The life of gay people in Muslim Malaysia

While life as a gay young person growing up during the 1980s certainly was rough, I know that many people had it much worse. And many still do. As I contemplated living in Malaysia, I had to ask the question What would life be like for me as a gay man in Malaysia? While the Malaysian culture is diverse and split among three major ethnic groups (Malay, Tamil, and Chinese), the majority are Muslim. You see and feel its influence everywhere you go. In large, metropolitan KL, it feels less conservative.

As I pondered my personal question, I broadened my query out to perhaps an even more important one—What is life like for Muslim gay people? Islam is not known for its tolerance of the LGBT community and its lifestyle, even though in many Muslim countries sex between men is not uncommon due to the prohibitions of interaction between the sexes. Relations between women are generally ignored.

I reached out to some friends, and in turn a couple of brave Malays stepped forward to be interviewed.

gay people in Malaysia

Saiful* is a 33-year-old gay male who is Malay. Members of the Malay ethnic group basically have no choice in their religion. They are raised Muslim and are expected to follow its principles. He identifies himself as a liberal Muslim, someone who practices his religion sparingly.

Does your family know about your orientation? If yes, how are they about it? Are they accepting? Is it a secret from others?

I am not out of the closet with my family. Though they have an inkling about me because I am 33 and have no girlfriend. They know I am close to a lot of  guy friends through the years.  I often sleep over at some of their homes. In my 20s, my family did ask whether I had a girlfriend or was interested in marriage and such, but nowadays my mother and father do not touch on the topic anymore. Relatives are usually the most persistent ones who never fail to ask: “So when is your time? When is the big day? Bila lagi (When)? Ada calon, tak? (Do you have any suitors?). A couple of my gay Malay friends also experience such inquisitions during family get-togethers at Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid), weddings, and other communal Malay gatherings.

Do you feel that you are able to be “out” in your daily life, or are you only able to be open with close friends?

Depends on where I am. At the office, being gay is an accepted norm as I am in the creative/media line. So most people at my workplace know about my sexual orientation. Generally, outside the office I do not portray myself as gay, or at least try to not do so. I like to go to the gay clubs in KL, like Blue Boy in Bukit Bintang (that’s a really old, run-down place, but it has survived the best and worst of times, unlike many other flash-in-the-pan gay clubs in KL). I bring my boyfriend to Blue Boy sometimes, and he enjoys it because he is still new to the gay world and likes to see what it’s like. I go cruising at KL sauna/spas and the two cruising Lake parks in Kelana Jaya and Tasik Permaisuri in Cheras.

In this sense, I am only “out” with my close friends. And of course I can be myself with my boyfriend.

What is life like for gays in Malaysia?

I like to describe it as “thriving but we have to keep up with appearances”. Of course in urban areas such as KL, gay men and women can be as out as they want. Just as long as they don’t cause trouble and do not disturb the system. Malay Muslims in Malaysia are still generally very conservative. It is still a very conservative community, despite of what people say. So to be gay and Muslim and a Malay requires a lot of tact. It also depends on what his/her line of work is. For me in my life, I am open to friends and colleagues, but I keep up appearances when I meet other people, as interviewing people is part of my job scope.

Sodomy is still against the law in Malaysia, so that is quite clear cut. But the religious state laws, which apply only to Muslims, varies from state to state and usually concern dressing up like a member of the opposite sex, or holding events that have “immoral” things such as drag-like performances. Yes sodomy is a sin in Islam, but prosecution in this offence (as with adultery or fornication offences) requires substantial personal evidence. As far as I understand, one needs at least 4 witnesses to prosecute a Muslim offender of fornication/adultery/sodomy.

I know there was a party in northern state Kedah, some years back,  that created headlines because the state Islamic religious authority found out it had drag-show like elements in the party.

My boyfriend and I once checked into a cheap hotel and personnel from the religious authority knocked on our door to check on offenders for khalwat (close proximity). I was very scared, because I am not confident about stuff and feared they might find fault at our being in the same room together. But my boyfriend asked me to hide in the bathroom. When the religious personnel found out there were only 2 guys in the room, instead of finding a guy with a girl, they left.

