Thursday, October 27, 2005


This refers to the last paragraph of my previous post.


Dear Ms Ngu Tao Yan,

There are a few experiences in my childhood which I feel might have affected who I am today.

When I was younger, I had a babysitter. Both my parents were working at that time. Mom stopped working when I was seven to take care of both my brother and I full time.

In fact I still keep in touch my babysitter. She has two sons and a daughter.

I remember vaguely a particular incident at the babysitter’s house. I think I was five or six at the time. The daughter, let’s call her WC, had a room that has mosquito netting at all the windows and door to her room.

There was this one time when she was changing her clothes and I allegedly peeped at her.

Actually, neither did I enter nor was I in her room. I was merely outside the door and it so happened that I looked in, through the netting, at that inopportune time.

After that, there was a big furore from the babysitter, and especially my parents, about how that was a bad thing to do, I was a naughty boy, I would get red eye, etc.

Basically, what they did was scaring me to death, a poor young innocent soul of a five year old. Luckily they did not make it worse, if that's even possible, and say that my little brother would drop off.

There I was, pretty fearful of the consequences of looking at a naked girl. She was fifteen then. I was too afraid and confused to even think properly whether I did looked at her or not.

Actually, I am pretty sure that I didn’t, because her room was dark. And she wouldn't be completely naked either. There's such things called bras, right?

After that, I think I was somewhat scared of her. She wasn’t the friendliest of person to begin with and obviously that little accident didn’t help.

As I grew up, I felt awkward in WC’s presence. I mean, my family and I visit them sometimes and during Chinese New Year. We still talk, but I always feel the need to end the conversation quickly.

What happened might seem trivial, but now, I think I might be gay.

Not because of just that one incident, of course.

There were other things that my father told me, that might have worked against my sexuality. The little things which played into the nurture component of the equation of sexual identity.

Like how he would be extremely agitated and fearful if I were to go near the lingerie section at the ladies department. Needless to say, I was also forbidden to walk the aisles between the racks or shelves that stacked them.

To me, it didn’t make sense. Instead, it gave me the impression that those things were dirty or taboo. As if going near them would cause bad luck to befall me.

Perhaps he thought I would grow up to be a pervert if I went near them.

At the pasar malam (night market), where there are many stalls which sells clothing and they are usually hung from the canopy, I was not allowed to walked under them. Or specifically, under women’s clothing like dresses and skirts.

Moreover, my dad has never encouraged me to go after girls. Not even implicitly. His actions implied that he is not fond of me associating with any girls or girlie stuff.

I am afraid I could be gynophobic (fear of women).

Another incident that I remember clearly was when I was supposed to spend a night at a classmate’s house after Prom Night. I had already packed my stuff and had reached my friend’s house.

Right before I got out of the car, my dad changed his mind and decided that I come home that night. No matter how late it would be.

His reason, “Two guys in a room, don’t know what you guys would be up to.”

Clearly my dad is also against me associating with other guys too closely.

Sigh, what is a guy to do? It’s a wonder I turned out alright.

Which is why I am writing to you, Ms Ngu.

The problem is that now I am shy to look at girls. When there is a pretty girl who is nearby, I would look at her, but then I would also look away quickly.

It’s because I feel embarrassed if I were to look longer.

Similar thing happens with women in swimsuits or even naked. When such an opportunity arises, guys would undeniably stare long and hard. I couldn’t do it even for five seconds.

I am not saying I blame my dad. But surely, my behaviour now has got a teeny weeny bit to do with all those things.

What is done, has been done. Perhaps it was the way he was brought up. I realise that there is no definite or scientific answer if any of those things affected me and to what degree.

But still, I worry it’s the former, that all these has affected me. What is your opinion Ms Ngu? Am I turning gay? Did the experience cause me to be apprehensive around women and possibly, not attracted to them? Could you please help with my problem?

Flushed Around Girls

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Yay for gay play Part I

I am currently on study leave and I have managed to stay away from the PC for a couple of days. Yet, I think some exercise for my right brain wouldn't hurt; I have been practising extremely high level mathematics till it's all I could think about.

Anyway, this is something we would not find in Malaysia - The October 10th issue of Time Magazine, with the words “Battle over Gay Teens” sprawled over a picture of a very cute guy.

I could be wrong, but I really don’t remember seeing this issue anywhere.

The full article can be found here.

It’s quite long, around ten pages. I know many of you are not a fan of long, except if it’s hard too, so I will just highlight the few paragraphs (in red) which I found to be interesting.

But the odd thing was that the gay (and gay-friendly) élite had gathered to raise money not for one of its established charities--the Human Rights Campaign, say, or the Democratic National Committee--but for an obscure organization that has quietly become one of the fastest-growing gay groups in the nation, the Point Foundation. Launched in 2001, Point gives lavish (often full-ride) scholarships to gay students. It is one of the few national groups conceived explicitly to help gay kids, and it is a leading example of how the gay movement is responding to the emergence this decade of hundreds of thousands of openly gay youths.

How cool is that? A foundation specially for gay students. Of course this is not possible in Malaysia, for one has to openly pronounce one’s sexuality and many would be hesitant to do that.

Though in practice, it’s not wrong to be gay in Malaysia; it’s only illegal to have gay sex or commonly known as carnal intercourse against the order of nature.

Kids are disclosing their homosexuality with unprecedented regularity--and they are doing so much younger. The average gay person now comes out just before or after graduating high school, according to The New Gay Teenager, a book Harvard University Press published this summer. The book quotes a Penn State study of 350 young people from 59 gay groups that found that the mean age at which lesbians first have sexual contact with other girls is 16; it's just 14 for gay boys.

I believe this is also happening in Malaysia, but perhaps the ages might be a little higher. It’s indeed a good development, but then, I am concerned about the kind of exposure they are getting too. With the prevalent culture of casual sex, I don’t think it’s such a great idea that their introduction to the community is sex and more sex, especially when one is only fourteen and there are so many other things to explore.

