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16 Dec 2010

"Saya gay, saya okay": First Malay-language "It Gets Better" video

Seksualiti Merdeka's second video in a series of 15 features Azwan Ismail, an engineer, poet, writer and editor of LGBT anthology Orang Macam Kita who shares that although it had taken him a long time to come to terms with his sexuality, he can now say "Saya gay, saya OK. (I’m gay, I’m OK.)"

Seksualiti Merdeka, a coalition of Malaysian NGOs, artists and individuals better known for producing the annual sexuality rights festival of the same name, last week launched their first video of a series of 15. Last month Gabrielle Yong became the first Malaysian to post her "It Gets Better" video which was inspired by a project initiated by gay American columnist Dan Savage to encourage LGBTQ youth about what the future can hold.

The first video launched last week features Peter Ong, a dancer, opera singer, National Coach for Malaysia's Ballroom Dancing team and owner of The Dance Space in Kuala Lumpur.

The second video launched today features Azwan Ismail, an engineer, poet, writer and editor of Orang Macam Kita – Malaysia’s first Malay-language LGBT anthology – who shares that although it had taken him a long time to come to terms with his sexuality as a Malay Muslim due to the "religious and cultural environment he is in, he can now confidently and publicly say "Saya gay, saya OK. (I’m gay, I’m OK.)"

Thirteen other Malaysians have so far signed up to share their stories and messages of hope: Alvin Ng, Gary Ooi, Jerome Kugan, Joe Pang, Kavidha Natarajan, Michelle Nor Ismat, Nabila Nasir, Nisha, Pang Khee Teik, Seetha, Sharaad Kuttan, Sulastri & Tina Fazlita Fadzil.


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-12-17 00:06  
As Asian gay is not easy, as gay muslim is harder i guess and come out in our society
2. 2010-12-17 07:33  
Peter Ong is a great speaker.he gets message across well... and i really like his hat, where can i get it?
3. 2010-12-17 09:26  
great job !!!
4. 2010-12-17 10:59  
Am touched
5. 2010-12-17 11:53  
I am really really happy that Azwan has taken the big step to be the spokesperson for gay Malay/Muslims. It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes as I put myself in his shoes and feel his emotions as he articulated his thoughts, feelings and advice. Yes. It has not been easy for me to come out and be what I really am.... So my heart goes to you Azwan and all my brothers... God bless and Azwan... my sincerest 'Thank You' to you bro.
6. 2010-12-17 13:03  
Check out the youtube. Lots of hate posts there. If you support Azwan, please help to counter that tide of intolerance and prejudice so that people know not every Muslim is against gays.
7. 2010-12-17 14:20  
8. 2010-12-17 14:45  
really love the video :)
9. 2010-12-17 19:05  
Azwan, great job, keep going. Gratulon al Azwan.
10. 2010-12-17 20:55  
I cannot believe Allah discriminates against glbt people.
He must love you so do have faith.
I trust He will arrange a special heaven for you glbt dears.
Allahu Akbah!
11. 2010-12-17 21:32  
have encouraged me
12. 2010-12-17 22:07  
13. 2010-12-17 22:52  
Malaysia Boleh! And It Gets Better! Thank you Peter and Azwan - you're really inspiring.
14. 2010-12-18 14:36  
I reckon the 'It Gets Better' series is a great step in allowing those still in the closet to take comfort and courage from the lives of others. I know that if this sort of support was around when I was a young confused and scared gay guy then my life would have taken a very different path from the one I traveled.
15. 2010-12-19 12:25  
16. 2010-12-19 16:27  
Today, the video is featured in Berita Harian with the headline "Jakim Pantau Seks Songsang" (http://www.bharian.com.my/bharian/articles/JAKIMpantausekssongsang/Article/) as well as NST with the headline "Being Gay is Against Islam" (http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/25gay/Article).

As you can imagine 99% of the comments on youtube are negative and homophobic. And some are even violent in nature, threatening to stone him, and in one instance someone said on our blog: "ape lagi tunggu..org mcm ni dihalalkan untuk dibunuh..." Many of course misunderstand this as a confession video when it was actually designed to give hope to young LGBTs not to give up. So if you believe that too, please help everyone knows that there are supportive people.

For now, I think it would be good if some of us, go to the youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJLSteQIcms) to respond to the comments. Calmly, kindly, and without provocation. People are just ignorant, is all. And a lot are also responding to their fear that Allah is going to bring about disasters and end times to us as a result of this. We must also condemn violence, threat of violence, intimidation, discrimination, and ignorance, too.

Besides responding on youtube, if you have a blog, you can blog about this in a positive manner. Malaysians should know that not everyone is against LGBTs. It is important to speak up for equality and the need for more understanding and opportunities for minorities to express their views.

More importantly, I think the battle must be fought on the language front. Not enough of us are articulating our pro-human rights and pro-equality rhetorics in Malay, or even counter the homophobic arguments in Malay, leaving that language to the hegemony of those who are homophobic. So if you can, that will be brilliant. If you prefer other languages, it is fine too.

Meanwhile, there is also something else you can do:

You can upload a brief video of yourself, using a webcam or borrow a friend's camera, saying why you support Malaysian LGBT's rights to be who they are in Malaysia or why you support your friends who are LGBT (the more anecdotal the better), and end with saying "Anda gay, saya Okay". Or even "Saya gay, saya okay" if you can. And let me know where you uploaded it and we can link it to our channel. You could also send it to me and we can upload it for you (worldwithoutpangs@gmail.com).

