Stigma Persists for Gay Community
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
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
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
In Malaysia, the authorities who speak of human rights
deliberately and conveniently ignore the fact it is there for gays and
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
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
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
Being Gay: Media Distortion Deplorable
January 28, 2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Gay People Not Born That Way
February 3, 2005
Dr HT Tan
I would like to respond to the letter Being gay: Media
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
Homosexuality Will Bring Devastation
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
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
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
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
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
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.