Confession of an ex-homophobe: Nur Hidayah shares about her male friend who wears a skirt and her female friend who likes girls. In conjunction with International Day Against Homophobia, celebrated as “29 Ways: Toward a Homophobia-Free Malaysia” on 29 May.
I knew a boy once who would wear his religious school sampin as a skirt. We were 9 or 10, and every time we saw him in his sampin-skirt, we would laugh at him. We would laugh with and/or at him and we distanced ourselves from any semblance of friendship. None of us wanted to be openly friends with him as he was obviously on his way to become a full fledge pondan. I don’t think we intended to be cruel, we were taught a male should stay and act masculine, not prance around in a skirt! We thought that was expected of us. Let’s call him Child H.
Our paths crossed again when we got older, and Child H has grown up to become Adolescent H – and he has now become even more effeminate. His voice was always high pitched and he was always giggling. He appeared happy to be pondan-esque, which made me question – How can you be happy in that state? But he was so so so funny and it was hard not to like him. We became acquainted through mutual friends. It was, for all intents and purposes, a superficial acquaintance – I was not interested in knowing the person, just wanted to laugh with and/or at him. I was friendly, but wouldn’t consider him a friend.
Adolescent H then became Young Adult H, still very happy, very gay and very girly. He goes by “London” now, as he felt an undeniable kinship with Paris Hilton. And by this time, he was referred to as “she”. I started college and left London with his/her antics behind.
In college I bunked with what I thought was a Tom Boy. Boyish, but a girl nonetheless. Let’s name her Tommy. Tommy and I became fast friends, and she quickly became one of my bffs. Tommy was a lot of fun and so very lovable. How can we not love Tommy, who was always so caring, so understanding, always so selfless and with her booming laugh, would laugh at the silliest things?
Tommy then started bringing girls back to our place and was openly free with her affections. My other heterosexual housemate and I were perplexed. But we liked Tommy! She can’t be gay! She’s a good person and a good friend! This was Tommy who would stay up all night when we’re sick to make sure we were alright. This was the Tommy that would rush all the way from Genting Highlands to Shah Alam because she didn’t want me stranded outside when I forgot to bring my house key. This was our Tommy who would check on her old parents numerous times a day. She was a better daughter than most of us could ever dream to become. This was our beloved Tommy! She can’t be heinously gay!!!
But she was. By then I can’t choose to not call her a friend. We knew each other too well, and gay or nay, she’s still our friend Tommy, whom we really sayang. We realized one very important thing at this juncture:
Your sexual preference doesn’t detract from the kind of person you are. If you are a good person, then you are a good person. If you’re an ass, then being gay or straight doesn’t make you any less of an ass. The question of morality, of what is perceived to be right or wrong, does not arise when it comes to preference. And preference is not a choice. No. Not a choice. It may not be right for you and me, but it is right for Tommy.
That was when I grew up. And I was reminded of how shallow I treated London. I called London up and renewed our friendship. I found London to be the best of friends. She’s kind, considerate, an excellent listener, funny, wise, positive and so very brave. Even at the risk of alienating herself, she stood up for who she is. She taught me that you can lie to anyone, even God, but the biggest sin would be to lie to oneself.
My life has become much more meaningful because of Tommy and London. I have never considered myself a homophobe in the literal sense, but I was conditioned by the society I was brought up in to be one. I am glad I became friends with Tommy and London when I did, when I was still unimpressed with society’s ideals. Their willingness to snub convention by openly being themselves was truly extraordinary. They paint the world in a less complicated color of gray, instead of the oft stark black or white. They have taught me to strive for honesty and truthfulness within myself, first and foremost – and to admire it in others. I learnt to be more accepting and very slow to judge.
Gay or nay, as long as you’re a decent human being, who cares?
Hidayah is a true blue Libran. She is a Loyar by profession and 1/4 of The Sounders/Gohead Gostan. She’s messy but believes the mess she creates is constructive art and would not be able to function otherwise. She’s a perpetual pleasure seeker and an occasional truth finder with a somewhat warped sense of loyalty. She chose to support Man Utd when she was 13 because her fav band Take That consisted of Mancunians. She still supports Man Utd to this day.
29 Ways: Toward a Homophobia-Free Malaysia will be held on Sun 29 May, 3pm, at The Annexe Gallery, 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe (Behind Central Market), Kuala Lumpur.