A straight narrative for LGBTs

Yesterday, Utusan Malaysia ran an article quoting Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid from the Institute of Ethnic Studies to remind the LGBT community of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) programme in the US military.

According to Kartini, DADT, which barred openly gay, lesbian and bisexual persons from US military service from 1994 until 2011, was endorsed by the Bill Clinton administration so that the US would not “make a big deal” about one’s sexual orientation.

Kartini said it showed that LGBTs who are open about their orientations would pose a “national problem”. How so, she did not elaborate.

Perhaps she thinks that sex, drugs and partying are LGBT practices and would therefore undermine the country’s religious and cultural values.

But what can one expect from a paper that believes the LGBT community is “polluting” and “injecting” Malaysian society with their “lifestyle”?

Kartini wrongly referred to DADT as “don’t tell and talk”. The report also failed to mention that this policy was discontinued, so citing an old US policy was slightly misguided.

Under DADT, military or appointed officials shall not require members to reveal their sexual orientation. A member may be discharged for claiming or indicating to be a homosexual or bisexual.

But studies have shown that transgenders in the military will have minimal impact on readiness and healthcare cost, and little or no impact on unit cohesion or operational readiness.

The truth is that Clinton campaigned on an agenda of equal rights for gays. But an outright ban on gays in the military was passed by Congress despite his objections. Hence DADT as a compromise.

Kartini’s view echoes that of politicians in the wake of the Women’s Day march on Saturday, that LGBTs are just problematic.

The Utusan article attempts to incite hatred through ignorance towards an already marginalised and discriminated community.

It seems to ignore the psychological impact on a person who is always told to bottle up his true identity and feelings.

Cases of attempted suicides and suicidal ideation among LGBT youth in the US are significantly higher than in the general population. Medical diagnoses of major depressive disorders among teens is on the rise.

Telling LGBTs to “be LGBT” only in private is not a practical solution and is detached from reality. Perhaps they think all LGBTs live on unicorn islands with pixie dust and rainbows.

For those who don’t have the luxury of “coming out”, people like Kartini don’t realise how family members can react when their child is gay or transgender, sometimes leading to physical altercations or constant emotional abuse. Some run away.

In fact, a large number of homeless youth in the US are LGBT, which studies suggest is due to the hostility they face at home. They are also at greater risk of substance use, risky sexual behaviour, criminal activities, and homelessness.

Why do people like Kartini have a problem with the LGBTs? How would they take it if they lost their jobs and were isolated from families and religious circles?

Honestly, are LGBTs promiscuous, drug-taking, sex-addicted, atheistic people?

Sure, some are, but it’s wrong to say this of the entire community. Some LGBTs don’t even party or have sex.

Does our government know about this “counter-narrative”? There is a need to set the record straight.

Let them live, let them be themselves, and help them be on the same platform as the rest of us.

Instead of demeaning them to sensationalise their concerns, we should take a more holistic approach in understanding how LGBTs need our help.

We can start by calling out media reports like the one by Utusan and people like Kartini who get the facts and context wrong.

FC Kumar is an FMT reader.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.