We don’t have to live in fear

A message for LGBTs who say Seksualiti Merdeka is making things worse

Someone wrote to me that: “According to many of my friends, they were doing just fine getting around under the radar until Seksualiti Merdeka ‘decided’ to fight for LGBT rights publicly. Now they blame Seksualiti Merdeka and its organisers for the scrutiny that they are being put through.”

This is my response.

Your fears are real. I have been there before. Always thinking twice for everything I did in case I get caught. At home, I was careful of calls I received. At work, I was careful of emails. I deleted all chats and online histories. After looking over my shoulders to be doubly triply sure no one was looking, I might have some relieve. I had to lie all the time. I had to get out of sight just for some human touch, I had to hide my love. And I feared that these few precious moments would be gone should people find out. So I maintained my silence. And with my silence, I surrendered my dignity.

But not anymore. That is why I can tell you this. It doesn’t have to be this way.

When we chose to trade in our dignity for the privilege of being left alone we will always think that this privilege is all we are worth. We live under the radar because we think under the radar is where we belong. We forget that life is for living, not for existing in the shadows.

We pay for these privileges with our silence, and this silence, while pleasant in times of innocence will render us unable to speak for ourselves in times of injustice.

This silence is what feeds the beast of oppression. While we live silently, those less able than us to hide will become victims at the jaws of the beast. You and I feed the beast when we chose to keep silent about injustice faced by others. We may be lucky to escape, but not everyone is that lucky.

LGBT children are kicked out of their homes, with nowhere to go they often end up selling themselves, for the privilege to survive. Transgender individuals are denied work, they are beaten up, sometimes by vigilantes, sometimes by religious officers, sometimes by police. All they want is the privilege to walk down the street without getting beaten up. LGBTs continue to be easy target for sexual abuse and are made to feel like it is their fault, so they never report it and they are denied the privilege of justice. Gay professionals from teachers to engineers to police are blackmailed at work, so they pay up to avoid being exposed, to keep that privilege to work. All around, many LGBTs, out of their love for their families, force themselves to separate from the ones they truly love and marry someone they don’t, buying a lifetime of silence for the privilege of not being kicked out from the family. When all these privileges add up to zero, many young LGBTs attempt suicide as they contemplate a life without happiness and meaning. How many of us must suffer this way before we finally realise that our silence has allowed their continued suffering?

My friends, these are not new events. They have been happening even before Seksualiti Merdeka came about. We who have been working on the issue know these stories. They have haunted us until we became restless. Until we had to do something. So we became their voices.

The only reason you hear about it more and more is because we have put LGBT issues on the news. All around the country, people are speaking up about injustice. The news is being reported. We have broken the silence. But there is a price. Those who prefer to keep us silent are afraid we expose their hypocrisy. They will step up on their bullying.

We who have been silent are now afraid. We point our fingers at those who speak up. We say they made things worse. We say they made us live in fear.

BUT THE FACT IS WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN FEAR. We have just gotten used to it. The only difference now is that suddenly we are forced to confront our fears.

We live in fear because we don’t know how to live without fear. We are afraid to lose our privileges. It is a tragedy we have grown to like our crumbs. It is a tragedy we allow those we elect to run the system bully us and determine our small rewards for accepting their power over us. It is a tragedy we let them get away with taking away our voices. Don’t let them get away with it.

If we refuse to feed the beast, it will starve. Yes, it will get angry and it will sniff for blood. When we stop being afraid, the beast will find more ways to make us fear it again. It bares its fangs and howls louder. It snaps its jaws at us. It is afraid. Of us.

Together we can challenge it: starve the beast, change the system.

Being left alone is not our privilege. It is our right. Falling in love is not our privilege. It is our right. Expressing who we are is not our privilege. It is our right. Not being beaten up is not our privilege. It is our right. Not being punished for not hurting anybody is not our privilege. It is our right. Having a job, having a home, having friends, are not our privileges. They are our rights. We don’t have to pay for these rights. These rights are ours from the moment we were born. Don’t settle for less.

