Last edited: February 21, 2005

Stigma Persists for Gay Community

Malaysiakini, January 24, 2005

By J.J. Ray

I had a friend who died of Aids. He was homosexual. And yes, there are many others on this planet who are homosexuals or bisexuals.

In spite of the long standing fact that homosexuality is only another orientation, it is truly shameful to note that many, Malaysians included, have no qualms condemning homosexuals for this.

Ignorance in this case is certainly no bliss and this was precisely what the country’s highest selling English daily The Star did when it decided to “educate” the public on what makes a homosexual and the hows and whys to overcome it.

The newspaper carried a four-page story of a former gay man Edmund Smith now ‘rehabilitated’ and who was preaching the joy and bliss of being a heterosexual. No where throughout the articles was there any psycological or psychiatrist view included to explain what homosexuality really is.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees deleted the term homosexuality’ from terminology in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition’.

Experts found that homosexuality does not cause emotional distress or and that it could not be regularly associated with clinically significant impairment of social functioning—two pre-requisites for a mental condition to be considered of psychiatric disorder.

The board recognised that a significant proportion of gay and lesbian people were clearly satisfied with their sexual orientation and showed no signs of needing psychotherapy. It was also found that homosexuals were able to function effectively in society and those who sought treatment most often did so for reasons other than their homosexuality.

As for reparative therapy’ or conversion therapy, there is no published scientific evidence that can lend credence to the efficacy of such therapy as a treatment to change sexual orientation. There is no evidence either that any treatment can change a homosexual person’s deep-seated sexual feelings for the same sex.

The association also said that clinical experience suggests that any person who seeks conversion therapy may be doing so because of social bias that has resulted in internalised homophobia and that gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so.

It explains that homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgement, stability, reliability or general social or vocational capabilities.

The association called on all international health organisations and psychiatrists to urge the repeal in their own countries of legislation that penalises private homosexual acts by consenting adults. It said they should do everything possible to decrease the stigma related to homosexuality.

Rights unprotected

In Malaysia, the authorities who speak of human rights deliberately and conveniently ignore the fact it is there for gays and lesbians too.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 makes no mention of stripping minority groups of their human rights simply because they are different in sexual orientation. It is our misfortune that some still relish playing moral guardians on matters as private as one’s sexuality.

The issue of homosexuality is further compounded in Malaysia primarily because the official religion is Islam. Former de facto Law Minister Dr Rais Yatim said last year that “developing and Islamic countries like Malaysia did not recognise sexual relations between people of the same sex”.

Rais’ statement is open to interpretation. Would Malaysia’s stand on homosexuality be otherwise if it was not a Muslim country? Has religion become a pre-determining factor in deciding whose human rights are protected and whose are not?

To worsen matters, Foreign Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar failed to keep to his pledge made when tabling the Human Rights Bill in Parliament (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act was enforced in 1999 and the Human Rights Commission or Suhakam was set up the same year).

Syed Hamid said: “This should be regarded as a positive development towards protecting the interests and realising the aspirations of our people.”

Six years later, nothing has changed. Society is still as homophobic as it was then, and heterosexuals are just as ignorant today about homosexuality as they were then.

When Suhakam ticked off the media on stereotyping “effeminate men, masculine women’ in August 2003, it was the first and the last we heard of the commission defending the human rights of homosexuals.

Because of their own insecurities, leaders took an immature stand when Malaysia objected to the draft entitled Human rights and sexual orientation’, proposed by Brazil in 2003 at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and which was brought up again the following year.

At that time Suhakam vice-chairperson Simon Sipaun, in responding to Malaysia’s stand on the draft, remarked that “despite wanting to respect the rights of minorities, the laws of the land needed to be upheld as well”.

And precisely because of leaders’ ignorance of the issue of homosexuality and the existence of homophobia, there is much reservation among homosexuals to reach out and educate the public.

It is simply because there is little courage among people to hear the truth, which is that the world is as much home to gays, lesbians and bisexuals as it is to them.

