Thursday, November 24, 2005

Exciting events coming up

I am helping a friend to post this here.

Dear Friends,

Please come support PT Foundation’s Community Fund-Raiser of the Year – the East Is Red Carnival:

Date: Sunday 27 November
Venue: twelveSI on Jalan Sultan Ismail (opposite Shangri-la Hotel)

Time & Program:

4pm – 7pm: The Courtyard @ twelveSI
Featuring Mardi Gras performances, Chef Wan, ‘Fantasy’ Fashion Show by FAME Entertainment, Charm All Star Cheerleaders, PTF Bunny Boys. Plenty more surprises in store!

6pm: Gerai the Café @ twelveSI
Buffet Dinner in aid of PT Foundation at only RM25.00

7pm – 3 am: Atmosphere the Club
Featuring DJs Bobby B, Fendie, and Louis

Admission by a door donation of RM35.00 per person. Every ringgit goes to PT Foundation for HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Programmes.

East-Is-Red is part of PT Foundation’s World AIDS Campaign to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and fund-raise for PT Foundation. It is produced by twelveSI and organized by KLiQ. PT Foundation is very appreciative of twelveSI and KLiQ for their generosity and sincerity in staging this event.

PT Foundation is in dire and urgent need for funding as we are very short of funding assistance this year. So please come support us and have a good time in the process.

Event details at PT Foundation and at KLIQ.

See you there.


Another upcoming event is the Red Carnival @ Fiesta Street, Sungai wang Plaza. This
is a public event with street stage performances from 12 noon to 7pm on the 3rd (Saturday) & 4th (Sunday) of December. Bunny ambassadors dish out red ribbons, wrist bands, balloons for a donation. The event is supported by RedFM, 988, TV3, and 8TV.

Ms Malaysia / World finalists, Malaysian Idol Daniel and a string of celebrities are expected to show up.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I watched an early screening of Zathura yesterday with Chris at KLCC.

As it was free seating, I went in first while Chris queued up for drinks and popcorn. The movie was supposed to be in cinema hall 10, but when I got near the hall, someone with a hailer said that Zathura was going to be shown in hall 11 and would start soon.

I immediately went out to tell Chris. After he got the popcorn, we proceeded to hall 11.

We had a strange feeling as we entered the hall. I noticed that other people were holding yellow tickets, while we had tickets which were postcard-size with the poster of Zathura on it.

That’s strange. Perhaps the organizer gave two different kinds of tickets.

And then there was the guy with the hailer, conducting a lucky draw at the front. The prizes weren’t Zathura merchandise, but some other stuff which I had no idea what.

We then realized that we were in the wrong hall. The same movie was to be shown in two halls. The hall that we were in was for Ragnorak winners. Whereas the one which we got were tickets from Light and Easy (a radio channel) and the winners were in hall 10.

Whatever. We were comfortable in our seats and were reluctant to move.

Nevertheless, I went to check out the other hall and told Chris to stay put. The other cinema was almost full and there were only a few seats left.

But they were a mere two rows from the screen.

No way, Jose that I was going to take a seat in this hall. Besides, hall 10 is the smaller one.

The bigger, the better ma.

I quickly returned to Chris and told him that we were staying put. We had great seats and we’re not giving them up!

Before you start thinking that we’re mean bitches to deny other people their seats, let me point out that it was also free seating in this hall. The movie was about to start and there were many empty seats.

Of course we were a bit uneasy whenever someone came in. An unfounded fear that we would be kicked out of the hall.

We told ourselves that when the movie starts, it would be OK.

But it was amazingly irritating that people were still coming in ten minutes into the movie, even though the movie had started at least twenty minutes late.

And this extremely late family of four was the one who asked us what were our seat numbers. Just as I was about to ignore answer them, someone came up to them and suggested that they sit at the other side of the cinema.


Finally, we get to enjoy the movie.

The movie was enjoyable; very much similar to Jumanji – two kids found a strange board game, they started playing, weird and dangerous things start to happen, someone who played the game earlier but stuck in the game showed up, the new guy helped the kids defeat the dangerous creatures and the only way to end was to finish the game.

In the midst of all, there was a moral lesson to be learnt.

The two leading kids (one ten year-old and the other six and three quarters) were good and convincing in their roles. When they were just playing kids and be themselves, that was cute. When they argued and bickered with their whining voices, that was really annoying.

Their antics were funny too.

Not much bones to pick as it is basically a feel-good and fun movie with enough doses of adventure and excitement. Though the ending was a bit perplexing.

I rate it a 3 out of 5.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Harry Potter and Gobbledygook

I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Thursday.

By now, I am certain most of you would have already watched it.

Nevertheless, I would stick to general observations anyway.

Bringing a 700-over-page book to the large screen is a monumental task. The director, Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) managed to do so, but barely.

The book was fast-paced and exciting, with the Triwizard Tournament and Harry’s dreams of Voldemort as the main themes in the fourth year at Hogwarts. There were also other events which took place like the Yule Ball, Harry having crushes, Rita Skeeter, etc.

