September 3, 2018.
2 lesbians were publicly caned for same-sex relations by the Kuala Terengganu Syariah Court.
Nearly every Malaysian had a reaction.
Some got pissed.
Some said padam muka.
Some just froze.
Me? Before the anger, before the vexation, before the resentment, I cried. Not the gentle sob, a-tear-trickle-down-my-cheek kind.
No, I sat on a bench in my home and bawled my eyes out. The un-glam sort. The kind you can hear another postcode away. The snot fest variety. I don’t know why it hurt so bad.
So, when KLPAC featured a play To Which My Brother Laughed about the caning and the reactions it caused (directed by my secondary classmate, Jit Yang!), I’m like, where do I get tickets?!
The play opens with melancholy acoustics beating through the theatre. Shh… Diam, the musicians of the hour, are playing one of their hits, Lonely Lesbian. The cast traipse in slowly, shoulders hunched, eyes averted. They do a lap around the stage, making sure to salam the audience in the front row.
Meanwhile, a guy in a blue jersey arrange wooden stools all over the stage, checking them twice, then snapping shots with a DSLR camera. Of course, this is an allegory.
In fact, I discern that most details of the play are allegories. The performance is abstract.
Of course, there are some real in-your-face scenes, like when our heroine wakes up in the morning, kisses her lesbian lover, followed by a very lively performance of another Shh… Diam song I Woke Up Gay. (Click on the link to check out the song. I personally think they’re really good.)
Shh… Diam is openly LGBT. Many members of the cast are also members of the LGBT community.
With that context, these performers are not merely entertainers. They are telling a personal story, which is what makes the narrative so much more poignant, so much more raw, so much more genuine.
This issue isn’t merely close to their heart. This issue IS their heart.
In some ways, the play is an appeal. An appeal to stand in the shoes of those wronged for their sexual orientation. On the other hand, it is an expression. An expression of longing to be accepted and affirmed.
Gloria, whom I attended the play with, asked for my favourite scene. I replied, that’s an easy one. I love the part when the protagonist blows a cane away. The action is fleeting, over within the blink of an eye. Yet, it is powerful. On top of appeal and expression, this play is a statement. It is to laugh in the face of one’s tormentor. To say, to hell with conformation. Screw you, people who dehumanise me. I choose to be what God made me to be, and in this case, a lesbian.
One scene had the cast playing a game of agree, disagree, or undecided. The actors and band members took turns making statements into the “mic” (a hair brush, really), while their fellow performers either agreed, disagreed, or was undecided. The cast mostly had varying opinions, except for one statement: homosexuality can be cured. Nearly the entire cast rushed to disagree, and they would’ve been unanimous if not for one guy who was undecided.
From here, we must take home a “tapao point” (as one flight instructor might call it), that homosexuality is not curable. It is not a birth defect that needs fixing. It’s not a sickness to recover from. It is not a sickness, period.
People often confuse bisexuality with homosexuality. Like the case of Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, a bisexual who once embraced her homosexual tendencies, and now err towards the heterosexual end of the spectrum, could be confused as a “recovered homosexual”. Please know that in most cases, there is no “recovered homosexual”.
Now consider this, if it is not curable, then to denounce homosexuality is to suppress one’s natural instinct. Audre Lorde wrote in her essay Uses of the Erotic that “to refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd”. She refers to the oppression of our erotic feelings, feelings that I believe encompass homosexual tendencies.
LGBT people don’t need recovery. If anybody needs recovery, it’s those people suffering from heterosexism.
Heterosexism [het-er-uh–sek-siz-uhm]: Discrimination or prejudice against homosexuals on the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation. –English Oxford Dictionaries
This brings us to another “tapao point”: the ugly toxicity of heterosexism. Unless an angel descended from heaven and confirmed heterosexuality to be the “normal sexual orientation”, nobody has a right to assume it is. Everybody deserves to be accepted regardless of their sexual orientation. Everybody. And to believe heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality is to fall in the trap of heterosexism.
To Which My Brother Laughed will encourage you to examine the attitudes of our society. So often, we sweep LGBT rights under the carpet. We sweep questions about LGBT people under the carpet. We sweep our sentiments about LGBT people under the carpet. LGBT people are forced to sweep their feelings under the carpet. How is our carpet even big enough?
Dear all, we need to stop abusing that carpet.
I love how Jit Yang starts the conversation with this play. And I love how it just gets you, like a sucker punch in the heart.
Love, love, love. All you need is love. Love is all you need. ~John Lennon