For every Singaporean male, serving a two-year conscription term is considered as a rite of passage.
However, for one transgender woman, it was a tricky situation of battling gender dysphoria as she had to represent herself as a male person in camp.
In a post on Quora on Saturday, Zheng Pengpeng said her experience was “haunting yet enriching,” having been placed in the toughest places for her Basic Military Training course as well as her vocational unit, which is the First Singapore Infantry Regime (1 SIR).
When she entered National Service, she did not know what the word “transgender” was or know the details about hormone replacement therapy.
At one point, she was reportedly scolded by her superior for being clumsy in battle scenarios and was told to “be stronger to protect your girlfriend.”
“Deep down inside I know I am the girl that you guys should be protecting,” she said.
According to Singapore web resource Transgender SG, transgender women who declare themselves to be transgender before they are enlisted will be given the lowest physical enlistment standard PES E, which only limits servicemen to clerical duties and no physical exercise.
Zheng said she was loved for being “dumb and girly,” but hated for slowing down her squad.
“Nobody could quite explain why this meat sac behaved like a girl, but everyone was ready to abuse me instead of giving me the protection a girl needed,” she said, recounting the incidents of bullying that she reportedly faced in camp.
Even as she was posted to a medical vocation to attend to medical cases at 1 SIR, she said her gender dysphoria “worsened by multiples… for not conforming to expectations of a military male” as she had to present herself as male but knew that she was a woman.
However, her experience turned around for the better when she helped to save someone’s life in a medical case, after the soldier had reportedly attempted to take his own life.
“Today, I am proud to have been a medic in the Singapore Armed Forces and a woman,” she said.
According to Transgender SG, transgender people who are coping with gender dysphoria can take part in a variety of activities including charitable work and counselling to either introduce distractions or find other outlets to represent the gender they identify as.