I believe there was another incident of a reforming-style camp in Terengganu state, or someplace else, for guys who dressed up as women (referred to in the Malay slang as Mak Nyah). I forget the objective of the camp, but it was not that ultra-religious in nature. A deputy minister had also last year condoned a parents conference that, among other things, included a discussion on how to identify youths with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) tendencies. It created an uproar among people as the deputy minister, who also launched the event, agreed to the topics at the talk, one of which was that gay men could be identified by a penchant for wearing V-neck T-shirts, carrying large handbags, wearing light-coloured outfits, and sleeveless shirts. Gay women were identifiable by their habit of hanging out with women all times of the day and night, the conference was noted. I thought the conference and what the deputy minister said was ridiculous as there are many many “closeted” men and women in Malaysia, who look and act like the normal everyday guy/girl. You can find these men cruising in the dark rooms of bathhouses on weekends, or the dark corners of cruising spots in KL.

I suppose the worst off among the gay community are the transvestites and transgender people in Malaysia, as their appearances are more apparent than their “straight-acting” counterparts. I have met many and worked with a couple in a theatre troupe I joined while working in Kedah. I can say their lifestyle is more difficult as they need to make ends meet while putting up with the stigma that still exists for people like them. Of course, their hardships are also related in some ways by their  socioeconomic situation and educational backgrounds. But I still regard them as good friends who are just like me. They only look and act differently. They are Malay Muslims also but because they are from the heartland, jobs for them only consist of the typical bridal/wedding planner line, food and beverage or hospitality industries. Though there are many many successful crossdressers and transvestites in the cities, involved in various fields, appearance is still a big problem for them when it comes to finding their place in society, which is a sad thing.

So keeping up appearances is still a big deal in Malaysia I would think, that is if you want to thrive in some sort of way. Thrive in the conventional sense, I suppose. But the advent of social media and smartphone apps like Grindr, Wechat, and others enables gay men to socialise in a more efficient but still private manner. In the late 90s to mid-2000s, Malaysian netizens loved using online chat software like MIRC or the relay chat things. I used to chat on this and exchange photos and phone numbers to get dates. I lost my virginity to a guy I met on one of these online dating sites, which had a high gay following in Malaysia..

One of my friend says there are a few seemingly gay-friendly commercial spots in KL. Pavilion shopping centre seems to be frequented by much of the liberal gay men of the city, and I heard that the younger set of these men have been seen  holding hands at the mall, though I am sure those are isolated cases. A restaurant in Bandar Sri Permaisuri in Cheras, which is near to the cruising lake, is also considered an eatery for gay men. I forget the name but is within the vicinity of the old town and Dominos Pizza in the area.

gay people in Malaysia, gay Muslims

Malaysia has some potentially aggressive policies and laws. Do you ever feel afraid you will be arrested for being homosexual?

Yeah, I suppose I feared that when I was “caught” by the religious authorities, as they can always choose to find some kind of fault with anyone if we are not smart in defending ourselves.Though I know the actual religious offences (in Malaysia’s case, it’s Islamic religious law which is enforced at the respective state level), and these offences are very specific as it target cross dressers, alcohol consumption, and the such. Rarely are the religious department personnel looking out for gay men in close proximity. That is usually the job of local authorities or municipal councils, as they weed out immoral activities or suspected activities.

Gay bathhouses that have been raided are usually booked for having drug paraphernalia or even sex items (condoms, etc.).  Newspapers have reported how the customers are clad in only towels and later hauled up to book, but they are usually gay massage parlours which are booked to catch illegal immigrants, or premises without permits. Yes, indecency is also a point that can be used against any offender, but I am not sure of what is the exact law. Patrolling policemen often monitor the cruising areas in the two lake parks in KL. But most times, they ask for identification or give a warning. I have heard of cruisers being brought to the police station but it’s usually for questioning. A masseur I know had been booked by police and stayed in jail a night as he overstayed his tourist pass/permit while working at a gay massage parlour.

As a Muslim, what is life like being both a Muslim and a gay man? Do Muslim teachings and attitudes toward homosexuality make it difficult for you to engage in your faith? Did you ever go through a period where you had a crisis of faith because of what the religion teaches about homosexuality?

