Out and NOT Proud
"Are you gay? I heard rumours that you were actually using those gay apps."
This is the question that I was frequently asked recently. As much as I appear to be an outspoken LGBT movement supporter, I do not even have the courage to admit to my friends, not even the closest one, that I am actually homosexual.
Being born and brought up in Malaysia, a conservative Islamic country where the majority still view homosexuality as a sinful act and perverted sexual orientation, coming out might be the most courageous act a homosexual can do in Malaysia. He would face countless harassments, either from humiliating comments by the others to the legal sanctions by the authorities, if he is a Muslim. The overall environment in Malaysia towards the homosexual are not friendly, if not hostile.
Under the law, anyone who perform unnatural sex such as anal sex is punishable under the Penal Code. Even though this provision of law is rarely invoked (but not entirely unused), it still stands as a reminder to the society that the act of homosexuality is not encouraged nor allowed in Malaysia. The situation is far more complicated when you are a Muslim. The religious authorities are allowed to arrest and prosecute anyone who cross-dresses or found to have intimate relationships with the same sex. In Malaysia, the religious card is so powerful that once it is played, your entire reputation and future is tarnished with the label of ‘an apostate’ and ‘the ill of the society’. Despite the advancement of scientific proofs that homosexuality is not a mental disease but a natural sexual orientation, the majority still refuse to understand it, less so to accept it.
The hurdles of coming out are worse when the family factor comes into play. One might be lucky that his family is open-minded enough to back him up for his decision to come out of the closet, but that is a rare case in Malaysia. The majority of the homosexual community in Malaysia are still hiding the facts that they are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex from their family, and the phrase 'straight-acting' is definitely not an uncommon practice in here. The traditional thinking of inheritance places a heavy burden on the male heir of the family, especially when you are the only child. The fact that you are homosexual, unable to build a 'normal' family as the heterosexual and produce babies is nothing but a devastating blast to the old-school parents who still cannot accept homosexuality as a natural sexual orientation. It is prevalently viewed as an unfilial act and a disgrace to the family. Under such pressure, more homosexuals opt to hide their sexual attraction to the same sex, and some even enter into marriage just to satisfy the family expectation as well as the scrutiny of the society.
I would like to share one of my friend's story. For the purpose of sharing, let’s just call him Jack. Jack comes from a family of 4, with one elder sister above him. He is a Malaysian Chinese, and as the only son, Jack’s family placed high expectation on him in almost every aspect. He was the pride of the family when he graduated with good grades from university and secured a fantastic career with one of the MNC, until he broke the truth that he is gay to his family one day. He thought his love for his family and their love for him in reciprocal are strong enough to overcome the fact that he loves guys. However, he was wrong. His mother broke down in tears, failed to comprehend the idea of being a homosexual is not a choice. His father is enraged by the shame that their family has produced a gay son. Even though his sister understood his situation, she could not lend much help to Jack in that situation. They sat down together on multiple occasions just to talk things out, but it always ended with quarrels and tears. Finally, an ultimatum was out. His father told him not to come back to home until he decided to be straight, and that was the last time he talked to his father.
As a friend of Jack, I saw his struggles in those times. He would come to me and talk about his problems sometimes, weeping that how he wished he never had confessed to his family and how he wished he could make himself straight. He tried to enter into relationships with girls before, but there just isn’t any chemistry and he was tired of trying to become who he would never be. He shared with me how his relatives and some of his friends started to distant themselves from him as he was some kind of monster. The amount of pressure he faced is beyond my imagination. As an outsider to his problem, there is nothing much I could do other than being his faithful listener to all his woes.
Having Jack’s experience as my reference, the thought of coming out never cross my mind. I am also the only son in the family. My friends around me are mostly conservative. Most importantly, I do not see the need for me to go through what Jack had gone through before this. I do not wish to live my life under the scrutiny of the others and become a topic of conversation for the others. Even though deep down I know that being gay is nothing wrong, this is not what people around me believe. Most importantly, I do not want to ruin my relationships with my parents who might be the persons that love me the most in this world. Maintaining the status quo seems to be the wisest choice for now.
Nevertheless, I look forward to the day that my family and I were ready to accept the fact that I am gay, and I can be out and proud like Jack is. I wish to find my soulmate openly, without any fear, and be accepted by the community I am in without any discrimination. However, is Malaysia the land which I could go after all these things? This makes me ponder.
PS: Jack is in a loving relationship with one of the nicest guy I know.