The Malaysian government has a throbbing, vein-popping hard-on for gay guys. In fact, they're so concerned about the homosexual population's "rampant" activities that they've sent 66 "effeminate boys" to be straightened out in the most macho, testosterone-driven pastime known to man: paintballing. Better that, I suppose, than the other prospect for gay men in a country where homosexuality is illegal: a prison sentence or the totally un-homoerotic punishment of being bare-bottom caned in public by another guy.
Besides the government's foolproof scheme of sending a bunch of gay teenagers to spend time with each other in an effort to make them not gay, the education minister has also just published a handy guide on how to "spot a gay." That guide suggests looking out for stuff like a "Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body," "A fondness for V-neck T-shirts," "A tendency to carry large handbags," and (shocker) "An inclination to be attracted to men"—so the general public of Malaysia can join in, too.
I spoke to Jerome Kugan of Malaysian LGBT rights group Seksualiti Merdeka to find out how many homophobic vigilante citizens are following the guide and rounding up hordes of muscular men in V-neck T-shirts.
VICE: Hi Jerome. So, is anyone actually taking this guide seriously in Malaysia?
Jerome Kugan: Discussions about sexuality are still very taboo in mainstream Malaysian society, even though we've always had our fair share of sexual diversity. Most Malaysians don't really want to face the issue because it's quite personal, but this absurd guide, whether it's taken seriously or not, is part of a growing movement within the conservative right that sees LGBTs as deprived of moralistic and religious values.
Are you concerned that, if this going to be the norm, Malaysia's next generation is going to be raised as homophobes?
Yeah, that's definitely a major concern. We at Seksualiti Merdeka feel like the government is practically giving people a licence to perpetrate acts of vigilante bullying against innocent Malaysian LGBTs. Also, the majority of Malaysians are Muslim, so the influential local religious bodies already view being gay as a symptom of moral degradation, like a social sickness that needs to be rehabilitated. A lot of religious Malaysians buy into that idea, but as long as there are voices of resistance, I think there's still hope.
Is there a particular reason it's been brought up again like this?
Some of us think that the government is fueling anti-LGBT sentiments to turn it into a moral and political scapegoat issue. There's an upcoming general election, so they're trying to link the issue with other parties as some kind of smear campaign.
Lastly, settle this for me: Every single gay guy in Malaysia wears a V-neck all the time, right?
[Laughs] No, but they are quite popular in chic urban enclaves. I have a few in my closet, but I reckon after this official guide, they're going to get a whole lot more popular.
After talking to Jerome, I decided to take the guide for a test run using Grindr, the mobile phone app that instantly pops a whole bunch of horny gay men from your immediate area into your pocket. Granted, I conducted my highly scientific experiment in London, not Malaysia, but considering how ridiculously generalized the guide was, I figured you could probably apply it anywhere in the world.
By the way, if you're ever feeling lonely, go on Grindr. It's a very friendly place.
VICE: Hey Rick. How are you?
Rick: M good mate. Yr cute. R u t or b?
Ah, thanks. Um, I’m not sure. Do you have a muscular body?
Ohh OK OK you need to be alright before we meet.
What? Is that a yes?
Ohhhh sorry I read your question wrong. No I’m not muscular. I’m average to slim. U seem far.
Far? Do you have a fondness for V-neck T-shirts?
So many questions! Not really, why?
I’m just trying to get to know you. Do you wear many tight or brightly-colored clothes?
Not many bright clothes, but some tight clothes.
Do you have a tendency to carry big handbags, similar to those used by women?
Alright. Well, according to the Malaysian government, you're probably not gay.
I am not in Malaysia so I don’t care.
Do you have any advice for them on how to make a more effective guide to spotting a gay guy?
No. Don’t judge people. Just let them be what they are.
I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Rick!
VICE: Hi. I was wondering if you could help me with an article I’m writing?
Do Men: Sure OK, what’s it all about?
I'm trying to tell if you're gay by following the Malaysian government's guidelines. First off: Would you say you have a muscular body?
No, not muscular.
Do you like to show off your body by wearing sleeveless T-shirts?
Err not really, I wear vests 'cause they’re comfy. I hate wearing clothes.
Do you have a fondness for V-neck T-shirts?
Yes. Always show my chest off lol.
Do you have a preference for tight and brightly-colored clothing?
Prefer color and not too tight.
Do you have an inclination to be attracted to men?
Haha yes. I’m gay! Love men ;-)
It's weird, everyone says yes to that one. What about handbags? Do you carry a handbag?
No lol. Usually backpack. Or I stuff my pockets. So my pants sit lower lol.
Cool. Well, I'm afraid that, according to Malaysian guidelines, you are not a gay man.
That's stupid. I can prove that I’m gay come kiss me haha :P
That's a kind offer, but I'm afraid I'm straight.
Lol u look gay!
So, my new friends from Grindr think these homophobic stereotypes masquerading as government policy are complete bullshit, too. Who would have thought it?
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewfrancey
More adventures on Grindr: