A British man has been left by his wife, who's Malaysian, after he spent his life savings helping her get permanent residency in the UK. She's also transgender — and the treatment she faced over her gender identity is an inescapable part of their story.
According to Murray Wardrop of Telegraph, Ian Young met Fatine while he was working in Malaysia. Writes Wardrop,
At the time he had no idea she had been born a man but said when he found out, he was too much in love to end the relationship.
Having been heterosexual his whole life, he entered into a full-time same-sex relationship with Fatine despite her allegedly refusing sex-change surgery.
Young and Fatine moved back to England, where they married. Gay marriage isn't legal there, but civil unions are — so is changing one's legal gender. It's not clear whether Fatine was recognized as a woman by the British government when she married Young (their union is referred to by several sources as a "civil partnership," not a marriage) — however, the two did claim risk of homophobic persecution as a reason for Fatine to be allowed to stay in the UK. Young also apparently spent £12,000 (almost $20,000) getting Fatine a visa, and also lost several jobs due to discrimination based on his marriage. And now, Fatine is gone, having left Young "to become a showgirl." He says, "She has ruined my life just two weeks after it was supposed to be made complete, when the visa was finally granted. Now she won't speak to me and she won't get a divorce."
Obviously it's hard to tell exactly what went on in Young and Fatine's marriage, but Fatine wouldn't be the first person to marry someone in order to emigrate. It's also quite possible that she faced severe stigma in her native country. Her story made headlines back when her relationship with Young was still ostensibly happy — she told Asia One back in 2009 that her public relationship with a man made her "so frightened to go back. I am worried for my safety." And the blog Trans Talk had this to say about Fatine's probable treatment as a trans woman in Malaysia:
If he is a hermaphrodite, no issue arises as Syariah laws recognise hermaphrodites as a natural phenomenon and even enable them to opt for sexual reassignment surgery ("SRS") –- if they elect to do so.
The reverse, however, is true if Fatine is a transsexual –- that is to say someone who identifies with a physical sex different from his biological one. He would not be entitled to SRS and may even be subject to prosecution for "cross-dressing" especially when "cross dressing" is coupled with "immoral purposes". That is how the law stands for Muslim transsexuals in Malaysia.
Did Fatine need to leave Malaysia in order to express her gender identity safely? It seems likely. Did she use Ian Young as a means to do so? Possibly. He's clearly devastated, and it's hard not to feel for him. At the same time, Fatine might never have felt the need to marry him had her own country been more accepting of her. Of course, Britain isn't perfect either — witness the three jobs Young says he lost as a result of his marriage, and the Telegraph's apparent shock at Fatine's "refusal" of sex-reassignment surgery. So while Fatine's story may be one of betrayal, it's also a reminder of the need to fight for trans rights around the world, and how a failure to uphold these rights can lead to heartbreak.