  • JJ RAY started her career with a mainstream publication. A non- conformist, she soon saw the barriers that went up whenever, through her writing, she tried to make the world a home for one and all.

Being Gay: Media Distortion Deplorable

Malaysiakini, January 28, 2005

Medical Professional

I wish to congratulate JJ Ray for her article entitled Stigma persists for gay community. In her article, Ray points out how a major English daily newspaper in Malaysia had recently published four pages of articles on homosexuality.

Not only did those articles in that daily not include opinions from well-established psychologists and psychiatrists, they attempted to cast doubts on the professionalism of a major professional body, the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Important scientific studies such as those of Hooker in 1957 and numerous other studies which lead to the stance of APA were not mentioned. It is important to note that other world bodies like the World Health Organisation followed suit (in deciding that homosexuality was not a disorder) based on scientific studies.

Further, the articles sought to promote a myth about a `cause’ for homosexuality—a myth which has been debunked by a large scale study as early as in 1981 but this was again ignored. The articles confuses gender identity with sexual orientation, which are distinct entities.

On top of that, the articles presented a study by Spitzer as though it was a proof of the `efficacy’ of `reparative therapy’ (to change homosexuals into heterosexuals). It did not mention what the author himself (Spitzer) has conceded, i.e. that the results could be a result of elaborate lies because nothing was carried out to verify the authenticity of the reports and that the research methodology was not designed to show causality.

The articles ignored all critical appraisals of the study. In fact, the Spitzer study has been heavily criticised for being too flawed to be published, and was likely to do harm besides being irresponsible and unscientific.

It appears that in the articles, it is a sign of `success’ for a gay man to get married with a woman and have children. The articles assume that a gay man getting married to a woman and having children is akin to him `becoming straight’.

It, therefore, fails to understand the meaning of sexual orientation. It fails to recognise that if a man still desires for homosexual sex and gets married, it is a mixed orientation marriage which is very different from a `regular’ heterosexual marriage.

Typically, because of multiple pressures, some gay people do enter into marriage with people of the opposite sex. However, these encounter multiple problems—sometimes after decades—which seriously affect not only the gay man but his wife and children who `thought’ that he had `changed’.

The articles also did not point out that numerous people who have tried to undergo some form of `therapy’ to change their sexual orientation were indeed psychologically harmed and required years to recuperate from the effects of the `therapy’.

It failed to mention that such `therapy’ is considered ineffective, potentially harmful and unethical not only by APA but also the Surgeon-General of the United States, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Counseling Association.

These dubious `therapy’ movements, which are losing its credibility in the West, are exposed in a book by Besen WR. They are now trying to prey on developing countries where ethical considerations are less stringent.

While it is a lesson for the public in Malaysia to verify whatever they read in the newspapers before believing what they read, it is in the essential that accurate scientific information be provided in newspaper articles.

The distortion of scientific information solely to promote a particular organisation is deplorable. Perhaps it is time to ask if there are ethical codes which the Malaysian press must adhere to. This is important in order not to lead unsuspecting people into personal and social hardships.

Gay People Not Born That Way

Malaysiakini, February 3, 2005

Dr HT Tan

I would like to respond to the letter Being gay: Media distortion deplorable.

As a medical professional myself, I disagree with the notion that homosexual behavior is an inborn trait. Looking through the American Psychological Association (APA) website, I do, however, agree that homosexuality is not a mental disorder per se as these people actually believe in their sexual orientation.

Being a scientific person, I seek to study homosexuality by looking at all past studies conducted. Thus far, I am yet to be convinced that homosexuality is inborn.

‘People are born gay’ is one of the most persistent claims of today. Gay activists say that a gay person’s sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence and is fixed and unchangeable. This claim is backed-up by the prestigious American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association (APAs).

There are three ways to test for inborn traits: twin studies, brain dissections and gene ‘linkage’ studies. Twin studies show that something other than genetics must account for homosexuality because nearly half of the identical twin studied didn’t have the same sexual preference.

