March belongs to the LGBTQ community, so as the first article Liberasi is producing on this, the obvious arguments for inclusion of civil rights for this group in Malaysia will be expanded herein. Let us start with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Within this most exalted of documents lie the tenets held most dear, that all human beings are created equal and free, that none should be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, it is also demanded that all people are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. It is abundantly clear within the declaration that all people deserve to be treated with decency and dignity and there is no real reason to look down upon others based on who they are.

It is not like members of this community are disruptive to society. The countries where gay people have recognised civil rights have not devolved into states of disrepair, violence or sexual deviance. In fact, indicators of societal peace are stronger in countries that allow for gay rights. The Global Peace Index, which ranks countries based on a certain set of criteria including a variety of indicators on conflict, political instability and level of violent crimes amongst others, shows that the top 10 countries all are pretty progressive with their policy on the LGBTQ community. In fact, up to the 21st rank, all the countries except 2 accept the legality of this community, with the exceptions being Bhutan at 13 and Singapore at 21, and both those countries are becoming increasingly progressive in this regard.

Now, this is not to say progressivity in sexual orientation has something to do with the attainment of this peace, nor is it the most important factor to consider. Economic inequality, law enforcement and access to firearms play bigger roles but what I want to show is the perceived immorality that is discouraged by allowing for these rights does not seem to cause any disruption in national peace. If anything, violence against this group is the much bigger issue, with its members wanting to live in relative peace in a world that recognises their right to a life of guaranteed dignity and safety. There are simply no arguments against these rights which have been convincing enough to be taken seriously.

If we look at the statistics, much has been said about the instability of same-sex relationships and the numbers indicate that this is a verifiable fact. Same-sex couples tend to not stay together as long as different-sex ones and go through more relationships. However, this disregards the multitude of stresses placed on the individuals in these relationships. Discrimination, harassment, disapproval from loved ones, violence and micro-aggressions all place strains on these relationships that lead to their eventual demise. It’s hard to maintain relationships in a largely disapproving environment and taking into considerations the individuals in these relationships might not be in the best mental state in the first place with all that they have been through growing up. These aren’t weak individuals because they are not of a traditional sexual orientation; they are damaged by a society that makes it harder for them to be themselves.

With this being said, the gaps in the stability between same sex and different-sex relationships are getting smaller as acceptance of them grows. It is also interesting to note the difference between the stability of male-male relationships with that of female-female ones, where the former is usually shorter. This is attributed to men not emphasizing emotional intimacy and minimisation of boundaries compared to women, which feels transcendental to not only include homosexual relationships but general situations as well.

Personally speaking, I know a lot of high-functioning people who do not share my sexual orientation. One such person, a Princeton man I had the privilege of working with, is one of the brightest people I have ever met, who loves Malaysia, a country that has done little to further his cause, who will put him in jail due to sodomy and vilify him openly without remorse. As a racial minority myself, let me tell you that is difficult to deal with. We hear politicians throw out buzzwords, challenging those who love Malaysia to simply leave, as if it is so simple to love something that treats you like a second-class citizen.  And sometimes love just isn’t enough, relationships, not just between individuals but with social constructs and ideologies, are hard to maintain when either is incompatible with the other. Though that is a personal anecdote, it is something to ponder upon. Identity in relation to the same thing, in this case a country, is not the same between individuals of differing backgrounds. So, it is important to understand the stance of these people and evaluate whether or not what they are exposed to is fair.

Moreover, it is imperative to forge a common identity for all Malaysians in the interest of fairness and commonality. We do not have this yet as ethnic and religious identities thrive in a segregated society. There have been efforts to forge it though, but they have been heavy-handed and ineffective. It is therefore imperative to take a step back and re-evaluate whether our treatment of people is fair and rectify our way of thinking to suit the ideals we ourselves want to be placed upon us. And the first step is to achieve freedom the realms of sexual orientation. Yes, we have racial discrimination, class struggles and religious bigotry, all worth being slain, yet even then, at least those involved are recognised as a people. This is untrue for the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia and that should sicken us.

How hypocritical are we that we cry for human rights violations at another nation yet accept and even champion the very same when we cannot identify with the individuals involved? Especially when all that is asked is coexistence. No one is asking any straight person to turn gay, nobody is forcing anyone to even personally find the alternative sexual orientations acceptable. All that is asked is that it be not illegal to live in peace but differently so.  It will be the same as having a different religion (it is to be stated here that while religion is a choice, sexual orientation and gender identity might not be). Are we not already coexisting with people who think differently? Isn’t sharing a land with Hindu polytheists just as bad in the purview of Islam?

The point is not to be incendiary it is to ask what the difference is. No one is automatically bad just because they are gay or trans or intersex, just because a man finds another man attractive doesn’t make him a threat to society, raising a child in a gay household doesn’t automatically make one a bad parent, just as the opposite isn’t automatically true if one is straight. Would it not be a better solution to keep one’s own biases personal and live and let live? This sounds obvious, so obvious that I find it tiring to have to write it, yet I am sure when I ask who is with me there will be mostly the noise of shuffling feet. Are we doing enough?

We live in a land where an even focusing on gay people has to include thoughts on how to cure them. And if we think it is only an issue with Muslims, we are wrong. Even non-Muslims are capable of hate, go figure! We don’t need this bile, we don’t need to wait for society to be ready when people are actually in pain. When looking back to the fight for civil rights for women and black people, do we not feel their emancipation was deserved? So I ask again, what is the difference?

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