Published by China Press as a 4-page feature on Aug 20, 2011
Translation in English provided by Ian Chew
Courtesy of Seksualiti Merdeka
The average individual’s perception of living and human life is often limited to growing up, working, getting married, producing offspring and nurturing children. However, has anyone wondered if the future spouse of his or her child is likely to be a homosexual?
I believe that not many people will make such “daring assumptions”. Therefore when the truth is unveiled, more often than not a heated response is evoked. Other than leading to disappointment, it might even bring havoc to the family.
Family would always be a person’s most important source of dependence and protection. If one would to ponder the situation of having homosexual children in the family, if parents would try to keep an open mind to understand, protect and adore them, wouldn’t the children return home as usual, wouldn’t the family remain intact?
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The “abnormal” relationship between homosexuals, in the eyes of many, is as if alien contact in Stephen Spielberg movies – mysterious, weird, hard to be accepted, even creating a sense of fear; hence leading to homophobia.
Whether homosexuals are willing to come out or not, that is a very personal issue. Some people choose to openly declare “I am”, some choose to be as low profile as possible. For Pang Khee Teik, he would definitely be the former.
Passionate in the arts, Pang Khee Teik is a man of many identities: writer, photographer, artist, the creative director of Annexe Gallery et cetera.
When I first contacted him via text, I was cautious: “Would you mind being in the papers? Or an interview with no photographs?” He replied, “I am absolutely open, photographs are not a problem”. He sounded very open-minded, not afraid of the public perception.
He reminded me of a British soap opera “The L Word”. One of the characters, Bette, is the director of California Centre for the Arts, talented and loyal in the arts. Once she determinedly organized an exhibition that was deemed against the norms of society and morality, subsequently attracting heavy criticism. Despite the criticism, she went on with the event; doing in what she believes is right.
For Pang Khee Teik, there is no such thing as gay rights, lesbian rights, Chinese rights…there is only one kind of rights he subscribes to, that is, human rights. “Human rights to be equal, because we are also humans…Actually most of the time we have human rights, but it is not recognized due to the lack of understanding among people. However before we help others to understand, we have to have the maturity to understand and appreciate ourselves. If you are able to do so, there is nothing that you should be afraid of.”
How can you ostracize a family member?
He thinks that homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals. They make the wrong decisions, opinions et cetera, but like heterosexuals they have the ability to give back to society, make the country proud, adopt children and give their kids love.
Yet the cruel reality is that homosexuals are often cast aside by their family before they receive the same treatment from others. “This is depressingly true. Some parents argued, “I do not want my children to be homosexuals, because the world is so harsh in treating homosexuals. I don’t want them to suffer”. Yet a lot of parents do not understand that how cruel the world could be, so they treat their children the way the public would treat them.”
According to him, parents, family members, and the family form his most important source of emotional strength. With his parents’ support, he will have enough strength to face the cruel world. If the contrary happens, the meaning of “family” would be destroyed. “For me, it’s not a problem if others don’t understand me, but if my parents can appreciate me for who I am, then the world would be a much different place to live in.”
He referred to Marina Mahathir’s words: the society consists of countless families. A lot of people think that homosexuality is a threat to familial and societal harmony. Yet if parents accept their children, or at least attempt to do so, they will still shop, travel, and eat together. Then the family would still be perfect as it is. If the intimacy between family members remains as usual, how would the society sink into depths of depravity?
Sadly a significant portion of the younger homosexuals, choose to come out to friends, colleagues or others, instead of doing so in their family. “This is a big irony, because family is one’s first and foremost support.”
Wasting 12 years is no big deal Some people waste a lifetime
Regarding his experience of homosexuality, Pang Khee Teik said, he realized his sexual orientation when he was 13 to 14 years old. “I noticed that my feelings towards people are different from others. I was made fun of (because of that). Additionally I started reading some articles about homosexuality, so I started understanding myself.”
“I became a Christian at the age of 14. For 12 years I repressed my true self, I wanted myself to be a heterosexual, as I felt that I was not “right”, “normal”. So for 12 years, I repressed my emotions, can you imagine that? When you meet someone you like, someone you think you would have a chance with, but you have to force yourself to say no! What kind of feeling would that be?”
That is, before people hurt your heart, you would already have hurt yourself, living in endless heartbreak, till you feel nothing due to numbness.
“My life for that 12 years was like that. But I think I am still lucky because I only wasted 12 years. Some people wasted their whole life. Some people – perhaps due to pressure or loneliness – enter a loveless marriage.”
