Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gay People Are Forced To Live Hidden Lives


COMMENT from Malaysiakini

Many people, especially heterosexuals, mistakenly believe that the gay rights movement is only about gay people. They have ignored the fact that our lives in society are highly intertwined. 

As John Donne beautifully wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...”

Homophobia and heterosexism are irrational and unreasonable. They have done no justice to whole segments of the population. For a long time, due to ignorance and religious fanaticism, gay people have been systematically demeaned and stigmatised.

gay lesbian parade 240605 village peopleIn many societies and communities, gay people are denied the right to live an authentic life. They are forced to live hidden lives and pretend to be someone they are not, otherwise they will be harassed, abused, intimidated, and egregiously injured, or even murdered. 

Being gay in Malaysia is not easy, being a gay Christian is tough, and I can only imagine what my gay Muslim brothers and sisters have to go through in this country.

I was raised a Methodist. I had been a serious Christian and knew I was called to the ministry when I was twelve years old. But I also knew that I was gay.

I knew that I was attracted to men even though I was five and six years old. I had done everything I could to not to be gay. I fasted, I prayed, I cried to God until I was speechless; the only request I made was, “I don't want to be gay, make me straight please, God, I know nothing is impossible for you. Just make me straight!” 

But nothing changed.

When I was twenty-four years old, I met a beautiful lady. She was the kind of woman with a beauty that almost every man desired. 

I said to myself that if she would love me, I could love her and marry her. 

And she did. I thought God had finally listened to my prayers, and that she was the angel sent by God to rid me of my gayness. We married two years later.

Before our first date, I told her that I had had a sexual relationship with a man before I met her, that I knew that it was wrong, and that I had confessed my “sin” to God, I hoped she could forgive me and give me a chance. 

I told her I loved her. I told her the truth about my past because as much as I was afraid to admit that I was gay, I felt I owe her the truth; I believe that it was the least I could do for her.

We had a relatively good marriage. We never fought. 

We did disagree with each other sometimes on certain things, but we could always settle in love and treat each other with respect. As much as we thought we had a good marriage and were a perfect couple by any standard, we knew that something was missing in our relationship. 

I just could not love her passionately as a heterosexual man.

She knew that I was gay after she studied psychology in the United States, but she waited for me to confess it to myself and to her. Finally, I told her the truth, “I am gay.” 

We hugged and cried a lot after my confession because, as much as we loved each other deeply and knew that we were soul mates and best friends, we were not a heterosexual couple. She encouraged me to come out.

Angel to help embrace sexuality

In retrospect, I finally realize that she indeed was my angel, not to help me rid myself of gayness, but to help me to embrace my sexuality.

I am a fortunate gay man for having had a supportive wife. We were divorced two years later. 

We remain soul mates. I am fully aware that not every gay person is as fortunate as I. I know many of them who have hidden in a heterosexual marriage for their entire lives. Most of their wives suffer without knowing the reason.

gay lesbian parade 240605 asian costumeSome even blame themselves for not being good enough, wonder why they are not loved, and craved to be passionately loved by their husbands. 

Some gay men have wanted to commit suicide. Some could not deny themselves any longer, and, to save themselves from going insane, had affairs with other men. Some gay Christian and pastors that I know of, have even become anti-gay spokespersons.

Many homophobes and heterosexists do not know, or refuse to know, that if anyone wants us to change, no one wants to be “changed straight” more badly than we! And yet, they accuse us of willingly choosing to be gay.

Worse still, in addition to this accusation, they curse us to hell, and then say, “We love you, we just hate the sin.” What kind of insensitive love is it? Or, to excuse themselves for being rude, they pass the problem off to God, “It is not I who condemn you, but God.”

I did not choose to be gay. But since I now have known myself better and understand homosexuality, I willingly choose to be part of the worldwide social justice movement to educate the public about homosexuality which aims at dismantling heterosexism and bringing forth justice to our society.

Fears of rocking the boat

I am aware of the fact that this is the least popular and most rejected movement in Malaysia and that it receives powerful resistance and few concessions. Not only heterosexists would oppose me, even gay people who have internalized heterosexism would disagree with me, fearing that I am rocking the boat. 

But society needs to know that the gay rights movement is not only about gay people, it is about everyone; homosexuality is an issue of social justice!

Homophobia and heterosexism not only hurt gay people, but, by forcing gay people to hide themselves in heterosexual marriages, they harm almost everyone in society. This offers no justice to the spouses of closeted gay persons, nor does it help their children. 

Living hidden loves does no good for our society.

When it is normative to lie in order to survive, it is no wonder that many of our politicians have no integrity! We should not only blame our politicians or the government, we should also ask ourselves, what kind of culture we are cultivating?

Until we establish a social environment that is more responsive to and supportive of gay people, gay people will continue to be the subject of discrimination and thus afraid to come out. 

Many people will continue to be hurt directly or indirectly, regardless of being gay or straight.

Gay people are everywhere, but, unfortunately, many people do not know that their best friends, co-workers, much admired writers, teachers, political leaders, priests, religious leaders, siblings, and even their beloved children, are gay. 

One can never know who would be hurt by one's heterosexist remarks and homophobic attitudes.

No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manner of thine own or of thy friend's were. 

Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

REV O YOUNG is an ordained Christian minister at MCC New York. He holds two masters degrees in both sociology and theology. Currently he lives in New York city and teaches sociology at St Peter's College. He has published 20 books on sociology, theology and sexuality. He is also a columnist for Sin Chew Daily. He is currently finishing his doctoral degrees in sociology and theology. 

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