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27 Apr 2012

Should LGBTs join Bersih?

Bersih (which means "clean" in Malay), a Malaysian movement for free and fair elections which saw tens of thousands of activists, politicians and citizens take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur 9 July 2011, is slated to take place on Saturday, April 28. Hafidz Baharom, an openly gay social commentator, shares why he has decided to go.

I'm guessing that is the main question that is running through the minds of the people who are preparing to either head to Dataran Merdeka (Freedom Square) or not this coming weekend. The truth is, I have been personally wrestling with the question myself for the past few weeks since I have yet to make my mind up until the writing of this article. 

After all, I was in Bersih 2.0 and you can read my account of it on Loyarburok. And my agenda for walking then was truly clear. I walked for free and fair elections, with the idea that such elections would definitely push forth the need for open discussion on issues concerning myself and about 10 percent of the Malaysian population, which is the LGBT community. 


The reason I personally want to push for free and fair elections is because I believe that we need to hear intellectual discourse from both sides, the pro-LGBT and the anti-LGBT, to garner some form of understanding as to why hate groups (and yes, they are hate groups) such as the Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) exist at all. The truth of the matter is they exist solely to try and link Bersih, the call for free and fair elections, and its organisers, particularly Dato' Ambiga and Dato' A Samad Said, to the LGBT movement. 


As such, would my presence, in a pink t-shirt and blue jeans at Dataran Merdeka this coming weekend be construed as how JMM could be right? 

It is a rather 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' argument, but then again Malaysians don't speak Latin, do they? 

They probably wouldn't even bother to Google what the hell that means. [It means "after this, therefore because of this”, a logical fallacy sometimes referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation, or correlation not causation.]

The members of the LGBT community, myself included, are more than just a bunch of gays waving rainbow flags marching for freedom. We are also made of every race, every religious denomination, every political faction be it UMNO [United Malays National Organisation] or PAS [Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party], and in fact, we come from various levels of the corporate ladder, be it the low-level executive or the blue collar factory workers to the professional, more so in the creative industry which Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak has recently encouraged the youth of the nation to be more participatory in. 

As such, we are subsequently also taxpayers who have an increasing stake in how this country is being run. And we are beginning to acknowledge this fact, whether the government or its hateful supposed non-government organisations wish to acknowledge.

Police used tear gas on demonstrators at the Bersih 2.0 rally. Photo: AFP/ Al Jazeera

It is with this in mind that I think the LGBTs need to join Bersih 3.0. We need to acknowledge the fact that we do own this country and have a stake in this country just like the rest of the Malaysian population. And as such, do we not want free and fair elections? 

Do we not want the ability to tell our future Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeris (state legislative members) and Ahli Parlimen (parliament members) to stop violence and abuse of LGBTs? 

To stop the bullying and hate-mongering by schools, religious authorities, and consequentially, the government administrators? 

You see, fellow gays, queers and transgender (mak nyahs), we all can have that ability if we make our voices heard and tell the government "you know what, I am the bapok, kaum nabi Lut, orang berseks songsang" (derogatory terms to refer to LGBTs) that you talk about, but I'm more than that. I'm a registered voter, a tax payer, a student who will be working in this country in the future and contributing to the shitty economy that you guys screwed up. 

I am the ones who go out to Pavillion to fill up your malls and buy your luxury goods which are subject to 100 percent tax. I am the one who’s paying the alcohol tax, the entertainment tax, the sales tax. 

I am also the ones driving those shitty made local Perodua and Proton cars which you sell at RM40,000 in order to keep the companies afloat to sell the cars at a cheaper price overseas.

The LGBT community, if we could conduct a survey right now, spends more in their lifetime promoting the consumption of luxury goods, automobiles, and perhaps even local tourism. We also spend more on fashion products, be it what is labeled Islamic and such, and are in fact the ones who promote tourism by getting foreigners to come to the country to enjoy the sights and sounds (and boys) of KL to the rest of the world. 

Like it or not, whether [current Minister of Tourism] Ng Yen Yen wishes to mention it, pink tourism and pink dollars are a growing market. And ipso facto, so is the visibility of the rainbow coalition. 

While the rest of the world and in fact, the cyber gaming world, has normalised homosexuality, Malaysians are left behind because gays are harangued by the stigma that somehow we caused the earthquakes and turned people into salt. While the former could have been a sex romp gone wrong, we are not exactly capable of shaking the world like Carole King. 

As such, I will be at Dataran Merdeka on April 28 to show that I am more than just a gay man. I am a voter and I sure as hell want a free and fair election so that we can advance to a Malaysia where we can live as who we are; overtly happy people who can go around openly without being threatened and cowed because the closet cases don't have the guts to do so.

Reader's Comments

1. 2012-04-27 20:01  
Fret not my fellow. I will be there too. Lets say NO to UMNO and NO to any form of discrimination.