Understandably, none of the above could be fleshed out sufficiently. The initial idea of filming Goblet of Fire as a two-parter was discarded.

In hindsight, that may have been a better idea.

In addition, Dumbledore was, to put it bluntly, played poorly and out of character by Michael Gambon. Richard Harris is sorely missed. He definitely embodied the spirit and personality of a good headmaster, caring about Harry’s welfare and safety with a gentle sparkle in his eyes.

Gambon just doesn’t have that charisma and persona.

I also feel that the Triwizard competition was not fully taken advantage of. I would have loved to see any one of Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour achieved the golden egg task. As it is, only Harry’s was shown.

Oh well.


Last Friday, I was having a conversation with some Muslim colleagues about the hottest wedding of the year.

According to them, the Quran only mentions that when someone is born a khunsa (hermaphrodite or intersex), that person can then choose which sex he or she wants to be.

In all other circumstances, one must stick with the body one is given by God and no alterations may be made to the physical body.

To me, that is not a sex change. That is merely a choice between two sexes. Heck, even choice is the wrong word, as his or her sexuality would have already been wired into the brain.

“Oh shit, I have a dick and a pussy. Which one should I be? Shall I become male or female? Arrgh, so confusing …”

I believe that the above is unlikely to happen.

Taken from wikipedia:
Some research has been done that indicates that gender identity is fixed in early childhood and is thereafter static. This research has generally proceeded by asking transsexuals when they first realized that the gender role that society attempted to place upon them did not match the gender identity that they found in themselves and the gender role that they chose to live out. These studies estimate the age at which gender identity is formed at around 2-3.

That study has been questioned for being biased. Though the ages may be a bit young, I do think that awareness of one’s gender identity is natural and not a learnt process. It’s not something that one consciously decides on.

For more information on gender identity, please go here.

Back to the conversation.

As only khunsa is stated in the Quran, they believe that God wouldn’t create someone who is misaligned in their outward physiology and gender identity.

Of course they are mistaken and I point them here.

It’s an article about Iran allowing a transsexual to have a sex-change operation because sexual ambiguity made it impossible for her to carry out her religious duties properly.

That woman is Maryam Molkara. She said:

"I told him (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) I had always had the feeling that I was a woman," she says. "I wrote that my mother had told me that even at the age of two, she had found me in front of the mirror putting chalk on my face the same way a woman puts on her make-up. He wrote back, saying that I should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman."

If a doctor in Iran can be broad-minded and understands that “Transsexuals aren't homosexuals. Unlike homosexuals, they suffer from a separation of body and soul where they believe their own body doesn't belong to them.” [Taken from the same article.]

Indeed, Islamic scholars are still trying to reconcile the fatwa with religious thinking. Hojatolislam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, a cleric based in the holy city of Qom, is writing a PhD thesis on transsexuality. "The basic humanity of the person is preserved," is his conclusion. "The change is simply of characteristics."

Which I believe is what matters. The substance and meaning of being human, such as dignity, love and respect, should override superficiality and forms like gender in the identification card.

All these talk about gender identity, same-sex marriage, trangenderism, etc miss one truly important point. The two people who got married are just that - two people who deserve to live a life they want and be treated equal, just like everyone else.

Is what is written in a book so important and powerful, that we let it do the thinking for us? That we should abandon our sense of compassion, empathy and love for another fellow human being?

I sincerely hope not. Though I do realise that often, common sense isn't that common ...

[Gobbledygook: In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, Gobbledygook is the language spoken by goblins. Also used to describe nonsensical language.]

Thursday, November 17, 2005


One of the good things from the so-called “Wedding of the Year” is the publicity.

Though some opined that they should have done it quietly and not generate so much attention.

But what is so wrong about two people in love getting married? Why are people so set in their thinking that they can’t bear to see two people who are different from them, pursue the same goals and path to happiness?

It took Joshua Beh six proposals to get her hand in marriage, because Jessie she was “Terrified of ruining his life, she rejected his proposals - even though it broke her heart. There was nothing Miss Zhong would have liked more than to be married to her boyfriend of two years, but her love for him stopped her from saying yes.” [Taken from here.]

Besides that, it really incensed me that some people are calling this a same-sex marriage. They believe that Jessie was born a woman and thus she is a woman. A pastor even called her "half-half".

Taken from Bernama:
Asked on their sex life, Chung, who described her sex life as "fantastic" said they were satisfied living as husband and wife.

On whether they would have "children", she said that they have no plans yet at the moment.

Perhaps Bernama has its own "ideas" about sex, that it is somehow "different" from normal sex. Why, their "clever" minds even think that their children will be "special".

These woefully uninformed people are clearly unaware of intersex or hermaphrodites and all sorts of other genetic variations like Turner syndrome and triple-X syndrome.