If you don't know what to say, you could just say "Hai, saya (your name). Anda gay, saya okay" -- or "Saya gay, saya okay" -- or something along those lines -- and mail the short clip to me (worldwithoutpangs@gmail.com) and I will put everybody's clip together in a video montage.

Thanks again! Let's stand together for equality and diversity in Malaysia!
17. 2010-12-19 19:48  
the response so far are... not that encouraging
but then again, it's malaysia we are talking about
what more, most of the responses come from people who are not aware of the purpose behind the creation of the video...
18. 2010-12-20 10:36  
know yourself, be honest to yourself. A very important element to lead a happy life.
19. 2010-12-20 11:11  
why ?
20. 2010-12-20 16:41  
sincerity came from d heart
yet not all typical malaysian r really understand tho..
gay is an artistic feeling
abstract yet full of wonders
21. 2010-12-20 18:57  
Great job :) Malaysia Boleh
22. 2010-12-21 18:38  
Took about a day for him to start getting death threats. Muslim leaders are saying he's "insulting Islam," so that isn't encouraging at all. I think Islam in Malaysia is especially evil because it's forced by constitutional law on people from the moment of their birth (Malays and bumis), so they really never have any say in the matter. If they dare leave the religion later, they're targeted for death threats and a lifetime of being miserable and ostracized. Religion SUCKS.

Here's the article about Azwan's plight (from a US news site, no less) -- hope Fridae updates this story as well: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40762639/

Edited: Fridae posted on this very topic mere moments after my post. The international news coverage this is getting is once again painting Malaysia in a negative light. One can only hope the government recognizes this and acts accordingly.
Comment edited on 2010-12-21 18:49:48
23. 2010-12-22 01:27  
If someone asks you, this should be your response, feel free to copy this:

Menjadi gay bukanlah sesuatu seseorang memilih. Seseorang adalah gay apakah mereka mengakuinya atau tak, apakah mereka pura-pura atau tidak, apakah atau tidak. seseorang melakukan sesuatu.

Menjadi gay adalah sama sebagai Orang
Malaysia, yang Orang Cina. Ini tidak ada hubungannya dengan budaya Barat, Orang Gay adalah disposisi biologis. Tak seorangpun, bukan orang gay dan masyarakat tidak dapat mengubahnya.

Ancaman kematian bukan apa2 dibandingkan dengan diskriminasi dan penyakit yang kita hadapi. MASYARAKAT telah membuat kita kuat dengan menyangkal hak kami untuk memimpin hidup tanpa dosa, kami tak diperbolehkan untuk menjadi
diri sendiri.

Orang2 yang membenci kita adalah orang-orang yang menindas, hanya mafia, tetapi orang-orang adalah kanker yang sama pada masyarakat yang tulah semua orang.

Selanjutnya, Islam tak terhadap menjadi gay, Islam hanya terhadap seks pranikah, terlepas dari seksualitas. Islam hanya menetapkan tindakan, bukan status. Cinta tidak pernah salah, dan Allah ingin orang untuk mencintai satu sama lain. MASYARAKAT menyangkal kita perkawinan dan jalan untuk mencintai dan seks yang datang dengan itu.

Seks pranikah terjadi, mengapa ada double standar membenci gay lagi? Kami MEMERLUKAN cara untuk mencintai satu sama lain tanpa melakukan dosa, yaitu kami menuntut untuk diberi hak untuk menikah satu sama lain dan hidup dari komitmen.
Comment edited on 2010-12-22 02:10:27
24. 2010-12-22 01:51  
I am an observing Muslim and a pretty open minded one when it comes to homosexuality as I don't want to judge people (let God alone be the Judge). Azwan can shout to the world who he is but some of his statements are bordering on blasphemy (irrelevant to being homosexual). He could have thread with more caution rather than shouting irrelevant sentences to his confession.

God has given us a choice (read 2:256), no compulsion in religion. Verily the truth stands out from the false. I think sexuality would remain a taboo issue and it is up to individual to deal with it. Those on both sides of the divide are equally guilty of ignorance. And it is sickening to read pretty foolish comments on this page but again it shows what we really are. Sexuality is part of my privacy and no one else should know about it, period, lest with my leave.
25. 2010-12-22 01:52  
*My comment #24 is taken straight from my own comment in Youtube. Just to clarify.
26. 2010-12-22 14:13  
is so touched!!!
i am gay, and i have tried my best to become straight, but was failed,
why i am working so hard to make myself to become straight,
this is because in my family, i am the only son who can give my parents grandchildren, but i really wants to be who i am. i am suffering.
but anyway, i will follow what my mind. =) thanks guys!
27. 2010-12-24 22:04  
I'm looking forward to watching Gary Ooi's clip! Congrats to everyone involved. You're providing a face and a voice that is sorely needed in Malaysia. Once again, technology and social networks are providing the opportunities to transform. Good luck.

28. 2010-12-25 22:41  
Great! As a Malaysian, I owe my duty to give you my support! (Jangan putus asa! Hak asasi manusia perlu dipertahankan demi kebaikan rakyat kita, perjuangan harus diteruskan, berdoa semoga kamu berjaya!)
29. 2010-12-27 23:51  
We Envy Your Courage, We Support You, We LOVE YOU!!!!
30. 2011-01-06 14:37  
I'm envy that Peter has the courage to do so...guess I'm not ready to face the world yet...If people would to find out I'm GAY...guess I would just learn how to admit??
I've problem to come out!!
Comment #31 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-10 19:50

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