Malaysians typically have a tendency to be patriotic. Ranging from food, identity, and culture; we get a boner over all things Malaysian. We LOVE when others (foreigners) praise our country, and hate it when we’re subjected to criticism. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a sense of pride; it’s healthy even, but to what extent exactly? And is it worth glossing over the not-so-shiny parts of our nation?

Observing collective identities is such an interesting activity.

If I had to categorize myself, I’d say that I’m a Malaysian-American. I was born in America, but grew up in Malaysia until I was 12 years-old before moving permanently to the U.S. While I can’t relate to most experiences of Third-Culture-Kids, I still had to endure my own version of an identity “crisis” from essentially being forced to split my life between east and west.

It feels like having two different homes; an American one and a Malaysian one. Each decorated with their own unique set of culural norms. For the longest time, I felt sandwiched in the middle of the two very distinct and often opposing socio-cultural environments. I used to wonder where exactly I fit-in and which culture I truly identified with.

I’ve reconciled with these circumstances since. I’ve chosen to keep and practice the values that I find important, and reject the ones that I don’t.

Living in America and being exposed to a more open, accepting, and “liberal” viewpoint… Coupled with critical-thinking skills that grew as I matured, I’ve been able to unlearn a laundry list of problematic attitudes during my journey towards adulthood; one of them is homophobia.

I’m proud to say that I am an ally. I fully accept that as an ally, I would never be able to truly understand the experience of someone from the LGBTQ+ community. Nevertheless, I will offer my support to the best of my abilities. The LGBTQ+ community deserve to live happy and peaceful lives. I refuse to marginalize them nor entertain those that try to diminish their humanity.

While I don’t necessarily make a habit of airing out Malaysia’s dirty laundry (maybe I do), this is one crucial subject matter that needs to be discussed.

Homophobic attitudes toward LGBTQ+ Malaysians

Despite living in the 21st century, LGBTQ+ Malaysians still tend to suffer from homophobic sentiments not only from the general society, but from the governmental administration as well. Discrimination, hate crimes, and violence threaten the lives of LGBTQ+ Malaysians.

Homophobia in Malaysia is typically fueled by religious creed as well as a reiteration and emphasis on “family values.” In Tanah Air (the motherland), homosexuality is often forced to be concealed, or veiled. Many people feel that it’s better that it remains invisible all together.

One issue with prevalent homophobia in Malaysia is the fact that many people genuinely think that a person’s sexual orientation is a CHOICE. I’m reminded of this prime example of sexual identity ignorance when I saw a rookie Youtuber interviewing Malaysians about LGBT perception.

Through a rough Malay-English translation, the dialogue from 3:14–4:46 states:

Amir: “Do you know about LGBT?”

Joshua: “Yes. I hear about them often.”

Amir: “What’s your opinion if the LGBT community became legalized or allowed in Malaysia?”

Joshua: “If it were legalized, *pauses* actually… I’m neutral. I don’t support it, yet I’m not against it. Because we don’t understand how the LGBT people are… How they became like that…For ‘normal’ people like us, we understand why/how we’re ‘normal’… But for the LGBT people, we don’t actually know… From a ‘normal’ person’s perspective like myself, I think that there’s probably no problem with it. But I’m not an LGBT though.

Amir: “Do you have any message for people out there, LGBT folks or non-LGBT folks?”

Joshua: “My message for those LGBT people out there… I’m not trying to be abrasive, but we don’t know what their problem is.. How they became like that. But as for me, how do I say this? Maybe there are other ways that they can come up with before they decide to be an LGBT person.”

“We don’t know what their problem is”, “How they became like that”, and “Maybe there are other ways that they can come up with before they decide to be an LGBT person.”

Wow. I can’t even begin to process those statements.

I can only imagine how frustrating it is trying to justify a completely biologically normal phenomenon to people that just. don’t. get. it.

Being LGBTQ is normal.

Here’s a list of some homophobic events that have occurred in Malaysia, in no particular order:

  1. Gatekeeping clothing to in order to “save” women from lesbianism

2. Sending “effeminate” boys to a special camp to help “cure” them

3. Nine transgender women fined & jailed

4. 16 Beauty pageant contestants detained by Religious officers

5. Death threats made against an openly gay Malaysian man

6. Movies are only allowed to be screened if LGBTQ+ characters are seen in a negative light or end up “repenting”

7. Seksualiti Merdeka (Sexuality Independence), an annual celebration of sexual diversity and gender rights in Malaysia was banned in 2011

8. Two women publicly caned for attempting to have sex in a car

9. Five men sentenced to jail, caning and fines over gay sex

10. Religious Affairs Minister upset that LGBTQ+ activists were present at Women’s Day march

11. “Rehabilitation” programs

12. Several men jailed, caned, and fined for attempting gay sex

13. Malaysian Rock Band singing “LGBT Pergi Mampos”(Go Die LGBT folks)

Many LGBTQ+ Malaysians acquiescence to homophobia. Perhaps too afraid of “rocking the boat”, they end up throwing other queers under the bus.

Despite the cultural relativism and “Asian Values” debate, LGBTQ+ Malaysians deserve to live happy and peaceful lives without fear of discrimination.

The fight for equality, human rights, and civil liberties is important. I hope to see positive changes in the future for all LGBTQ+ Malaysians.

Enjoys Political Science, Japanese language/culture, and photography.

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