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Stop the homosexual witch-hunt

 | March 23, 2012

The plan to rehabilitate homosexuals has drawn flak from various quarters, who are calling for an end to the persecution.

PETALING JAYA: The government’s anti-homosexual campaign to rehabilitate lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LBGTs) has drawn ire, incredulity and disbelief from many quarters.

Sekijang MP Baharum Mohamad cited an unnamed study which found that 30% of Malaysian men were gay, meaning that three out of 10 were homosexual, something he called “scary”.

Then Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mashitah Ibrahim told the Dewan Rakyat that the government was working with several NGOs to curb the spread of the “social problem”, especially amongst Muslims.

Commenting on this, counseling psychologist Johana Johari said that before any steps could be taken to “curb” homosexuality, research needed to be done to find out the factors that caused and influenced “sexual abnormalities.”

She recommended this link for further reading, although in her opinion the article which was written by a non-Muslim and the research findings had been questionable, she still sees the need for further research to find more conclusive results.

“Trial experiments on a controlled group of this community could be considered to see if whatever steps they are using is actually effective and whether any successful improvement is short term or long term. Until the true nature and cause is found and understood, how can anyone even think they would know what steps to take to curb or cure this disorder, if it’s a disorder at all.

“Homosexuality is not a disorder that can be cured in a rehab. There is no rehabilitation nor reform for this as yet. The answer may be unearthed with further specific research. Where alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse and any other addiction is mostly behavioural habits in nature and several therapeutic approaches can be used to help them overcome the unhealthy habit, sexuality is largely influenced by so many other biological factors,” she said.

Additionally, Johana stated that if the sexual abnormality was indeed caused by hormonal imbalance, then maybe hormone replacement therapy (or something with similar function) might work to re-orientate the condition.

“But each individual is different in the causes as well as how their symptoms manifest themselves. Therefore, the treatment cannot be generalised or ‘one size fits all’ in nature,” she said.

Johana stressed that the views expressed here were not based on a personal opinion but on years of experience gleaned from working with people who had various sexual disorders.

“Professionally as counsellors we are not to impose our opinion. I am not looking at this from a religious point of view but that these are people just like the rest of us and they deserve to be accepted for who they are.

“You don’t have to like them or approve of their sexuality and it may run against your personal beliefs, but acceptance is key. Is it our place to judge? No. If it’s something they want to overcome, then let them ask for help. It’s not fair to make them feel guilty for their sexuality,” she added.

12 things will happen

Seksualiti Merdeka activist and co-founder Pang Khee Teik listed 12 things that he believed would come out of this campaign. These were:

1.Severe low self-esteem and depression among LGBT youths

2. More attempted suicides by LGBTs

3. Destruction of people’s relationships and happiness

4. Delaying individuals from living their lives

5. Condoning discrimination and hostility against LGBTs

6. Perpetuating discriminatory policies and actions against LGBTs at work, school and home

7. Causing LGBT individuals to fear being caught, to think twice upon every action and therefore to decrease in their productivity

8. Encouraging families to oppress their children, disown them or force them into unions not of their choice

9. Driving further brain drain away from Malaysia

10. Preventing LGBT individuals from seeking redress to injustice suffered by them

11. Preventing LGBT individuals from full disclosure when seeking medical treatment

12. Preventing LGBT individuals from fully participating in society as citizens with full rights.

To these points, Pang added: “All the above, I experienced personally when I spent 12 years trying to curb my homosexuality. It took away 12 years of my life. These days, I am so happy being who I am, so happy contributing to society, so happy being open and honest with my family and friends that I sometimes forget I wasted 12 years of my life in misery. Please let us live our lives.”

He said this was not the first time politicians or individuals mooted such an idea. In fact, he added, over the last few years, camps had been conducted specifically for non-gender conforming men in government run tertiary institutions, and last year, infamously, for secondary school teenagers.

He added that many young LGBTs dropped out of school as a result of being bullied by peers and teachers. Many who survive schools do so by remaining in the closet.

Unfortunately, for some, remaining in the closet was less easy as their mannerisms gave them away. That they managed to endure all the discrimination, bullying and marginalisation all the way to tertiary education is a testament to their tenacity and intelligence.

Yet at that level, the state does it best to disempower and discourage them. Pang goes on to ask why can’t we focus on teaching people how to be proud of what they contribute to the world?

“LGBT Malaysians have much to teach Malaysians to be proud of our own uniqueness and of the diversity that we each bring to the community. Here, we have politicians who are so desperate to jump on a convenient bandwagon just to appear to be doing work. Bullying gays is not real work.

“Try improving the education system. Hopefully one day we will have smarter politicians who won’t cite baseless studies or be out of touch with the rest of the world. My mother is okay with me being gay but she is not okay with the way this country is run,” he asserted.

Politicians drawing attention

Journalist Sharaad Kuttan was of the opinion that politicians here drew attention to themselves by making outlandish comments in search of media attention. But what they failed to realise was that what they say, isn’t playing out well at international levels.

He added that it was time for them to get sophisticated about the message they were sending.

“There are too many people in politics who don’t understand the consequence of what they say. Diversity is a sign of tolerance. Singapore reversed its policies on the LGBT community not so much on human rights grounds but for the sake of pragmatics and look at how they are thriving,” he said.

Sharaad cited a book written by Richard Florida, titled “The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life.”

Florida, a professor of regional development at Carnegie Mellon University, surveyed 49 urban centres with populations of at least one million, to try to discover the secrets of economic dynamism.

His findings pointed to the importance of what he called the “creative class” and defined this class as a band of people whose job was to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content.

An article about these findings explained that the creative class was not just peopled by “knowledge workers” but also by bohemians that were not normally associated with high economic productivity.

Florida offered the theory that economically successful cities that could attract and retain the creative class were those that possessed the three Ts – technology, talent and tolerance.

So how do homosexuals come into the equation? Gays are a proxy determinant of how tolerant and diverse a place is.

“To some extent, homosexuality represents the last frontier of diversity in our society and thus a place that welcomes the gay community welcomes all kinds of people,” said Florida. Cities that had gays and bohemians in abundance were more likely to have creative class workers, a deep high-tech industry and consequently, strong economic growth.

He said that Singapore, like other cities that want to succeed, had no choice. Otherwise, it would be in trouble: “Because its creative class would leave and migrate.”

What about sexual addiction?

To the question of what might happen should the campaign be carried out, Johana did not hesitate to state that there would be, if not already, negative repercussions.

She suggested that the quarters who were so opposed to homosexuality should think about this: what if one day, they woke up and found that their own sexuality was being judged, harassed and questioned. How would they like it then?

What about those who were addicted to sex? she questioned, giving the example of heterosexual people who were addicted to sex and frequented brothels. She highlighted that it would be prudent for the government to bring about rehab programs for these people first before venturing into unknown and misunderstood territories.

“Before anything could be done, society and those in powerful and influential positions should promote a non-judgmental approach towards these unique individuals and help them feel not guilty for being the way they are,” she said.

“Their sexual inclination is not their conscious choice. They have no control over whom they desire. They don’t need our judgment because no one judges them more than themselves,” she added.

Also read:

Campaign to curb homosexuality


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