PETALING JAYA: The US Embassy in Malaysia took to Instagram on Friday to speak up for prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik, whose portraits were recently removed from a Merdeka photo exhibition.
In the Aug 10 post, the @usembassykl account administrator shared the picture of Nisha that was removed on the orders of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (in charge of religious affairs) Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (pic).
The exhibition, Stripes and Strokes, is part of the George Town Festival 2018 that runs from Aug 4 to Sept 2 in Penang.
"Pictures are worth a thousand words, but actions speak even louder.
"We stand proudly with 2016 International Women of Courage Award winner #NishaAyub and @pangkheeteik and the work they do to promote #tolerance and #acceptance," read the caption.
Nisha was the first transgender woman to receive the United States Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award in 2016, while Pang is the co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka, a gender rights advocacy group.
At time of writing, the post had received 126 likes in just five hours.
The account also dedicated an Instagram Story to the duo, and displayed their names in a rainbow-coloured font.
The rainbow flag, which Pang holds in his portrait, is commonly known as the "gay pride" flag.
However, some commenters were not impressed with this show of solidarity, and advised the embassy to look at its own backyard first when it comes to treatment of LGBT people.
Using the handle @nzrl_anr, the commenter said: "Hypocrite US, if US policy to promote tolerance and acceptance, why did Trump ban Transgender to enlist in the military, fix your own problem first before you try to tell others."
However, other commenters such as @drasiahmason stood up to naysayers and praised the embassy's move.
"This woman loves her country and she deserves equal rights as all other human beings.
"She is courageous and brave to be herself and to be a leader to other transgender citizens around the world. Thank you @usembassykl for speaking up. Thank you @nishaayub," she said.
US President Donald Trump's first year in office, which has been colloquially referred to as the discrimination administration, saw him announcing on March 23 that he would endorse a plan by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to restrict the military service of transgender people who experience a condition called gender dysphoria.
According to a Reuters report, the policy replaced an outright ban on transgender service members that Trump announced last year on Twitter, citing concern over military focus and medical costs.
However, a US court recently ruled that the Trump administration could not enforce an updated policy barring certain transgender people from serving in the US military, becoming the second court in the country to rule against the government since it unveiled the policy in March.