As it is, aunt agony for pimply teenagers columns like the Big Bro in the Star already has many teenagers writing in about unrequited love, obsessing about sex, lack of friends, betrayal by close friends, crushes, self esteem, body image, etc.

Personally, I feel that these are the growing pains that many of us have gone through and now look back with foolish fondness. Experiences which are essential for our growth, though they may not be entirely welcome.

Furthermore, sex is extremely addictive and attractive, what more to fifteen year olds with raging hormones. Surely, many would be hooked and might neglect other aspects of life. The countable few, who are disciplined and know their priorities, would be the exception rather than the rule.

The appearance of so many gay adolescents has, predictably, worried social conservatives, but it has also surprised gay activists, who for years did little to help the few teenagers who were coming out. Both sides sense high stakes. "Same-sex marriage--that's out there. But something going on in a more fierce and insidious way, under the radar, is what's happening in our schools," says Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an influential conservative litigation group that earlier this year won a court order blocking a Montgomery County, Md., teachers' guide that disparaged Evangelicals for their views on gays. "They"--gay activists--"know if they make enough inroads into [schools], the same-sex-marriage battle will be moot."

Even as adult activists bicker in court, young Americans--including many young conservatives--are becoming thoroughly, even nonchalantly, gay- positive. From young ages, straight kids are growing up with more openly bisexual, gay and sexually uncertain classmates. In the 1960s, gay men recalled first desiring other males at an average age of 14; it was 17 for lesbians. By the '90s, the average had dropped to 10 for gays and 12 for lesbians, according to more than a dozen studies reviewed by the author of The New Gay Teenager, Ritch Savin-Williams, who chairs Cornell's human-development department.

Of course, recalling when one started to have homosexual desires is subjective, as it depends on one’s power of memory. Though of course, it is quite a distinctive memory in itself. For myself, it was in Standard Five, which means I was 11. My ex even claimed he remembered something about seeing or imagining a naked man running down the street at six and couldn't peel his eyes away.

On talk radio, on the Internet and in churches, social conservatives' canniest strategy for combatting the emergence of gay youth is to highlight the existence of people who battle--and, some claim, overcome-- their homosexual attractions. Because kids often see their sexuality as riverine and murky--multiple studies have found most teens with same-sex attractions have had sex with both boys and girls--conservatives hope their "ex-gay" message will keep some of those kids from embracing a gay identity. And they aren't aiming the message just at teens. On one of its websites, the Christian group Focus on the Family has warned that boys as young as 5 may show signs of "gender confusion" and require "professional help."

I vaguely remembered something that happened to me when I was five, which in retrospect, could have affected me more than I am willing to admit.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wanted: Friend

It was indeed interesting that two persons should mentioned about wanting someone sleeping next to them; waking up to someone and have the comfort of knowing he’s there. Right beside them.

And that it should happened in the circumstance when there was opportunity for sex.

Deep down, I suppose everybody wants that. Not the sex bit. I meant the feeling of security; a sense of belonging to someone and vice-versa.

Something simple, yet difficult to attain.

Why is that so?

Somewhat related to my previous post, I mentioned about types, as in “You’re not my type” and “He’s my type.”

People ask this question all the time, “What’s your type?”

“Someone with broad shoulders.”
“Dark, tall and muscular.”
“No sissy or soft.”

Most of the time, it’s physical-wise. Though they sometimes state personalities also – common ones like caring, kind, generous, be there for him all the time, etc.

From the looks of it, the personalities list seems to be easier to fulfill. How hard could it be to find someone who is caring, kind, generous, funny, etc?

But it’s not enough as there is this thing called chemistry.

Last week, when I was on leave for a couple of days, I went into IRC. Haven’t logged in there for a long time, and I wasn’t expecting it to be any different than before.

But then, there was someone that caught my eye – someone who was looking for phone sex.

So I messaged him.

Let’s call him L. It turned out that he recently broke up with his boyfriend of five years. Couldn’t bring himself to meet people again, hence he decided on looking for phone sex.

We started talking and I got to know more about him, even after I pretended to be not interested in phone sex although I really wanted to have declined the offer of having phone sex.

From what I could gather, he has lost quite a few of his loved ones, for someone my age. His grandparents, whom he was really closed with, passed away. Not soon after, he was ditched by the boyfriend.

I can only imagine what it feels like – people leaving you one by one; the feeling of being unloved and abandoned.

His sentiments, I suppose, are more real than the bouts of down-in-the-dumps that I have occasionally.

I offered to lend an ear to him if he ever needed someone to talk to, as he didn’t seem to know many gay people in KL.

In times of need, a listening ear can be all that one needs. Or a shoulder to cry on.

I am well aware that in the gay community, which seems to exist below the radar to most of society, there is a distinct lack of avenues for people to seek help. Or even to meet other decent people.

When I told this to my colleague, he was skeptical of people who are looking for friends and dismissed it as a ploy.

Well, it’s true the conversation with L started with the intent of phone sex and I believe (and hope) he found something deeper and more meaningful than that.

I am not trying to blow my own trumpet, but it was the natural and right thing for me to do at the time. And still is.

No one should ever feel lonely or friendless. Or feel that he will never love again.

In such predicament, surely some help to bounce back is needed. Furthermore if he is one of us and break-ups are as common as flies in gaydom.

Of course, he has to also come to the realisation of the above and accept it as part and parcel of life.

Anyway, we exchanged phone numbers and I text him once every few days.

After a few texts, there was something he asked which I found curious – whether I choose friends based on looks.

That was the first time I was posed with that question. Even though people say that we can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends, surely that is taking the latter a little too seriously?

Yes, we can and do choose our friends.