The religion is very clear about homosexuality. My best friends, who are Muslim and gay, deal with these issues in their own way.  The thing about Malays is that the majority of us are open minded in our outlook, but our religion of Islam is very sacred to us. Many Malay Muslims might be gay or lesbians but they do it discreetly to not upset this sort of “balance” the Malays prefer to keep. Malays in Malaysia, especially in the peninsula, are very progressive in work and business, but when they return home to their hometowns and families, they adhere to the religion very closely. The same Malay guy who might live with his boyfriend in KL, hangs out with mostly gay friends out of work, and outwardly portrays his sexuality (to a certain extent) will keep up appearances when he “balik kampung” or returns to his hometown.

I do that, and my friends who are gay generally do that.

Essentially, a true Muslim would know that even though the religion forbids homosexuality, it does not encourage one to hate or belittle a gay person. My boyfriend is from the kampung, and whenever I sleep over at his mother’s house, I am referred to simply as a guy friend, and no one would make any fuss. Personally I think the genuinely, humble Malay Muslims in rural areas are more open to these so called guy friends as they do not think ill of such relationships as they are not exposed to the gay culture as much as people in the towns.

My mother, who has asked me before when I was in my early 20s whether I was gay (I lied and responded in the negative), is on to me. She will always question about the guy friends I hang out with. You could say I live in a sort of denial with my family. I just keep the balance, not rocking the boat. It is a personal preference

I had prayed to be not who I am when I was younger, but that never helped.

In terms of religious practices for myself, I still say my prayers whenever I can. I regard Islam as something spiritual and I believe in the divine being. I had prayed to be not who I am when I was younger, but that never helped. So now I am at peace with myself most times because I know Islam for me, is more personal, sacred and all embracing and all encompassing. It is not a shallow religion of outer trappings. I feel it is a progressive religion that found its way to the Malays centuries ago and adapted itself with the cultures of this region. Religion is also an ultrasensitive topic for Malays especially in peninsular Malaysia, and this is why it is easily exploited by politicians and their political parties, and certain groups in certain ways.

Have I ever had a crisis of faith? Not really, because despite how gay my life has been now or in the past, my religion was still hanging around somewhere. Not far behind. It is there if ever I decide to say my prayers after a difficult personal situation. And it helps that i have a deeply devout parents, as well as devout friends.

I suppose I had that tumultuous period of balancing my desire to be a good Muslim with my sexuality when I was about 15 or 16. It is a hard time to be in as I was a teenager. But being in boarding school, an all Muslim one, I had hoped to be changed in a way. But you know how when one tries too hard, nothing comes out of it. I ended up having my first sexual encounter at the boarding school (when I was 16) with a guy who was the typical jock, popular, religious-seeming on the outside, but who likes effeminate guys on the inside. I eventually broke up with him because I told him I did not want to lead that kind of life, back then. He told me that I would eventually date many many other men after him. His words hold true till today.

He saw who I was for real. And I, by habit of personality am often in denial with truths. But I got through with that period of denying my true self by slowly easing my way to the gay life, through my best friends. I lost my virginity at 22. and I have been on double dates, even sharing hotel rooms with these close friends when we stay out with our respective partners.I have many gay-friendly straight friends who I got to know through the course of my career so far. So people always help me get by.

gay people in Muslim Malaysia

If a gay foreigner was considering visiting or moving to Malaysia, what suggestions would you give them?

Get friends who are Malays, Indian, Chinese, Kadazan, Dayak, everything. Or mix with as many of the races as possible. They can live their lives as they want here, but gay culture is still in the closet, generally. It takes a bit of tact and understanding of surroundings.

Do you foresee a time when being gay or lesbian will be accepted in Malaysia? What do you think needs to happen to change attitudes?

Not any time soon as people here are still quite conservative. Gay culture is till under wraps and only thrives at discos, spas, online, behind closed doors.

Regardless of what religion they are, Malaysians are conservative in their cultures. I am in Sabah now, and despite the absence of a Malay Muslim majority, the Bumiputera (indigenous people) here are just as concerned about keeping this so-called balance and not wanting to rock the boat of this brand of, well, peaceful existence with each other.

*Not his real name.

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  1. is gay non muslim malaysian legal?

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    • No. The law is applied to everyone in Malaysia. Although enforcement is another matter sometimes.