It all comes down to two things actually. Fear of the unknown. Fear of things that are not in black or white. So much fear that one can’t even think straight and act insensitively and inhumanely.

Surely you would also have noticed that the ones who are objecting are mostly males? Yes, that’s the second thing – the perception that a patriarchal society is being threatened.

How? No idea.

Probably husbands who are already married would want to marry their best male friend and that some women perfectly happy with who they are would want to have a sex change.

The Malaysia government clearly state that they can’t change the gender in one’s IC (identification card) because it’s based on the genetic and biological sex at birth.

It’s silly, really.

People change all the time. When one applies for IC at the age of 12, a picture is taken. Why require people to change their IC when they’re 18?

I still look like the same. I still have similar features – small eyes, sharp nose, wear glasses, etc.

For the simple reason that the IC should reflect the person currently, your present physical aspects and not someone 10 or 20 years ago.

That’s the logical part. The other part is political and religious of course. If the government were to allow the change in gender on the IC, it would imply that the they support transsexualism, or at the very least, is OK about it.

It is also a disturbing fact that society in general can’t distinguish between transgenderism, homosexuality, bestility and bisexuality.

This was apparent when Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said "to make a thorough study of the problems and issues affecting the transgender group, such as homosexuality, bisexuality and same-sex marriage."

Furthermore, a lot of people still think that homosexuality and transgenderism is a Western import. Thus they used the all too familiar argument of “This is against our Asian culture and values.”

Yeah, and so are automobiles, mobile phones, decent toilet facilities, kissing, using forks and spoons and shopping malls. Aren’t those things foreign too?

Moreover, what are Asian culture and values anyway? Bound feet, women not looking directly at men when talking, polygamy, arranged marriage, young girls stop schooling when they are twelve, no holding hands between couples, etc?

Are Asian values synonym with good and Western culture bad? How does one separate what is Eastern and Western anyway, when many things are getting homogenous and practiced in a lot of countries?

We all know that homosexuals and transgenders have existed since the Greeks and ancient Chinese dynasties.

Coincidentally, this issue is brought up on Fridae, where Alex Au said that Asian countries should document our own queer history.

That if we were asked to prove “that homosexuality didn't come to Singapore – or Cambodia, Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand or whichever country you're in – from the West. He wants you to prove that the first documented case of homosexuality in his country occurred before the farangs (Thai for westerner or Caucasian), gweilos (Hong Kong/Cantonese term which literally means foreign devil), mat sallehs (Malay term to mean westerner or Caucasian) and angmohs (Hokkien term which literally means red hair) showed up at the Nation party.

And frankly, most of us would have a hard time doing so.

What do we know, for example, of homosexually-inclined people of our own Asian country who lived two generations before us? What was it like to be homosexual in Shandong in the 1920s? In Malaya in the 1940s? In Vietnam in the 1960s?

They left little record of their lives. What thoughts filled their private moments? Where did they meet? What did they themselves think of their deepest longings? For answers, we generally have but blank pages.

The absence of history however, is not without consequence. We shouldn't be surprised that many people go around thinking that homosexuality never existed in our local cultures until imported from the West, and on that presumption accuse us of being misguided and see homosexuality as a threat to traditional culture.

Being queer is definitely not some foreign, decadent culture from the West. It has always been around, but with very little visibility in the past, if at all.

People of all levels of society has missed the forest for the trees. It all boils down to this actually – two people who are happily in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Everything else should be secondary.

Is that not too much to ask? Apparently, it is.

[In case you were wondering, there is no typo or spelling error in the title.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One happy woman - Part III

As I have posted news reports on this earlier, it only makes sense that I continue doing so.

I believe most major dailies covered the wedding of Jessie Chung and her fiancé, which took place on Sunday.

Chung is no celebrity but her wedding to Beh, an accountant, is the talk of the town and has attracted hordes of pressmen here and from Singapore.

The high-profile wedding is believed to be the first of its kind in the country – the stunning bride was born a male here more than 30 years ago.

Chung, whose original name was Jeffrey, underwent three major operations to become a woman three years ago.

To look at it in a positive light, I suppose the publicity generated is good in bringing visibility to the marginalized members of society. To raise the fact that marriage is a covenant of love for everyone, and is not the exclusive right of straight couples.

However, a lot of other people do not share my view on marriage, of course. We have to realise that a wedding is not a sign of acceptance or even tolerance from the public. Far from it.

This was aptly proven when the Home Affairs Ministry and National Evangelical Christian Fellowship's views were published yesterday.

The Minister said that “Malaysian laws do not allow its citizens to change their gender in their identity cards despite having gone through a sex operation.”

In addition, the Marriage and Divorce Reform Act 1976 does not allow marriages between two people of the same sex, even if one of them has undergone a sex change operation.

What the Christian guy said was typical: "It’s clearly stated in the Bible. There is no such thing as creation of half-half. Therefore, biologically and genetically, there is only male and female."