If homosexuality were inherited, identical twins should either be both straight or both gay. Besides, none of the twin studies have been replicated, and other twin studies have produced completely different results.

Brain dissections by researcher Simon LeVay who studied the hypothalamic differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men noted that: ‘It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay.

‘I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.’

Finally, an early study attempting to show a link between homosexuality and the X chromosome has yet to be replicated, and a second study actually contradicted the findings of the first. Researcher Dean Hamer, for example, attempted to link male homosexuality to a bit of DNA located at the tip of the X chromosome.

He has written: ‘Homosexuality is not purely genetic ... environmental factors play a role. There is not a single master gene that makes people gay ... I don’t think we will ever be able to predict who will be gay.’

So if not genes, what then causes homosexuality?

Regent University’s Spring 2002 Law Review is entirely devoted to a discussion on the various aspects of homosexuality, including the origin and causes of homosexual behaviour. It includes a study, ‘Homosexuality: Innate and immutable?’ by Dr A Dean Byrd and Stony Olsen.

After discussing the lack of evidence on the genetic origins of homosexuality, Byrd and his associate detail the various environmental factors that can lead a person into a homosexual lifestyle. They include:

Gender confusion: Dr George Rekers, an expert on Gender identity disorders, is author of dozens of research papers on homosexuality and wrote Growing up straight: What every family should know about homosexuality in 1982. He is also editor of Handbook of child and adolescent sexual problems, published in 1995.

Rekers stated in 1995, that, ‘Gender nonconformity in childhood may be the single common observable factor associated with homosexuality. Some of the typical childhood factors leading to homosexuality are a feeling of being different from other children; a perception of the father as being distant, uninvolved and unapproving; a perception of the mother being too close, too involved; diminished or distorted masculinity or femininity; premature introduction to sexuality; and gender confusion.

Failure to internalise maleness: Dr Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (Narth) has written: ‘Homosexuality is a developmental problem that is almost always the result of problems in family relationships, particularly between father and son.

As a result of failure with the father, the boy does not fully internalise the male gender identity, and develops homosexuality. This is the most commonly seen clinical model.’

Rekers, writing in Growing up straight, observes: ‘Many studies of homosexual patients as well as of non-patient homosexuals have established a classic pattern of background family relations. The most frequent family pattern reported from the male homosexuals includes a binding, intimate mother in combination with a hostile, detached father’.

Sexual abuse by same-sex predators: In studies conducted by Diana Shrier and Robert Johnson in 1985 and 1988, males who had been sexually abused as children were almost seven times as likely as non-molested boys to become homosexuals.

Dr Gregory Dickson recently completed a doctoral dissertation on the pattern of relationships between mothers and their male homosexual sons. His paper is entitled ‘An empirical study of the mother/son dyad in relation to the development of adult male homosexuality: An object relations perspective’. Dickson’s study is reviewed on the Narth website.

His study sheds new light on the relationship between early childhood sexual abuse and a child’s later involvement in homosexual behaviour. According to Dickson, an alarming 49 percent of homosexuals surveyed had been molested compared to less than two percent of heterosexuals.

His study affirms previous findings of Dr David Finkelhor (1984), which found that boys victimised by older men were four times more likely to be currently involved in homosexual behaviour than were non-victims.

As Finkelhor observed: ‘It may be common for a boy who has been involved in an experience with an older man to label himself as homosexual (1) because he has had a homosexual experience and (2) because he was found to be sexually attractive by a man.

‘Once he labels himself homosexual, the boy may begin to behave consistently with that role and gravitate toward homosexual activity.” (Child sexual abuse: New theory and research, New York: The Free Press, 1984).

Counselor Dr Robert Hicks, author of The masculine journey, has written: “… in counseling gay men for 20 years, I have not had one yet whom I would say had a normative childhood or normative adolescent development in the sexual arena.

‘More often than not I have found stories of abusive, alcoholic, or absent (physically and emotionally) fathers, stories of incest or first experiences of sex forced upon them by older brothers, neighborhood men or even friends. I sometimes find these men have had early exposure to pornography...’.