People must be independent, therefore there is nothing to fear
Pang Khee Teik thinks that it is important for one to learn how to be independent and self-reliant. He would be able to choose what he would like to do, subsequently having autonomy over his own life and learning self-control. “Like a country, if we are given the opportunity to be independent, then you will learn how to be independent. You will also learn to take responsibility for your own mistakes, how to handle the consequences. At the same time, this process will let you grow up…Similarly, you must learn to feel proud of your own achievements. After all, you cannot be meekly following others’ advice on how to live your life.”
Using the same logic, he said that homosexuals must learn to have autonomy and self-control over their own bodies. This independence, does not only refer to things that one wants to do, but is in fact having the power to be responsible for one’s decisions, having the power to decide for oneself.
“You must fully understand why your body and your feelings are like this, you must understand why you would feel scared, emotional or loving. When you are aware of all this, you will not panic for no reason. Homosexuals often make wrong decisions as they are in a panicky state. They fear loneliness and they pick the wrong partners, thinking that this would be a cure to their loneliness.”
“When you have sufficient knowledge and awareness of yourself, you will not be afraid. Of course, you may make mistakes in decision making, yet at the very least you are a responsible individual. Moreoever, without anyone shouldering your responsibility, you will think wisely and learn properly before you take action. One will only achieve maturity through learning – but if he or she is not given the chance to learn, how would the person mature?”
You might not agree, but please do not discriminate!
The millennium long history of homosexuality
Homosexuality is not a product of modernity. Nor it is a creation of pure Western culture. In fact, homosexuality has historically existed for several thousands of years. Ancient Greece nobility and their gods in mythology had their own same sex partners, whereas in Chinese history, there were also many emperors who favoured male partners. Such romances between Chinese emperors and male partners even gave birth to several Chinese proverbs that describe homosexuality.
Fearing loneliness and choosing the wrong partner, subsequently becoming lonelier
The heart is free from loneliness with acceptance
Pang Khee Teik is currently in a relationship, which has the blessings of his family. Of course, his mother initially felt sad upon his decision to come out, and reminded him from time to time that he should get married, so he will be taken care of when he reaches old age.
He looked at his mum and said, “As a human being, don’t you have times when you feel lonely? Deep down in their hearts, everybody have their side of loneliness.
“I told my mum, that I will not feel lonely anymore, because you are excellent parents. You have not done anything wrong that causes me to be gay. This is who I am. With your help, I have learnt how to be independent, how to rely on myself. Therefore I do not feel lonely like I did before, as I am my best friend and companion. Whether I am alone or with friends, I will not feel scared when I live among people.” He told his parents not to feel scared, because they can go through this journey together.
Pang nevertheless thinks that when a homosexual wants to come out to his/her parents, he/she must take things slowly and do some preparation work, instead of simply dropping a bombshell. He/she must let his/her parents handle the agony in a proper manner. After all, one must be considerate of others’ feelings.
Some of his friends chose to come out to their close relatives first, so that they would have emotional and moral support when they come out to their parents. With the support of their relatives, their parents will know that their child is still accepted by others.
He tried starting from “elder brother” Leslie Chung’s suicide. His mother worried that if he would follow the star’s footsteps. But he told his mum that Leslie Chung’s suicide was due to other factors and had nothing to do with his sexuality.
He still remembers that on “elder brother”’s obituary, his partner “Tong Tong” was also high up in the list of family members. This meant that the Chung famil accepted “Tong Tong” as one of them.
“Being responsible to your parents doesn’t mean that you should lie to them forever. Sometimes love has to go through suffering, to be able to last longer. But that is not really harm, instead you should help them to overcome their expectations towards you. To break perceptions is always painful, but if you don’t break such perceptions, you will never enter a deeper stage of love. What is left is acting on both sides. So, what is important is that you must know how to handle them (the perceptions)."
Living openly in society, cure to parents’ worries
He admits that his parents were once worried that his son would be despised by the society. He however told his parents, “I have not been rejected (by the society). I still have a lot of friends. A lot of people respect my work too. In my entire life, the only people on earth who don’t understand and don’t accept me, might very well be my parents. A lot of people know that, I hope that you understand this too, for you are the most precious thing in my life.” He disagrees with the notion that homosexuality is betrayal to one’s family. “They are only trying to pursue their own happiness, and they hope that their happiness would obtain their parents’ support. A lot of people hurt and torture themselves, for the sake of getting their parents’ blessings in life. Yet many parents treat them badly.”
