Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So what? That's their sexual preference

Taken from here.

So what? That's their sexual preference.

Francis Paul | Oct 16, 06 2:11pm

TWO weeks ago, I went to see a dentist in Kelana Jaya. It was my first visit to the clinic. The interior decor of the place is nice and the dental charges are also reasonable.

But what struck me was a calendar-size wedding poster in the clinic's waiting area of Jessie Chung, the Kuching transsexual who married Ipoh accountant Joshua Beh last November in what is believed to be the country's first marriage involving a transsexual.

Of course, the marriage was immediately frowned upon by the government with a minister declaring that it has no legal standing since the law does not allow marriages between two people of the same sex, even if one of them had undergone a sex change operation.

I thought it was very 'brave' and 'thoughtful' gesture of the clinic's management to display the wedding photo (I have not seen it anywhere else in KL). For whatever reason it was put up, I can still conclude that it was a public display of the acceptance of the union. "So what" seems to be the message, "as long as the couple truly love and accept each other".

Three cheers to the clinic!

Well, Jessie Chung's marriage and the union of others with certain sexual preferences (not 'problems', mind you) can make for an interesting discussion on a boring, hazy Kuala Lumpur afternoon.

(For context, click here, here and here.)

Forgotten and ignored

So Sir Elton John finally married his lover! (photo) So what, no big deal. Gays are getting married in countries where such unions are legal.

So Ang Lee’s recent movie Brokeback Mountain, a western with a gay theme,
won four Golden Globes early this year. So what if Hollywood is now fond of all things gay!

So there was a Protestant bishop in the US who openly admitted he was gay and had a partner. So what, no big deal! Even if the case had threatened to split the Anglican Church when it first came to light some years ago.


Some of us would probably remarked with a “so what” and then forget about it. I suppose we would say, “being gay is their choice, they have the right to choose their preferences”.

However, for the majority of our fellow citizens, being gay or having different sexual preferences seem to be a big deal. Such people are not considered ‘normal’ and would be frowned upon. This is sad but true.

It is also true that even as our nation had gone through a period of reformation, a period in which people are demanding for equal rights, homosexuals seem to be forgotten, or in most cases, ignored.

This is a group of people that need guidance. Our society generally does not care about them, as long as "my child is not gay". Come on, let’s be honest. Isn’t this the case?

We blame them for transmitting AIDS, disordering society, being decadent and even for being a public nuisance at times. They are exposed to an essentially heterosexual world that condemns their existence. The laws, the religions, the moral values are made for heterosexuals. Who is going to tell them what to do?

A lot of heterosexuals don't consider homosexuals as ‘upright’ human beings. But we must learn to accept them as just one of us. They have sexual needs, self-esteem and hence deserve equal rights as heterosexuals.

We shouldn't ignore their existence. Instead we should understand and help them the best we can. Certainly, they are entitled to a suitable set of moral values.

Isn’t our society caring?

Maybe we should legislate some laws in order to accord them due rights and equality. Reforms start with people. Accepting homosexuals and stopping discrimination against them would be a perfect start. After all, isn’t our society a caring one? We care about the poor, the sick - why can't we care about homosexuals?

Then there is the other group - transsexuals. Look at that widely-publicised case of the transsexual who was groped and humiliated by policemen in the lock-up at the Ipoh police station some time ago. Even our law enforcers could not help ‘enjoying’ themselves with a person not viewed as ‘normal’.

Isn’t it true how we often used to brag that “when Malaysia speaks, the world at large listens!”. Oh yes, this formerly poor Third World country is now going full steam towards becoming a developed nation. Well and good.

That we have achieved considerable ‘physical’ success has put the country in good stead. Alas, the same cannot be said of our country's sincerity in making Malaysia a home for one and all - how sad again.

A case in point is the statement by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil (right in photo) last year who voiced her assurance that the welfare of the mak nyahs or transsexuals in the country would be looked into.

But soon after, she justified that there were variables that had to be studied before any step was taken. (My thoughts on this here.)

Then came the issue of transsexuals who in spite of having undergone sex reassignment surgery (SRS) were denied the right to state their gender on their identity card. A 33-year-old woman who had undergone such surgery failed in her bid to be declared as a man, as it was thrown out by the Ipoh High Court.

The man filed the application to be declared a man in 2004 after failed attempts to alter ‘her’ birth certificate and identity card at the National Registration Department.

I feel that the state should not intervene, if one wanted to go through the SRS. Perhaps Suhakam could initiate a study on the law to determine what recommendations it could make to help transsexuals, while at the same time conform with the Islamic belief.

Freedom comes at a price

According to the government, a majority of the 10,000 transsexuals in the country are Malay Muslims. The lack of understanding on the issue of sexuality perhaps explains why we still have statements in the newspapers made by religious officials who are of the belief that transsexuals and homosexuals need to be “rehabilitated” or "rescued" and brought back to the "right path".

The need to impose a particular lifestyle on individuals has been a constant affair with Malaysia's keepers of morality. There seems to be a pricking need on their behalf to determine how one leads their life.

Freedom to choose one's lifestyle comes at a price, as some have found out. To acknowledge that Malaysia is home to transsexuals and homosexuals is a great difficulty for the government. That we can all understand and appreciate but it must not be an obstacle towards governmental efforts to help the group lead a ‘normal’ a life as possible.

There will likely be a long debate on this issue and no one party will be happy. Whatever the outcome and decisions made, we need understanding to tackle this issue of sexuality.

Meantime, I will continue to buy Elton John’s albums. That he is gay (so what, no big deal!) will not cloud my support for his talent as a song writer, singer and musician.

And if anyone has a Jessie Chung wedding photo to spare, feel free to send it over. I promise to display it on my desktop.


William said...

All in bold. How bold. :D

Yes, sexuality should be used to judge a person's character or abilities.

thompsonboy said...

Hey, it's Malaysia but seriously we are not too far from any country for that matter. Prejudice die hard. When the society has decided what is wrong or right - anything out of that spectrum cannot be accepted.

Since when we care for acceptance anyway?

quicksilverlining said...

aih. malaysia is grasping to accept even 'normal' people who have different ideas. it will take a long time more, or a catastrophe of some magnitude before they will even consider 'abnormal' people.

Derek said...

william: Erm, I didn't have time to reformat the whole article properly, so it was a cut and paste ;P

Love your sarcasm ;)

thompson: We all care for acceptance, because deep down we all want to be accepted for who we are, without prejudice and stereotypes.

qsl: In that sense, Malaysia is very backward in thinking. Society can't ignore us forever and pretend we don't exist.

William said...

Scenario: Some global nuclear war happens. Humanity turns into a race of mutants. The segregation of straight and gay mutants will still happen. :P

Nishiki said...

Sometimes it is not just sexual orientation, those who follow a lesser known religion, practise alternative lifestyles or even speaking a minority language will be discriminated.

The truth is, some people would label those who are different from themselves as "eccentric", "abnormal", or even "evil", "sinful", "sub-human".

++ Chris ++ said...

Awh, if there's any clinic in Indonesia dare enough to display such 'brave' and 'thoughtful' gesture, that clinic would be exerted to close or 'dilemparin batu' by those conservative people, of that I'm sure.
Btw, Joshua Beh is quite cute in that picture ya? hehehe
Cheers for their marriage =)

Derek said...

william: X-men. Which reminds of the scene that is so like coming out in X-Men 2.

nishiki: That's the reality, ain't it? They don't see the common things in other people, but just want to focus and highlight the differences, even the smallest one.

++chris++: I suppose that clinic would be completely destroyed.

Violence is so easily provoked. Recall the Pope speech and Danish cartoons.