It has been almost a year since I promised myself never to get involved in Seksualiti Merdeka again. One of the reasons was because I knew someone I love may be part of the set-up. However, the major reason was total disillusionment with the festival and the people. From what I used to believe to be a group of well-intentioned activists determined to fight for the rights of sexuality minorities, it has become a nightmare full of backstabbing, framing, glory-hunting, lies, manipulation, politics and sex parties galore. What used to be something to look forward to has become all hope lost for me.
I do not know how to quantify my experiences there. I do acknowledge that some of them helped me heaps emotionally and financially. I admit that for a short while I had guidance in seeking direction in my life. And receiving help is no excuse, reason or justification to discredit me and attempt to rally people against me just because I have different sets of values and opinions, along with wanting what is truly the best for the LGBT community especially trans people, as proven by positives happening now overseas.
We unfortunately do not have unity. Instead, we have leaders who, as if without other topics, like to talk to teenagers as young as 18 about group sex. One of them happens to be with PFLAG, and he was earlier cornered by these leaders attempting to hijack the group (listen entirely and judge for yourself). I have been at the end of such hijack attempt before when TransMalaysia was organized, and instead of reprimanding the transgender backstabber, these activists took the opportunity to put me deeper into the ice box and made her a spokesperson for an anti-bullying video. Birds of the same feather flock together would come to mind.
Insecurities arise when I mentioned I discourage sex work. Hello? This is my opinion, and that does not mean I reject sex workers. In fact, I only criticize any LGBT movement that devalue the hardships and experiences of transsexual females such as myself, especially from one famous drag performer; but bear in mind please, have I ever forsaken or ignored any member of the community, including transvestic fetishists? Have I ever condemned anyone for being in sex work? It is utterly shameful that these LGBT leaders took this as a chance to further invalidate my work, and the responses from some of the trans leaders are ridiculous indeed. Do they realize that their expressions of grievous hurt only serve to prove my point?
The treatment lashed out to me is so similar to the treatment they gave to an openly gay Muslim writer I know, just because he pointed out the obvious to the oblivious. And as sure as they tried to hatemonger to me about him being a terrorist with connections to enough religious authorities to destroy Seksualiti Merdeka, I know exactly the kind of deceptions that has intentions to make LGBTs avoid conversing with me to maintain their dipping support while crying victim. In fact, by the same chance the self-implied leader of these activists tried to sell me another story, one about my ex co-feminist for Kakak Killjoy.
I refuse to submit to such tactics, so it saddens me when a leader of a lesbian/bisexual event organizer who was also given the cold shoulder by them last year decided to pander and has been trying to desperately seek support from LGBTs there like a lost bitch. It seems that networking and connections is the priority of the people from most of the LGBT groups as they seek to blaze the trail to self-glory and patting themselves at the back after another meeting to bring everyone together for another fellowship of internal LGBT meets while kicking out those who do not conform to their views or are rejecting their stances, refusing to take criticisms for their actions as they stampede on others to get their way.
Credit must also be given to a certain HIV/AIDS prevention foundation for doing nothing much. PT Foundation does not throw people under the bus; they are content in their position as people continuously throw them under the train. They are happy to just receive funding from LGBTs and government ministries while the latter continue to discriminate – yes discriminate – transgender people as purely lost souls whom they hope one day with some programs it will make them “masculine” while transgender males seem to be non-existent to them. And what happens when LGBT matters go to the parliament? They of course do not condone the “lifestyle” which they claim is not part of their culture while hoping transgender females will one day “change”. So after many, many years of the PT Foundation’s work with religious groups, Malaysian AIDS Council, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (etc), most people in Malaysia still know nothing about LGBTs, especially the transgender population while invalidating and trivializing our inert needs as non-existent.
As the years go by, and I have been walking side by side with these groups for the past few years, the connections to the straight world is reducing to the point misinformation about LGBTs is increasing rapidly as with homophobia and transphobia. Transgender issues are becoming more and more sidelined. Lesbians are becoming marginalized within. Ideas which were stolen are now lacking as many move on from the main LGBT activism groups. In fact, they will probably respond to this posting by insecurely trying to be in denial over everything. Well, they have the right to hide themselves from truth: they have little intention of advancing the LGBT movement to the public arena unless there are some motivation for them to do so; until then they are contented to fill their coffers and maintain their jobs, soaking up connections and basking in glory of LGBT “events” with little information for the straight public while continuing their full artistic ways of LGBT expression. Opportunists, while little gets done.
