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“As a democratic country, we have the right to voice things out.” Azmi Sharom, 2014.
During one of my lectures at Monash University Malaysia, my Malaysian and non-Malaysian students and I looked at challenges in educating the masses on issues of gender and sexual marginalisation.
In other words, do LGBT Malaysians actually have the necessary space as people who can formulate their own freedom of expression? Might it be that the capacity to speak up and live freely from one’s specific location in life is less a right than it is a privilege, accorded to some but not to others?
Is freedom of expression possible when one has already been consigned to the periphery of society?
On my Facebook timeline, I named the Red Shirts’ reactions as imbecilic.
A friend wrote in response that my posting was inconsistent with my own belief in freedom of expression.
censorship seeks to produce subjects according to explicit and implicit norms, and that the production of the subject has everything to do with the regulation of speech.
We noted media reports on the ferocity of antagonism towards gender-variant and sexually-diverse people in Malaysia, particularly those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (‘LGBT’) (Zurairi 2012).Yet, LGBT Malaysians are often perceived as exercising ‘incorrect’ or ‘distorted’ agency. This form of agency, as it is often believed, leads to ‘distorted’ forms of self-representation (the way in which one portrays oneself and relates to others) and self-determination (the way in which one takes charge of one’s own life). These exchanges had me pondering a fair bit on recent Malaysian history.My thoughts strayed to the Bersih 4 Rally, or the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections demonstration in 2015.
We highlighted the resistance that LGBT people and their allies encounter in speaking up for their rights in society, particularly if they have already been marked as ‘ (inverted, deviant, abnormal), ‘flawed’ and ‘sinful’. Some offered a more muted response by suggesting that certain forms of freedom of expression should be curtailed. As an educator and researcher who shares the opinion with countless others that human realities are perpetually unstable, fragile and contingent, I was delighted that we found ourselves with more questions than answers.