TEN years ago the wedding of a transgender woman to a man in Kuching was a hot topic.
What made the topic hotter was that a stunningly handsome young man named Jeffrey Chung had gone for surgery to change into a woman, and thereafter chose to be called Jessie.
The wedding – glittering and splendorous in its display – was attended by nearly 1,000 guests.
Perhaps, it was also the fact it was the first such wedding to be held in the country that added to the brouhaha.
According to Chung’s own confession, her marriage to Joshua Beh was not the typical “love-at-first-sight-and-let’s-get-married” affair.
She said Beh had, in fact, assiduously pursued her for years and proposed numerous times – an astounding six times actually – before she finally relented.
Her heart was eventually won over by Beh’s perseverance, passion and, above all, sincerity.
There was one drawback though. Chung was kind of apprehensive as to how Beh’s family might judge her. What she was more anxious about was whether they would even accept her, and more precisely, as what she is after the sex change.
Chung’s fear was, however, soon put to rest. It turned out Beh’s parents not only welcomed her into the family but were also genuinely supportive of their son’s all-important decision on the choice of his life partner.
On Nov 12, 2005, Beh and Chung were solemnised as man and wife by three pastors.
Although their marriage was not officially recognised under Malaysian law, the couple graciously conceded it was all because the Constitution did not allow it and so they just had to accept the status quo.
10th wedding anniversary
Recently, the couple celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
Asked how things had gone so far, Chung, without the slightest hint of hesitation, replied, “Well, there’s never a moment of regret for me. I feel Joshua has been my Mr Right all the way. I’ve a colourful married life and am very happy with it. What more to say, through my walk of life with Joshua, I’m discovering a more and more agreeable character in him.”
Chung revealed since young, she had actually dreamt of the kind of married life she now has – sort of a complete life where she could be a good wife and a good daughter-in-law.
She admitted though that right after her marriage, she felt a little concerned about losing her independence since she could no longer make major decisions on her own.
Being a wife was different from being a girlfriend, she noted.
However, her Christian faith has taught her that the man of the house is the head of a family.
“So that means I would have to consult my husband first on any important matters. In any case, Joshua is as good a guidance person as he can be, and he does help me a lot in making tough decisions, especially in business. As an accountant, he’s good with figures,” she said.
Chung also respects any good suggestions made by Beh’s family members, especially those from her parents-in-law.
“Frankly, I love them, I love taking care of them. I enjoy that very much. Wherever and whenever Joshua and I go for holidays, for instance, I would think of his parents too.”
She said being able to become a good wife and a good daughter-in-law was, to her, like one of the greatest achievements in her life, adding that she cherishes the close bond with her in-laws because they have been very good to her.
Meanwhile, Chung and Beh have adopted a son to make their married life complete.
Social aspect of life
Asked to comment on the social aspect of her life after her sex change, she let out a gentle chuckle, then with an animated sparkle in her eyes, replied, “I seem to have won more friends after I changed to Jessie. I think that’s partly because many people are just curious about me and want to find out more about me. They came to me and eventually, we became friends. I look upon it as a bonus.”
Then, perhaps, suddenly realising there is gloomier side to the picture, she gazed into the air for a brief moment before saying she still faced public prejudice.
The worst is when netizens hurl hurtful words at her – all because they simply cannot accept her for what she is.
“Sadly, most of them are locals. But my supportive friends told me they could be just people who are jealous of my happiness and success, so they want to cripple my confidence while others could be just business rivals,” she said, adding that she had, nonetheless, learnt how to deal with all this negativity.
After all, right from the beginning, she had already braced herself to face the reality that not everyone would approve of her bearing.
“I told myself when it comes to the worst case scenario, all I need is just one person to love me – that’s my husband.”
Chung conceded she could understand those who rejected her could just have been mistaken it was her “original sacrilegious choice” to want to become a woman.
“They thought I purposely made a choice to be like this.”
She said rumours about her and Beh divorcing continue to be circulated right until today, and sometimes, there were people who would ring her up to enquire about the so-called divorce.
The fact is that she and Beh remain as happy a couple as ever and they have even registered their marriage in Australia.
She said most of those who had expressed their hatred towards her were, surprisingly, young people who seemed to have no better things to do than making sarcastic online remarks about her.
But Chung said she forgives all her critics, especially the young ones, because she has accepted the fact that they could just be not mature enough to understand her situation.
Asked how she responded to their online attacks, she said, “Well, I would just say I’m sorry if I make you uncomfortable. And there are times I would rather ‘love my enemies’ and invite them to my shows. And surprisingly they did come … as objectors.”
But some of them, after seeing her shows, and meeting and talking to her, finally showed they understood her.
“For that, I am very happy because some of those who got to know the real me seem to have changed their mindsets and even become my fans and supporters. In fact, more and more people have become my friends, and I’m very happy about that too,” she added.
Another thing she is also very happy about is that, ironically, the government is apparently supportive of her by giving her awards for some of her achievements, and has also invited her to join some associations.
She said Malaysia is still a very beautiful country to live in and she felt so touched by how the government treated her, including those who were kind towards her, adding that members of the media were also very nice to her wherever she met them.
An essential decision
Chung revealed occasionally, there were people, born with gender identity crisis like her, coming to her and asking: “How … and should I?” They were referring to a gender transformation.
She advised them to be extremely careful because changing one’s gender is an essential decision and one should not go for it if one was not ready.
“Please don’t make a choice that will result in you struggling for survival later,” she cautioned.
How to be ready?
First of all, she said, one must go to a doctor to be certified that one was born that way.
Then the doctor would have to determine if one was fit enough to do the transformation otherwise it could be very damaging to health.
She pointed out that not everyone would know how to take care of themselves after a sex transformation.
In her case, she said she was fortunate to be a doctor, which gave her an advantage.
“And on the social aspect, you must consult your loved ones or even your sincere friends and get their opinions whether or not you have the character, the physique, the size, the shape or even the looks to qualify you for a sex change.
“Also bear in mind that sex-change surgery can be very painful and costly. Even your face may also have to come under the knife – so why take all these risks and
troubles if you are not suitable and ready?”
As for herself, Chung stressed she had been mistaken for a girl right from a very young age because she exhibited very strong feminine characteristics.
She said her own uncle and other relatives had always felt it would be better if she could just become a girl because everything about her was so girlish, including her complexion and physical size.
My chat with Chung ended with this straightforward advice from her: “To those thinking of going through the same path as I have, don’t if you’re not suitable and fully ready. If you still go ahead, you may end up ruining your life.
“You may lose everything – job, friends, health, money, and what not. I have seen people losing everything and unhappy with their lives. Once you have made the decision, there is no turning back.”