At times, we make friends because it’s necessary and we have to, like when we are in a new environment or workplace and we need to adapt. Other times, we are chosen as friends by others.

In addition, there are instances when we make friends unexpectedly, in all sorts of unlikely places and circumstances.

A person whom we met for the very first time could become a life-long friend and on the other hand, someone we meet often could never be accorded the same privilege.

Anyway, I think I am veering of my point.

The whole idea I am getting at is that we all feel lonely sometimes and long for someone special in our lives.

And sometimes, the solution could be as simple as having true friends. Or rather, the comfort of knowing one has true friends to depend on.

To quote that frequently aired ad from the Befrienders - It's your right to have a friend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

F**king Rain In the Morning

I knew that sooner or later, the weather would not be favourable to us fabulous people.

The first hike back in May, it rained cats and dogs when we were half way up the mountain. The trips after that, either the clouds held on long enough or cleared for us to have a wonderful trip.

The day started of wet – it had rain almost the entire day on Saturday. I thought surely it would be a nice sunny Sunday. I was wrong.

When we arrived at FRIM before nine, the rain was a drizzle. We were hopeful that when everyone has arrived, the rain would cease completely. I didn’t expect a complete transformation into a bright sunny day – that would be too much to ask for.

The cosmos must have been displeased – it poured even more naturally recycled water on us. And everyone else who were there to jog or to picnic.

Though clearly, some people didn’t mind the rain; they continued running in soaked tees. And no, they weren’t terribly cute.

There were a few new faces – Justin, John, Simon, Brian and Thomas. When all had arrived, we waited at the café to let the rain run its course – which thankfully was at its tail end as we could start our nature walk at about ten.

First object of interest – a pond with the largest fish in er ... Malaysia or somewhere, which I can’t remember because I am a cock person not a fish person. It wasn’t that interesting because all I we could see was just the shape of it and its dorsal – long and black, which looked more like a snake than a fish.

Blame it on the murky water and the rain.

Next, world’s largest bamboo. I have seen it before in Kota Kinabalu, but still it was great to snap another photo of it.

As we entered the forest trail, the canopy provided enough shelter to keep us reasonably dry. I was happier than I was earlier and hoped that it would stay that way.

Sigh, this is getting dull.

The monthly trips are pretty uneventful – it’s the people that make it interesting.
The outings are basically just an avenue for us to socialize and have fun.

Let’s cut to the more interesting bits – the people.

With Eric Teoh amongst us, we were assured of loud, crude and obscene remark every other minute five minutes. In his own words to the first timers “You wouldn’t want to go out with a bunch of terribly boring and dull people, would you?”

I sure hope the first-timers agreed and would continue to join us for the coming trips. His loud behaviour may not necessarily sit well with some people and he could come across as brazenly brash.

Thirteen of us wanted to go on the canopy walk, but that didn’t turn out because of the rain.

Being not a naturally optimistic person, I was trying hard to stay cheery and the weather was not helping one bit.

Amongst the newcomers, Justin looked extremely familiar and I tried to place where I have met him.

He is in his final year and obviously a couple of years younger. Heck, we even stayed in the same hostel, though that bit-- he honestly didn’t remember me.

I was in my final year in 2003 and he entered the university in the same year. I have noticed Justin before, as my gaydar was bleeping madly whenever I saw him, but I never spoke to him during uni days.

On the other hand, he thought that I looked exceptionally like a friend of his, whom it turns out is my brother. Which is like duh!

Sigh, this has happened more time than I could remember. People are always commenting that my brother and I look exceptionally alike, as if we were twins.

Though sometimes, people do correctly recognize that we are brothers. Then they go shoot themselves in the foot when they say that I am the younger brother.

Anyway, we started talking about the cute guys in our university. People whom we both know are gay, and there were quite a few.

Too bad I didn't know any of them whilst I was still studying.

Needless to say, I got along extremely well with Justin.

Then there’s John, who is 21, which makes him the youngest person in the group and had me dethroned.

You see, I was the youngest member ever since the group was formed. Not that I mind, no more being in the center of attention and being taken care of; I knew the honour wouldn’t last anyway.

I have met Simon before in PT’s Sunday session. He’s quite a regular there and I had the chance to know him better. Such a sweet fellow he is; soft spoken and kind.

There’s Thomas, who looks a lot like Jerome Kugan (a local singer-songwriter) – down to the glasses and being bald. Didn’t talk much to him though, probably still shy, and he seemed to have gotten along well with Simon.

Finally, there’s Brian. Don’t know much about him, even though we shared the same car back to PJ. The only thing was that he showed us a few pictures of cute guys in his PDA – people he found to be cute or has slept with. He refused to show us the naked pics though. Hmmph.

To clear things up a bit, the person by the name of Kit who recently has been leaving comments in my blog, is NOT kitjar. He was with us on Sunday.

Kit is knowledgeable in matters regarding HIV/AIDS due to his voluntary work with PT. Nice chap he is, with clean cut looks and short hair.

Next month’s trip will take on an entirely different form; it’s still outdoors but no longer in jungles.

Described as Perak’s best kept secret, I am certain it will be fun and new for me.

Walking in cavernous chambers of limestone in pitch black darkness (well, not exactly as there we need to bring torch lights) it sounds terribly exciting and a little unnerving as I have a fear of the dark.

Caving, anyone?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One happy woman - Part II

This is in relation to a piece of news I posted recently.

I read this in the morning and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

The fiance of transsexual Jessie Chung, who hit the headlines recently when she spilled the beans abut her sex change operation, has proposed to her at least six times, Sin Chew Daily reported.

Joe Ma Si Jian, an accountat in his 30s who is Chung's business partner, started dating her in 2002.

After failing to to get Chung to marry him, Ma proposed to her in a letter written in his blood last year, the daily said.

Chung was touched and finally agreed to marry him.