“Initially, I gave my mother time to think. I said, I love this family very much. I want to return home often for meals. But is there any meaning for me to return home for meals if the family cannot accept me? I can be very independent, but while I am able to do so, I don’t want to lose her (his mother) presence. I accept that you are my parents, but do you accept me as your son? Parents and spouse are the closest ones I have in life. If both sides cannot coexist, that would essentially rip my life apart.”
Once during Chinese New Year, Pang’s mother took the initiative to ask his son to bring his partner back for family dinner. Even the ang pow money given to his partner was the same as his. “To express our sincerity, my partner gave a box of bird’s nest to my mother. Other than an act of respect, ‘nest’ represents the essence of a family. I don’t think she fully understands, but she accepts my happiness, and she knows that I don’t intentionally make her unhappy.”
Some of his friends are not that lucky. “One friend of mine is accepted by his parents, but his partner was rejected by them, even to the extent of chasing him out of the house. They also disallowed his siblings to visit him. His mother has even stopped visiting the grandma ever since she accepted his grandson. What a twisted family this is! Even I felt like crying upon listening to his story. Why do you want to hate your own child so much? He did not do anything harmful.”
Hatred spawns more problems
Pang Khee Teik shares with me that according to global statistics, homosexuals are three to six times more prone to suicide compared to their heterosexual counterparts. This is due to several factors, for example, getting bullied at school, being picked on by peers, or the lack of understanding from their teachers.
“For most people, when we face hostile surroundings, at least we can go back home, because we know that family members can be trusted and they would protect us. Yet many homosexuals disbelieve that family will act as their protection, as they have the experience of listening to parents verbally attacking homosexuals. So when they are bullied outside, do you think they will come back home and inform their parents of what’s happening?”
Indeed, it is hard to imagine the pain of helplessness and being all alone! Sadly, in his opinion, a lot of teenagers lack the life experience to see things through – however they do have the right to choose how they live their lives.
“If what they have been facing is pressure, insults and hatred from all parties, they would not be able to imagine if they could still have a good future. If they continually think that they will have to spend their rest of their lives in this state, not being able to do what they wish to do, you might ask: what is the meaning of living on?”
So, many youths choose to give up on living. From this point, I discover that family members are definitely placed at top priority. Family members must try their very best to understand them, instead of rejecting them – not just their own kids, but to other children of relatives and neighbours.”
He shared that in a North American survey, “LGBT youth”(LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) are actually divided into two categories: one category would be those who are accepted by family, the other would be those who are rejected by family.
The survey showed that those who are rejected by family, are often the high-risk group that are prone to suicide, aggressive tendencies, AIDS and STD. From this investigation, what is the reason that caused this scenario? “When someone is ostracized, the person will lose hope, subsequently engaging in risk behaviour to gain what is lost.”
Fight for your own rights
A lot of people perceive that homosexuality is immoral. If someone would to ask him about this, he would answer, “Then I would like to ask, choosing heterosexuality is because it is in line with moral norms? Will you tell yourself that? You feel love towards a certain person, because your body tells you that you have feelings towards him or her. It’s that simple.”
He doesn’t deny that many would treat homosexuals as “perverts. He was one of them. Later on he questioned himself, “What is wrong with loving someone?”
“Many relate it (homosexuality) with sex. Sex is merely one of the numerous ways to display affection. Shopping together could also be an act of love. We are in fact all doing the same thing, aren’t we? What’s the problem with that then? Of course, this is something not common. The “difference” of homosexuals, stops at their outer appearance.”
Homophobia in Malaysia has been quite severe. Pang says that certain penal laws are targeted for homosexuals, consequently leading to misconceptions that homosexuals are “criminals”.
He adds, what is more horrifying is that on many homosexual websites, many Malaysians have been known to send death threat emails to homosexuals.
“Regrettably some excellent secondary or tertiary teachers/lecturers, upon students discovering their sexual orientation, receive blackmails, even threats demanding monthly payments, to keep their sexual orientation unknown to others.
The problem lies within homosexuals’ belief that they are not protected here, as everyone opts to remain silent. This causes more crimes happening on innocent people, as they cannot do anything about the situation, therefore their only option is to bear with all this.”
I asked him if he has thought of migrating. He answered very simply, “No! This is my home, I love staying here, and I am living happily. I only hope that more people can view the whole issue open-mindedly, everyone would have their chance to make their own decisions…I think, more and more homosexuals have understood that if you don’t fight for your rights now, no one will do so for you.”
You may not agree, but please do not discriminate!
Expand your talents, contribute to the society!
Homosexuals do not equate to social unrest or zero contribution to the society. To the contrary, some homosexuals have great achievements in arts, fashion, humanities, science et cetera, subsequently contributing a lot!