Uncommon Sense with Wong Chin Huat: Lessons from the Seksualiti Merdeka controversyBy Shanon Shah
IT was perhaps timely that the controversy surrounding Seksualiti Merdeka followed the earlier euphoria of Bersih 2.0. Both were events which tested the extent to which Malaysians understand and define democracy. Interestingly, some who supported Bersih 2.0 were against the very idea of something like Seksualiti Merdeka. The Nut Graph asks political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat whether this is a contradiction in what we want in a democracy, and how democrats can navigate their opposing ideals.
TNG: Amid all the controversy around Seksualiti Merdeka, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said she stood by her initial agreement to launch the event. On the other hand, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said that while he supports Ambiga’s work on Bersih 2.0, action should be taken against all those involved in Seksualiti Merdeka. Is Ambiga’s support for Seksualiti Merdeka damaging Bersih’s goals?
There are two issues here: first, Bersih 2.0’s goals, and second, the individual beliefs of personalities associated with Bersih 2.0.
Bersih 2.0 was designed to be an advocate of procedural democracy. We just want to see a multiparty democracy functioning, regardless of the substantive policies which may be attained. By extension, this will require free speech, other civil liberties, rule of law, and basic inclusion of all. The point about procedural democracy is that the ultimate goal is open-ended. We therefore don’t take positions on other issues involving class, religion, language, or sexuality. Within the steering committee, we have a good combination of left and right, of liberals and conservatives. Nevertheless, Ambiga’s stand is shared by Maria Chin Abdullah and a couple of others in the Steering Committee including myself.
While a big portion of Bersih supporters would probably prefer a more homogeneous and conservative Malaysia, to say that Ambiga is damaging Bersih 2.0’s work is to effectively tie Bersih 2.0 with a close-ended vision for a reformed Malaysia. It would be the same if
Ann Lee says
Common sense would be so sober – so awfully sober! Still, a big tick for ‘I am a straight man’ with full marks for the delightful flip of ‘for the forseeable future’ 🙂
But here: “The difficulty is that there are ultras on both sides of the divide who would seize on any talk of reconciliation to attack the other party. So, the moderates in both sides must come together first.”
What, pray, has been the expression of the ‘ultra’ on the Seksualiti Merdeka side of the divide? It is arguable there has been none. What would it look like? Separatism? Of what kind? (All people of non-hetero normativity to reside henceforth in Pang-kor Island?)
A flaw of ‘procedural democracy’ appears to be that a divide must be found, even when there are no such marked grounds (or when one side hasn’t actually been declared).
Again, though: thanks.
Evan Raz says
Based on what you wrote, I can’t help but ask if there is a difference between “straight” and “genuinely straight”?
Yes, I would like to know if there is any difference too. Seems like there are a few levels of “straightness”. The straight ones are heterosexual but may accept partners who are “other-inclined”. The genuinely straight ones would want partners who must also be genuinely straight. May I add another category of extremely straight ones who are genuinely straight, and also go for only single-entry activities. How’s that? Confusing? Confused? I am very much too.
Genuinely straight people have been officially been declared as straight after going through rigorous multi-step certification and documentation processes to ensure that they conform to international industry standards of straightness.
Don’t trust self-declared straight people who compromise their quality of straightness! Next time, ask for their genuine certification of straightness before you proceed.
Born this way says
As an openly gay man living with my partner for the last 10 years, I have been intrigued at the widespread homophobia on other sites, who proclaim themselves to be democtrats and champions for people’s rights, except it would seem on the subject of freedom of sexuality.
Although it goes against religious indoctrination, I can assure you being gay is a very natural occurrence; logically who would wish themselves to be gay if they had an option? If one has the intellectual capacity to understand that fact of life, we can move onto how society should then deal with the issue. It should also be pointed out, for the fearful, that you can not make someone homosexual.
Religions are bigoted, as they have the right to be, but this is a secular country, and under Article 10 of the constitution every citizen is free to practise the religion of their choice, and no one may impose their religious views on others. So the religious argument is a non-starter.
The UK government in 2005 estimated that the gay and lesbian population, excluding transgender and bisexuals, was 6%. It’s presently the world’s most authoritative study.
Thats one in 17 people.
In Malaysia a very large number of gay men get married, have children and establish families to meet society’s expectations. Consequently most Malaysians dont even know they know gay people, and therefore the intolerance continues, and the lives of innocent people are destroyed, such as the secret gay man’s wife – collateral damage from homophobia.
It was only 50 years ago in Europe that the fear of homosexuality was rampant. Despite warnings that family values would be eroded or gays in the military would destroy morale or the sky would fall in, the most startling fact of the liberalisation of all the laws is that it has had such a small impact on ‘straight’ peoples’ lives. Everyone lets everyone get on with their own lives.
In essence, the argument is about the fear of the unknown, and the joke is there is nothing to be fearful about.
It is extremely difficult to say that sexual preference other than heterosexual being unnatural, because if they are unnatural, why have they existed naturally?
Thanks for the responses.
1. The ‘divide’ in “both sides of the divide” refers to the political divide, not the sexuality divide. The ultras are those who would attack the other coalition for appeasing or condoning the ‘immoral’ minorities.
2. “Genuinely straight man” refers to those who do not appear to be straight because they are afraid to reveal or unusual of their real sexuality.
Hope this clarifies.
Andrew I says
Not sure about this, but there’s also religious coverage on asexuality, or as some people term it, “private time”.