Clearly, he has no knowledge whatsoever about the intricacies of sexuality and sexual identity. Furthermore, he is clearly ignorant of the fact that the brain is the largest sexual organ. And definitely more indicative of sexual identity than visible sexual organs.

In another related news report today:

The help of local universities and experts will be sought to conduct research on transgender issues to enable the Government to deal with issues affecting this group of people.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the time was right to make a thorough study of the problems and issues affecting the transgender group, such as homosexuality, bisexuality and same-sex marriage.

She said it was important to first understand why people resorted to sex change or were attracted to the same sex.

Research papers on transgender issues done overseas would be studied, she added.

Shahrizat said such matters could not be swept under the carpet and while the ministry was prepared to assist any marginalised group.

“It also has great social impact and, personally, I believe we should not punish or discriminate against anybody,” she said.

Is this good or bad? I applaud the logical approach that Women, Family and Community Development Minister is taking, i.e. that there has to be an underlying cause for such things and that she is interested to know why.

At least, she is not judgmental and did not take a religious point of view. Moreover, she is willing to learn and explore the issue and not stick with conventional stereotypes and prejudices.

Obviously, she wouldn't need to spend as much money and resource on the study if she had done a little reading and thinking of her own. Based on the all available information and research done worldwide, and if she was really fair, she is likely to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is very much genetically-caused.

An example of being religion-biased and yet failing to see it for yourself is this interview with a Singaporean minister:
As a Christian, do your religious beliefs affect you in your decision making?
You have to make decisions according to policies, what is right for Singapore, and Singapore is secular.

But as a mature religious person, your values are internalised. That's how you act, speak, present yourself. But you don't think, oh, as a Christian, what should this policy be?

At temples for instance, I attend festivals and so on, just that I don't hold joss sticks.

You said gay sex is 'not natural'. Is that something that comes out of your religious beliefs?
Yes, could be. Well, I won't attribute it directly. I look at it more as a family bedrock thing, that a family is based on a man and a woman. I think all the main religions in Singapore believe it's how we are made.

Anyway, from what I know, a UM researcher has already approach PT Foundation to arrange a meeting with a group of gays. The meeting took place a couple of months ago and those who volunteered to be interviewed fall into a specific demographic – 18 to 45 years old and speaks Chinese.

The rationale for the criteria of the participants was questioned. Apparently, the researchers have also done a discussion with English speaking participants and they intend to conduct a few more group discussions with different ethnic groups and different age groups.

It all seems promising, yet somewhat scary, doesn’t it? But I am withholding judgment and keeping my fingers crossed. Let’s just wait for the results of the study to be published, if ever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Gua Tempurung - Part II

At first we had to cross a tiny stream. Water level: ankle-high. Then we had to wade through in knee-high levels. We also had to slide down a slope of about 30 feet, which was pretty scary to me. Not because of the height though, it was more of the lack of control – there are no ledges to hold or to step on. There was also minimal friction.

Thus, I literally slide down with legs obscenely wide open my legs and arms scratched a little and suffering very minor scratches.

After this harrowing butt-painful slide-down, we had descend into a lower chamber through a hole in the ground, which measures about 2 by 2 feet.

That was no sweat though. Merely had to go down carefully, as the bottom was less than 10 feet deep.

Following that, it was time when we got wet. We had to lie flat on our bellies with water around the neck level and stalactites right above our heads. The water was strongly pushing us forward and we had to hold onto something (the stalactites themselves or the rocks on the ground) to keep from being swept onward too fast and hitting the rocks/stalactites/the person in front of us.

We had to do that two times - the half-swimming-half-crawling-on-elbows-
ala-army part. To a certain extent, it is perilous and definitely adrenaline-inducing.

The rock formations here are different. As we had to move through tunnels that are a little smaller than the average height of a Malaysian, I was able to see clearly the low ceiling. It looks very much like corals, except that they hang upside down and not as colourful. Or rather, just grey and more grey.

There is a particular boulder that looks somewhat like brain coral, but the raised lines on it are horizontal instead of angled. To me, it was strange because water is running on top of it - I would have expected it to be smooth as a baby’s bottom.

During the trip, a couple of unfortunate things happened. One was when someone lost his wallet in the torrents. We immediately started searching for it, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Lady Luck must have been our side though, as it was eventually found.

Another incident was when one of us hit his head on a stalactite when he tried to avoid crashing into someone who was in front of him. As I said, the current was really strong and there aren’t much room to manouver.

Actually, the other person was a girl, who was there with her boyfriend and we all shared the same guide. The couple was from Singapore and they were there with their Ipoh friend.

Hmmph ... girls.

Anyway, the injury looked worse that it actually was, as blood-coloured water flowed from his skull and it stained his white shirt.

Yes, it wasn’t a pretty sight. But really, it wasn’t as bad as it appeared.

The whole caving thing took us about four hours. It certainly didn’t feel that long.

