LGBT Malaysians
January 23, 2014 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Hey Hivemind, I was wondering if anyone could point me to accounts and/or resources about the current social and political climate for LGBT people in Malaysia?

My baby cousin, who is a foreign student attending college in the US, recently came out to the family. I'm more than happy that he's been able to come out and that the family has been (mostly) been supportive. However, it has been getting me thinking about the LGBT situation in Malaysia, where most of my extended family is from. The cursory internet searches--which is to say Google and Wikipedia--lead me think that the situation isn't great, though some of what I've read suggests there is a slight split in attitudes in Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the country. A lot of this is wrapped up in concern about what to do when his student visa runs out.

I saw that divabat had posted a bit about it last year, but I was wondering if anyone knew of anything--Amnesty International reports, newspaper articles, academic studies, etc--that would give me a better glimpse about what is like in Malaysia for the LGBT community.
posted by Weebot to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
i doubt there's going to be a lot of vetted material on the LGBT community. You must've heard about the farcical anti-gay musical tour.

The only thing I can think of would be to contact the people at the Pink Triangle for leads.

On a personal level, I'm pretty certain the more affluent/well-educated areas such as Ampang and Subang Jaya are pretty gay-receptive. It's mostly an unspoken thing when it comes to the older generation but the young uns are pretty media-exposed and accepting.
posted by kinoeye at 10:30 PM on January 23, 2014

The concerns would be how much the authorities want to make this an issue for your cousin. If he displays, organizes, flaunts, protests, etc. he could be in serious trouble.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:31 AM on January 24, 2014

My brother (American) and his same-sex partner (a native Malay who presents as a woman) reside in KL. They are able to work and live together, and have been together for 10 years. She works as a call center manager, and regularly posts selfies and pictures of her core group of LGBT friends on FB.

Based on recent conversations with my brother and partner, the tacit understanding is LGBT people need to keep a low-profile and not publicize their status. If you were a Western same-sex couple traveling in KL, that would be ok. A Malay same-sex couple walking on the street hand in hand, that could be quite dangerous.

My brother and partner were recently married in the U.S., and they asked those in attendance to not post any photos on social media. (As to indicate why, they told us a story: A friend of my brother's partner had just publicized her own U.K. wedding on social media, the gov't got wind of it, she was now unable to return home, and was petitioning for asylum in the U.K.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:43 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The legal status of LGBT people is well documented. Here is the Human Rights Watch report with a brief summary of the current situation for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender:

What you, or this young man you are concerned about, needs to know, though, is what day to day life is like for gay men. I am gay and spent a summer in Malaysia and knew gay men there. I was generally not out except to people who I knew would be tolerant (people working in HIV research who were heavily Western influenced).

My understanding is that people's circumstances vary substantially depending on who they are and where they live. KL has a thriving men's nightlife. Most of the rest of Malaysia decidedly does not. Also, my impression is that Malaysia is fairly racially segregated and that the gay community is equally so and my suspicion is that on average Chinese Malaysians are more likely to be accepting than Malays, though I hate to make sweeping generalizations.

Life for gay people is probably easier where your cousin is than in Malaysia.
posted by reren at 4:19 PM on January 24, 2014

There is a lot of work about this. Although we're talking about different countries here (Malaysia vs Indonesia) there are really important cultural similarities and it would be a good idea to look at Tom Boellstorff's book The Gay Archipelago. A book like this, and other academic work, will help to unpack some of the profound cultural differences. It's important to remember that the categories we use in the 'west' for sexual orientation don't often map well onto those used elsewhere. For example, as Boellstorff discusses in his work the categories "Gay" and "Lesbi" don't match what we think of as Gay and Lesbian. There are many other examples.

And a quick search on Google Scholar brings up tons of writing on Gay and LGBT issues in Malaysia.
posted by jardinier at 4:05 PM on January 26, 2014

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