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30 May 2011

Read the list! 29 ways towards an LGBTIQ-friendly Malaysia (and the world)

Don't use homo/trans-phobic slurs or partake in homo/trans-phobic jokes. Respect people's right to privacy. Champion change in homophobic and transphobic environments. Read the 29 ideas put forth by participants at the "29 WAYS Towards an LGBTIQ-Friendly Malaysia" event held yesterday.

29 WAYS Towards an LGBTIQ-Friendly Malaysia was organised by Seksualiti Merdeka in support of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) and the 29 Yogyakarta Principles pertaining to sexuality rights.

As published on http://29waysmalaysia.blogspot.com:

1. Don't use terms associated with LGBTIQs as slurs. Don't use terms like “gay”, “fag”, “dyke”, “pondan”, “bapok”, “pengkid”, “ah qua”, etc. to disparage, insult, or hurt anyone, whether gay or straight. Don't perpetuate homophobic or transphobic jokes to tease someone or at the expense of LGBTIQs.

2. Don't harass/threaten/stare. If you notice a transgender or same-sex couple being affectionate, etc. don't stare. Don't laugh or sneer or do anything to make them feel threatened or uncomfortable. Show compassion and respect.

3. Take a stand against homophobia and transphobia. When someone is ridiculed, bullied, teased, or harassed for being LGBTIQ, stand up for them. If the problem is widespread, report it to the authorities (if they are unhelpful, email us). Refuse to tolerate or participate in creating a homophobic or transphobic space.

4. Refer to individuals and groups as they would want to be identified. If someone identifies as female, use "she", if male, use "he", and if you are not sure, politely ask. Use gender-neutral and inclusive pronouns when referring to a group of persons.

5. Don't assume that there is only one way to be male or female. Don't ridicule others for how they express their gender identity just because it contradicts or offends your ideas.

6. Challenge society's attempts to box us into neat gender roles. Be creative in countering the dichotomies of male vs female, effeminate vs butch, virgin vs whore, etc. Share your own stories. Make films, make art. Write poems and songs. Show that we are all so much more complex than we get credit for being.

An inverted pink triangle surrounded by a green circle, as used to symbolize alliance with gay rights and space free from homophobia.

7. Create safe spaces for LGBTIQs. Make flyers that carry the symbol for queer safe spaces (or use a rainbow or other queer symbol if you prefer!). Pin one up in your office or room. Discuss with friends what it means to be in a safe space. Make extra copies to hand out to friends so they too can help create safe spaces in their work place or school or organisation.

8. Support your LGBTIQ friend. If your friend or acquaintance comes out to you (i.e., tells you that they are queer), be kind and accepting, and let them know that your friendship does not depend on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

9. Support your LGBTIQ family member/loved one. If your family member comes out to you, accept and support them. Whatever you think of their life choices, trust that they are not acting to hurt you but only to pursue their happiness. Don't underestimate their need for affirmation and acceptance from loved ones.

10. Respect people's right to privacy. Relationships between consenting adults are their own business. Similarly, everyone has the right to choose when to come out/identify as LGBTIQ. If you know or suspect a person to be LGBTIQ but that person is not out, don't out him or her. This is each person's own decision to make.

11. Get educated on the issues. Try and understand the perspective of LGBTIQs as well as the history of and theory behind sexuality rights and queer rights. Start a reading group or study circle on issues related to sexuality rights. Click here for some suggested reading material.

12. Learn the law. Find out about laws relevant to LGBTIQs and same-sex couples. Note how some laws criminalise consensual victimless acts, diminish the human dignity of LGBTIQs, or prevent their full participation in society. Learn about your rights if stopped by the police or RELA or the Islamic Affairs Department. You never know when this information might be useful.

13. Tell your MP you support sexuality rights. Write to your elected representative to say you support sexuality rights (and therefore they should too!). Click here for a template email and contact information.

14. Tell the government to respect, protect, and promote sexuality rights. Sign this petition calling for the Malaysian government to stop discriminating against LGBTIQs and regulating the gender expressions and sexual behaviour of any and all Malaysians, whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation.

