“It Gets Better in Malaysia” is project featuring a series of short videos that aims to give hope to teenagers growing up as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender in Malaysia – that even though things can be rough during the teenage years, it can get better. However, a slew of threats and hate-speech followed Azwan Ismail’s video. The project’s organiser, Seksualiti Merdeka has since released a statement. Here, LoyarBurokker Lim Ka Ea shares her thoughts on this kerfuffle.
I find this campaign very human. It’s not just about promoting or glorifying the rights of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered persons. It’s about treating and respecting them as human beings who don’t deserve to be bullied and certainly don’t deserve to suffer in silence.
I am heterosexual and if I have had more than one sexual relationship, I’d be called a shameless slut.
If I were a Muslim, heterosexual and have pre-marital sex with my long-term boyfriend, I’d be arrested, persecuted and labelled a sinful and bad Muslim.
If I am homosexual, I’d be blamed for spreading HIV/AIDS.
If I were Muslim and homosexual, I might as well be dead because this would be what many of my Muslim brothers and sisters would want me to be – non-existent.
The point I’m trying to make is homosexuals are not alone when it comes to receiving unwanted, cruel and malicious remarks and punishments, but they do bear the worst of it, especially if they’re Muslims.
If you’re part of the activist circle in Kuala Lumpur or know someone who is part of the circle, you’ll know the “Seksualiti Merdeka movement” led by several brave and no doubt amazing individuals. These individuals are brave because they confront and embrace their sexuality instead of hiding behind a facade. They’re amazing because they do something about defending and promoting their rights to alternative sexual lifestyles, rather than bitch within their own circle of like-minded friends and wait for society to accept them for who they are.
One recent project that has attracted a lot of attention is the “It gets better in Malaysia” videos. These series of short videos feature several individuals who talk about their experiences as homosexuals in Malaysia. This is not an original initiative as it is very much inspired by a similar campaign in the United States aimed at combating gay teenage suicide as a result of bullying in schools.
The message is simple. It tries to tell gay teenagers that their lives will get better eventually and hence they should not give up on life.
I find this campaign very human. It’s not just about promoting or glorifying the rights of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered persons. It’s about treating and respecting them as human beings who don’t deserve to be bullied and certainly don’t deserve to suffer in silence. When children take their own lives simply because they can no longer tolerate the torture they have to endure in school and are unable to find the worth in themselves to continue living, something is fundamentally wrong. It is no longer about LBGT rights. It’s about human rights.
When Azwan Ismail appeared in one of the videos recently, he was condemned by many people. Some even called for his death. It makes me feel sick and it makes me angry to hear this. It also makes me ask why. Why do we behave as if we have the moral right to pass judgment on someone else who is different from ourselves?
The truth of the matter is, we constantly hide behind our religions so that we can continue to be lazy thinkers and we try to delude ourselves as a society, that sex is taboo so that we don’t have to deal with any problems related to it. We’re told that sex should be something best kept private, which I can agree with. However, I don’t think we should stop discussing sex or try to censure ourselves by pretending to be an asexual society when we’re not. A Catholic priest will be able to tell you this.
At the end of the day, those who condemn homosexuality do not realise what huge fools and bigots they make of themselves. They’re foolish because they continue to think that if they don’t talk, see or hear about it, then surely it doesn’t exist. (Thank God for great scientists and philosophers who don’t subscribe to such ludicrous theories.) They’re bigots because they believe in casting the first stone even though they are far from unblemished themselves. It’s as if the more stones they throw, the fewer stones will be left for their own sins.
Being Malaysian is tough. Well, surely not as tough as an Afghan, Iraqi, Sudanese or Somalian, I hear you say. In a way you’re right but at least these countries don’t try to fool you into believing that they’re so close to being a developed nation, founded on the principles of democracy and respect for human rights. It is tough being a part of a hypocritical nation and anyone who asks me to balik China, you’ve proven my point.
Afghanistan was once ruled by the Talibans, Muslim hardliners who implemented syariah and hudud laws in the country. These Talibans are also known for their sexual activities with young Afghan boys. They won’t talk about this but they will tell you that they’re defenders of Islam. Azwan Ismail did nothing of that sort and if anything, he did the opposite. He is honest, as opposed to those who hide behind their masks. I am sure all homosexuals want to be honest about themselves. Something which all parents should be teaching their children, instead of forcing them to be liars.
I sincerely believe our country will be better if we start being more honest and less hypocritical. I also believe that this country will be better if we’re governed by leaders who are more honest and less hypocritical. We have come to a juncture where things must get better for all of us.
I’ll vote for the next politician who starts a campaign on this.
Ka Ea works as a full-time staff with the Bar Council Secretariat. During her free time, she writes for The Malaysian Insider and LoyarBurok.
LB: First published in The Malaysian Insider on 25 December 2010.