By: Patricia Yap
Despite its award-winning status and positive reviews from critics, the gender-themed film Miss Andy is yet to be accepted in its home country.
Directed by Teddy Chin, Miss Andy is a Malaysian-Taiwanese film following the life of Evon—formerly known as Andy—a transgender woman living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After a string of unexpected, yet all too familiar events such as the death of a partner, the loss of a job and other unfortunate happenings, Evon begins to question the point of living until an unlikely encounter comes her way.
According to producer Jin Ong, “We were all aware from the start that the subject matter would have had its challenges in Malaysia and most other Asian territories”.
In Malaysia, the subject of anything LGBTQ+ related is still considered a taboo topic, which is why popular media rarely portrays such realities. There was even a ruling in 2018 from the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia that mandated the removal of all LGBTQ+ content on screen. Certainly Miss Andy would have never gotten a pass with the existing censorship regulations in Malaysia.
Instead, the film was released in Taiwan on January 8 last year due to the country’s LGBTQ-friendly status. Taiwan is known for previously releasing other LGBTQ-themed movies from Malaysian-Chinese filmmakers like Lau Kek Huat and Wee Meng Chee.
“While it’s shot in Malaysia, the issues that plague the transgender community are common in a lot of other places, and Taiwan being one of Asia’s most LGBTQ-friendly countries made it the perfect launchpad for the film to highlight their plight,” said Mr. Ong.
Miss Andy’s story is timely and relevant, especially for Malaysian members of the LGBTQ+ community that still experience prejudice and discrimination. Miss Andy is one of the first Malaysian films to portray a transgender protagonist that society would not take a second look at or treat as “other”. And with the international acclaim the film received, it just goes to show how it’s taking steps towards better LGBTQ+ representation for Malaysians. This acclaim includes recognition from award-giving bodies such as the Osaka Asian Film Festival, the New York Asian Film Festival, the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, the Kaohsiung Film Festival, and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
While international recognition is important to raise awareness on the issues that LGBTQ+ communities are facing, what’s more immediately needed is acceptance. Despite small advances made in support of LGBTQ+ people, such as the recent refusal of the passing of a Malaysian state law that criminalized “intercourse against the order of nature”, there is still much progress to be made, and productions like Miss Andy can kickstart this change.
Thankfully with more and more people fighting against gender discrimination around the world by making projects like Miss Andy, by organizing communities, and by simply being accepting of everyone’s personal identities, we can say that there is hope for change. The steps we are taking, no matter how small they may seem right now, may lead to huge developments in the future for a more caring and accepting world.