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.
and native dialect were parts of myself that I should be ashamed of. I curated elements that would form a seemingly perfect personality to blend in and fend off any wandering thoughts on my natural gravitation towards boys.
What would you do if you were born into a religion that you can never leave; where even your government and family tell you that you don’t get a choice? In my country, leaving Islam is an offence punishable by death. Good or bad, you must pray to a god in whom you have little or no faith and practice a religion which you don’t believe in. That’s the situation in which I find myself in, and there is nothing I can do about it.
With an effusive smile and a charismatic presence, Jack Lam looks like your typical Asian boy who has it all—smart, well-articulate, graduated from a prestigious university in America. But underneath the warm exterior lives an inquisitive soul that is struggling to connect his Asian root with his queer identity that made him who he is today.
“Can you pick someone else who is ‘normal’?” said a conservative teacher to another who was going to select me as the winner of the 2014 costume contest at my middle school.