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  2. I was a foreign student at a Malaysian university in the early nineties and had a wonderful relationship with a Malay guy for 5 years.because both of us were Muslim it made things easier and difficult at the same time.I left Malaysia and like all good Malaysfor eventually got married.I still love him and he me but in respect for religion and culture we left it there,because Malays prefer appearance and balance more.this is with most Asian people.

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  3. hi, im GAy muslim and also from malaysia. somehow in my opinion,i think most people like us having a hard situation for being homosexual living against the law but still devout to our religion.In fact, there are many people like us out there that wrapth their sexual orientation from known by the community.
    People will not suspect us as being gay just because we hang out together(men and men)but still they will if we get touch each other.

    sorry for my bad engslish ..btw thanks for sharing

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    • I’m sure it’s very hard to try to be yourself and faithfully practice your religion when you’re something other than straight. Even harder when laws are against you.

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    • Issac…..glad you can be yourself. If you not act like a SISTER and just live a normal daily life I think you will be fine. Ever have a question just email me. I am 57 and have been out for 30 years,,,,and, a retired USA Polis.

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      • Hi
        I am Bhutanese famine gay and soon I am going to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur?) to study and work for 3 years. So will life be hard as a Bhutanese gay and I am famine

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        • I don’t know what a “family gay” is so I can’t address that question. Generally speaking, foreigners get by more easily in Malaysia, but there are no guarantees unfortunately.

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    • Im sorry but please get back to quran and sunnah and please dont be easily being affected by other people. Islam is perfect. Seek guidance brother.theres actually a lot of muslims out there that willing to help to change to become better muslim.

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  4. I am Malay, brought up in Malaysia in a very conservative family. Although I wouldn’t categorise myself as a modern, urban man but my family and I are very well-off and educated. Even with such background, my family put religion as an integral part of their life. Everything revolves around Islam and Malay culture. With that being said, I can definitely relate to what has been mentioned by the interviewee. I struggle to reconcile being gay and a muslim all the time. with lack of proper education on homosexuality and exposure to the reality of sexual life, I encountered many difficult situations in handling my life when it comes to sex; what is safe sex?, what should I do when someone forced me to have sex? to whom should I turn into?. All these unanswered questions made me a man that always hate himself to a point where he felt he does no longer deserve to breath this air for he was sinful.

    However, I managed to remain strong. I learn from my experience and develop myself bit by bit to become a better individual despite my sexuality. Primarily because I am now living in the UK and they teach me a lot on how to accept myself and love myself for who I am. Now I am no longer at lost as to how I run my life as a Muslim and a homosexual. I think I share the same understanding of myself just like Saiful did.

    On a side note, I don’t think Malaysia will progress to become a nation that legally accepts LGBT any time soon but the society’s attitude will definitely slowly change to become more accepting.

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    • Unfortunately, you’re probably right. I’m so glad you were able to end up somewhere more welcoming and accepting of your homosexuality. I know all too well how powerful that self loathing can be.

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      • I am a muslim in Malaysia too and I am confused about my orientation. I tried to force myself to like girls and to even have thoughts of marrying one but so far all my attempts have been all but successful.

        It hurts so much that I like men and I just wish this feeling would go away. At the end of the day, however, the feeling that comforts me most is the fact that I am me, just the way I am but a part of me can’t accept that fact because of the rules and regulations the world has been set upon…

        What should I do? I don’t know, I really am confused and I feel extremely terrible about myself. It’s as if there is no exit for me except to destroy that part that says, “I like men” and replace it with the normal “I like women” thought.

        Right now, it’s not about Malaysia approving LGBT… It’s a struggle for me, who is currently hating my current self…

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        • You are in such a tough situation. My heart really hurts for you. I have been through the self-hatred part, but I had less of a problem because I was in the US. While it hasn’t always been accepting, it doesn’t have laws specifically against it, and we don’t have the same religious connection with our government and society as Malaysia does with Islam. Are you able to go to any of the places mentioned? Perhaps being around some other gay men who are in a similar struggle would be helpful.

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          • I am a Malay,straight and i consider myself to be very open minded person especially when it comes to homosexuality.

            I don’t mind if i meet a Malay guy or girl who are gay and i will treat them the same as i do with straight people.

            So not all people here in Malaysia are homophobic. But yeah, like the other poster said, it will take time for Malaysians to change its view on homosexuality.