More than 800 friends and relatives are expected to attend their wedding in Kuching on November 12.

How sweet of the Joe. Though personally, the part where he wrote a letter in blood is a bit scary. Definitely not my idea of romance.

I know I would be apprehensive (brain shouting "Psycho!") if someone were to do that for me.

But enough about me.

Of course, Jessie has known him since 2002. Taken in a positive light, it demonstrated that he really loves her and is willing to spill blood to get into her heart.

Which tells us quite a lot about him.

For one, he is one an open-minded man. Ninety-nine percent of all men would not even give Jessie a second look once they know she's a transsexual.

The usual reaction of sniggering and making jokes would prevail. In fact, I am somewhat guilty too, not because I make those jokes but for not properly admonishing my friends when they do. All I do is not laugh and say it's not funny.

Clearly, I have made the assumption that Joe is born heterosexual. If he was not, the daily would have mentioned it.

Another thing about him is he rejects conventional practices. He gives conservative gender roles and expectations a bitch slap. A man does not necessarily must have a male brain and a female, female brain. And that person is no different from any other human being on Earth; he or she deserves as much respect, dignity and love from all.

Last but not least, he looks deeper beyond appearances. He focuses on what really matters – which is the inside. One can be open-minded about something – merely tolerating or indifferent – but to get to know a person for who he is, that’s something.

I can be nonchalant about some really thick-skulled people who say things like if someone is “naturally-inclined” to be homosexual and we have to accept homosexuality, and thus someone who is “naturally-inclined” to rape acceptable too.

If that person continues to think that way, I would not even bother to get to know him better. He might have a heart of gold and be the most generous person on Earth; unless his positive traits shine through, I wouldn’t dig deeper to know him. Everything, including stupidity, can be overlooked if he was extremely cute with a swimmer-like body.

Very often, we only get to know someone better if he is our “type”. A combination of that off-the-cuff, instant judgment thing called physical attraction and that difficult-to-define and hard-to-grasp thing called chemistry.

I am not saying it’s bad, but it does exclude a lot of people from being one’s friends. Hence, we might miss those who are beautiful inside but no so on the outside, to be our friends.

Though admittedly, it is tiring to know every Tom, Dick and Harry, without some mental checklist of exclusion. Not everybody can be our friends and we can’t possibly get along with everyone.

For myself, I usually don’t dismiss someone just because he’s not my type. I would probably get to know and understand him a little bit more. Then only discard him if his personality is as sparkling as sparkling juice.

Even though marriage does not equate living happily ever after, but for Jessie, getting to the altar is already a cause for celebration. Especially in a patriarchal society.

I wish them all the best and hope they do live happily ever after.

Friday, October 14, 2005


There is this new series which is showing on AXN called Numb3rs.

Knowing me, anything to do with numbers fascinates me.

The series is ala CSI. The only difference is that instead of using evidence found at the crime scene to catch the bad guys, they use numbers. Or more precisely, mathematics.

Apparently, it’s based on actual FBI cases. The executive producers are Ridley and Tony Scott.

The series stars Rob Morrow as FBI agent Don Eppes and David Krumholtz as his mathematical genius brother, Charlie. We also have a quirky and eccentric character, very similar to John Cage of Ally McBeal fame, played by none other than Peter MacNicol (woo, what a surprise!).

The older brother as FBI agent Don Eppes

MacNicol is Charlie’s physicist colleague.

Surely, he is being typecast and it is beginning to get stale. Thankfully, he doesn’t appear too often. Still, it’s too early in the series to tell. (It’s only in its fourth episode in the U.S.)

In the pilot, the FBI had a serial rapist cum killer on a loose. Using a water sprinkler as the light-bulb-creative-idea-source i.e. based on the locations of the water drops that fell to the ground, the origin / location of water sprinkler can be found and as a corollary, based on the location of where his victims were found, the point-of-origin / killer house can be deduced.

So Charlie came out with an elegant formulae (which, of course was not shown) to determine the point-of-origin. Hmmph, they didn't even mention which method or theory he used.

But alas, after the origin has been found, where the area had only about 30 males and all of them had their DNA tested, none of them was the killer.

How now, brown cow?

The maths genius, Charlie

Their father, Alan, played by Judd Hirsch, said something which only people who have lived long enough could say – It’s not your model that is faulty. Your formula is correct. It is the thing we are searching for that is not right.

In layman’s terms, the killer doesn’t just stay in his house and rot, he goes out too. Where? His workplace, of course.

As such, the formula was tweaked a little to determine two probable locations. And they managed to narrow down their suspects to four and one of them had a criminal record and when they go after him, he got panicky and held an officer hostage and bang, bang, case solved.

Interesting stuff, really.

Another gem that was spouted by Dr Fleinhardt, the physicist. A mathematical formulae may be elegant and may capture all the variables, but when human beings are involved, when human behaviour is thrown in, the results it produces is often inaccurate. Humans are imperfect, irrational creatures, thus far from elegant. Make the formulae less elegant, less beautiful, and then you might find that the results are more useful.

Needless to say, I was paraphrasing.

Oh wait, why the heck did I do that, when there is imdb? Silly me.

Here is what he actually said.

Charlie: Larry, something went wrong, and I don't know what, and now it's like I can't even think.
Dr. Fleinhardt: Well, let me guess: you tried to solve a problem involving human behavior, and it blew up in your face.
Charlie: Yeah, pretty much.
Dr. Fleinhardt: Okay, well, Charles, you are a mathematician, you're always looking for the elegant solution. Human behavior is rarely, if ever, elegant. The universe is full of these odd bumps and twists. You know, perhaps you need to make your equation less elegant, more complicated; less precise, more descriptive. It's not going to be as pretty, but it might work a little bit better. Charlie, when you're working on human problems, there's going to be pain and disappointment. You gotta ask yourself, is it worth it?

