Last week, a Malaysian tourism minister denied that anyone in his country was gay. The world was shocked by the outrageously false statement, but none were as angered as much as the Malaysian LGBT community.
After being asked by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle during the ITB Berlin travel conference if Malaysia was safe for the LGBT community Datuk Mohamaddin bin Ketapi said, “I don’t think we have anything like that in our country.”
The country, though, has plenty of queer people (they have gay bars and also a pride event called Pink Dot).
It’s far from an LGBT haven, though, as the Advocate reports: “The minister had reportedly been asked if Malaysia was “safe” for LGBTQ people and Jews following recent attacks on minority communities. Last August, 20 people were arrested in a raid on the gay nightclub Blue Boy in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian officials hoped the attack would stop LGBTQ culture “from spreading into our society.” Multiple transgender women have been beaten by violent mobs or killed amid a countrywide surge in violent anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.”
Harjinder Kier, a nonbinary advocate, hopes that other ministers will speak out.
“It’s me, a gay Malaysian,” Harjinder said in a photo she posted to Facebook, while urging other Malaysians to speak out. “Just wanted to let you know that we exist and that we have always existed and we will continue to exist. As a gay human being, I did not choose this for myself, just as straight people did not choose being straight.”
Others, like Numan Afifi who works for Pelangi Campaign, said that the comments would further hurt and stigmatize the community. “Erasure of our existence will not only just trivialize our struggle, but also perpetuate the injustices towards us,” he told The Advocate.
Homosexuality can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison (interesting to even have this law if they don’t exist).
Want to learn more about Malaysia’s LGBT community? Click here to read our coverage of Gay Kuala Lumpur.