We emerged from the cave through an exit that doesn’t look like a cave mouth at all – it looks more like a huge sewage drain, with black metal grills to match and pipes that run parallel with the tunnel.


At that moment, I felt like I was in a movie, a hero coming out unscathed and victorious from an intense showdown in the sewers. Of course, there wasn’t the usual massive explosion behind me as I strutted out. ;P

After changing out of our wet clothes, we headed to Ipoh for some yummylicious food. We went to the famous corner shop (I can't remember the shop's name) which sells hor fun and other things like popiah, chee cheong fun and sotong kangkung.

On the way back to Peejay, we stopped at Tapah rest stop to buy fruits. Finally, we arrived back here at a quarter past seven.

I would love to post up some pictures, but I was cautioned earlier that we would get wet and obviously I wouldn’t want my camera to be damaged. Besides, I expected the caves to be dim and thus difficult to take pictures.

To sum up, I had an excellent time. I was expecting the cave to smell of guano and dirty with droppings everywhere (that was how some of my friends described caves would be like), but that was not the case.

There were bats, but they were so high up and our flashlights shone only weakly on them. Anyway, bats are blind, so there weren’t any scenes of a group of bats flying towards us when we shone our torchlights on them.

I really don’t mind doing it again. It was a refreshing change from the usual jungle trekking and hiking; from the open-air with lush greenery to an enclosure’s dark and monotonic grey surroundings.

We couldn’t stop talking about it on our journey back. That was how amazing the experience was.

This writer’s experience was made more enjoyable with scintillating and extremely stimulating conversation I had with someone. *grin*

This trip was proudly organised by LPG Adventurer, the largest gay community in the Klang Valley.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gua Tempurung - Part I

I had so much fun yesterday. It was our monthly outing and this time, it was to Gua Tempurung (literally means Hunk Husk Cave), near Gopeng, Perak.

As usual, we met at Kelana Jaya LRT first and we departed at 8.15 a.m., a little later than planned, due to me turning up a bit late. Darn those non-peak-period-trains-schedule-to-arrive-every-eleven-minutes practise.

There were nineteen of us in five cars, down from twenty seven who signed up initially. Which, I feel, was too bad for them. They sure missed a hell lot of fun.

The two-hour journey didn’t feel long at all, as we had a lot to talk and laugh about in the car. A little past ten and we arrived at Gua Tempurung.

We entered the cave after paying a fee of RM20 each. A bit unfortunate for us, as we got a guide who speaks Cantonese.

Now, everyone knows that my Cantonese is terrible barely passable, because my vocabulary is very limited. Furthermore, yesterday was only his third day on the job.

When we entered the cave, he explained that Gua Tempurung is named as such because of the smooth white surfaces of the cave. Which was not a lot actually; they could only be seen at the entrance.

The cave is made of limestone, with all sorts of shapes and lengths of stalactites and stalagmites. The guide then began to point out shapes and forms on the walls and ceilings which resemble familiar things, for example the face of a ghost, Kun Yum (Chinese Goddess of Mercy), monkey, horse, seahorse, a pregnant woman, drumstick, etc.

To me, it was interesting at first. But then it got tiresome. I was more interested in the scientific and technical aspects of the cave, like how it was formed, how did the cave changed after it became a tourist attraction, how they built the metal pathway, etc.

To be fair, he did mention a few of those. Like where the old trek was and how difficult it was to explore the cave then before the current pathway was built. Like how old is the rock that is about a hundred feet high, seemingly barely supported at the bottom by an adjoining one – 560,000 years old, according to an expert.

And he did explain a little about the history of the cave, of how the communists used it as a hiding place during and after the Japanese invasion. There were writings on the walls, supposedly codes about how to move about in the cave (one can get lost pretty easily back then, without the many halogen bulbs that are installed now).

The reason that oh-look-at-that-protrusion-that-look-like-breasts-and-it-even-has-
nipples turned quickly into something annoying, was because they can look like anything, with a bit of imagination. It’s like clouds – they can look like anything with a little suggestive ideas.

As such, I stopped listening and instead look at the formations myself.

After a while, it all looked the same. There are some parts of the cave where there is water dripping from the ceiling and water running – beautiful sights of nature, carving something wonderful out of a slab of nondescript stone.

Of course I won’t be able to see the final product, unless I get to live for a half a million years.

Actually, there are two parts of the tour, one dry and one wet. The *ahem* less adventurous visitors can settle for the dry part where it is well lit and not very interesting and the caverns are huge and one can walk upright. The latter part is the opposite; smaller spaces where one has to squat, crawl, slide or lie flat on the ground, and a few times, all of the above but in water.

Which is what made the trip tremendously fun.

Heh. The off-the-beaten-track requires agility and flexibility, courage and cooperation.

Ok, that was a bit of exaggeration. But it certainly did entail more physical work than the dry part, which was, well ... literally and figuratively dry.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Real Rosa Parks

I find this article extremely interesting and inspiring.