Truthfully, Numb3rs is engaging but not as much as CSI. The case was pretty straightforward actually.

Hopefully, the characters get more interesting and we get to see more of their personal lives; the cases get more complicated and difficult; some shirtless scenes of the leads; they use more of those stop-motion techniques; the producers show us more insight into how maths is basically everywhere and how useful it is so that more people will take up maths, like how CSI made forensic science cool and students are enrolling in these courses at universities …. Bla, bla …

I better stop here. You rolled your eyes at the last part of there, didn’t you?

Anyway, I will probably be catching it every week from now on. After all, it is mathematics-related. Just like evidence, numbers don’t lie.

Numb3rs is shown on AXN, Mondays (9.00 p.m.); repeats on Tuesdays (12.00 p.m.) and Sundays (11.00 p.m.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Do not let sleeping docs lie

Of course, this misinformation cannot go unchecked. I have written an email and sent it to the Star yesterday.

With regards to the mail from Dr K.Y. Chong (ABC Method to prevent AIDS, 11 Oct), I agree with him that the ruling is indeed groundbreaking.

The good doctor seems to imply that abstinence is the best option and condoms are third best. However, it should be noted there is no best method; it is a combination of methods, which works.

Abstinence in itself does not decrease the infection of HIV. What if someone who have abstained till marriage, have unprotected sex with his/her partner for the first time? Proof of abstinence can’t be verified with certainty.

There is no one glove thats fit all. For people who cannot abstain or be faithful, for whatever reasons, condom is the best option.

The abstinence component of Uganda's strategy focused on efforts to delay first intercourse among young people. As a result of these interventions, surveys indicate that the average age of sexual initiation among females rose from 16.5 years in 1988 to 17.3 in 2000. Among men, the age increased from 17.6 years in 1995 (the first year for which data are available) to 18.3 in 2000.

Contrary to some media reports, Uganda is not an example of an "abstinence-only" prevention program. Rather, the decline of HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Uganda offers testimony to the triumph of the multi-pronged ABC approach.

In fact, the “Be faithful” aspect of Uganda's ABC campaign is believed to be the most significant contributor to the overall decline in HIV infection, and has been particularly successful in reducing the incidence of casual sex. (Generally defined, casual sex refers to those having more than one sexual partner in a 12-month period.)

The whole point I am getting at is that HIV/AIDS program should be a combination of approaches, and not just emphasis on one. The "ABCs," was a great success in Uganda, because they recognize the varied needs and behaviors of individuals and offer them options.

Any intervention that stresses either condoms-only or abstinence-only misses the mark, and is unlikely to significantly slow this deadly pandemic.

As for Botswana and Swaziland, these countries do not emphasis condoms only; public education & awareness, education for young people and prevention of mother to child transmission (MTCT) are other methods used. HIV prevalence is still high is definitely not due to lack of effort, but of the stigma of HIV/AIDS, health infrastructure, political will, resources, etc.

For example, Botswana has become the first African country to aim to provide antiretroviral therapy to its citizens on a national scale. It is believed by many that if any country in Africa is going to succeed in implementing such a comprehensive HIV/AIDS care and treatment programme, then it is Botswana. But its ambitious antiretroviral drug programme, MASA, has not yet been as successful as first hoped. Of the 300,000 HIV-infected people, 110,000 were estimated to meet the criteria to qualify for treatment. The government aimed to enrol 19,000 people in the first year, but only 3,500 were actually enrolled. By June 2004, this had risen to around 18,000.

This disappointing outcome has highlighted a number of issues related to providing antiretroviral therapy. These include the education and training of health care workers and the strength of the infrastructure. If other countries with fewer resources by head of population are to follow the example of Botswana, there are still many lessons to be learned. A considerable emphasis needs to be placed not only on the availability of antiretroviral drugs, but the availability of health care professionals and an adequate infrastructure.

All the points above are taken from Population Action International and Human Rights Watch website. A simple Google search of “Uganda AIDS prevention program” will yield the relevant links.

Derek Lee

Doctored letter

A very interesting and misleading letter published in the Star on Tuesday.

ABC method to prevent AIDS

I READ with concern the report, “Landmark ruling on HIV disclosure” (The Star, Oct 6) on a judge in New Zealand, who, in a court hearing, made a groundbreaking decision that men with HIV which causes AIDS are not legally obliged to tell their sexual partners of their condition if they use a condom.

I fear that this ruling may convey a wrong message with regards to AIDS prevention.
Usage of condoms may offer some protection in the transmission of HIV but this protection is not 100% and this evidence is backed by many studies.

The Catholic Church does not approve of condoms but instead advocates abstinence and marital fidelity.

Some may argue that the Catholic Church’s stance on condoms is causing death but this sort of thinking is illogical.

Studies in Uganda have shown that abstinence programmes had been successful in bringing down the prevalence of AIDS compared with other African countries such as Swaziland or Botswana where HIV transmission is rampant despite high condom usage.

Perhaps one should take the ABC approach to AIDS prevention:
1) ABSTAIN from sex;
2) BE faithful to one’s partner; and

Condoms are still only the third best option.

Whether the HIV epidemic would be different if the first message had been on marital sex only with a lesser emphasis on condoms is impossible to determine.

Bioethics Subcommittee,
Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur.

Does anyone feel something fishy about the letter? A hidden agenda maybe?

Call me over-sensitive if you like, but the good doctor has somehow taken something which is factual and scientific and turn it into preaching about abstinence and the Catholic Church.

Instead of speaking from the medical point of view, it became a religious one.

Now, I have nothing against that. I respect his right to his opinion.

Let’s look at the letter again.

It started well when he disagrees with the New Zealand court’s decision. But instead of focusing on the consequences of it, he goes on to attack the effectiveness of condoms.

