Joint statement by civil society groups

December 28, 2023

On 22 December 2023, three Singapore-based Chinese language media outlets – Lianhe Zaobao, Shin Min Daily News, and 8World – ran articles about a police raid involving transgender sex workers.

In their reporting, the women were referred to using a slew of offensive and alarming language.

Shin Min Daily News repeatedly referred to the trans women as ‘人妖’, a derogatory term that describes them as monsters or freaks.

Such dehumanising slurs are no longer acceptable in polite conversation, much less used in a journalistic context.

Lianhe Zaobao and 8World used the terms ‘男扮女装’ (“men dressed as women”) or ‘打扮女性化的外籍男子’ (“foreign men dressed in a feminine way”), which are also inaccurate and unacceptable terms.

Transwomen are not “men dressed like women”, and the use of such language strips trans people of their humanity and identity. As trans people struggle to come out to their families, such media depictions make it worse by exposing readers to a warped depiction of the community.

As organisations that advocate for the greater acceptance and equality of queer individuals in Singapore, we are shocked and dismayed. Such language perpetuates prejudicial views of transgender identities, which entrenches discrimination and creates lasting harm.

Our Mandarin-speaking media should instead take cues from their colleagues overseas, who are using the terms ‘跨性别’ in their reporting, which is factually accurate, respectful, and has been accepted by local transgender communities.

Language is powerful, and our media should wield it responsibly.

Respectful terminologies can lead to greater understanding and acceptance over time, and our local media should be allying with the LGBTQ+ community towards that goal instead of engaging in sensationalist reporting that reduces people to mere spectacles.

As a society, we must not overlook how discrimination in the media can make the lives of trans people even more difficult than it already is. Let’s extend compassion and empathy to an already marginalised community.

Signed by:
in alphabetical order

Aces Going Places
Pink Dot SG
Project X
Same But Different
The T Project