Oyoung Wenfeng's latest offering, Is Present the Future? - An Asian Gay Man's Coming Out Journey (现在是以后了吗?), was launched on Aug 21 in Kuala Lumpur and was attended by some 150 people, including gay, lesbian and straight readers as well as the press, television, radio and online media.
Malaysian dance artiste Lee Swee Keong opened the event held at Galleriiizu with a melancholic dance performance inspired by the classical Chinese story of ill-fated romance The Butterfly Lovers.
Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in New York, spoke about coming-out issues and related how she was a witness to Oyoung's coming-out in New York, where he currently lectures on sociology at St Peter University and is doing research for his doctorate in divinity with Boston University. Oyoung is also a PhD candidiate in sociology at the City Univeristy of New York (CUNY).
The 36-year-old Kuantan-born author is known to many Malaysians as a passionate speaker and newspaper commentator who was provocative at times. As a social commentator, his sharp and incisive writings on social ills in Malaysia and the US engaged both passionate supporters and indignant critics.
His column Under the Statue of Liberty ran in Malaysia's largest circulating Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily for eight years, with his popularity sustained by his vocal analysis and critique of social issues. In 1996, he won the Best Journalist Award by National Chinese-language newspapers.
Oyoung is known to stand his ground despite being attacked by his opponents from conservative quarters.
While he wrote passionately about gay pride, LGBT equality and queer studies (his weekly commentary on Fridae's Chinese website has been running since February this year), his own sexuality has been somewhat ambiguous in the public eye as he was married to a psychologist for seven years.
His recent publication God Loves Gays (神爱同志), a close examination of biblical interpretation of the relationship between gay Christians and their faith, was widely read and discussed in Malaysia and made its way into the bestseller list in the Chinese-language regional news magazine Yazhou Zhoukan.
That book was followed by two other groundbreaking works Gays Love God (同志爱神) and Sociology of Body (身体社会学). The former examines the relationship between gays/lesbians and their religion while the latter looks at how society relates to the human body from a sociological perspective, exploring issues like birth, sex, food, customs, ethnicity - and literally one's skin colour, aging, illness and death and the many ways the human body is used and abused to control and manipulate, or to please and entice.
With this new book Is Present the Future?: An Asian Gay Man's Coming-Out Journey, Oyoung returns to his own life story for inspiration. He hopes for it to be an inspiration for gay men and lesbians who are struggling with similar issues.
At the book launch, the otherwise passionate speaker was calm and collected, as he expressed his guilt in having to lead a life of deception in the public eye with regards to his marriage to his ex-wife, who was mostly silent at the event.
While he said that he is not advocating for gays and lesbians come out publicly as he has, he hopes for his book to provide some form of support to those who are struggling to accept their own sexual orientation. He also warned against gay individuals marrying to hide their true sexual orientation as it traps an innocent party in an unhealthy relationship.
In his book, Oyoung gave credit to his ex-wife Chun-Yu for giving him the courage to step out of their marriage to date men and recounted a period of time when his Puerto Rican boyfriend Angel and his ex-wife lived as a family in the same New York apartment.
Is Present the Future: An Asian Gay Man's Coming-Out Journey (现在是以后了吗？) is available in bookstores across Malaysia and on Fridae Shop (international delivery available).
A book launch and meet-the-author session will be held in Singapore on August 24 (Thursday) at 7.30 pm, at Xpose Cafe and Restaurant (280 South Bridge Road, near Mosque Street and Upper Cross Street). For more details, please click here.