I applaud malaysiakini's reporting of Ouyoung Wen Feng's public coming out to his audience who attended his book launch. More importantly, my hats off to Ouyoung for his tremendous courage for doing so; he has done the local gay community a huge service. I wish him success in his pursuit of his two doctoral degrees.
In an environment where the local mainstream media vilifies and demonises non-heterosexuals not only as sexual deviants but also as sinful, unnatural or even insane individuals, it was heartening to read about Ouyoung's courageous step to acknowledge his homosexuality in public.
The article is also spot on about the absolute dearth of positive role models in the local gay community. Due to the fact that homosexuality remains criminalised and stigmatised in Malaysia, many gay people not only hide their sexual orientation, but also live in fear of being found out as being a homosexual and discriminated as such.
The result of this is that not only is Malaysia's gay community largely invisible (depending on which social circles one moves in), but there is a substantial number of them who don't have or don't know of any avenue to seek support and advice on how to come to terms with their sexuality and to love and accept themselves as gay people.
Consequently, there is an unknown number of young gay Malaysians who suffer from mental anguish, depression, get thrown out or rejected by their families or commit suicide simply because of their family's or their own inability to accept with their sexual orientation. Anecdotal accounts of such incidences suggest that such cases are not as rare as one would have thought.
Malaysia stubbornly and irrationally continues to criminalise homosexual acts because of a lethal combination of politicians who want to appear more 'holier' than the next politician. Theirs is ignorance, fear and prejudice against a human condition which many institutions, including the American Psychiatric Association, the Pentagon and China, just to name a few, have stated is not a mental illness.
The fact that the Penal Code criminalises sexual acts, which are subjectively considered as unnatural between two consenting adults, is an abomination and a scar on our law books.
With this in mind, Ouyoung's coming out in a deeply hetero-centric country is so positively significant. The local gay community needs visible, positive role models who are openly gay, successful and most importantly, happy Malaysians who are not only accepted but also supported by their families, friends, co-workers and peers.
Those who are still in the closet need to know that it is possible to come out, be happy and be accepted if not by general society, then by at least those in their immediate social circles.
Contrary to conservative views, homosexuality is not new and neither is it a Western import nor invention. It is in fact one of the many permutations of the human condition which is largely misunderstood by Malaysians. Homosexuality occurs in every culture, in every age, and although a majority are heterosexual, just as some people are left handed, a minority are homosexual in their orientation. Others are bisexual, transsexual or even asexual.
Why should society accept and support gay people? If you subscribe to the view of Alfred Kinsey, the pioneering scientist of human sexuality, whose theory that 10% of every population is gay, then we're talking of a potentially substantial segment of Malaysia.
You never know - a family member, a close friend or a colleague could be living in fear of rejection and discrimination just because he or she is a closeted gay person. There are many talented, hard-working, socially responsible, educated, professional Malaysians who happen to be gay and who want to be useful to society.
Just as there is no justifiable reason to discriminate against someone based on the race, religion, political affiliation or economic status, institutionalised or casual discrimination of the non- heterosexual community cannot be condoned as well.
I fervently believe that one of the hallmarks of a truly civilised, caring and advanced society is the level of acceptance and inclusiveness it has towards minority groups. Malaysia is sadly a long way off on this with its intolerance and discrimination of sexual minorities.