The U.S government provides funds for HIV prevention globally, especially to poorer countries and where the prevalence is high. Obviously, African countries are on the list of recipients of fund.

In the past three years, since the Bush administration came into place, it is pretty clear that they have a conservative policy.

And in this case, conservative does mean supporting the Catholic Church’s policy of not condoning condoms. In fact, the U.S. government has to resort to disparaging the efficacy of condoms to “scare” people into abstinence and being faithful.

Condom usage is an important part of a HIV/AIDS prevention program. No method works well by itself. In fact, the American Foundation for AIDS research (AmFAR) brochure states that:

The scientific evidence does not support the recent shift in U.S. government policy that stresses lack of condom efficacy in educational materials and other publications from organizations that receive federal funds. Rather, the evidence shows that both male and female condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS, especially when used as part of a comprehensive prevention program.

It really gets to me when people use false information to propel their agenda. Especially when it is religion-related.

I would expect a doctor to be more careful, but in this case, his religion seems to have superseded his professionalism.

Oh, did I mention that the Uganda example is just plain wrong? It’s a “fact” hijacked by the U.S government and conservatives to promote the message that abstinence is the way to go.

Human beings will have sex, especially teenagers with their raging hormones and curiosity to experiment. Not having sex is no longer the thing to do. Condom is the most effective way of preventing the transmission of STDs, since people are going to have sex anyway.

Promoting abstinence and at the same time spreading lies about condoms are putting people's lives at risk. It’s like telling people to not play with fire and saying that fire extinguishers are not effective.

If people are going to play with fire regardless or if a fire is going to happen anyway ... I am sure you get my point.

However, let me stress that condoms are not 100% effective. But it is sufficiently effective to prevent HIV infection.

The below is taken from here.

At the behest of Coburn and other condom critics, National Institute of Health in June 2000 convened a panel of experts for a two-day workshop to examine the body of evidence on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the transmission of eight STDs: HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and HPV. The panel considered 138 peer-reviewed articles in all.

It determined that "condition-specific" studies were sufficiently methodologically strong to warrant a definitive conclusion only for HIV and gonorrhea. Accordingly, in its carefully worded summary report issued in July 2001, the panel concluded that consistent and correct condom use prevents (in addition, of course, to pregnancy) transmission of HIV between women and men and gonorrhea transmission from women to men.

Beyond that, the panel concluded, the published epidemiologic literature is insufficient to warrant definitive statements specific to the other six STDs considered by the panel.

That there are insufficient studies specific to the six other STDs reviewed by the panel to warrant a definitive statement does not mean, however, that no assumptions can be made about the protective effect of condoms with regard to those diseases. Indeed, a critical conclusion in the workshop summary report that largely has been overlooked is that condoms are "essentially impermeable" to even the smallest of STD viruses. Based on that finding—that "studies...have demonstrated that condoms provide a highly effective barrier to the transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD virus"—two important assumptions can be made and, in fact, are made in the workshop report itself.

So there.

When supposedly "intelligent" people are so easily misled, when they can't think for themselves and didn't check the facts properly, what more about the rest of society?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Natural born killers

Natural disasters seem to be the overriding theme in the Year of the Cock.

Just like the term cock-eye, nature does not see clearly, where or who, it strikes with its fury.

Barely a month ago, U.S. experience the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, Japan shook under the power of Typhoon Nabi and China had to face Typhoon Talim.

A little more than a week ago, there was Hurricane Stan which hit Guatemala. The death toll is now 652 from this unwidely-publicised storm, and still rising.

But typhoons and hurricanes can be predicted because they are formed over seas and they may or may not hit shores.

Earthquakes and volcanoes are different. We don’t have the technology yet to detect these calamities before they happen.

The most recent earthquake that struck one of the poorest country in the world (2000 GDP ranking was 146, with a population of 160 million) has got me thinking.

One can’t help but wonder why disasters seem to hit those who can do without such added misfortune.

People who are already impoverished, with many young mouths to feed.

Areas which are not developed and remote, where houses are made from wood and crumble easily. And it happened on a Saturday morning, when scores of children were attending school.

It’s obvious that it doesn’t matter whether one believes in a particular God or not; no one is spared.

Or maybe He is making a point that no particular belief and no one is above others.

We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature. The Earth is just going through its own cycle of life.

I echoed this writer’s point of view:
Let's put 2005 in pulpit perspective. The tsunami, as the old year ended, destroyed Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and churches with indiscriminate violence. It swept away the agnostic pleasure domes of Thailand's tourist coast. It drowned people of almost every religion and none. Add New Orleans for the cymbal clash of the born-again and the black, for Southern Baptists and old-time religionists, and what have you got? A year of disaster spread and shared. A year when every God - or no god at all - seemed angry. A year with a mission to destroy.

On a somewhat positive note, this disaster might bring Pakistan and India a little closer, or at least for now, over the long disputed Kashmir area.

Whether these natural occurrences are really part of the climatic cycle of Earth or that the frequency and severity of these events have actually increased due to human activities, I will leave it to the scientists to find out.

To be really cynical, I wouldn’t put past some deluded people to proclaim that this disaster as yet another “wrath of God”. To destroy a supposedly terrorists’ hotbed area.

I sincerely hope that aid reaches the victims promptly so that unnecessary deaths due to diseases can be minimised.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Announcement and gripe

Ladies and gentlemen. A little announcement on behalf of LPG.

LPG, a PLU support group is organising for a trip to Penang during the Deepavali holidays. Please come and join us and make more friends along the way from KL up to Penang!

It would be fun to travel with one whole lot of PLUs in a bus. The trip include meeting up with PLUPenang group, Halloween Party, Pulau Paya Marine Park, Team building, workshops, makan-makan and sight seeing.

It's a four-days, three-nights trip, from 29th October till 1st November.

For more details, please click here.

Clearly I won't be going, as I have an exam on the 7th! And I would love to go!

