Alden Boon

Co-founder of The T Project June Chua: Beyond Our Transgender Identity, See Us as People, as Individuals

05/05/2018

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Finding purpose

But sex work is just that — work. Like an accountant who has spent twenty years of her life trapped in a rat race, June grew tired of her humdrum routine. “I was 38, going through an existential crisis, splurging on artworks and sculptures as a way of covering up parts of my life that were ugly. I had so much love to give, but I had no outlet. I desperately needed a purpose in life.” Chance came, when the organisers of a workshop that June and her late sister Irene — who too was assigned the male gender at birth but identified as a woman — were attending saw their potential and offered them the positions of volunteer coordinator in a healthcare centre for migrant sex workers. “The moment I was offered the job, I stepped out of the sex industry, and never looked back.”

For the next five years, she and Irene worked tirelessly to help others, eventually expanding the programmes to benefit transgender people as well. On weekends and off days, she conducted talks to spread transgender awareness. Kismet it was that one day, a chief executive officer of a non-profit organisation was in the audience, and she recognised the need for a shelter for homeless transgender individuals. “She gave us a space in Little India, and there the first The T Project shelter was set up.”

June Chua The T Project Pink Dot Singapore Transgenders

Helping homeless people

Contrary to popular beliefs, getting a job is not the be-all and end-all for homeless people. “Imagine a homeless person at a meeting with the human resource personnel, where he’s about to receive a job offer. She asks for a bank account, which he is unable to provide because he doesn’t have a home address and hence cannot apply for one. That raises red flags. She thinks: ‘why doesn’t he have a bank account?’ So, she requests for a home address, and he asks if he could collect the cheque instead. More red flags. And what about someone who is certified medically unfit to work? Or a transgender sex worker who now has to work an eight-to-five job and mix with cisgenders in the workplace? The problems that a homeless person faces do not simply go away when they land a job offer.”

What The T Project provides is a safe space for homeless transgender individuals, and access to resources and professional help so that they can eventually stand on their own two feet. The residents here face issues such as homelessness, statelessness, addictions, mental or physical health illnesses and unemployment. By addressing one of their physiological needs, that is, accommodation, they have one fewer thing to worry about, and instead of living day to day, pay cheque to pay cheque, can maybe start thinking about their futures.

Read: Swindled of Her Fortune, Ginny Low Gains Second Wind by Working for the First Time in Her Life

What inspired me to set up The T Project? I don’t know. If you feel that you’re doing the right thing, do you need someone or something grand to inspire you? I was just someone who loved talking and sharing her life experiences; I never had any expectations that it would lead to something like this.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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