Some weeks ago, the Kementerian Kesihatan released the poster to a video-making competition that was said to target the LGBTQ community in Malaysia.
The story was broken by Telegraph UK on the 2nd of June, branding the competition as a contest on how to “prevent” homosexuality and transgenderism.
As seen on the poster, there are three aspects to this competition:
- Seksual Reproduktif (Sexual reproduction)
- Kecelaruan Gender (Gender Confusion)
And it’s actually the third part of the competition that has caused ire in the international circles, as well as on social media.
In the scope of the competition listed, the video competition specifically calls aspiring videomakers to produce content that focuses on (in the Kecelaruan Gender section):
- Transgenders (with reference to Mak Nyah, a degoratory term towards the community)
- Transvestites (cross-dressers or those who don drag)
- And others
The competition, themed around “Value Yourself, Healthy Lifestyle Practice” calls for participants between ages 13 to 24-years-old to create videos that may help “prevent” and “control” what it terms as the “disorder” of gender confusion.
Winners stand to receive between RM1,000 to RM4,000 after the competition ends in August.
The post has since sparked controversy on both a national and international level, to the point where the ministry even issued their own statement regarding the matter.
This follows another seemingly government-sanctioned post that was similarly maligned by netizens, describing ‘guidelines’ for parents to spot the ‘symptoms’ of gay and lesbianism in their kids.
In light of this, we approached some Malaysian LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) individuals about what their honest, unbridled thoughts about the competition are.
He started by laughing at how much information the poster had and how confusing it was. But he quickly jumped back into the core issue.
“First things first, I think it’s a bit aggressive for them to do this. Let’s say if it was an anti-drug campaign. That means the campaign is sending a strong message that we want this to be banned, correct?”
“They don’t understand that most of us are born that way.”
“I think they get the whole LGBT thing wrong. The first thing is the ‘harga diri‘ part. What do you mean harga diri? Are you saying that whoever is in the LGBT community do not ‘hargai diri‘?
It is at this point that we informed him that after some discussions with representatives from the LGBTQ community, the ministry has since agreed to remove the ‘Kecelaruan Gender‘ aspect of the competition. E was surprised by this, but was wary of the move.
“It seems a bit too late, because they should’ve approached the LGBT group first. How many years have they held a misunderstanding towards the LGBT? Just one talk to an NGO and suddenly they understand already?”
“I find it funny. I think it’s a good thing that they take it down, but it might just be this time. Maybe next time when they want to have a competition about the LGBT, it might not happen again.”
“There’s one part in the article about some of the criteria. It says that if you want to join the competition, the video should not contain ‘isu-isu agama’ or ‘isu-isu sensitif’, racial stuff.”
“Even that I find paradoxical. It’s because of your stance on the religious side that imposes the issue upon us. This commotion that we’re in, we didn’t even play that card in the first place, but you’ve already drawn that sword.”
When Taylor first saw the outrage going around, he didn’t even bother clicking because he knew that this was something that would infuriate him.
“In all honesty, I didn’t think it was that bad. It’s only the third category, because that’s the only category that involves the whole LGBT thing,” said Taylor.
“Categories 1 and 2 actually applies to both gays and straights. so it doesn’t specifically target the gay community per se. If you wanted to make a contest about that, go ahead, because it promotes positivity.”
Describing the Malaysians’ misunderstanding towards the LGBTQ, Taylor brought up an example.
“If we were to reverse this question to straight people like, ‘Oh, how do you know you’re straight?’, they’d answer ‘Well, I just am’ and that’s kind of the answer with us, you know?”
“We didn’t choose to be discriminated. Do you think that we like to be discriminated?”
“They think we want to choose the road that is frowned upon by the majority of this country? Obviously not. Sometimes I feel like it’s so funny. It’s ironic that the people are so backwards in their thinking.”
When told about the MOH redacting the ‘Kecelaruan Gender’ aspect, Taylor was estatic.
“Really? Oh that’s great! I mean, I would consider myself a very tolerant person. An effort is an effort, so I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as too late, as long as there’s progress.”
“I mean, everybody knows that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So if this is what it takes for Malaysia to move forward as a better nation, then why not? As long as it’s progress.”
“I was disappointed but I wasn’t surprised when I saw it from the news. Rules, regulations, visions driven by default religious or cultural views instead of scientific data is very common. I have become numb.”
“And there is no way to argue right or wrong if that intention was driven by religious or cultural viewpoints.”
About the redaction, CK said that “I’m surprised. It’s rare that our government department actually rectifies a narrow-minded or humiliating statement instead of blaming it on the media or public on a misquote.”
“And the new statement is decent and open minded. I’m curious how did these two, very diverse, contrasting statements actually came from the same department.”
Since most of the mainstream conversation surrounding this issue follows the mainstream media’s coverage of what the Ministry has said, we think that it’s a valuable endeavor to hear from those who are judged for their “Kecelaruan Gender“.
One thing that we know for sure, however, is that the conversation about LGBT rights will not end here.
In the comments section of articles announcing that the government has redacted Kecelaruan Gender from the competition, similarly upset Malaysians from the opposite end of the argument have then also stepped up to voice their disapproval of the move, as they do see LGBT as a disorder.
We actually interviewed about 6 other people, but their responses were very reserved. From what they said, most don’t even seem angry anymore, just resigned. It’s as if they’ve given up on ever seeing change here.
Opinions about the LGBT are yet another chasm that continues to divide Malaysians, on top of race and political opinions.
We do not know where this see-saw will lean towards in the future. However, we hope that one day, both sides will finally be able to find a common ground that they can agree on.