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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK

Matty Healy spoke for us on stage in Malaysia

Matty Healy of The 1975 kisses bandmate Ross MacDonald onstage in Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia.
Matty Healy of The 1975 kisses bandmate Ross MacDonald onstage in Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia. Photograph: Sky news

I write in response to Peter Tatchell’s article (Matty Healy is not a ‘white saviour’ for showing solidarity with Malaysia’s LGBTQ+ people, 25 July). When one of my students met my civil partner he gleefully exclaimed, “Oh my God! I’m gay too!”. We nicknamed him “IGT”. His sense of incredulity that it’s possible to be a senior academic in a gay partnership, and his sense of joy in the belief that all is hopeful was clear to see. At the time my partner and I felt somewhat amused, and looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

I am Malaysian. I left for England to study at the age of 16 and stayed on to live and work. At 50 I returned to care for my father who had dementia, and to take up a senior academic post. Although I had some superficial knowledge of the inequalities that LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia faced, whatever interest and concern I had was detached and disengaged. I was just grateful that I was able, to varying degrees over the years, express my sexuality and live the life I wanted to. Returning to Malaysia and out to a few friends and colleagues, I started to hear about the challenges and trauma that some gay students at the university were experiencing. The fear and anxiety of rejection by the family and persecution by the establishment left teacher mentors of these students helpless, not knowing what they could do to help. I came under some pressure to be a role model, as well-meaning colleagues felt that having a visibly gay teacher in a position of success and seniority would offer some assurance and comfort that all would be ok. It was not a role I felt I could take on because I am not a natural activist, and feared the consequences of being visible.

Matty Healy and Peter Tatchell have shone some light on the fear and anxiety that LGBTQ+ Malaysians live with, unable to enjoy the rights and freedom that should be basic to all humans. They have done what I never felt able or courageous enough to do. I pay tribute to them and to all Malaysians who continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Visible expressions of homosexuality tell the “IGTs” of Malaysia, and indeed the world, that it’s OK to be who you are. Conversations that Healy and Tatchell have generated serve to educate and keep these issues alive. We need more visibility and more conversations.
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