Personal finance and support for LGBTs

Let’s face it, Malaysia is NOT a good place for LGBTs to freely express themselves. Discrimination is sadly common, usually justified by religion.

Even if you disagree with the LGBT lifestyle, at least have some empathy for them. This is not a “guide to be gay” – it’s more a “what to do when you need help” article.

1. My family kicked me out after discovering I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer. What can I do?

Your immediate needs are shelter and money for daily expenses like food. The Ringgit Oh Ringgit website can connect you to support groups who can help you find a place to stay and job opportunities so you can get back on your feet as soon as possible.

You may also reach out to these shelters:

• SEED Foundation (elderly-friendly too)

• KLASS (PLWHIV (People living with HIV)

NOTE: If you’re living with your family and conditions are strained, prepare an emergency overnight bag that you can grab quickly.

Include these things:

• A few sets of clothes and underwear

• Shoes

• Copies of important documents like your IC

• Some money

• Some snacks

• Toiletries

• Small towel and/or wet wipes

• Charger for your phone and/or a full-powered powerbank

2. I need to check my STD/HIV/AIDS status and get medical help, treatment and support.

Many Klinik Kesihatan branches offer STD/HIV checks for just RM1. Check out the following Twitter thread:

What I’ve heard is some medical officers can be judgemental and hostile towards LGBT individuals, especially to trans individuals. It really depends on your luck and who you get that day.

Other places you can get yourself tested, which can assure non-discrimination to LGBT individuals:

• PT Foundation: STD/HIV Testing and Counselling from RM40.

• KLASS: Hospital Peer Support Programme, and Workshops and Support Sessions.

3. My office mates bully me because of my sexual orientation/gender identity. I need the job. What can I do?

Your first priority is your safety. If you are verbally harassed or physically attacked, and your employers won’t take action, look for another job, preferably in urban areas where people tend to be more open-minded.

Your mental and physical health is worth more than what your company pays you. The job market can be harsh and being selective is only going to narrow your options. You may want to consider earning online.

4. I need to talk to someone. What are my options?

These organisations can be of great help:

• PT Foundation: Offers telephone and face-to-face counselling (HIV/AIDS).

• Befrienders: 24-hour hotline (suicide prevention).

• SEED Foundation: Peer support and referral case counselling (trans).

5. My gender does not align with the sex I was born with. How can I transition and what kind of expenses can I expect?

There are medical professionals in Malaysia you can see to get transition-related advice.

The community has recommendations for doctors and clinics who may be able to help, but Ringgit Oh Ringgit will only give you the information after we vouch your identity. Leave a comment with an email address – the comment won’t be published unless you explicitly give consent and use an anonymous name. Your privacy is guaranteed.

If your immediate environment is not supportive of your transition, and you rely on them for financial assistance, it’s okay to wait. While gender dysphoria is hard, you need to hang in there until you have enough money to support yourself. No point ending up on the streets with an even higher risk of being abused.

NOTE: There is more information in ringgitohringgit.com.

6. I can no longer/do not want to stay in Malaysia. What can I do?

If you choose to leave Malaysia, here some financially sustainable options:

• Apply for jobs in LGBT-friendly countries and work there. You can also join myGwork, a global networking platform and job board for LGBT+ professionals.

• Earn online or remote jobs.

• Study in LGBT-friendly countries. If you don’t have funding, check Aseanop.com for scholarship opportunities.

• Save money and/or create multiple streams of passive income to support your daily expenses

7. I am in a committed, if unrecognised relationship with my partner. Should I die, how can I ensure she/he inherits my money and properties?

You can leave anything you want to whoever you want before your passing. The tricky part is inheritance after your passing. NOTE: It’s easier for non-Muslims than for Muslims.

First, a distinction: Wills/Wasiat is for distribution after death. A trust is similar, but you can also add clauses – “to allocate person X your money for medical care if you’re in a coma/have permanent disability or cannot make sound judgement” and “to give person Y staggered payments according to agreed schedule after your passing”.

For Muslims in Malaysia:

• Wills/Wasiat: You’re bound by Muslim inheritance laws. Muslims can only give up to ⅓ of their wealth to non-faraid (simplistically, non-family) members.

• Trusts: You can give more than ⅓ of your wealth to non-faraid members, BUT need to lock in a fairly large cash amount (RM50k). You may also have to do a wasiat before you can set-up a trust.

For non-Muslims in Malaysia:

• Wills: You can give to whoever you want, regardless of religion.

• Trust: Same.

8. I don’t have immediate problems but would like to prepare myself financially, in case anything happens. What can I do?

Please save as much money as possible as emergency savings. A rule of thumb is three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Depending on your situation, you might need the money to move out, get medical or mental health help, or support yourself if you lose your job due to discrimination.

Also invest to grow your money. Avoid non-liquid investments like properties and high-value art – you can’t cash the money immediately if you need it urgently; selling might take ages.

Investments that are more liquid include:

• Stocks

• Foreign currencies (USD, etc)

• Gold

• Mutual funds (if you’re Bumi, get ASB)

Hold international bank accounts. Options include Citibank (SG) and Barclays (UK). The amount needed is quite high; be prepared to shell out six-figures for them. Another option is to buy properties (UK, etc) – that make it easier to have banking accounts there. You need to inform Bank Negara Malaysia because they monitor large financial transactions.

Finally, upskill yourself. Get more knowledge, and back it up with certifications. If you ever face workplace discrimination, it’s easier to find another job.

9. I’m an LGBT individual/ally with financial means. How can I help?

• Offer jobs/employment.

• Offer donations to help LGBT individuals in need.

• Volunteer.

The easiest way to help is to make donations. Lots of places need funds to continue their work, so please be generous. These NGOs and community groups are LGBT-friendly:

• PT Foundation.

• KLASS.

• SEED Foundation.

• Justice for Sisters.

• QueerLapis.

This article first appeared in ringgitohringgit.com

Suraya is a corporate writer-for-hire and the blogger behind personal finance website Ringgit Oh Ringgit. She is more of a minimalist, less of a consumerist, a konon DIY enthusiast, a let’s-support-small-businesses-over-big-corporations kinda girl. Prior to her current role, she worked in various capacities within the non-profit industry.