Seksualiti Merdeka hopes to empower all Malaysians to realise we deserve equality. The same rights as everyone. Like everyone else, we don’t have to be kicked out from homes, beaten up, arrested, fired from work, forced to marry, and have nowhere to run for justice. We certainly don’t have to be rehabilitated. There is nothing wrong with us. We don’t have to live in fear.

We are not asking for more. We don’t need privileges. A system that grants privileges to some is also a system that deprives others. We are not asking for less. We don’t want to have to lie about ourselves and pretend to be straight in order to be given the same rights. It takes away our dignity.

So speak up about injustice. Speak up for love. Don’t deny each other’s realities. If you have not suffered discrimination, good for you. Don’t deny the realities of those who have. Use your position to speak up for those who have suffered.

If you have been living in the closet, start to think about the kind of future you want and work towards it. If that future includes living and loving proudly, prepare yourself for it. Read up, meet people, work with us.

Tell our politicians to stop minding our private affairs and start minding the country. Tell our leaders we want equality for all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Tell our friends and families not to be distracted from issues of corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement of the country. Register to vote. Get involved in fighting for our democractic rights, minority rights, human rights causes. Activate for changes in laws, policies and constitutions to protect our rights. These issues determine our future.

Fear is the tool of the tyrant in making us utterly alone and powerless. We are not alone. And we are not powerless. We must change our fear into outrage. For neither living with fewer fears nor living with more fears is any way to live at all. We must stand together. A future without fear is worth giving up a few lousy privileges for.

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Pang Khee Teik is a freelance arts consultant, curator and writer. He is known as the co-founder of the sexuality rights festival Seksualiti Merdeka and former Arts Programme Director for The Annexe Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. In 2013, he completed an MA in Gender, Sexuality & Culture at Birkbeck College, University of London, under the Chevening Scholarship.

Posted on 27 March 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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8 Responses to We don’t have to live in fear

  1. the bilis

    You're right about fair competition. This isn't about asking for free room and board, it is about being able to safely live in one's home, yes, probably even a home someone has worked hard for. Imagine if you work hard for stuff and someone takes it away from you, saying you're filth and demonic or whatever, and telling you to give it all up. That's what some people in the LGBT has had to go through when their family kicks them out, or when their boss decides they don't want them around, not because they suck at their job, but because the IC and face don't match. That is the reality for some.

    A job and a home shouldn't be a freebie, but it should be something that people can have fair access to.

  2. semuanya OK kot

    This is tyranny of the retail kind. It is the path to wholesale tyranny. Look at the pitiable delusion of the 99% of US citizens. Even in their destitution, they keep repeating that they are the "greatest country".

    "Learn from the mistakes of others; you can never live long enough to make them all yourself." – John Luther

  3. pepperlim

    Nice!

  4. DAC

    Even as a "Pendatang" here in Malaysis, I can see gradual change and the Malaysian sun shining into the darkest saddest corners of the land, where the forgotten, the marginalised, the fearful are. A job and a home are rights provided that one exercises their responsibilities. The responsibility being to do their job to the best of their ability. The responsibility towards their home being to pay the bills on time, rent, mortgage and taxes on time, and maintain it, and not be a nuisance to the community.

    It is also wrong to call Malaysians lazy. It is grossly misleading. When the cost of living is constantly rising, and salaries have stagnated against inflation since 1996, I will state that Malaysian employers are stingy. They want RM10,000 results but only wish to pay RM1,000 salaries, but thats not directly related. Its about treating those more vulnerable and poorer with dignity, not "Tuan-ing" it in a chauffered Mercedes Benz.

    Tenneewha – "Seksualiti Merdeka people are turning up the conflict a notch and they better have strong allies against the less tolerant people; whether semitics, Aryans or pagans. We the tolerant ones cannot help you
    anymore"

    The constant refrain from the silent tolerant majority in conversation is "Stay quiet, the Special Branch will get you". "Stay quiet, are'nt you happy here", "Stay quiet, this is not your country", "Stay quiet, we cannot change it"

    To which I say, ENOUGH. Enough is enough.