Rosa Parks passed away recently and her death was extensively reported even days after. Not surprising, as she was that black lady who refused to give up her seat in a bus to white man, got arrested and thus the whole civil rights movement was galvanized to fight for justice and ultimately, racial equality.

Though of course how true is the latter can actually be questioned today, after Hurricane Katrina has unveiled the reality of racial disparity, economic, education and social-wise.

Just hear what was recently said by William Bennett, education secretary under Ronald Reagen, "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose; you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Back to the article. The point which the author tried to get across is that any one can be a hero. That any one can make a difference. That so-called “saints” and “social activists” are people like you and me; they were not given an extra spoonful of compassion and justice than the rest of us. That in spite of one’s imperfection, one can indeed do great things that affect society.

For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

I tried to make the article shorter, but I couldn’t delete any paragraphs without somehow altering its impact. Thus, I feel it’s best if the whole article is read in full.

The Real Rosa Parks

by Paul Rogat Loeb

We learn much from how we present our heroes. A few years ago, on Martin Luther King. Day, I was interviewed on CNN. So was Rosa Parks, by phone from Los Angeles. “We’re very honored to have her,” said the host. “Rosa Parks was the woman who wouldn’t go to the back of the bus. She wouldn’t get up and give her seat in the white section to a white person. That set in motion the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery. It earned Rosa Parks the title of ‘mother of the Civil Rights movement.’”

I was excited to hear Parks’s voice and to be part of the same show. Then it occurred to me that the host’s description--the story’s standard rendition and one repeated even in many of her obituaries--stripped the Montgomery boycott of all of its context. Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had been active for twelve years in the local NAACP chapter, serving as its secretary. The summer before her arrest, she’d had attended a ten-day training session at Tennessee’s labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she’d met an older generation of civil rights activists, like South Carolina teacher Septima Clark, and discussed the recent Supreme Court decision banning “separate-but-equal” schools.

During this period of involvement and education, Parks had become familiar with previous challenges to segregation: Another Montgomery bus boycott, fifty years earlier, successfully eased some restrictions; a bus boycott in Baton Rouge won limited gains two years before Parks was arrested; and the previous spring, a young Montgomery woman had also refused to move to the back of the bus, causing the NAACP to consider a legal challenge until it turned out that she was unmarried and pregnant, and therefore a poor symbol for a campaign.

In short, Rosa Parks didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn’t single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain. We all know Parks’s name, but few of us know about Montgomery NAACP head E.D. Nixon, who served as one of her mentors and first got Martin Luther King involved. Nixon carried people’s suitcases on the trains, and was active in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the union founded by legendary civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph. He played a key role in the campaign.

No one talks of him, any more than they talk of JoAnn Robinson, who taught nearby at an underfunded and segregated Black college and whose Women’s Political Council distributed the initial leaflets following Parks’s arrest. Without the often lonely work of people like Nixon, Randolph, and Robinson, Parks would likely have never taken her stand, and if she had, it would never have had the same impact.

This in no way diminishes the power and historical importance of Parks’s refusal to give up her seat. But it reminds us that this tremendously consequential act, along with everything that followed, depended on all the humble and frustrating work that Parks and others undertook earlier on. It also reminds us that Parks’s initial step of getting involved was just as courageous and critical as the stand on the bus that all of us have heard about.

People like Parks shape our models of social commitment. Yet from responses to talks I’ve given throughout the country, most citizens do not know the full story of her involvement. And the conventional stripped-down retelling creates a standard so impossible to meet, it may actually make it harder for us to get involved, inadvertently removing away Parks’s most powerful lessons of hope.

This conventional portrayal suggests that social activists come out of hnowhere, to suddenly take dramatic stands. It implies that we act with the greatest impact when we act alone, at least initially. And that change occurs instantly, as opposed to building on a series of often-invisible actions.

The myth of Parks as lone activist reinforces a notion that anyone who takes a committed public stand, or at least an effective one, has to be a larger-than-life figure--someone with more time, energy, courage, vision, or knowledge than any normal person could ever possess. This belief pervades our society, in part because the media tends not to represent historical change as the work of ordinary human beings, which it almost always is.

Once we enshrine our heroes on pedestals, it becomes hard for mere mortals to measure up in our eyes. However individuals speak out, we’re tempted to dismiss their motives, knowledge, and tactics as insufficiently grand or heroic. We fault them for not being in command of every fact and figure, or being able to answer every question put to them. We fault ourselves as well, for not knowing every detail, or for harboring uncertainties and doubts. We find it hard to imagine that ordinary human beings with ordinary flaws might make a critical difference in worthy social causes.

Yet those who act have their own imperfections, and ample reasons to hold back. “I think it does us all a disservice,” says a young African-American activist in Atlanta named Sonya Tinsley, “when people who work for social change are presented as saints--so much more noble than the rest of us. We get a false sense that from the moment they were born they were called to act, never had doubts, were bathed in a circle of light. But I’m much more inspired learning how people succeeded despite their failings and uncertainties. It’s a much less intimidating image. It makes me feel like I have a shot at changing things too.”

