Images from Seksualiti Merdeka
Seksualiti Merdeka is something so close yet so far from me. I’ve heard about the festival, I have friends who are activists who have been to the festivals and came back telling stories about empowerment, but I have yet to go myself. The stories were harrowing yet amazing, and I’ve always admired the steely determination from the LGBTIQ (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transsexuals, Intersexuals, Queer) community for persevering through all the obstacles brought upon them whether it be religion, society or even people’s mentality.
I was asked to attend Seksualiti Merdeka this year from a friend who said he will become a panelist to discuss about the youths of the LGBTIQ. It was interesting and as a support to a friend, I promised I would show up. However, it came to no surprise after some religious sects caught wind of this festival, the police decided to have a blanket ban over the festival after some people have reported that this festival is nothing but an event determined to promote “deviant” lifestyles that will soon bring an end to the nation.
I couldn’t believe the news as I continued reading them. Many religious groups reportedly filed their police reports: the Muslims, the Christians, the Buddhists, and many others, alleging that Seksualiti Merdeka would be detrimental to the “public stability” and that it should not be promoted. I was furious, because I’m living in a country where people are religious in nature, but when something like this props up, they conveniently used religion as a disguise to further their homophobic agendas. I have friends who are of different faiths, but they never spew hatred against the LGBTIQ community.
So I tweeted “I dare those who oppose Seksualiti Merdeka to oppose it in THEIR name instead of in the name of the religion. Keep your homophobia to yourself”.
What began after that was a long spiraling, almost stupid, argument with another fellow Tweeple about the boundaries of “Love”. He began challenging me not on homosexuality, but on incest because “If you can accept homosexuality, that means you can accept incest in the future, and certainly you’re also part of the new generation that will propel the community into the state of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was the cause of the downfall to civilizations of Egypt and Rome!” (I am, of course, summarizing from his various tweets. He sent a whole barrage of them I won’t bother repeating word for word.)
What also came up from that heated argument was that he wanted me to choose, to choose hatred against the community when I never had a problem with that community in the first place. I was very saddened by that fact, because I have absolutely NO reason to manifest any hatred towards the LGBTIQ community. I grew up heterosexual, sure, but what grounds do I have to hate them besides a few Holy Scriptures telling me condemnation is key to this “impertinent sin”?
Throughout my life, I have very little friends who are gays or lesbians, and even if they are, they have not preached the virtues of homosexual lifestyles to me. Nor do they attempt to cross boundaries to attempt to persuade me into going for their lifestyle. They are just who they are.
I’ve always maintain the belief that love can be stronger than hatred. And I do believe all the LGBTIQ community needed was love and support. I believe they’ve always have an idea on how they carry on with their life, but what they needed was less marginalization, discrimination and hatred. They don’t need me nosing around to scoop and wonder how they fall in love, how they could ever see another person of the same gender, and inquire about their sex life. I’ve never needed to question that, because again, I think they can manage their life pretty well. Also, whatever happens, they will answer to Whoever’s above, not to me.
But if these religious extremists are out there calling for blood because something like this will drive the entire society into paranoia, they’re sorely mistaken. Perhaps they watched too much of liberalization in the Western countries where homosexuals are allowed to marry, and expects Seksualiti Merdeka to leapfrog into that phase, forgetting that the LGBTIQ community here are Malaysian as well.
The LGBTIQ community here also knows what the boundaries they cannot cross are, and all they’re doing is to continue educating and empowering others within the framework of Malaysian laws, to be aware of these laws so that they know how to deal with unlawful arrests that were carried out so often by the police and religious authorities. That was the core purpose of Seksualiti Merdeka, but it seems that the religious extremists will not permit even this sort of discourse from happening. Malaysia will not suddenly become the center where gay parades can be held to challenge the norms of society. Even Western countries took centuries to come to terms of providing true equal rights to the LGBTIQ community, what more can they ask for from a young country of 48?
I believe what is needed at the moment is a proper discourse between both communities, something that goes beyond emotional and religious rhetoric on how should one view the LGBTIQ community. Seksualiti Merdeka was a bridge to achieving that, but what’s left now is a neverending publicity circus perpetrated by twisted logic and homophobia.
But again, just like all the accusations that have been flared up for the past few months in Malaysia, with accusation of proselytizing Muslims, Communism and Apostates, hopefully, this too shall pass, and we’ll soon be embroiled in another controversy, challenging the very principles Malaysians have always lived up to, stoking fear and hatred, further distancing themselves from the issues that needs resolutions.