    Yes, Malaysia is a great country, great people, great culture. But silence is no longer an option. To allow an intolerant minority to scream, threaten, shout, and rage in the name of neo fascist conservativism, abuse religion, abuse minorities is intolerable. The constitution is there to protect minorities. To say that A, B, C, cannot take place is the rule of the mob, rather than the rule of law. If the immature cannot handle debate, then the brain drain will continue. The capital drain will continue. The brightest and best will continue to leave. You may have Petronas, but unfortunately, that has been the monetary crutch for much of the dreadful comments made over the years in Malaysian media by well known individuals. These create a negative image for Malaysia abroad. For every great Formula One, for every achievement by Lee Chong Wei, or Michelle Yeoh, or Najib abroad, these are destroyed by the rage of the intolerable. Enough is enough. No more bullshit.

  5. Tanneewha

    Seksualiti Merdeka people are turning up the conflict a notch and they better have strong allies against the less tolerant people; whether semitics, Aryans or pagans. We the tolerant ones cannot help you anymore.

    I personally have no beef against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trangenders (LGBT).

    As a semitic slave, I believe in the Quran and that God does not approved of same sex coupling but it doesn’t instruct any punishment for same sexing people. So I am happy with living it as “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to LGBT.

    When practicing “don’t ask, don’t tell”, we the tolerant semitic slaves can just conduct our lives and hope to apply just rules to all, LGBT included, even though I disapproved of the LGBT behavior. You live and we live happily until we all return to our Tuan. In time we hope all semitics slaves will be as tolerant and follow the Quran truthfully and no more and no less.

    But there are always zealous semitic slaves, and zealous the Aryans and pagans too. They will oppose you and we the tolerant semitic slaves cannot be seen as supporting you.

    • the bilis

      Some of the stuff you're saying isn't very clear to me. But as I understand it, are you saying that you won't say anything if someone 'less tolerant' were to be violent against others? Why is that? Because such violence is sanctioned? But you said it yourself that there is no instruction from a higher being for 'same sexing people'.

      You mentioned 'don't ask, don't tell'. The problem here is that there are many of those who are jumping to conclusions about others despite them not piping up about it. All kinds of inferences are made about little boys who like to play Barbie with their sisters, for example, and then their parents try to beat it out of them. The zealots are already at work. You just don't know it, or you choose not to see.

      SM is just speaking up for those who can't and they're giving new avenue for those who want to. Is that what is frightening people now?

      You infer keeping quiet about things. Just go about with our lives and everything will be ok. Be a man if you're a man, and a woman if you're a woman. Is that it? What if someone doesn't fit into other people's idea of a man, or a woman. Does pretending that they are make things better? For who? You, the tolerant semitic slave? Should someone pretend to be someone else just to make you feel better about your own religion? You know what that is called? Hypocrisy. And anyone who believes that a higher being can't see through that lie, really should get back to their holy books.

      • Tanneewha

        DAC: I understand the LGBTs yearning to do their own things but why make it hard for the rest of us by going public. With this strategy, LGBT are hoping to debate but it will only harden attitudes of the zealous ones.

        This move by SM is like a political Thach weave, where you turn towards your wingman and hope he will shoot down the enemy on your tail. But Thach weaves only work if both are on the same side.

        What SM is doing is making for other people who don’t even believe in their cause, to fight their battle for them. Like another semitic slave declaring “You with us, or you against us”. The world think it is unfair when Bush said that, and rightly so.

        Even though I’m a semitic slave, I have a problem with the self-appointed mandurs who want to implement their version of hudud. What you think, if I be Michevillian about it and goad the mandurs to extend hudud to everyone. If it is good law, then it should be good for everyone, isn’t it? Then SM would be fighting my battle against hudud. Hahaha… fair or not?

        Bilis: I’m not against SM, and not with SM, but I resent being made to choose sides in a battle not of my interest. After all, the great sinic Mao’s advice is to carefully choose your battles.

  6. Bean Ah Lee

    having a job and a home is not an inborn right. one has the right to fair competition to gain a job and live in a home of his own. by thinking its our birth right to have a job and home, that's what making the majority of Malaysians lazy – and known only that its their in born rights to these (and not having to gainfully work and compete for these).