Sonya had recently attended a talk given by one of Martin Luther King’s Morehouse professors, in which he mentioned how much King had struggled when he first came to college, getting only a ‘C,’ for example, in his first philosophy course. “I found that very inspiring, when I heard it,” Sonya said, “given all that King achieved. It made me feel that just about anything was possible.”

Our culture’s misreading of the Rosa Parks story speaks to a more general collective amnesia, where we forget the examples that might most inspire our courage, hope, and conscience. Apart from obvious times of military conflict, most of us know next to nothing of the many battles ordinary men and women fought to preserve freedom, expand the sphere of democracy, and create a more just society.

Of the abolitionist and civil rights movements, we at best recall a few key leaders--and often misread their actual stories. We know even less about the turn-of-the-century populists who challenged entrenched economic interests and fought for a “cooperative commonwealth.” Who these days can describe the union movements that ended 80-hour work weeks at near-starvation wages? Who knows the origin of the social security system, now threatened by systematic attempts to privatize it? How did the women’s suffrage movement spread to hundreds of communities, and gather enough strength to prevail?

As memories of these events disappear, we lose the knowledge of mechanisms that grassroots social movements have used successfully in the past to shift public sentiment and challenge entrenched institutional power. Equally lost are the means by which their participants managed to keep on and eventually prevail in circumstances at least as harsh as those we face today.

Think again about the different ways one can frame Rosa Parks’s historic action. In the prevailing myth, Parks decides to act almost on a whim, in isolation. She’s a virgin to politics, a holy innocent. The lesson seems to be that if any of us suddenly got the urge to do something equally heroic, that would be great. Of course most of us don’t, so we wait our entire lives to find the ideal moment.

Parks’s real story conveys a far more empowering moral. She begins with seemingly modest steps. She goes to a meeting, and then another, helping build the community that in turn supported her path. Hesitant at first, she gains confidence as she speaks out. She keeps on despite a profoundly uncertain context, as she and others act as best they can to challenge deeply entrenched injustices, with little certainty of results.

Had she and others given up after her tenth or eleventh year of commitment, we might never have heard of Montgomery. Parks also reminds us that even in a seemingly losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third, who may then go on to change the world, or at least a small corner of it.

Rosa Parks’s husband Raymond convinced her to attend her first NAACP meeting, the initial step on a path that brought her to that fateful day on the bus in Montgomery. But who got Raymond Parks involved? And why did that person take the trouble to do so? What experiences shaped their outlook, forged their convictions? The links in any chain of influence are too numerous, too complex to trace. But being aware that such chains exist, that we can choose to join them, and that lasting change doesn’t occur in their absence, is one of the primary ways to sustain hope, especially when our actions seem too insignificant to amount to anything.

Finally, Parks’s journey suggests that change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers, and her predecessors. Other times they may bear modest fruits. And at times they will trigger a miraculous outpouring of courage and heart--as happened with her arrest and all that followed. For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of fall 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association, and winner of the Nautilus Award for best social change book of the year. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hello, is that Ah Loong?

Astro Ria (Channel Four on Astro, I think) showed Sepet on the first day of Raya.

I didn’t watch it last week, as I already did when it first came out in February.

The movie reminded me of what YF did, when we were going out. At the time, he watched it in Penang first and instantly lusted after the lead actor, Ah Loong a.k.a. Jason Lee, played by Ng Choo Seong.

Yes, the guy was cute. He played someone half his age in the movie, and he looked the part, as he looks way younger than his age.

There were two reasons why YF liked him so much. The first was mentioned above and the other was, to me, illogical and silly. Thus I shall not go into that.

So YF was absolutely smitten and was on his drunken-like state of “high”. Laughing non-stop and for no particular reason. Enthusing about Choo Seong every other minute of our conversation.

Anyways, in the movie, there was a scene where Jason gave his number to the girl he liked, Orked. It was a Celcom number and it was only shown for like, two seconds.

Shall I even need to tell what happened next?

Of course, YF didn’t manage to get the number. As I was planning to watch the movie a few days later, he requested that I take note of that scene and get the number.

Why? Because he thought that there was a chance that it was really Ah Loong’s number.

So I did get the number. But I didn’t give it to him right away after the movie. I let him grovel beg waited for a whole of two hours.

In hindsight, I probably should have prolonged his wait. Heh.

After he got the number, he really did call. It was a lady who picked up though.

Undeterred, he asked for Jason.

The lady replied that he has gone out and that she was the mother-in-law or something like that.

Basically, it was a good explanation why Jason did not pick up the phone.

YF put the phone down. I don’t know how he knew, but he guessed it was the director herself who answered his call.

Indeed, it was Yasmin Ahmad.

YF then gushed about the movie, about how it was a true Malaysian movie and that we should have more of those.

