Contextualising ongoing discourse on LGBT — Azril Mohd Amin

AUGUST 15 — The present national debate on LGBT issues within Malaysia would indicate that we seem to have leaped into deep and unfathomable waters without ever having established the parameters of discourse. In this regard, Gerakan Pembela Ummah made a pertinent point in their recent press release on LGBT published on August 13, 2018.

They had argued among others that debate on whether to grant LGBT rights or accord them treatment has always been an ongoing conundrum due to inconclusive studies yielded by science on the influence of nature, as opposed to the environment, on the causes of this phenomenon that we now collectively face.

The question of “Nature versus Nurture” regarding the causes of homosexuality cannot be treated as if it has been conclusively answered; and the classification of it as either normal or abnormal behaviour needs to be taken seriously when we are considering public policy.

These are not queries that can be responsibly overlooked, not least by a government seeking to establish itself as a fair and just arbitrator between competing demands by different segments of society, which is presumably what our Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department YB Mujahid Yusof Rawa is aiming for with his recent press release stressing the rahmatan lil alamin approach to the issue.

While such an approach may be commended due to its stress on tolerance and a rational, as opposed to an emotional take on the matter at hand, it is important, nigh crucial in fact, to differentiate between the role of the state in addressing the needs and wants of LGBTs vs-a-vis their impact on civil society, and the role of private individuals.

Calls for compassion and tolerance and understanding on an individual, inter-personal level, are perfectly reasonable. No one should be shunned or hated, much less abused or harassed for the private matter of their sexual orientation; we hope that all people can find love and support within their families, friends, and in the broader community; but the government cannot and must not be a substitute for personal therapy.

The role of an administration is to govern justly all its citizenry, and not just a minority segment thereof. Thus, it must direct its attention first and foremost to concerns that maximise returns for the public at large, including the LGBT community as well. If a government is going to repeal laws, enact laws, or implement any sort of nationwide policies at the behest of the LGBT community, it must first be determined that these actions are indeed necessary and that they promote the overall well-being of society.

They must also be ascertained to genuinely resolve legitimate grievances and naturally determined to be in alignment with a nation’s constitution and public laws.

Thus far, the LGBT community in Malaysia have by far and large failed to adduce any evidence based on credible scientific research in support of their demands nor have they adduced any argument that will address these concerns holistically.

Rather, they appear to be entirely self-absorbed in their leftist progressive agenda and demonstrate a rather contemptuous disregard for the sentiments of broader society. In a nutshell, they can tell us how their agenda is beneficial for them, but not how it is beneficial for all Malaysians.

It is only natural that many Malaysians have reacted to their plight with disdain if not outright hostility to this unhelpful if not unfortunate position they take, which in the end only contributes to further marginalisation of their community.

LGBT activists assert with immense force to all and sundry who would listen that there is nothing wrong with the homosexual and transgender lifestyle, and that attitudes of our social order needs correction. It is apparent that they believe that there is something wrong with, not themselves, but every single person under the Malaysian sun that is not of their own.

Ironically, despite pleas for their minority status to be accorded due recognition and protection, they reject the suggestion that they should at least consider the sentiments of others opposed to their stance but embrace the notion that the rest of society must acquiesce without so much a whimper to their demands.

It is we who need to change, not them. Well, if they are to ask that we agree to such an imposition they must be prepared to proffer not just substantial but monumental evidence as to why the rest of us are misguided as they claim.

Alas, there is not even uniformity of opinion within the LGBT community themselves regarding the seemingly never-ending debate on Nature vs Nurture. Homosexuals claim that they are born gay, bisexuals claim they are attracted to members of both the male and female sexes while transgender activists claim that sexuality and gender are fluid and can change throughout one’s life.

So immediately, we find fundamental disagreements among those who seek to “correct” the understanding of the society.

Which of these disagreements then are we to adopt, and will not the adoption of any one of them render other positions, which their proponents would argue to be at least equally plausible, completely and nugatory?

The theory of genetic determinism as the reason for same sex attraction has been decisively disproved, debunked even, by research undertaken by those seen as credible within local and international scientific circles. Most likely, they conclude, is the proposition that causes of homosexuality are a combination of Nature and Nurture; just as is the case in most mental and psychological disorders.

Over or under exposure to certain hormones in the womb may tend to cause tendencies in adults; that may manifest in the form of same sex attraction, or aggression, or over sensitivity to negative emotion, and so on. If there is a genetic disposition to one or another disorder, one’s environment and upbringing may exaggerate or subdue that tendency.

But ultimately, being born with a pre-inclination to a disorder does not make that disorder natural or healthy; and it falls to the Nurture side of the equation to help the individual overcome that tendency.

While the position of our general society and of the government towards the LGBT issue appears to be grounded in fact, the position of LGBT activists towards society is ideological and insular. This not only does not create a solid basis for discussion, it is also potential for disaster and chaos on a grand scale.

We have seen how ideological extremity has given rise to tyrannical and fascist regimes led by past tyrants such as the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, the Spain of General Francisco Franco and even those sought to be imposed upon us presently by the likes of ISIS terrorists.

One fervently hopes that we will not give in to ideological extremes by letting rational and reasoned based discussion on LGBT issues take their natural course within our local context, i.e. our own existing constitution, laws, policies and values.

The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), which is a civil society organisation that I lead is committed to a just solution that benefits the maximum number of those living within our nation. Thus, we whole-heartedly believe that only a frank and candid approach to the LGBT issues is the way forward.

It is this discussion we must have between LGBT persons and the rest of us and such a discussion must precede any policy initiatives by the government; because there is a plethora of unresolved points of contention with the entire basis for the LGBT agenda which need to be managed beforehand.

* Azril Mohd Amin is a lawyer and chief executive of the Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (Centhra).

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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