PETALING JAYA - In an ironic twist, an Indian transgender activist who is supposed to speak at a company event in Penang about pride and equality is having difficulty entering the country as the Malaysian eVisa application system does not have an option for a third gender.
Shane Anthony Mills, an IT analyst and a supporter of transgender rights in India, was reportedly chosen to speak on the subject of "pride" in Penang on Jan 28.
She was selected to speak at Dell's Employee Resource Group summit in Penang and was told to change her gender to "male" if she wishes to travel to Malaysia.
According to Dell's website, its employee resource groups (ERGs) connects team members around areas such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and backgrounds.
Their ERGs are one way they demonstrate the company-wide commitment to creating an inclusive culture and "pride" is listed as one of their ERGs.
According to the Times of India, Shane found out that Malaysia's online visa portal does not have an option for the third gender in its application.
This is contrary to the Indian e-visa portal that, since 2014, has added the third gender option for foreigners (including Malaysians).
When Shane approached the Malaysian Consulate in Chennai for help, she was told to change her stated gender and reapply.
"To my shock, they asked me to change my gender to 'male' in my passport and reapply!
"This is so embarrassing. I had to go through a lot - from my sex change operation to getting my paperwork in place after the 2014 Supreme Court verdict," she said.
In 2014, India's highest court recognised the existence of a third gender in a landmark judgement hailed by transgender people.
Shane added that the Indian consulate in Malaysia had "no clue" how to help her.
However, she has not given up hope and has since reached out to India's foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for help.
"My company has got in touch with the Malaysian Consulate as well. Hopefully, things will work out," she said.