The time is NOW and the power for change is in our hands.
2. 2012-04-27 20:39  
a very inspiring read. it is about time we fight for a change to malaysia as a whole. I
wished I was able to join you guys, but I will be away tomorrow. I will take a moment off my day to pray for everybodys safety. stay together n stay safe u guys. God bless!
3. 2012-04-27 21:32  
Hafidz, we support your cause. We need to hear more voices like him. All the best in your Bersih 3.0 participation.
4. 2012-04-27 22:31  
Palpatine has been in d government too long!
5. 2012-04-27 22:53  
I would urge all Malaysians to participate in Bersih. I have been privileged to be an international election observer for 25+ years and in 70+ countries. The LGBT Community should show their presence to help encourage free and fair elections, and even when one knows that the elections will not be fair, to do their best to embarass the state and to discourage election corruption.
6. 2012-04-28 01:09  
I will be joining the movement from Los Angeles. Go Malaysia!
7. 2012-04-28 05:27  
yes join...corruption is linked with repression and human rights!
8. 2012-04-28 07:17  
Good on you Hafidz. Shake the shit out of those corrupt UMNO arseholes especially the closet case Hishamuddin. Tunku would spin in his grave at the way UMNO has perverted his legacy. Have a great day and make a lot of noise.
9. 2012-04-28 16:07  
this is a rea dilema
free elections is fine
but malasia is aparthied driven
islam is completly anti homo
we need to be clearly seen as lgbt in the croud
to show that we are 10%

10. 2012-04-29 05:46  
I hope that members of the lgbt community did take part in the day of action in support of free and fair elections, because as one person has said, by doing that, they can make it possible for the freedoms we enjoy here in the UK to be established in Malaysia, which prides itself on its welcome for tourists. Remember what Gandhi achieved through passive resistance in overthrowing the British rule in India! Somehow the whole population of Malaysia need to be energized into striving for human dignity and integrity in all walks of life - and cleaning out the corrupt practices of the past. Malaysia stands at a crossroads. I hope that people will see through the cynical ploy of certain politicians in using moderate reforms to ensure their continuance in power rather than being open to present themselves fairly at the ballot box so that the electorate can make an informed judgement on various parties' policies in a truly democratic process.
11. 2012-04-29 23:30  
Good luck to all of you.
12. 2012-04-30 02:05  
I was debating to myself whether I should go or not, as I have other commitments and a lot at stake should I get injured or arrested. Your article was a strong factor why I decided to heck it all and just go. I'm glad I did!
I took the komuter train to the rally area. There was a man wearing a kopiah (skullcap) in my train carriage, obviously a PAS (a Muslim opposition political party) supporter, who was in deep discussion with his friends. He mentioned something about, who cares if Ambiga supports LGBT people or not? Coming from an orthodox-looking Muslim, I was surprised he said that; some hardcore supporters from the Malay-Muslim ruling party have openly condemned Ambiga for supporting LGBT rights and, by some twist of logic, equated support for Bersih as support for LGBT 'sin'.
The PAS man went on to say that LGBT are human too, and therefore have rights, including a right to legal counsel. Before I even stepped foot into the Bersih rally, I was already overwhelmed with newfound hope for humanity!
If Jaringan Melayu Malaysia was allowed to have a rally of hate at UPM, what the hell, what's wrong with having a rally of love for our country?
13. 2012-04-30 08:54  
I always though whoever think their religion is holy, should not use it in politic. Politic has never been holy
Comment edited on 2012-04-30 10:24:05
14. 2012-04-30 09:15  
It seems a rather strained argument, in my view. It just sounds strange to me that the author would want to link the LGBT movement against gender/orientation related discrimination to Bersih 3.0 which is primarily about clean and fair elections. I can't figure out how antidiscrimination fits in with clean and fair elections.
15. 2012-04-30 16:26  
Thank you for this article. Some very strong points made. However, I have to comment that to use the "pink dollar" as an argument for LGBT is self-defeating (in my opinion). I think that this is reductive (i understand that you make other arguments, but this one in particular will no doubt jump at politicians for capitalist reasons), and comes across us "redeem us gays because we bring you money". LGBT persons need not be "redeemed"; yes we contribute to the economy like every other person does, but there's no need to reduce us to the "pink dollar".
16. 2012-05-01 10:58  
A muslim country will never allow free elections and hate Christian and Jew and Gay . Christian Countrys allow free elections and people are free to choose the religion and sexuality the Bible also says gay is wrong but does not condem gay people but loves them and wants them to follow Christ . I pray that God will help this country to be free and fair to all its people
17. 2012-05-05 05:55  
thats rubbish plawater...christian churches in new zealand activly descriminate against gays and many esp the evangelical would happily drag women and gays back to the dark ages if they could.here they say we love the sinner hate the sin .ie the homosexual act..as far as im concerned thats not good enough.this is the modern world and that old religous bigoted thinking is out of date and is worth fighting.sure they are slightly less obnoxious than the muslim fundos but as far as im concerned the sooner we rid ourselves of this big daddy in the sky concept the sooner we grow up as humans on this planet.and rid ouselved of the root cause of so much division in the world.
18. 2012-05-06 13:28  
Omg...I was in kl on that day and I was planning to visit merdeka square to see the flag and I got stuck in the subway station! Then there was tear gas... I was just an innocent tourist with absolutely no clue what was going on. Oh well, an interesting experience nonetheless.
19. 2012-05-11 21:10  
Just saying that if you get a new party or coalition in power who do not control the press so much them maybe attitudes will catch up with the (real) rest of the world.

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