15. Take a stand against homophobic and transphobic media. Sign this memorandum calling for the positive portrayal of LGBTIQs in the media. If your newspaper, magazine, TV channel, or radio station carries homophobic or transphobic pseudo-news or programmes, write to them (or to an alternative media channel) to complain. Click here for the contact information of major media outlets.

16. Tell SUHAKAM to support sexuality rights. Write to SUHAKAM to let them know that you think sexuality rights is a fundamental human right and they should work harder to support LGBTIQs. Click here for a template letter and contact information.

17. Support the right to bodily autonomy and dignity of all persons. Sexuality rights include respect for bodily autonomy and dignity. Bodily autonomy is the right to determine for yourself what is right for your own body; bodily dignity the right to be treated with care and respect and to be safe from bodily harm or exploitation. Do not reduce people to sexual objects. Do not support products that rely on the objectification of others, specifically of women, in their ads.

18. Support initiatives that seek to democratise Malaysia. Sexuality rights cannot be seen as a separate set of rights from, for example, freedom of expression, freedom of association, or freedom of movement. Together, we have to work for a free and independent judiciary, free press, and a government that is accountable to all Malaysians, irrespective of gender identity and sexual orientation.

19. Read the Yogyakarta Principles pertaining to sexuality rights. These principles apply international human rights law to gender identity and sexual orientation. Discuss them with friends. Use them as a guide to help understand the rights that everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, ought to be able to expect.

20. Support the work of organisations and initiatives that address sexuality rights issues in Malaysia. Click here for a list of these groups. Volunteer to help them. Make a donation. Support them by joining their mailing lists and attending their events.

21. Don't assume God hates queers. Some LGBTIQs are religious, and some religious people are strong advocates of sexuality rights for LGBTIQs. Don't assume that LGBTIQ identities and practices are antithetical to religious principles. Learn how some scholars and advocates have argued in support of LGBTIQ rights. (You need not agree with them, but don't ignore their arguments.) Click here for some links to get you started.

22. Reflect on the nature of desire and identity; empathise accordingly. Think about your male and female friends. What does it mean to be male or female, really? Think about your sexual desires and practices and what it means to be in love―Is love only possible among heterosexual, gender normative people? You don't need to answer these questions, but do reflect on them.

23. Come out as an LGBTIQ supporter/ally. Sexuality rights is relevant and important for everyone, not just LGBTIQs. Allies are those who support the community on principled grounds, who take a stand against discrimination and persecution on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. And who do so proudly.

24. If you are LGBTIQ, be proud and reach out. As much as possible, try to be open and honest about who you are. Support other LGBTIQs and those questioning their identity.

25. Champion change in homophobic and transphobic environments. If your office/club/school/place of worship faces a homophobic or transphobic environment, host an action (e.g., write a letter, host a sit-in, organise a protest, hold a forum, throw a diversity party, etc.) to address the issue.

26. Attend Seksualiti Merdeka. The annual sexuality rights festival is held around the end of the year. Better yet, volunteer or join the organising team. Check out the website for more information, and email if you'd like to be a part of this festival.

27. Support/link to this campaign. Use this virtual badge on your blog or website to declare yourself a supporter of this campaign. Or link to this page using Facebook or Twitter. Tell your friends! Blog about us! Tweet our #29Ways!

28. Join this campaign. We plan to host actions on the 29th of every month, and we are always looking for more people to be part of the team. Share your ideas and talents, and help us achieve an LGBTIQ-friendly Malaysia! Email us with the subject heading "Count me in!"

29. Start your own sexuality rights initiative or campaign. Don't wait for others to take the lead. Email us, and we will do our best to support your activism.

What you can do: Share this list with your friends, email it to them, link it to your Facebook wall, put it on your blog, activate your friends and family. Print it out, enlarge it and paste it on your fridge, your office noticeboard, your universities. We plan to hold an action on the 29th of every month. Watch out for the next one, where we discuss the practical steps with which we can transform different social settings in Malaysia into LGBTIQ-friendly spaces.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-05-31 23:42  
I personally like point 26!

That's the thing! Let's gather!

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