So what do we have from them lately? Oh yes – The 29 ways toward an LGBT friendly Malaysia, which can easily be boxed into 3 (1 – Tell everyone to treat us right, 2 – Tell people in authority / representatives of the people to treat us right, 3 – Ask everyone to create / attend those LGBT events) boxes. The first question I could think straights would ask is – Why should I? So one wonders just how this “29” is going to be executed. I can imagine silent politicians, police arresting LGBTs, and LGBTs getting laughed at because we ask the public to stop calling us names. But I am sure the LGBT events will get them more fresh meat to fuck – oops! I mean more avenues to increase their FB friends while enlarging their connections.
The LGBT movement in Malaysia has come to the point where they are so used to having their little internal discussions, meetings and events, that they become too exclusive instead of inclusive and fail to engage with the world – the straight world. Year after year, straight people’s participation of Seksualiti Merdeka has been dwindling, and so is the straight crowd, while the LGBTs increased. As LGBTs in activism groups, being so busy with politics, or as aspiring activists wanting to get famous in the community and an ultra-liberal collective that still lacks so much knowledge in LGBT issues ending up with preaching half-truths and opinions, we have ultimately failed to provide adequate information to the rest of the non-LGBT population, to the point we only call ourselves victims quietly while sucking our thumbs when tabloids like Metro and Kosmo become the source of “LGBT education” to the straights. Yes, we failed to engage Malaysians to get to know us. And to some with best opportunities to speak for us, the fear of losing funding and social status creeps in.
Activism in Malaysia has become a popularity contest. We are too ignorant to assimilate into the norm of society and instead choose to just continue to sell creative artistic thoughts instead of getting the public to know us. We lost the battles, so there is no war to be won. So what else can we expect from LGBT activism? A hijacked and mangled “It Gets Better” campaign with videos which are mostly sharing and confession videos and not PSAs, without a next course of action (Around 425 young people reportedly killed themselves in the first 9 months of last year. Where is the push to question our government to get them to check how many of them committed suicide due to prejudice and discrimination toward LGBTs)? Lady Gaga failed to inspire us to create a wave of activism to remove censored parts of her song. International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in Malaysia was a horribly done mash up that absolutely nothing came out of it to fight homophobia (and talks to ourselves 29 times again). Things only gets done when it is convenient.
We wait for the next big hoo-hah to send whatever letter thrown towards brick walls. We can accept the blatant fact that there are no updates on almost all researches done by PT Foundation on behalf of Malaysian AIDS Council and the Health Ministry, no news on meetings with religious groups / political leaders in conferences or privately, no follow ups on previous letter campaigns and fund raising activities after they have gone silent, no next course of action after tons of forums done; in fact, I personally expect nothing whatsoever from SM, PT, or whatever, to give any individuals any glimmer of hope that things can change for us. We expect them to be absent again when Transgender Day Of Remembrance comes this year, boycotting a dissenting voice, instead of focusing and supporting – the cause. (Or worse, they may even hijack it to do their own one that rejects almost all of TDOR’s guiding principles).
We can expect more dissenters being rejected unless they toe the line. And some may even pander back for favours. But many of us left on our own accord, hoping that in the years to come, the LGBT community will start to see that nothing concrete had ever come out of some of their beloved organizations, and that new organizations will be formed to seriously addresses the LGBT issues, and most importantly, improve support from society by simply letting them get to know us. And I sincerely hope the current movement takes a hard look at what they intend to accomplish, and analyze whether they are truly going in the right direction, for the sake of everyone involved. By then, we would not create useless steps and “ways” that will end up hit by a train of incomprehension, misinformation and ignorance. We would instead concentrate on practical LGBT population building and assimilation to society, as well as education and information dissemination to the public, along with handling discrimination and prejudice at jobs, healthcare and others. We seriously do not need to talk among ourselves anymore. Let us start speaking to a Malaysian population and build beautiful bridges on our world.
Yuki Choe is a Chinese transsexual feminist who believes it can only get better when the world can get to know us. After all, there is more to advocacy than sex and glory-hounding; the main solution is simple, the movement should stop throwing tear gasses and shoot chemical water, and start communicating with those "banned" “illegal” voices.
This post is supported by “Kakak Killjoy” and “PFLAG Malaysia”.