The Annexe Gallery is Bohemian. It is a world of its own, very different from the rest of banal Malaysian life. It attracts anything but the conservative. Its taste in art is different. Its taste in politics is different. It is young, urban, middle-class and it challenges mainstream culture. It is a special spot in Kuala Lumpur.

All kinds of festivals are held there. Farish Noor is always there to share his alternative understanding of history to challenge the official narrative. In many ways, the larger Central Market Annexe is a center of subversive politics. Hishamuddin Rais used to run a small eatery there, patronized by so many Malaysian lefties, and sometimes, yours truly too. I was there not so much of my support for his mostly left politics. I was there just because I was hungry.

And then, Pang Khee Teik is always there to make anything happen. From what I understand and observe, Pang is the pillar for anything at the Annexe. He made the Annexe what it is today. Fringe but fun. Small but popular.

Pang or really the Annexe Gallery has been organizing Seksualiti Merdeka for a number of years now without any controversy. I took that rather nonchalantly but in retrospect, it was an impressive feat. After all, to organize a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender festival in a jumpily religious Malaysia is not something advisable to do. But those festivals went on anyway, and because it was nationally politically uneventful, I thought nothing much of it. The failure to note what was supposed to be an outlier in a conservative society is perhaps a mental lapse of mine.

But I was not really interested in the fair, despite being aware of it. It is not a Mardi Gras as celebrated in Sydney. The Seksualiti Merdeka festival typically occupies merely a floor of a restored colonial shophouse. It is not big at all, size-wise. It is just some people with booths, forums and maybe performance in a privately-owned premise.

The thought of the festival’s outrageous success to go on without any repercussions within conservative context struck me only after when the Malaysian authority suddenly decided to ban the festival. Some conservatives finally took notice. It is apparent that the festival succeeded previously because the authority or the wider society did not know about the festival.

Now they know of it and decide to ban it.

The ban is a timely reminder for all of us that the LGBT community suffers from extreme prejudice and discrimination by both the state and by the wider society.

That is the silver lining. It raises the profile of the LGBT community in Malaysia and their challenges. Whereas previously the term LGBT would not appear at all in mainstream media, the past several days signaled a change.

That change is both for the better and for the worse. It is for the better because it pushes the boundary of acceptability. It is for the worse for some LGBT community members perhaps, if they want to live a quiet life.

I am not a member of the LGBT community and so, maybe I do not appreciate too much of the preference to stay in the closet. I am not at risk when I see the need for them to come out of the closet. But they need to know that for all the condemnation they receive, there are those whom will put up a thumb-up for the courage they garner.

In any fight against societal discrimination, there will always be a relatively challenging time. That is when the society first becomes aware.  That awareness is an important first stage of any anti-discrimination fight. Without awareness, there can be no fight for equality.

So fight the ban. But take heart if the first fight is lost. It is merely the first step towards a better future.

2 Responses to “[2456] There is a silver lining behind the Seksualiti Merdeka ban”

  1. on 07 Nov 2011 at 12:33 Bobby

    Am I the only one who sees the ban as justification for Sodomy II?
    Or am I the only one voicing it out?

  2. on 10 Nov 2011 at 03:42 eemran

    Dear all…

    There is more to homosexuals than ‘one we sleep with’…

    Open your mind, please please please dont think homosexual is just cock and ass hole….shish! enuf already. All you think is cock-sex-sodomy-cock-sex-sodomy…put your mind higher plz…

    We are doctors, architects, bloggers, photographers, make up artists, camerama man, news caster, paper printers, banglow owner, business man, professor, mountain hikers, sportsman, angkasawan (oops!), chefs (oops! oops!), film directors, accountants, sound man, graphic designer, gamers, fashion designer, programmer, lawyers, technician, paramedics, barber…i can go on and on sweetheart.

    We are unable to reveal ourselves just because most, i say most straight people LOVE to discriminate.

    This event is not promoting homosexual at all, its an event to tell you to respect people with special character.

    We are here, we are queer. Get used to it.

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