We highlighted the resistance that LGBT people and their allies encounter in speaking up for their rights in society, particularly if they have already been marked as ‘ (inverted, deviant, abnormal), ‘flawed’ and ‘sinful’. Some offered a more muted response by suggesting that certain forms of freedom of expression should be curtailed. As an educator and researcher who shares the opinion with countless others that human realities are perpetually unstable, fragile and contingent, I was delighted that we found ourselves with more questions than answers.These ruminations led to another question, which evolved into a semi-debate: Should freedom of expression be unrestrainedly exercised in a country, including for LGBT people? As the lecture ended on a tentative note, my hope was that the discussion would continue among them post lecture.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that ‘well-meaning’ religio-political, socio-cultural and legal forces feel it incumbent on themselves to engage in voice-overs, to regulate the speech of LGBT people. Hence, I also wondered: Is freedom of expression still freedom of expression if there are limits and conditions? Does every person not have the democratic right to express himself or herself freely, including LGBT people? “As a democratic country, we have the right to voice things out.” Azmi Sharom, 2014.During one of my lectures at Monash University Malaysia, my Malaysian and non-Malaysian students and I looked at challenges in educating the masses on issues of gender and sexual marginalisation.They speak over, at, on behalf of, and against them. The State continues to view the presence of LGBT Malaysians as a problematic ‘culture’ that needs to be confronted (Lazaroo 2016) or an illness that can be remedied (E. Teh 2013), rather than the presence of human diversity. LGBT’ Malaysians are not permitted into the police force on the sole reason of their gender and sexual identities, despite being qualified (Yiswaree 2016).
Christian pastors continue to label LGBT people as ‘sexually broken’ (Lum 2013).
Butler speaks of how a subject actually ‘comes to be’ through that which can be and cannot be spoken about the subject, on personal and social planes.
A person is known and recognised as a ‘valid’ person by what he or she is permitted and not permitted to say within society, and what has been sanctioned and discredited in public discourses.
On my Facebook timeline, I named the Red Shirts’ reactions as imbecilic.
A friend wrote in response that my posting was inconsistent with my own belief in freedom of expression.
Their speech suggests an inflated sense of discursive authority that trumps the discourses of LGBT people themselves.