Poppy says Term ‘Kteuy’ is Out of Date
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – It is time to change the language used to refer to people who have changed their physical appearance to match their sexual identity, the most famous transgender Cambodian told Khmer Times yesterday.
The TV host, beauty pageant winner and hair salon owner known as “Poppy” said the word “kteuy” is antiquated. The term – which literally means “third sex” is often used as an insult and should be replaced, she said.
“I feel hurt when I hear the word ‘kteuy.’ This word should no longer be used to refer the transgender people. If possible, this word should be changed,” Poppy said.
Her comments follow a backlash to the use of the term by a district governor who used it last week to identify some people detained in a roundup of sex workers and homeless people.
Daun Penh district governor Kuch Chamroeun told the Cambodia Daily on Augusts 19 that 51 people, including sex workers, homeless people and “kteuy,” were rounded up and arrested on August 17 because they were bringing “shame to themselves and also shame to the nation’s society.”
Poppy told Khmer Times that “it is an individual’s right to use the word,” but noted that transgender Cambodians “are also contributing to the development of society.”
She noted that some transgender Cambodians have formed a charitable association to assist those who are less fortunate and that this included providing healthcare.
Her comments also followed a press release from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), lambasting the district governor’s comments.
It said he had used a derogatory term to refer to transgender people, whose rights are enshrined in the Constitution. The district governor’s comments were offensive for two reasons, CCHR said. First, the word ‘kteuy’ is offensive and should be avoided, particularly by the public officials. Second, Mr. Chamroeun’s comment that police were targeting transgender people as a distinct group, rather than sex workers in general, suggests the existence of discrimination on the basis of gender identity by authorities.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the word “kteuy” is not offensive in Cambodia because it is commonly used. “The word ‘kteuy’ is a normal term that Cambodian people always use to refer to the transgender people and it does not reflect any form of discrimination, which the Constitution strictly prohibits,” Mr. Siphan said.
He accused CCHR of playing politics with transgender people.
“The emergence of transgender people is due to the evolution of society,” Mr. Siphan said.
“The government is working to improve the economic opportunities and living standards of transgender people, while they have in turn contributed to the development of Cambodia, including its economy,” he added.
Ministry of Culture spokesman Thai Norak Sathya also weighed into the debate. “It is normal to say the word ‘kteuy’. What matters is the intonation used when saying it,” he explained.
Mr. Chamroeun said he had no intention of denigrating transgender people. “I used this word according to Samdech Chuon Nath’s dictionary. If they [CCHR] have other words with proper references, I will follow them,” he said.
The debate left Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche scratching his head. “I have no idea what would be a better alternative word to refer to transgender people,” he told Khmer Times.
Poppy said what is most important is that people use polite language. “You can call me ‘Poppy’,” she added.
Original article was published by KHMER TIMES