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Now is NOT the Time for LGBT Malaysians to Give Zero Fucks

Image by Fahmi Reza

Article by Leyla

The euphoria that gripped Malaysia after the end of BN’s 62-year reign had dissipated in one single night, especially for LGBTQ communities. Our hope for change already started to chip away when our rights were violated even during Pakatan’s era. But now, with the possibility of BN returning along with PAS, the final nail in the coffin had been hammered, so to speak.

We spoke to Malaysians, both LGBTQ and allies, to locate some clarity in the midst of this political chaos.

Levels of fear

“The feeling of helplessness from being kept in the dark and at the mercy of our political overlords is not a pleasant feeling,” says Shawn K*, a local university student. He fears for the safety of his LGBTQ friends if far-right parties, BN and PAS take the reins and the backsliding of human rights worsens. 

Under previous administrations, homophobia was a full-scale rampant campaign. Enter Mahathir’s administration (latest or second latest, depending on who’s counting) in the form of PH. He formed a brand new coalition which was “progressive” in namesake, but in actuality, it all but exploited LGBTQ Malaysians. They needed to appease the conservative bloc who wanted proof that the ‘LGBT-agenda’ was being contained after all.

Shawn K adds that the “lack of transparency and reliable information” transpiring in the last few days has shaken up the communities’ trust in the government and faith in democracy.

Another concerned Malaysian questioned whether the principles of pluralism are no longer a reality for the government. “I was angry, furious, and thought very briefly ‘perhaps it’s time to leave’,” says PL*, an account manager in the Klang Valley. “Then I realised, this is a democracy. Democracy is noisy, chaotic. If it were to work, we have to make it work.”

But what does “making it work” mean? LGBTQ people are not all the same. As we see so far, some of them are disappointed by their lack of voice in government while others fear for their very lives. The problem is that not everyone has the privilege or wealth to add to the statistics on ‘brain drain’; democracy is chaotic but so are our intersectional identities.

Despite these differences, many of the LGBTQ communities are standing their ground to defend their constitutional rights. 

The targets are bigger (again)

LGBTQ communities are no strangers to cruel treatment, even under the PH administration. However, their plights have gone unnoticed by the majority of Malaysians. But now that non-Malays are beginning to get a taste of a government that seeks to make them minorities again, alarm bells ring. Ironically, their fears are revealing — they are afraid to get treated how LGBTQ have always been treated in the country.

Yet a group of LGBTQ folks still stand alongside their fellow citizens, out of love for their nation. On the night of 26 February, they gathered at Dataran Merdeka for a snap protest called #DemokrasiMati against the political elite and their “backdoor government”.

“We will see an emboldened jump in racism, fascism, classism and homophobia targeted at marginalised groups,” said Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, a human rights lawyer and ally. She was the most vocal orator at the rally, among a band of other young voices, mobilising a crowd feeling both betrayed and angered towards politicians who did not have their interests at heart.

On stage, she said, those “scheming and plotting with people that we voted for in the last election do not represent us”. When she says us, she means each and every group that faced discrimination, thrown in jail without due process, abused and tortured or, in worse cases, murdered. They are the Orang Asli, the poor, the Malaysian Indians, the Shi’a Muslims, the refugees, and the stateless and the displaced. 

Fadiah drives home a point about erasing the importance of marginalised groups amidst the entire he-said-she-said chaos, including non-Malays and low-income communities throughout her speech. “Only people power can save us, [politicians] are not going to save us”, Fadiah continues in an impassioned tone. 

Lex Ariff, a gay Sarawakian puts it succinctly, “Now is not the time to give zero fucks. This is the time to keep ourselves informed and those in power accountable.”

As the rakyat wait anxiously for news of a new government to arise from a palace they’ve never seen, they must know it’s not helpless, and that true political power lays in their hands. Even if those hands have endured hate and exclusion simply for the colour of their skin or who they love. This time, we stand as Malaysians.

Leyla is a freelance journalist, podcaster and aspiring filmmaker keeping abreast of global politics and tech news.

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