We can punish LGBTs but we can’t change science

I am appalled by how our top leaders, senators and muftis have described members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as people who are “sick” and have “mental problems”, saying they have no place in this country. I don’t know how many LGBTs there are in Malaysia, but even if it is only a few, we must protect them.

Since the caning incident in Terengganu, there have been many other derisive remarks made against homosexuals throughout Malaysia. This is a clear sign of the deep-seated hatred of LGBTs in our community, and it is evident that many people – I call them “LGBT-haters” – are simply ignorant of basic science and physiology.

No one chooses to be LGBT. I repeat: no one can choose to be straight or gay, tall or short, brown-eyed or black. We are born with physical and psychological characteristics that are totally outside of our control. Also, being born an LGBT isn’t a punishment from God. God isn’t cruel.

We are what we are, in the main, because of genetics. Sometimes the interplay of antibodies and the immune system, or how many sisters we have, contributes to a person’s physical makeup including sexual orientation. We understand very little about LGBTs, that’s why there is no excuse to discriminate against them and treat them as if they are not human beings. They are just like you and I. If Malaysia is not a home for them, where should we send them? Myanmar?

Now, even Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders shy away from defending the basic human rights of LGBTs. In fact, some are actively ridiculing them. Why are these “reformists” and people who fought to change the system so afraid to defend and uphold human rights as an important universal principle for everyone?

The answer again is ignorance of science and a lack of knowledge about the world. Perhaps it’s also the fear that they might lose votes at the next election. PAS morality is now the barometer. Homosexuality exists everywhere in human culture. This is why many governments around the world no longer criminalise it, the latest being India.

For those who claim that homosexuality is against the order of nature, the fact is that it is common in the animal kingdom. Ten percent of rams, for example, prefer to mount other rams but not ewes. Female Japanese macaques compete aggressively with males for exclusive access to female sexual partners. There are many other studies that show homosexuality to be natural, and the world isn’t going upside down – it has always been this way.

We can continue to punish, humiliate and cane LGBTs every day, but we cannot change the way our genes work. If Malaysians had a better understanding of this, perhaps they wouldn’t be so keen to hate others so easily. The earlier we recognise this, the better: we should be talking about science and biology and how to accept one another instead of festering hate.

I always thought PH promised a shelter for everyone and a country to be shared by all. It’s an easy promise to fulfil. If they can’t do this, I hope someone can vacate a parliamentary seat for me. I, too, want to be prime minister so that I can make this country a home for everyone – and I mean everyone.

Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.