WE REFER to the story “Hook-ups after dark.” On behalf of Seksualiti Merdeka – which consists of both the local LGBT community as well as non-LGBT allies – we would like to express our collective disappointment with the article.
First, a point of appreciation. Over the past few years, some Malaysian media have commendably highlighted the negative impact of discrimination against LGBTs and given voice to LGBT Malaysians. This direction to include the voices of all who live in this country gives us hope for a kinder and more inclusive Malaysia. We are therefore dismayed by this recent article, which has deliberately exposed gay men and described them as “immoral”. It is a step back.
The article seems to allow for the invasion of individual privacy. Is it moral to perpetuate discrimination and expose the lives of vulnerable communities?
LGBT individuals live on a perilous margin. In the media, we are often reduced to our sexuality, our lives described in lurid details to titillate the public. Is it so surprising then, given the negative public perception, that so many of us live and love in secret? That some of us would hide, and seek companionship in the cover of night and empty parks?
Your article highlights a real problem – but it isn’t caused by the individuals there in the park. It is caused by social prejudice, institutional discrimination and criminalisation that leave many of us with nowhere to go to be ourselves.
Let us not perpetuate fear and discrimination towards an already stigmatised community.
Like society at large, there is diversity among the LGBT community as well. Not all seek companionship in the park; not all are in the closet; not all live in fear. In spite of the risks, some of us are out and open. This may be because of the fact that some of us have supportive families, friends and colleagues who have come to know us and appreciate us beyond the stereotypes presented in the media.
We need spaces where we can represent ourselves and the media is one such avenue.
We note that the article included the work of PT Foundation in using the venue as a place to promote public health education and HIV testing. However, the negative tone in both the reporting and the headline resulted in an article that could be considered judgemental and discriminatory.
Many in the LGBT community face significant barriers in accessing justice, rights and healthcare. Out of fear of being discovered or judged by medical practitioners, many of us never seek or receive the care we truly need.
Each year, health authorities announce increasing figures of new HIV/STIs infections among the key populations – yet to-date, we have not seen any effective interventions. It is the stigma and discrimination that fuel the epidemics.
Therefore, we need the help of the media to ensure objective reporting and raise awareness without demonising any parties.
More Malaysians are starting to become more aware of – and more sympathetic to – LGBT lives.
We the LGBTs are your readers. We are a part of your community. We are citizens. Our sexuality is more than our sexual acts and we are more than our sexuality. We are human beings with struggles, hopes and dreams.
We at Seksualiti Merdeka simply hope to nudge Malaysia towards becoming a compassionate and caring community. We welcome the media to join us in our collective efforts to create a Malaysia for all.
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