide. If you’ve never invested your money before, check my guide on what to know when investing for the first time.
I’ve received information about this option: have International Bank Accounts. Options include Citibank (SG) and Barclays (UK). The amount needed is quite high; be prepared to shell out six-figures for them. Another option is to buy properties (UK, etc) – that makes it easier to have banking accounts there. You need to inform BNM because they monitor large financial transactions.
Finally, upskill yourself. Get more knowledge, and back it up with certifications. If you ever face workplace discrimination, touch wood, it’s easier to find another job.
Welcoming all advice.
9) I’m LGBT individual / ally with financial means. How can I help?
Things you can help with:
- Offering jobs/employment
- Offering donations to help LGBT individuals in need
The easiest way to help is to make donations. Lots of places need funds to continue their work, so please be generous. These NGOs and community groups are LGBT-friendly:
If you have money to spare, do take 5 minutes to click the links and transfer some donations to them.
Thank you to all the LGBT individuals and allies who contributed to this article. It is by no means complete – inviting you to help share whatever knowledge you know, so we can all help. If you would like to republish or translate this content, do reach out to me.
Please share this article with your friends who may need the information. Thanks for being a caring human being.
First off, thank you for writing this article – financial education is pretty lacking when it comes to the LGBT community in Malaysia. I’m a Malaysian transman currently living in Australia. I’ve documented my transition on my blog and I am happy to have you link to it from this article and open to any transmen in Malaysia who might want to contact me with questions.
Thanks for reaching out and offering your help! Transmen, do check out http://ryudiculousrants.com/2015/08/01/top-surgery-the-procedure-and-costs/ for cost of doing top surgery (in Australia)
Thank you for this thoughtful guide!
Re HIV testing, I know that in Singapore and many other countries, if a foreigner tests positive for HIV they will have to leave. I’m not sure whether that’s also the case in Malaysia, but migrants should find out first and make sure they use clinics that will maintain their confidentiality.
Re donating money to relevant causes, Justice for Sisters have a bail fund for Muslim trans women.
Thanks for sharing, Nine!
Re: Justice for Sisters – good one. Anyone interested to donate towards bail fund for Muslim transwomen can reach out to them at https://justiceforsisters.wordpress.com/
Thanks for this articles. Its there any possibility to change our gender in birth certificate/IC after transaction. What is the best way for them to bring out their identity.
I don’t have the answer to your question. Inviting others with the knowledge to comment here and chime in
Finally after searching High and low for something, i found this piece of Gem,i could really use some help, a guiding hand per say, but i’m in no rush yet, just need the push to the right direction. Again thank you for writing this lovely article
You’re welcome, Claire. All the best in your journey
Suraya, thank you so much for the comprehensive guide. This is extremely useful to many of us and I hope that the universe will bless you with good things only.
Sending all love and blessings right back at you <3
Thank you for the comprehensive article.
I got a question. Is there a Insurance plan that are friendly for transwoman in Malaysia?
Because every agents that I asked told me that once you undergo treatment or already did the bottom surgery, you are not eligible to take the insurance and your current insurance will also forfeit.
I’m sorry, I don’t know any 🙁
Leaving your comment here in case anyone can chip in with leads.
(Let me know if you want your comment deleted.)
Thanks for sharing this Suraya, really appreciate your efforts in standing up for us and compiling this useful post. We need more Malaysians like you 🙂
I’m a post-op transwoman (MtF) myself, been stealth for a while (for safety reasons) and would like to share/add/correct a few points on the article which might be useful to the other readers in the future:
1. On SRS / vaginoplasty – research carefully your surgery options. Some are purely “cosmetic” only (e.g. only vaginoplasty without depth), some without labia (e.g. vaginoplasty only), some full set (depth, vaginoplasty, labiaplasty and clitoroplasty). One thing in common for all surgery types (except depthless) – you’ll need the “skins” for the SRS so try not to go through Orchiectomy before your surgery.
there’s a few surgeon and price differs. Not sure if there are rm5k ones (maybe there are) cause back then I found two most popular ones – Dr Suporn (~RM70k – 80k as of 2017) / Dr Chettawut (~Rm40k – RM50k).
Tho these fees EXCLUDE living expenses during recovery and/or medical supplies which are crucial for first 6 months. My recommendation is to buffer at least RM10k for flight / accommodation / medical supplies expenses.
Another thing is to watch out is the post-operation recovery period. Everyone have different recovery period – I had to take 3-4 months off work, the recovery is no joke. Plus post-operation dilation is basically taking up most of my awake-hours during recovery month and I pretty much relied on family for my daily stuff during this period.
2. on Endocrinologist – I think RM850-RM1500 is too expensive. Mine used to charge me RM200~RM400 per consultation (back in 2017)
3. top surgery (removal) for MtF –> not sure if this is applicable for MtF, maybe more for FtM
4. For MtF Hormone cost, just a general guideline. Consult Endocrinologist as everyone’s tolerance and level is different (i needed extremely low dosage)!!!! I AM NOT A DOCTOR!!!!
This is an alternative for those NOT preferring needles (though may be less effective, but gets the job done). I went this route since I hated / scared of needles.
— Anti Androgen (Spironolactone), average dosage (depend on people!!!) 50mg~200mg (do not exceed!!!!!). Can stop taking after SRS.
Cost: 1 strip of 10’s 25mg @ ~RM4 from Local Pharmacy
— Estrogen (Progynova), average dosage 4mg – 6mg daily
Cost: 1 strip of 28’s 2mg @ ~RM30 from Local Pharmacy
~~ Consult Endocrinologist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5. “I need to talk to someone. What are my options?”
I will share with Suraya separately some LGBTQ+ friendly contacts I personally have – both Psychologist and Endocrinologist. Do reach out to Suraya.
6. Budget, Save and Invest as much as you can. Get out of Malaysia into neighbouring country if you have to. It is a hard path in Malaysia – follow Suraya’s blog and many other personal finance bloggers in Malaysia (and beyond) – those tips helped me a lot to overcome the hurdles.
7. Most importantly, try to get to a stage where you no longer care about other people’s opinion (not to mean arrogant, but rather don’t give too many f’s to strangers).
It is extremely important during transition stage otherwise it will be emotionally taxing…..
Thank you so much for sharing the info here, Anon! Very helpful figures and reference!
Thanks, the info is very useful, keep up the good work.
I’ll do my best!
you’re the absolute best, kak Suraya. Thank you also for always linking other useful posts in your articles. I have been learning so much.