Mut Nearith, 37, is a happy and a proud transgender. For four years now, Nearith or Poh Lin, as he is fondly called by friends, has been working as a Community Facilitator at Men’s Health Club (MHC), one of the MStyle Clubs in Phnom Penh. Poh Lin started as one of the frontliners for the club in the community. He likes his job since he enjoys attending events sponsored by clubs and he found his task very relevant and challenging like disseminating information regarding HIV, STI, and providing advice on health-related issues or even sharing facts about how it is to be gay or transgender. He wanted to help gay people like himself because he realized that when he was growing up, there were no networks or support groups that existed like MHCs. He thought that if he is connected with a club, he would be able to reach out to more Men having sex with Men (MSM), Men having sex with Men and Women (MSM/W), gay and transgender, for them to maintain healthy lifestyles especially on practising safe sex and heightened awareness on HIV and other STIs.
Before Nearith joined MStyle, he did not know a lot of people. He was shy and prefers to keep things to himself. But now after having joined various conferences, workshops and meetings with NGOs, he now knows a lot of people and gained several friends. Working with MStyle developed his confidence which makes him proud of himself. However, Nearith has also his share of problems and challenges in life especially of being gay and poor. His parents are farmers who do not own the land they farm. Food is inadequate and sustaining his education of his three other siblings is more than his parents could afford. Poh Lin disclosed that when he was younger, his parents wanted him to marry but finally they gave up after three times of unsuccessful negotiations with the prospective bride’s family. He said that all that he had been through has honed him to become what his is right now and he is grateful for everything.
When asked if he would still work as community facilitator even without honorarium or salary, he said “I will go on working because I love what I am doing. I share information, messages and advices to people who value and respect me for who I am.” Poh Lin said that he was nominated as one of MStyles heroes for MHC because the staff and members have seen how dedicated he is to his work, of being dependable and a good example to other transgenders.
Nearith has this message to MStyle Club members, gays, MSM, MSM/W and transgender: “Be proud of yourself, respect yourself because if you don’t, other people will not respect you either. We have to do good to our society by earning a decent living instead of stealing from other people because there are many things to do if we try. For the young generation, you must study hard because it will help you find a good job in the future and it will pay off in the end.”