He didn’t call again though; he expressed those thoughts via SMS.

He also said that moviegoers *rolls eyes* should see more of the actor who played Ah Loong i.e. Ng.

Yasmin Ahmad, being the kind person she is, replied and thanked him for watching and supporting the movie. She said that Ng was like a son to her (after all, he is one of the managers in her company).

You wouldn’t believe what YF texted her next.

Or maybe you would.

He asked whether Choo Seong was gay.

She said no. Ouch.

In fact, he was dating a sweet Malay girl. Double ouch.

I am not sure about you, but even if he was gay, you wouldn’t expect Yasmin to tell, would you? It’s not her right, or anyone else’s, to do so. Except for Ng himself.

I suppose when one is smitten, one couldn’t think straight. Or at all.

Oh well.

When he called her, I think it was about more than a week after he watched the movie. Yet, he was still pretty excited about Ng.

And it annoyed the hell out of me at the time.

Which made me wonder why am I going out with him to watch a movie later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Corpse Pride

I watched Corpse Bride last Friday at Times Square.

The movie was good, though a tad below expectation. Perhaps it was because I have expected it to be much darker.

Anyway, the story goes about how Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) ended up marrying a corpse instead of a live person on the eve of his wedding and then brought to the Underworld. How the bride-to-be, Victoria Everglot had to marry Lord Barkis instead as a replacement, as her parents insisted that she has to marry someone on her wedding day, that things must go according to plan.

The living world was portrayed as dark, grey and liveless whereas the dead were having fun and parties. The people in the former were grumpy and joyless while the latter were happy and happening.

Immediately, the contrast brought to mind the differences between the breeders and us. Why, even the living was referred to as “breathers”.

Or was it just me who read too much into the movie?

When the bride, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) was rejected on the reason that she is dead, the Black Widow spider and Maggot broke into a song and chorused that being alive is “overrated and overblown”.

You got that right, sistah (the Maggot wears make-up and lipstick. How tranny is that? ;P). Being straight is definitely overrated and overblown.

In the same song "Tears to Shed", Emily achingly expressed
Yet I feel my heart is aching.
Though it doesn't beat, it's breaking.
And the pain here that I feel,
try and tell me it's not real.
I know that I am dead,
yet it seems that I still have some tears to shed

Oh yes, although we are attracted to people of the same sex, it doesn't mean that we are any less of a person. We still feel and hurt inside like everybody else.

The songs in the movie, especially Remains of the Day, reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Obviously, we all know why.

Spoiler alert

In the end, when Emily proved that she was the bigger person, that even though she loved Victor yet he was not hers and he was free to marry Victoria instead, she showed how love means not to hold on but to let go.

End of spoiler

A lesson which is important to learn, yet so difficult to do when it comes down to it.

To many gay men, they know that the man they love and together with today, could easily have a change of heart tomorrow. Thus, in the meantime, they just enjoy what they have and savour every moment, because when it’s time to let go, it’s time to let go.

When that time comes, it’s best to move on. There’s no point holding on to the past.

Needless to say, there’s also the lesson of good triumphs over evil, every time.

And so, it turned out to be a very gay movie for me, hence the title of this post.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (it would have been 4.5 if it were darker)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Reply to Gayvanised

Dear F.A.G.,

You are a very introspective young man; a person who strives to understand himself. As Oscar Wilde said, “The real fool, such as the gods mock or mar, is he who does not know himself.”

Your questions are difficult to answer, as most matters about sexuality are. Until science in this area probed further and discover more answers, I am afraid I can’t provide you with definite answers.

Though the influence of parents on their children cannot be denied. Just like a man usually looks for a wife who is similar to their mother or someone who grew up in an violent environment tends to display similar characteristics.

Of course, the above are generalizations and if someone is aware of what is happening, he can then choose to do things differently.

I can sense that in other aspects of your personality, you realize the effect of your parents’ behaviour. All those superstitions and taboos that your dad holds, have made you someone who does not subscribe to them.

You strive to be totally different from them. Nevertheless, you have to be mindful of being different because it is better, rather than for the sake of being different.

Back to your letter. Whatever the effect may be of those experiences, it is a moot point now.

The fact is that you are gay. And we all know you can’t change that.

About your shyness when you are with girls, or rather only when they are scantily clad or naked, you can look at it this way – you would make a perfect straight gentleman.

As the writer of an article in Saturday’s the Star believes, you’re the ideal guy. She wrote that:

The most intelligent, most charming, wittiest, most desirably flirty boys I’ve known – boys with the most original sense of humour, immaculate grooming skills, excellent taste and ability to listen when you talk – have not been straight.

Unfortunately, they are unattainable, and the only reason they’re so darned attractive in the first place is precisely because they’re not straight, and have no intention of ever being so.

Obviously, that is of no consolation to you.

Still, I believe you will find someone who would love you for you, as you are a sensitive young man with a good head on those strong shoulders. *ahem*

All the best.

Ms Ngu