I hate labels so much. Born and bred in a small kampung in a rural northern state in Malaysia, I have a mixed heritage and an inborn conflicting pride.
From my understanding, it is illegal to engage in homosexual activities based on the Islamic teachings. Across the globe, it also seems illegal for Muslims to leave Islam. Gay people from Malaysia might be able to get married in non-Islamic countries, but their marriage will not be recognised when they return home. I know that some gay Muslims might struggle to accept their sexuality, considering the religious restrictions that come with this faith.
From a young age, I grew up in a family surrounded by five women (my mother, my aunt and my cousins) without my father being present much as he was working two jobs to support the family. I never really enjoyed sports, and I guess that’s why I bonded well with my cousins. I guess being surrounded by so many women — and having a lack of male models in my life — I grew up familiar with the feminine mannerisms and was considered effeminate.
As someone who is gay and Muslim in Singapore, it is difficult to be out and proud.
Despite countless attempts to step out of the closet, there is always this magnetic force pulling me back in.
I was always partially aware of my sexual orientation while growing up, ie I am attracted to men despite being a boy. I started coping with my surroundings by trying to act straight, because showing feminine traits often led to the nicknames given to people in the LGBTQ+ community within this “so-called perfect society.” Therefore, I hid in a deep closet—killing my inner desires of wanting to proudly shout that I am gay—for a whole 19 years.
Growing up in Singapore, I was constantly afraid of the law and of discrimination from my friends and family, especially if they found out that I was gay. I acted “straight”, kept my relationships secret, and worst of all, pretended to be homophobic at times because of the pressure from my social groups.
The life of a gay Moro is difficult. The eyes of our family and society are all on us. And the eyes of Islam, the religion of our upbringing, judges us heavily. In their interpretation of Islam, we are “haram”—our feelings are dirty and forbidden.
I hated looking at myself in the mirror. Whenever I did, I would make a list of everything wrong with me. I was ridiculed at school because I was fat. I felt shamed at home because I was deemed to be not good enough.