Lohana Berkins


“As travestis, we do not seek to impose our values and perspectives but we demand the freedom and material conditions to live rewarding lives and full rights. To be citizens we need to enjoy the same freedoms in public space that are enjoyed by people who are considered respectable.

Because our desire is not to achieve respectability, but to demolish the hierarchies that order identities and subjects, recognizing ourselves as black, sluts, Palestinians, revolutionaries, indígnas, fat, convicts, drug addicts, exhibitionists, protestors, peasants, lesbians, women and travas, that although we do not have the capacity to give birth to a child, we do have the necessary courage to engender another history”


Funding a movement


19,3% of trans groups surveyed in the study had a zero budget for their work. 46,5% of the groups had an annual budget of between $1 and $10,000 and 22,6% have between $10,000 and less than $50,000.

More than two in five (42,7%) trans groups had no funding from government or foundations and relied on community sources. The proportion of groups with no external funding was highest in the Caribbean, Central America and South America (64,7%), followed by Asia (45,2%).

More than three quarters (75,8%) of trans groups reported experiencing barriers to finding funding opportunities. The most frequently reported barrier was that funder’s websites did not state an interest in funding them (44,8%). Once trans groups found relevant funding opportunities, seven in ten (70,8%) report barriers in the application process, such as long and complicated application processes (32,2%), lack of training (27,8%) or language barriers (19,4%).


Challenges of trans activist work

  • Lack of funds: Funds are important in sustaining ourselves as we strive to provide crucial activities, programmes and services as well as in ensuring the continuity of them.
  • Shortage of Manpower: we have limited resources in the face of an overwhelming number of clients in need of referral assistance.
  • Media Sensationalism: the media plays an important role in shaping the mindset of the public and yet it constantly creates news depicting the communities, especially the Mak Nyah, in a negative light.
  • Employee Welfare: the employees of SEED Foundation are from the marginalized community itself. SEED has been ensuring that their capacity and livelihood are enhanced for a better future. 
  • Public Perception: the public perception towards the marginalized communities has been stained due to the politicization of the community by politicians and media alike. 

A safe space for homeless trans people


For the small and often marginalised transgender community in Singapore, The T Project shelter has become a haven for homeless transgender women, as well as transgender sex workers, who check in regularly to pick up rations. 

In the early days, Ms Chua says, she was very heavily involved with the lives of her beneficiaries — their family disputes, mental health issues or drug-related problems. But being their caregiver 24/7 was utterly exhausting, and unsustainable. “I don’t try to understand or rationalise why they are in the situation they are in,” she says of her approach. So long as a case is referred to her by a Family Service Centre (FSC), she provides a bed. 

While that bed is warm, and comes with food on the table and a roof over their heads, she says, it doesn’t come with career advice or “learn to build a resume” classes or motivational “life beyond what you are doing” sessions. To keep things going, Ms Chua relies on private donations and support from organisations, which has helped her add more beds to the shelter and enabled her to provide part-time work for the shelter’s caretaker.