The trips organised by LPG are a lot of fun, really.

By the way, while surfing aimlessly, I found out that Lan Yu is currently playing in Singapore.

I am sure it has an R rating or something.

But still, it is better than over here, where the probability of it being shown is smaller than the probability of Keanu Reeves winning an Oscar for Best Actor.

Also, Corpse Bride is being shown in Singapore already, while we have to wait till October 27.


Friday, October 07, 2005

No difference between men and women

I read in yesterday’s the Star that there are no behavioural differences between the sexes. The widespread behaviour of girls liking pink and boys like trucks are believed to be more from parental expectation – parents tend to provide pink frilly dresses to girls and buy loud toys for boys.

At least, according to Janet Shibley Hyde.

Her remarkable claim that 78% of all gender differences are small or close to zero, was what got my interest piqued.

In her research, she concluded that there are three areas where there is significant difference – motor behaviour (e.g. throwing distance), measures of sexuality (e.g. masturbation and attitude towards casual sex) and physical aggression (self explanatory).

The methodology used was meta-analyses, an accepted statistical method for aggregating research findings across many studies of the same question. The analyses would produce d, which is the magnitude of an effect or gender difference.

The gender difference value is categorized into
  • close-to-zero (d<0.1)
  • small (0.11<d<0.35)
  • moderate (0.36<d<0.65),
  • large (0.66<d<1.00)
  • very large (d>1.00)
Negative values of d mean females scored higher on a dimension and positive values indicate that males scored higher.

After reading her paper, titled The Gender Similarities Hypothesis and scanning her lists of variable, I found it interesting that some psychological behaviours are small or moderate, like:
  • vocabulary (-0.02)
  • talkativeness (-0.11)
  • self-disclosure to friend (-0.28)
  • smiling (-0.40).
For all of the above, negative values mean the ladies scored better. Personally, I would expect a larger d.

Don't women talk a lot more? -0.11 means only marginal and small difference. And even self-disclosure is considered small. Don't women share more openly, even the intimate details? ;P

For positive values of d, the behaviours include:
  • spatial perception (+0.44)
  • intrusive interruptions in conversation (+0.33)
  • physical aggression (+0.59)
  • aggression under provocation (+0.15)
  • masturbation (+0.96)
  • arousal to sexual stimuli (+0.31)
  • helping other people under surveillance (+0.74).
The masturbation one, I can understand. *snigger*

Men in general do have a higher need for sexual release.

Helping other people under surveillance means showing off; men are more egotists mar.

But arousal to sexual stimuli only +0.31 (small difference)?

Aggression under provocation +0.15 (small difference)? Their sample must have been mostly gay men.

Heh. Interesting findings actually.

The debate on differences or similarities between the sexes has been brought to the mainstream, thanks to John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus. There are actually many studies on both sides of the fences.

Based on her results, she goes on to argue that the widespread and popularly held beliefs like boys are better in mathematics than girls, women are more caring and nurturant and adolescent girls have lower self-esteem, have social and economic costs which we may not be aware of.

For example, parents have lower expectations for their daughters’ math success than for their sons’, despite the fact that girls earn better grades in math. Thus, a girl’s talent in maths may not be nurtured, or worse, not discovered at all.

The thing is that, research has shown repeatedly that parents’ expectations for their children’s mathematics success relate strongly to outcomes such as the child’s mathematics self-confidence and performance, with support for a model in which parents’ expectation influence children.

Basically, if you are terrible in maths, you can blame your parents. But only if they expected you to be bad in maths, when you were younger.

That last point there, about parents’ expectations on their children’s performance, is backed by a research by Frome & Eccles (1998).

Of course, I have some thoughts on it relating to sexuality, but that would be in another post. ;P

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Last Kiss

Remember the friend I came out to a few months back? He sent me some interesting pictures, yesterday.

The subject title read "Lovely Couple".

I was expecting some lovey-dovey straight couple pictures, but I was in for a surprise.

Furthermore, it was sent to my office email address!

If the IT Department want to, they can check all the emails that are sent in or out.

Clearly, office policy doesn't allow porn to be sent or received.

Hmm, but technically, pictures of naked men don't qualify as porn, do they?

What about pictures of a semi-naked or naked male couple?

Heh. I know they are not porn, but they will surely invite a lot of unwanted questions and suspicious glares, if I were ever caught looking at them.

I couldn't think straight Sanity must have left me as I threw caution to the wind.

I opened one picture. Then I quickly closed the file coz someone was walking pass, right at that moment.

Reality sinks in again.

My office is open and my people walk pass all the time.

And I have a sweet Indian girl sitting next me. A person that is all homely, goody, nice, kind, with a child-like innocence and not exposed to (so-called) evils of the world like homosexuality and atheism.

I was tempted to open another.

But I delayed my gratification and waited till lunch hour when the office is mostly empty ....

They may not be cute, but they do look like a happy and loving couple. ;P

Not surprisingly, these pics brings to mind a phrase from the song Last Kiss, by Pearl Jam: Where, oh where, can my baby be?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

One happy woman and man

A little good news to start off the day, taken from The Star.

This is one happy woman


SHAH ALAM: Jessie Chung is a femme fatale. She has a sexy figure and is attractive.

But, the most striking quality about her is that she was man enough to be a woman. And she is getting married in November.

Chung was born Jeffrey more than 30 years ago into a wealthy family in Kuching.

Growing up a tormented man, Chung once even contemplated suicide.

“At that point, I heard a voice telling me not to kill myself. Two weeks later, I was in a mall and was approached by a missionary group telling me life was precious.”

Armed with renewed strength, she began to sing for charity and immersed herself in church work. To date, she has raised about RM500,000 for orphanages, single mothers and other worthy organisations.

Two years ago, she decided to complete the “transformation.” She underwent three major operations to become a woman.

