Malaysiakini Letter

Beer festival ban 'discriminatory', but not 'transphobic' video clip?

Vinodh Pillai  |  Published:  |  Modified:

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang was all smiles when he walked out of the Kuching International Airport a few days ago.

He had arrived to speak at a Pakatan Harapan event in the city.

Unlike some of his Pakatan Harapan counterparts, he was not barred from entering the state. And at the time of writing, neither has he been evicted from the state.

Unamused, he later responded to a question put forth by Malaysiakini by arguing that there are no grounds for banning any Malaysian from the peninsula who voyages to the east, if they were coming for “legitimate political activities”.

This struck a chord with me, but for very different reasons.

It has become a sort of trend in Malaysia, albeit somewhat backward-minded, to “ban” things as they go if they “infringe” and “affect” a singular group of “victims”.

If the program is a public beer festival, we ban. If it seemingly jeopardises national security, or increases the risk of terrorist attacks, we ban. If a beer festival is believed to inspire a drinking trend in society, we ban.

Throw in sexuality and religion, and again, we ban. Opposing views? Ban. Opposing political views? Ban.

I'm talking, of course, about The Better Beer Festival 2017 and the purported “gay party event”, both of which had reportedly been slated for the next couple of weeks.

Ban, ban, ban.

Most were pissed for not being able to “enjoy their pints in peace”, while others highlighted that the move would not end well with the upcoming election looming, with opposition leaders vouching for the ban to be removed and not the ruling government.

Perhaps it was all a play for support for the upcoming elections, or maybe the move was genuine. Nevertheless, I thought about this long and hard, and reflected on this particular quote by Kit Siang, and linked it with the recent “fiasco” regarding a “transphobic” video clip posted by local radio station Hitz.fm.

In the video which recently went viral, Hitz.fm shared a skit that featured two of its deejays planning to make a move on a person perceived to be a woman.

When the character, who had shoulder-length hair and a body-fitting outfit, turned around and spoke with a lower octave than expected, one of the deejays threw up in his mouth. The other threw up in the hallway.

After much outcry from netizens over the irresponsible way the radio station shamed the character, the video was promptly deleted and removed from its platforms. A terse WhatsApp message from the station to media outlets gave a somewhat apologetic reply.

I can only imagine how the transgender people in the country would have reacted to this act of disrespect unto them.

But how many members of the public called for a “ban” on the video? Not as many as the pint-bearing netizens who criticised the banning of the Better Beer Festival, that's for sure.

Addressing the 'gay' elephant in the room

Whether it's beer or political plays, Malaysians are not a daft group of people to be coy around.

I'm happy we are beginning to see a more politically and socially aware group of Malaysians in the country. Many are quick to call out “injustices” and highlight the silliness of bans like the one imposed on the Better Beer Festival.

This is all great and nice, but if we are still concerned with preserving national unity and peace amongst Malaysians, let's not forget the most “fabulous” of them all - what about the “gay” elephant in the room?

More people need to stand up for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Malaysians when they face oppression and unwarranted discrimination, such as the offensiveness experienced by transgender men and women if they watched the Hitz.fm video.

Sadly, it was just one transgender activist, Nisha Ayub, who voiced her concern over the matter that presumably led to the station taking down the video. But when the beer festival was banned, many, many people called out the move. And many still are.

While we are quick to call out racism and discrimination faced by the Indians, the Sabahans and Sarawakians, and those affected by the beer festival ban, it is ironic that we champion equality and fairness but leave out one chunk of our society.

So shame on us all if we call out racism and discrimination for political reasons, but keep mum on issues pertaining to the rights of the LGBT community.

We tread on glass when we encounter racial issues or confrontations, because the last thing we need on our plates is being accused of being racist, xenophobic, backward-minded, or insensitive to the rights of others.

We stand firm on our decisions and won't take no for an answer, just like when the Better Beer Festival was banned, and we call things out when they don't make sense.

If we are truly about preserving national unity and peace amongst Malaysians, let's not forget about the rest of those facing oppression.

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