            Not sure how to say it but we’ve been brought up by our parents and society’s beliefs that we have to see this world in their way, we can’t do this or that because in religion, its considered a ‘sin’.

            I’m not religious to begin with so i see the world differently. I think a shift in consciousness has to happen if we want to see the change but it won’t happen anytime soon imo.

          • I can’t say for sure since I’m a foreigner, but it is my impression that most Malays are probably not homophobic. As is often the case, the government stance is much more conservative than its people.

    • In response to Gay Maylay.

      My name is John and I can understand how damaging some
      Religions can be for GLBT folks. I have lived in Conservative
      and Liberal parts of the world. One thing to consider is that
      negative religious views against GLBT folks is just an opinion.
      If you feel your religion is the absolute truth and everything
      you read in it, is correct, you may never find peace of mind.
      In my opinion NO prophet or way shower, including Jesus, Mohamed,
      Mother Theresa of Calcutta India, Louise Hay ( Spiritual women and
      author of books) Suffi Mystics , etc, are perfectly enlightened beings.
      Elevated souls with greater awareness, yes-but certainly not perfect.
      In Christianity there are many scriptures alluding to the “wrongness”
      of homosexuality. I don’t accept these scriptures because when these
      scriptures were written, the writers had NO idea that homosexuality
      was proven genetic, The proof came in the early 90’s, from the Simon
      Levay Institute. The homosexual male brain is similar to a womans….
      Transgender’s inherit a brain, opposite of the gender they are assigned at birth.

      Unfortunately, living in an environment where your religion preaches you as a sinner
      can be very damaging. So I recommend taking the part of your religion that preaches love and dump the part that speaks poorly of being a GLBT person.
      Or find a spiritual path that accepts and affirms you, just as you are. If you
      can find a group, I suggest reading “A Course in miracles”. It has a Spiritual slant
      and talks about the nature of love and some Chirtian churches offer it free
      worldwide. They meet in groups.

      Remember this, when in moments of self hatred, “God dose not make junk” You were
      meant to be a GLBT person, Its just that religions and governments are often backwards, but don’t allow their blindness to take away your pride about being
      Gay. Did you know that several animals are Gay and Bi?

      Although, being in a conservative, religious country, unsupportive of homosexuality
      can be discouraging. We who live in Liberal Countries, supportive of homosexuality
      have our problems too. Did you know alcohol and drug addiction are high. And rape
      inside the Gay community is very high, but not reported. I was druged an assaulted many years ago. Irresponsible sex, without wearing a condom, causes many problems,
      like HIV. There is racial discrimination against others. White Gays are unfortunately considered to be the top of the pecking order. And pornography
      addictions are vast in the GLBT community. Theses are some things that can
      happened to anyone in a liberal country. These usually happen to people
      who have no boundaries and self control/ How good is that?

      Although you have very little freedonm to live as Gays; look at some
      of the consequences our freedom has cost us, in the West.

      Honestly, some of the more kinder Gays I have met, have come from more conservative countries, like yours.

      My intention for writting this letter was to encourage you to question the scriptures you read in your text, and consider yourself lovely, just as God has made you. And finally, even though you live in a repressive culture, please don’t
      admirer us Westerners too much, for we have our problems with people not responsible
      with the freedom we have.


      Always remember this, God does not make junk

      If your

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  5. Wheres your next stop?

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  6. Paramount, i have lived in rural areas in M’sia before and I can tell you rural people are very nice and they do not care abt your looks/way you act. And there are still gay people even in rural areas. Can find them on grindr , pr , facebook. Don’t worry abt being in a Muslim university bcoz as a matter of fact ,two of the top Muslim majority university here are also known to have the most happening people, including gay people.

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  7. What I find most interesting is to see how people hide behind the culture to make what they really want to (as gay Muslims who take advantage of the constraints of interaction between the sexes to practice gay sex).

    I live in Brazil and here’s the thing – despite more liberal – is not much different! In big cities like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo’s okay to be gay you .. Nobody gives a shit..

    But in small towns of the interior, it is common to find men who have gay sex but claim that it is only to relieve sexual tension … They consider themselves straights, and when talking about gays, always are agains or make derogatory remarks…

    I went whit my boyfriend to Prague (Czech Republic) last year… The people there seems to be very open to gay lifestyle.. I enjoyed very much!

