It’s hard to think about the future when you don’t even have a roof over your head. And that’s a problem that 44-year-old June Chua and her late sister, Alice, sought to address when they pooled their savings to start something meaningful.
“The transgender community is visible, yet invisible at the same time. Our presence is known but not much support is given to us,” says June. It’s one reason June was inspired to set up The T Project, a shelter for transgender women who are estranged from their families, and don’t have a place to stay.
Herself a transgender woman, June has benefited from the support of a loving family, and wants the same for others like her. “Hopefully, with emotional support, they’ll start to believe in a future,” she says.
To say that these individuals were “born with the wrong gender” isn’t quite the right way to put it; instead, she explains, she sees herself as being born transgender, as well as being born female. Having biologically male physical traits was simply a body she was assigned with at birth.
She started The T Project in 2014 after realising many workshops and focus groups did not have enough emphasis on the issues transgender people face, such as being perceived as deviant.
And things get worse if they aren’t accepted by their families. “Employment is a challenge as some transgender people drop out of school when they’re chased out of their homes by their families. This means they have limited skills and qualifications to find a job later in life,” she adds.
Beyond a physical safe space, The T Project provides a peace of mind that comes with not having to worry about rent or where a meal will come from.
The group also links transgender people up with social workers so they can get financial aid, advice on housing, and medical help.
June relies on donations to keep her passion project going. Through a fund-raising campaign which raised close to $140,000, what started in an attic space in a shophouse in Little India moved to a bigger space to house more people at any time. She declines to reveal the location of the new shelter to protect the privacy of those who live there.
To date, she’s sheltered 11 individuals, some of whom have made the adjustment back to the “real world”. June says seeing them get back on their feet and begin to look for jobs is the one of the most rewarding aspects of her work.
By Hoe I Yune, Her World, August 2017
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