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So, How Do You 'Spot A Gay?' Malaysian Paper Claims to Tell You

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Feb 12, 2018

Here's a low point even in the current era of fake news being peddled as real and credible news being dismissed as fake: A newspaper in Malaysia has published a list of characteristics it claims to add up to a picture of the typical gay man or lesbian. The long and short of it? Beards, buff bods, and trendy clothing make the man... the gay man, that is.

One notable irony is the idea that beards indicate homosexuality, given that facial hair is traditionally popular among men of the Muslim faith. Commentators on the deteriorating situation for LGBTQs in Malaysia ascribe growing homophobia there, in part, to "the increasing influence of conservative Islam," U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail reported.

The checklist was published in the newspaper Sinar Harian, which also claimed that gay men frequent gyms - primarily to cruise other men but also, evidently, to gain sculpted bodies that include six-pack abs.

The Daily Mail noted that the checklist quickly came in for ridicule. Social media personality Arwind Kumar took on the checklist with a video in which he slammed the stereotypes it peddles.

"If you really want to educate society, then explain to them the traits of a pedophile, a molester, a murderer, a kidnapper, people who actually endanger the lives of others," Kumar challenged. "How the hell does a gay person endanger your life?"

The checklist might be fodder for stinging social comedy, except for the fact that it's symptomatic of an alarming rise in vicious hare crimes targeting LGBTQs in Malaysia. The Daily Mail article referenced two shocking incidents: The murder of a student whose own classmates beat and then burned alive, and the shooting and stabbing of a trans woman.

The article noted that escalating violence parallels increasingly hostile rhetoric from the Malaysian government that has the markings of a propaganda war. "A Malaysian health ministry youth video competition... called for entries on the topic of the prevention and consequences of being gay, lesbian, or transgender," the article reported.

The Malaysian government infamously demanded that gay elements be removed from last year's live-action Disney remake of "Beauty and the Beast," multiple news sources recalled. (The film eventually played there without being censored.)

Another U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, noted that a website run by the Malaysian health ministry struck a Rush Limbaugh-like tone concerning women, publishing inflammatory rhetoric in an article with the title "Why Would a Person be Lesbian?" Although the word "feminazi" did not appear in the article, its claims rang familiar in saying that professional women focusing on their careers might opt for lesbian relationships instead of marrying men. The Daily Mail also reported that the checklist's items relevant to lesbians included the claim that lesbians "Hate men and enjoy belittling them."

Like many former territories under British rule, Malaysia has been left with anti-gay laws on its books. Homosexuality carries a penalty of 20 years in jail, according to The Guardian.

Watch Arwind Kumar's clip:

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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