    Very nice post!
    And excuse me for my bad english..

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    • Yes, those hypocrites are quite interesting!

      Very true about Czech! They are much more open minded here and much more accepting of gays. One of the advantages of being a mostly atheistic society I think.

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  8. I got a question… now I’m hesitating cuz I got a scholarship to study about political science{IR} in Malaysia and it is a must that I have to attend a Muslim university{which I dont know yet} and learn Bahasa language… I’m gay… I’m Buddhist…Gay is acceptable here, in Thailand… I wonder how my life gonna be there… Will I have friends in the university that can accept for who I am… Or I should not go… Pls. help me…. Thank you

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    • If you’ll be in KL, I would say you’ll probably be fine. Based on both of the interviews, life for gays in KL is pretty good. Obviously, you’ll have to take care of who you tell, esp in the university, but I believe you’ll have plenty of friends who will accept you. If you’ll be in the more rural areas, that might be more of a challenge.

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      • So, I have to keep it secret and can tell only the friends I trust…and I have to becareful of my manner and gesture… It sounds so depressing for me… .. I’d rather continue my bachelor degree in my country…Anyway, I really appreciate your help and thank you so much….

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        • You should actually be fine with mannerisms and gestures. I think you would probably be OK in KL telling almost anyone. I would just be careful of university officials finding out. I honestly don’t know how they would react.

          I definitely understand what you mean. It was one of the things I had to seriously consider when we were considering making KL our base.

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    • Hi paramount, i think you should be ok if you can hide your sexual orientation well. I’m malay and i don’t mind about gay people but there are those who do mind because Malays in general are still very conservative (and some of us can be very immature so they will probably even bully you).

      Because in my past experience, i was being avoided by my malay classmates because i’m not religious at all.

      So please be careful and hope you enjoy Malaysia 🙂

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  9. I’m a Malaysian and everything you stated in the article is absolutely true. It is really depressing to live in denial and lead a secret life. Most LGBT people I have heard of, lead a asexual lifestyle(I’m not saying asexual is a lifestyle) and focus on career and other stuff.I’m 22 myself and had accepted the fact that I’ll live my whole life without the slightest possibility to be in a relationship.If only the laws regarding this matter would change.I hope many other bloggers like you would bring this issue to the international level and maybe find a solution to this discriminating law.Again thank you for the article .

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    • I hope for change. Unfortunately, I doubt it will be any time soon, which is a real shame.

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  10. Hi… I am from Malaysia and yes that’s so true. In malaysia isn’t allowed gay but it’s ok even we have to be very disecret. What should we do? Just have to accept it. Love is love even we can’t show to others. Your article is so true about Gay life in Malaysia.

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      • That’s will never change because I know the sensitivity of Malaysians. The law states joined the religious laws, that is why. But it’s ok because life must go on even if it means secretive throughout life.

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        • I always have hope. Sometimes things DO change and surprise us. I hope so for Malaysia, although I’m sure it won’t be any time soon.

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  11. I am from Thailand which I have Malay boyfriend everyday and every time we have to keep close our relationship from his family. It’s so complicated to have a freedom life there but I believe that our heart is always close to each other.

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    • I would imagine that would be very difficult since Thailand culture is so much more open and accepting.

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  12. I really appreciated reading this, Talon, and thanks to your friend for sharing his story. Pretty incredible.

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  13. I agree with the others – this was a fascinating interview with such brave and candid answers. Ever thought about writing an ethnography?

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    • Yes. It’s something that is close to my heart. Prior to travel I did a lot of work as a cultural consultant training others on multiculturalism and dealing with the challenges of colliding worlds. I find it all so fascinating. Glad you enjoyed this interview.

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  14. What a brave and fascinating piece — thank you for sharing their stories!

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  15. This is a fascinating interview- the kind you only get from building trust with someone of a different culture. There have been a couple of times in our travels when we’ve tried to raise controversial topics with our local guides and we very rarely get much depth. Thank your for providing a unique insight into the lives of gay Muslims in Malaysia.

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    • It is very tough. I was so happy to find a couple of people who were willing to be interviewed. I think it makes a huge difference to be able to get a window into someone else’s life.