In short, what the studies conducted above have shown is that homosexuality has not been proven to be an inborn trait.

Why Bother About Gays?

Malaysiakini, February 8, 2005

By Wilde Lettuce

‘I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated ‘My homosexual patients are quite sick’ to which I finally replied ‘So are all my heterosexual patients’.—Ernest van den Haag, psychotherapist.

I write in response to Dr HT Tan’s academic argument on homosexuality.

My very simple question to him, and to all those who seek similar explanations, is why bother? Why worry about why one person is homosexual whilst another is heterosexual, bisexual, monosexual, metrosexual, ambisexual, polyamourous and what else have you.

Why tear your hair out over whether a homosexual is born or made? Can’t we just accept that person, leave well enough alone, go about our daily business and not waste time dissecting a pea?

I think the only obstacles a homosexual person faces today are some of the religions still practiced. Nothing else. Homosexuality wasn’t frowned upon in certain ancient societies which did not practice those religions.

Go figure.

Homosexuality Will Bring Devastation

Malaysiakini, February 17, 2005

By YK Lai

I refer to Wilde Lettuce’s letter Why bother about gays? questioning Dr HT Tan’s motive of presenting his professional views on the subject of homosexuality.

The most immediate answer to the question ‘Why bother about gays?’ is very simple and straightforward: some gays want others to ‘bother’ about them.

Many homosexuals are not living quietly but are aggressively promoting their sexual lifestyle and preference in public domains (which are accessible to children), to the society at large (including within the Christian community like the Anglican Church in the United States).

Their lobby groups are working hard to normalise or even glorify homosexuality in the names of ‘personal freedom’, ‘enlightenment’, ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’, ‘liberalism’ and ‘modernity’.

Homosexual lobby groups are now also advocating the right to same-sex marriage, priesthood in some Christian churches (like the Anglican) as well as adoption of children by same-sex ‘parents’.

Others, especially those with parental responsibility and religious commitments, have the right to respond and speak up against what they consider to be an anti-social and anti-civilisational sexual lifestyle or preference that would ultimately bring moral ruin or devastation to human society.

Homosexuality, in my opinion, destroys the most fundamental unit of human society and civilisation, namely the family formed by heterosexual parents and their naturally conceived children.

I am for freedom but freedom must not bring about moral anarchy and nihilism that will in turn only bring us human beings back to our beastly state where ‘freedom’ also means ‘liberal tolerance’ for incest, bestiality, homosexuality and the cult of free-for-all sex.

‘Different’ Not a Reason to Exclude Gays

Malaysiakini, February 21, 2005

By Adrian Lee

I write in response to YK Lai’s letter which claims Homosexuality will bring devastation.

In Lai’s letter, the author reasons that homosexuality is detrimental to society because homosexuals aggressively promote their lifestyle, which the author adjudges to be decadent. But a person’s lifestyle is one’s personal matter, how can one say so convincingly that it is either moral or amoral?

I do agree that aggressive promotion of anything is very annoying especially when the one promoting disrespect for the opinion of the other person. However, I have not yet come across any homosexual trying to convert anybody into adopting his or her lifestyle or beliefs.

This cannot be said though of certain religious groups which claim to be the pillars of morality but blatantly disregard other people’s beliefs in promoting their own religion. If homosexuals are to be disregarded because of their apparent aggressive espousing of their negative beliefs, then, I do not see a difference between homosexuals and these religious groups.

One cannot classify another’s activities as immoral or negative, purely because he or she is different. Everybody should have the right to voice their opinion, and whether or not the rest of the people listen, it’s up to them.

If you deliberately undermine the rights of a group of people purely because they are different from you, you create an environment of oppression and hate. Neglecting certain groups of society will not work either.

Only through acceptance, active discourse and engagement to deal with issues of every group of people in our society will there be a modern and civilised state of being for everyone.

[Home] [Editorials] [Malaysia]