Thursday, September 07, 2006

Learning life's lessons

I found resonance in this article from Malaysiakini, an online news portal. The parts which I like are in italic. Not that it brings up anything new, but it does make me appreciate myself and the journey I have taken or unknowingly led on to become who am I today.

My keen interest in people and life itself is to understand how society and everything around me works. Why are people treated differently because of race, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation? Whoever came up with these differences anyway? Are they something inate or learnt?

I am a pragmatic person. I would rather learn from others than to do something by myself and then learn from it. Call it lazy or selfish, but sometimes it saves the effort and pain. There are so many things to learn in this world, how can I possibly learn life's lessons by making all the mistakes?

People's thoughts and actions fascinate me. I like meeting people and talking to them. Questions to be answered, questions to quench my curiosity.

Which is why I read a lot. Though I hope I am not too busy reading and not living enough.


Citizens one and all
JJ Ray
Sep 4, 06 11:48am

At its core, issues affecting lesbians and gays are not about race or creed but of individual liberty, the very liberty supposedly protected by our constitution.

Sadly, the price homosexuals pay for the enjoyment of their own liberty is the recognition that heterosexuals may not want to be identified with them, although all have equal right to the same liberty.

This right has never been duly accorded to lesbians and gays.

But Malaysian writer Ouyang Wen Feng, who recently came out, could not have been more correct when he said "they (homosexuals) must first accept and recognise themselves before persuading society to accept them".

No need to crack one's head as to why this 36-year-old had kept his sexual orientation secret from family and friends for 30 years - it all boils down to society's prejudice and refusal to accept homosexuals as equal members.

Ouyang had American pastor Rev Pat Bumgardner to thank for support and acceptance. To Bumgardner, his move was nothing short of a courageous action that also honoured his family.

She said his decision would encourage the younger generation to be true to themselves and to build an inclusive community. Her hope in seeing a just future for homosexuals, while worthy of respect, sadly has found little acceptance in today's world.

Persistent discrimination

Society, largely comprising heterosexuals, is not willing to accept homosexuals as equal members of the community.

The degradation faced by lesbians and gays is heart wrenching and there is no telling when the discrimination will end. India, for example, is in denial over the fact that she is also home to lesbians and gays.

In Malaysia, the government has made it clear that lesbians and gays are not to be tolerated, much less accepted, hence the stand to criminalise same sex practices.

To criminalise people because of their sexual orientation is a crude instrument of social policy, a policy which serves no purpose in any society other than to preserve the heterosexual privilege which least affects the social or moral common life.

The government has no qualms about closing an eye when it comes to securing votes from homosexuals in the electorate.

It would do the 'straight' beings good to realise that hiding homosexuality is a surrender of freedom, of identity and ultimately of life itself. Such a move results in misery for homosexuals.

Prejudice, prejudice, prejudice

Although the American Psychiatric Association has clarified that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, the public has clutched stubbornly to the belief that this is unnatural, or a sign of stunted emotional maturity, lack of self-control and a disgusting form of sexual activity without any affectional content.

To assume that homosexuals are sexual predators and incapable of establishing lasting, loving relationships is akin to making the assumption that marriages are made in heaven.

The enlightened ones know that sexual orientation goes beyond sex, as it involves not only the physical self but also the heart, mind and soul. Sexual orientation includes the intimate associations that individuals form and that can help give meaning and richness to life.

To consistently and categorically deny the basic civil rights of lesbians and gays sends the message that the lives of homosexuals are less valuable than that of heterosexuals.

When someone like Ouyang reveals his sexual orientation, it might draw unwanted reaction. But for the less exposed, 'coming out' is more than an acknowledgment - it is acceptance of one's fundamental worth or announcement of one's sexual identity.

'Coming out' represents an act of compassion towards oneself, a compassion sadly never shown by one's own family and friends, let alone society.

Lesbians and gay men must think about family, morality, nature, choice, freedom and responsibility in ways that most people do not have to. Prejudice may remain but once homosexuals find their authentic self, they will not want to lose it under any circumstances.

It is necessary to repeat that what lesbians and gays seek is not new, special or privileged rights but rather the extension of existing rights guaranteed to all citizens by a nation's constitution.

Honour gay existence

The lesbians and gay community comprises women and men who have arrived, by very different paths, at the same self-knowledge. The feelings that prompt ordinary people to go against the grain of convention and love members of their own gender and honour those feelings are different for every person.

And unlike heterosexual individuals who hardly have to think about the fundamental ground of privacy - because it is already secure for them - homosexuals find themselves deprived of privacy.

Privacy means that people make choices other people must learn to respect. No government has any business meddling with the choices that lesbians and gays make to express their sexual orientation.

Until and unless such privacy is accorded to homosexuals, they will remain a group bereft of just protection as provided by the law. By extension, lesbians and gays will always be one step behind in accessing the privileges of citizenship.

The Serenity Prayer comes to mind, when one looks at the myriad challenges that lesbians and gays face. It should bring much-needed hope and courage for those sailing rough seas:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it,
Trusting that He will make all things right, if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

JJ RAY started her career with a mainstream publication. A non-conformist, she soon saw the barriers that went up whenever, through her writing, she tried to make the world a home for one and all.


Prince of Darkness said...

Guess what Ouyang said is kinda true, we must first accept who we are first then only let the society accept it. But still why do government wants to be prejudice about same sex relationship? Even if that person is a straight, we dun even ask for their sexual behavior, so why should they care about same sex? They should just worry about how to manage the country better, in term of inflation and stuff. Think more about how to reduce the price of oil for Christ sake, not sexual orientation!

savante said...

True, sometimes I wonder what the world's coming to when the parliament is more interested in couples kissing in the park that murders and inflation.

josh_kimura said...

Only the Enlighten knows...

MrBunnyBan said...

Not the whole world, just Malaysia. We are heading for a pretty pickle right now.

Kit said...

Yes, we are facing lots of difficulties right now. Accepting ourself is the first step, but to let others to accept us, we need more empowerment. Lots of people still lost themselves for their own sexuality, but things are slowly change now, as more and more people willing to standup and say who they are. Instead of hoping others to do something to improve the situation, why not we try to do something, that's the most important part we always skipping.

Derek said...

p.o.d: Sexual orientation should be a private matter. But it can never be truly so when the law still criminalises anal sex.

savante: The people in this country has an obssession with being morally upright and they have their priorities wrong.

josh: Like ourselves? ;P

mrbunnyban: It's a lot more common than we think. It happens here in down south too, ya know.

kit: Things we can do are like accepting ourselevs and becoming comfortable with our own identity. Once those are out of the way, we can start educating the people around us, like family and friends, but mostly friends lar.