Despite The Odds
Moon was diagnosed with HIV at age 17. The doctor at the time, who told her to repent, also said she had months to live.
Now, aged 33, she is doing case management and outreach work for Pertubuhan Advokasi Masyarakat Terpinggir, a non-governmental organisation for marginalised communities.
The transwoman has had her fair share of bleak days but through it all, she cannot emphasise how important family support is for those living with HIV.
“My CD4 count was very low. I told my mother. She moved from Sarawak with the rest of the family to Kuala Lumpur to take care of me,” she remembers of her mother Sukaria Murshid, who died in 2009 from cancer.
“She was my backbone.”
Besides her mother, Moon says the rest of her family have accepted her for who she is, including her two late grandfathers, one who was the mufti of Sarawak.
“I go back for Raya every year. My late grandfathers were both imams and they always told me Islam is beautiful,” she says, adding that they accepted her for who she was.
Some of her relatives, she adds, asks her about her positive status after watching her in the Indivior Red Ribbon Short Film Competition winning entry by Ineza Roussille, My Life, My Story: Moon in 2015. The competition was organised by the MAC and MAF.
“They ask if it is true because they have this image of people dying. I tell them as long as you take your medication you will be healthy,” she says.
“It is just like being a diabetic where you have to take your medication. If you don’t, then you are looking for trouble.”
Moon also says that she probably started showing HIV symptoms when she was 15.
She moved to Kuala Lumpur when she was 17 and worked in a factory. She fainted one day, leading her to be admitted in hospital. It was then that she found out about her status.
However, things changed when she was referred to Sungai Buloh Hospital where she was admitted and received necessary treatment and counselling. Slowly but surely, Moon got back on her feet again and is currently on first line treatment.
She also withdrew some of her Employees Provident Fund savings and moved into the Rumah Wake shelter where she lived for two months. “I needed to calm my mind. Besides, I looked like a ghost,” she says.
When she was healthy enough, she started working. Among them was being a chef in Sarawak. But she later came back to Kuala Lumpur and started work with PAMT. “I wanted to help the community,” she says.
Moon has no qualms in telling her life story including the difficult parts such as when she was gang raped or finding the strength to living again after being diagnosed.
“I always knew I was ‘soft’. Even when I bathed, I would do it with a sarong. I never hid it from my family. I told my late mother when I was 13 that I liked boys. My late grandfather was a very good person. He was never judgmental,” she says.
“They accepted me as I who was. They even welcomed my other transgender friends into their homes. Later on, they accepted my status as well.”
She added that she started wearing women’s clothing and often altered her uniforms to make them tighter. “That got me punished by the teacher and I had to pull grass,” she adds.
“I even had the Ziana Zain eyebrows! The boys would be jealous of me because I was friends with the girls. But I never had any feelings for them.”
Born in Sarawak, she started working at a young age and washed dishes for a living when she was nine years old. She dropped out of secondary school, detailing how she would work after school and stay out late at night.
The underaged Moon also worked as a deejay and later went into sex work, which meant she did not have to depend on her parents for money.
When it came to sex work, condoms never entered the equation. Her charges, she says ranged between RM50 and RM300 depending on what the customer wanted.
“There was no such thing as safe sex. I was just happy to be working,” she adds.
Moon remains comfortable in her own skin after all these years.
“I am happy. Sure, there are challenges. Right now, there are religious and cultural barriers. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to condom usage,” she adds.
“You need to start teaching them from young. This is about keeping healthy.”
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