“It was scary and I recall asking myself if this was really what I wanted,” said Chung.

Too afraid to tell her parents face to face that they would be losing a son but gaining a daughter, Chung chose to break the news by phone.

“My father, strangely, was calm about it. My parents are amazing. I truly appreciate them for their understanding. Life is beautiful at the moment,” said Chung.

But not everyone is so supportive. At her engagement party in September last year, a former classmate said that what she had done was against nature and sinful.

“I am sorry if she finds me offensive, but I am not sorry for being honest with myself. I cannot live a life which is a lie. I did not ask to be born this way.

“All I want is, to do good in life and find some happiness,” said Chung.

Thankfully, the report was not written in a sensational style to garner attention.

Though the same can't be said of the print version.

The report appeared on page four, under Nation. On the front page however, a picture of a man is shown, next to the words "Man enough to be a woman".

To be fair, the Star does report about marriages. Especially if there is something different about the marriage or the events or courtship leading to matrimony.

I still remember the report about the bridegroom who jogged 8 kilometers to his wife-to-be's house to pick her up.

The way I see it, this piece of news is honest, non-judgmental and positive. Her good and generous side was described, showing her as someone who cares for society and actually does something about it.

Although admittedly, there seems to be a shade of sympathy-eliciting sentiment towards the end.

It would have been fascinating if the reporter digged deeper and provided more information about how she returned from the brink of suicide and her charity work.

I believe the details would have been interesting and could serve as an inspiration.

Still, it is good publicity, to show society that everyone of us, no matter what, is part of the human race, with a innate need for love and companionship.

On a similar note, I have some good news of my own.

The results for the August paper I sat for was released yesterday.

And I passed! Yay!

However, I am not popping the champagne yet, as I will be sitting for another paper next month, on the 7th. That is the big kahuna.

The one that I passed - that was a small paper.

So I was thinking I will celebrate both simultaneously, assuming of course that I pass November's paper too. *cross fingers*

As I type this, I am listening to the James Blunt CD. His songs are beginning to grow on me. ;P

Monday, October 03, 2005

You're beautiful

Gotta run off to meet someone ....

The person I met up with last Friday was Legolas. Or Leggy Lego Legs for short.

I was fashionably ten minutes late because of the rain and he was at Times Square even before six, the time we agreed on.

He said he was at Starbucks waiting for me. I had in my mind images of how he might look like – blonde longish hair, meltingly sweet smile, carrying bows and arrows – which of course were illogical.

I stepped into Starbucks and immediately noticed him because he was the only one sitting alone at a table I have seen his picture before. Obviously, I apologized profusely for being late and thankfully, he had a book to read to pass the time.

This would be the "Awww, shucks!" moment of the evening as he gave me a gift.

How can? First meet only and giving gifts already and there I was empty-handed.

I thought it was a book, a thin one, and put it away in my bag.

After a short conversation, we proceeded to this Thai restaurant called Siam Square. I suggested the place, though I haven’t been there before.

Me being directionally-challenged The floor plan being user-unfriendly (the red dot which says “You are here” was wrong) it took me a couple of minutes to figure out the location of the place.

The food was quite good. Palatable lar. Will probably go there again.

To side track a little here. Actually, the place we agreed on earlier was KLCC. But as the TSG (The Straits Games) organized by LPG, which kicked off with bowling, was being held in Sungei Wang Plaza, I suggested Times Square instead.

The Straits (Straights?) Games (TSG) started in 2002 as a friendly annual sports event between the LGBT communities in Singapore(MAW) and KL to foster friendship and promote a healthy lifestyle.TSG2005 'Friendship Beyond Games' aims to raise HIV/AIDS awareness as well.

While we were having dinner, my colleague who was one of the volunteers for the event, called and asked what time we would be joining him. We quickly paid and headed for Sungei Wang.

I was not taking part, but I wanted to ogle at the cute Hongkies, Singaporeans, Thais players show support to the players.

Only the bowling participants were there, while the volleyball, badminton and squash players were shopping or sightseeing or doing whatever else that interest them.

The Singaporeans and Hongkies were cute. There were three Japanese players but none took part in bowling, thus I didn’t get to see them.

Apparently, they were extremely cute too.

I was busy talking to some of the people there that I kinda ignored Legs *looks embarrassed*

But, but ... luckily my friend was talking to him. And we managed to find out what kind of physical appearance turns Legs on, when he commented on one sexy and hunky Hongkie dressed in a tight tee.

We left the bowling alley at nine. Legs had earlier suggested going to his friend’s friend’s birthday party. He said we won’t be party-crashers, as he didn’t know the birthday boy either.

While waiting for his friend to come pick us up, we sat down at Starbucks for a cuppa.

Needless to say, it was an excellent opportunity to get to know him better.

Legs is friendly, and clearly, a generous person. Although he is a bit pessimistic of his future, as in difficulty in finding someone for a long-term relationship, the breeders don’t have it easier anyways. They too have to look for the needle in the haystack or the pearl in the sand, as marriage is supposed to be a lifetime covenant.

So cheer up, Legs. Meet more people. Have more sex. Go out more often. Live life to the fullest.

Live as if you were going to die tomorrow. - Gandhi

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. – Abraham Lincoln

Anyway, the gift from Legs was a CD by James Blunt called “Back to Bedlam”. Cool CD actually, with the first single “You’re Beautiful” getting quite a lot of airplay for some time already.

It also went to the top of the UK chart in July.

Heh, it was really sweet of him. I really like it a lot. ;P

Thanks again, Legs. You're Beautiful, it's true.

You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw you face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with you.
You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
There must be an angel with a smile on her face,
When she thought up that I should be with you.
But it's time to face the truth,
I will never be with you.
- You're Beautiful, James Blunt

You're Beautiful - believe that, and I am certain that you will find someone who will truly love you for you.