“Self-pity becomes your oxygen. But you’ve learned to breathe it without a gasp. So, nobody even notices you’re hurting.” – Paul Monette, writer, and gay activist.
Growing up in a small town, I thought it was the non-Malays who were the most intolerant and judgmental of people, the quickest to pass opinion on anyone who might seem, say, a little effeminate.
It occurred to me the Malays were generally more accommodating, even cheerfully tolerant of the oddball, the ones that pushed it to the outer limits of camp.
Not anymore, it seems. Spare a thought for Nur Sajat.
The director of the Criminal Investigation Department of the country’s police force, Abdul Jalil Hassan, said the police, the foreign ministry and the attorney-general’s office were making efforts to extradite her from Thailand where she had fled.
Three federal departments no less! Even Jho Low hadn’t merited that kind of attention. What had Nur Sajat wrought?
By all accounts, Ms Nur is a successful cosmetics entrepreneur and, going by her photographs, a good looking one to boot.
Her sin lies in being, for the most part, a transgender or what the Malaysian religious authorities classify as a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
Unfortunately for her, it is a community frowned upon by the same.
“Frowned” isn’t quite the operative word in Ms Nur’s case.
Going by media reports, Ms Nur attended a religious function dressed “as a woman.” Never mind that it’s her wont as a transgender. Instead, the Selangor religious department chose to charge her for cross-dressing at a religious function – said to “bring Islam into disrepute.” It’s a serious charge which can carry a three-year jail term upon conviction.
The entrepreneur was charged in January this year. But things came to a head after she subsequently failed to turn up at a February hearing and an arrest warrant was issued. It turned out that she’d fled to Thailand from where she’s since applied for asylum in Australia.
The ball is now in Thailand’s court where she remains free on bail. But Bangkok refrained from agreeing that she would, indeed, be extradited. The matter, said a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman, would be determined “by the law and Thailand’s humanitarian principles.”
Perhaps Bangkok was mindful of the international fallout the episode might cause.
Malaysia’s official view of the LGBT community has been hardening of late, more so with the March, 2020 entry of the hard-line Islamic Party (Pas) into the federal government.
Indeed, there have been recent calls in Parliament to subject LGBT members to “conversion therapy” to “correct” their gender orientation. Whatever it means, it does not sound like something doctors might recommend.
Why all the fuss, a sane person might reasonably ask? It’s a good question and Malaysia’s G25 Group thinks it has the answer.
“The authorities are becoming paranoid that Nur Sajat may be an inspiration for other transgenders to assert their human rights to be what they were born into,” said the group in a media statement Thursday.
In the absence of evidence, all opinion is, more or less, prejudice. That’s a good enough reason to disavow it. “That is why homophobia is such an evil,” observed Tyler Oakley in his witty Binge. “It disguises itself as concern while it is inherently hate.”