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  16. I read this on my way into work & as I was reading this… I honestly knew the answer to all the questions you asked. I was so angry that I knew them and I nodded along saying “yes, yes” and “ugh I hate that they are going through this”. The reason I knew this is because Talon this is EXACTLY how life is in Egypt for a gay man (I lived it). When I say EXACTLY I mean it. Having lived in Cairo for 5 months I frequented some of the bars where Gay men hang out and even some of the cruising parks. Since I had a boyfriend I never picked anyone up but just found it so amazing how even though they know they can get caught and thrown in jail at anytime they still go out and enjoy themselves. They do it in a way though to not bring attention to themselves like this gentleman said. What I found even crazier is how it’s easier for a gay couple to be a couple than it is for a straight couple to be a couple, because 2 men together doesn’t bring any attention to you, but a girl and guy who are not married together brings tons of suspicion and frowned upon. It’s also shocking the amount of gay men I met living there and how for most of them they do the same they don’t practice Islam as much but respect it. It’s very similar to us and Christianity. I do have a friend thought that struggles with it a lot because he is a very devout Muslim.

    Anyway I can go on and on about Gay life in Egypt, but will leave it at that. It’s something I always wanted to write about on my blog but for the sake of all my Gay friends in Egypt I never will. I’d hate for the wrong person to read my blog and something happen to any of them. I know I have written about my relationship, but that’s a bit different and I don’t talk about the Gay community on there. I know the chances of the wrong person reading my blog are slim to none, but when you Google “Gay Cairo” now I am one of the top searches (sometimes #1). I do get a lot of emails from Gay men in Egypt that say my story has helped them and I also get emails from Gay couples who want to visit Egypt and are a bit worried so I help them out.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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    • You’re always welcome to do it anonymously for any of my sites. I’m glad you weighed in on this. I wondered how much close life in Egypt was to Malaysia for gays.

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  17. I remember when I went to Malaysia, I met a lot of gay locals through Couchsurfing, and I’m still friends with them all now. Yet, I think they’re all in the same situation as the guy you interviewed – they’re out to close friends, but their families don’t know. One of my gay friends is Chinese-Malay, and things seem to be no better for him than the Malay guys I know. Hopefully Malaysia will go the way of Thailand in terms of starting to accept homosexuality in society – KL has a heck of a lot of gay guys, as does neighbouring Singapore.

    Also, Blue Boy is such a fun club! I loved it there.

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    • If Malaysia didn’t have the religion as part of its laws, I would have more hope. Unfortunately, I don’t see the possibility for much change there any time soon.

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  18. Thanks for this interview! To be honest, in spite of the laws and muslim culture, being gay in Malaysia doesn’t sound very different from other countries in Asia, even the very modern and wealthy ones like Japan and Korea, where the same social problems exist in spite of no laws or Islam against being GLBT.

    My best friend (half French, half English) worked in KL for a year and found the gay scene more varied than in much of Europe – though it’s true that people seem to have a “life in KL, and then another one at home”.

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    • It’s even sadder to me when life is like this and doesn’t have the shroud of religion to hide behind.

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  19. WOW, I don’t even know where to begin with this piece Talon. It hurts my heart that my gay brothers and sisters out there are still having to hide who they are.

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    • I couldn’t agree more with Elizabeth. It’s so hard to read this. Thanks for this though; another very thought provoking article.

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  20. Thank you for this glimpse, Talon, into such a tough situation. I can’t imagine living like this, and hope that change can come – but am aware that cultural change, especially in regards to religion, moves slower than anything else.

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  21. Thanks for putting this out there, Talon. It’s really important, I think, for people who come from an accepting and progressive background to be made aware of how it’s not like that everywhere, as difficult a reality as it may be to accept. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting my head around how gay people here in South America think and act, and find myself getting angry at the “that’s the way it is and I can’t change it” attitude of many I’ve met. But it’s easy for me to tell people they have to stand up for themselves, question bigoted beliefs and make people accept them when I never had to do such a thing; I happened to be born in a time and place when people just did accept it.

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    • It sure makes a big difference, esp in these countries where religion is part of the law.

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  22. Ooh. Tough read. And where he lives is a more progressive part of Malaysia. I really feel for him… Change and progress is like evolution, slow and incremental.

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