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.