If you’ve been on the internet, chances are, you’d have probably seen images of rainbows and virtual pride events being held in other countries to celebrate Pride Month. It’s been a long and continuous fight for queer individuals to gain their rights in Malaysia, and this month serves a purpose to celebrate the recognition and victory of the LGBTQ+ community.

While some countries celebrate pride overtly, the situation in our country tells a different story. It goes without saying that this month will pass without any form of loud, extravagant celebration, with some LGBTQ+ individuals even feeling particularly scrutinised when they’re out in public, as they’ve always been. Below, we showcase 21 voices from the LGBTQ+ community and hope for a brighter future for these brave and beautiful souls.

1. Acceptance

Photography: Kevin

“As a queer individual, I've learned that accepting my past trauma has made me more human.” – Kevin, 37, Program Manager at PT Foundation

2. Adaptive

“We need to adapt to so many different situations, which makes us extremely kind and understanding individuals.” – Jason, 28, Multi-Level Marketer

3. Brave

Photography: Eddy

“It's hard being part of the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia as we face a lot of challenges in our lives. It's also hard to pretend that you’re straight when you’re not. My advice is to stay in the closet if you’re not ready to come out!” – Eddy, 16, Student

4. Challenging

Photography: Louisa*

“It's challenging to express myself as the ‘L’ in the LGBTQIA context and dealing with other people's perception of me at the same time. Not only do I fear what the adults would think, but I'm also very afraid of what my students would think or if they'd still love me if they knew their teacher isn't 'normal'. And so, it requires a lot of inner work to remind myself daily that as long as I can stay true to myself, I’ll carry on living and continue to thrive.” – Louisa*, 31, Music Teacher

5. Concealed

Photography: Sanjeeva

“Why: simply because there are so many talented, outspoken and inspiring queer people in Malaysia but they’re hiding in plain sight. They’re seen and unseen at the same time. We can move about thankfully and be somewhat true to ourselves but can't display public forms of affection or be too outwardly ‘queer’. Never mind that we can't hold hands or kiss in public. There are some queer spaces and events which pop up that really highlight the talent and tenacity that queer people have. But once again, it's hidden. However, as people become more educated and see more representation of queer people, opinions will change – but it may not be in my generation.” – Sanjeeva, 26, Fashion & Lifestyle Writer

6. Confidence

“As we’re living in a non-LGBT free country, being who you are is more important than having to live by society’s expectations. Remember that you are uniquely you.” – Darren, 25, Designer

7. Courage

Photography: Zoeyan

“It takes a lot of courage to accept who you are especially in a country where you might face a lot of challenges and hate.” – Zoeyan, 19, Student

8. Daunting

“Even as I continue to fight my fears and try to live authentically and freely, I’m constantly reminded that I live in a homophobic state surrounded by people who’ll punish me for being myself. And the worst part is that there won’t be anyone to protect me if my basic human rights are stripped from me.” – Mark, 27, Counsellor

 9. Debilitating

“As much as I’d love to live my life as freely and authentically as I can, the possible repercussions currently outweigh that option for me as a closeted queer.” –  Rachel, 28, Designer

10. Family

Photography: Joey

“I have no big words for how I feel or how being queer in this country makes me feel besides despair and disappointment, but there will always be a bright side to things, right? Being queer in Malaysia, I might've lost a family, but I’ve also found a new one, and I’m absolutely grateful for that.” – Joey, 21, Student

11. Fearless

Photography: Carmen Rose

Living in a conservative, queerphobic country where the law isn't on our side takes a lot of courage for us to be our authentic self.” – Carmen Rose, 29, Freelance Graphic Designer

12. Limitations

“We have the freedom to do whatever we want in Malaysia; it’s a good country. But everything comes with limitations. If we can break through them, I believe that we can see a huge difference in our art, fashion and even business industries. Being normal is good, but being out of the box could be even better!” – M. M., 38, Freelancer

13. Powerless

“Sometimes, it feels like I want to fight for my freedom but I’m fully aware that there’s no support for it.” – Crystal, 22, Postgraduate Student

14. Resilience

Photography: Kaiser

“The queer community has always survived and thrived through the sheer refusal to be silenced. Existing loudly in spite of all odds is one of the most meaningful forms of advocacy there is.” – Kaiser, 24, Organiser, Policy Developer & Sex Education Advocate for an NGO

15. Suffocating

“It’s the same, more or less, wherever one goes. Very rarely do LGBTQIA people find open, safe and comfortable spaces that are free from all judgement. I hope that one day, Malaysia becomes that place for people of all kinds, even though that day seems pretty far away at this point. All I can say is: chin up, because I believe there’s hope!” – A. M., 20, Student

16. Tenacity

Photography: Bernard

“To be queer and open in Malaysia entails considerable challenges from both the society and yourself. The challenge of knowing, accepting and loving yourself for who you are in the face of a society that may pressure, oppress and judge you is a struggle for many, but rise above these challenges and you’ll find yourself in a much brighter, bolder, happier and more loving state.” – Bernard, 24, Graphic Designer & Illustrator

17. Tolerance

Photography: Chris

“It's about accepting everyone's differences so we can all live in a peaceful and friendly environment without being judged on who we are despite our gender, race, religion and nationality.” – Chris, 45, Self-Employed

18. Trapped

“I feel trapped in a society that pushes the idea of normalcy. In my religion, it’s like we're trapped in hell on earth and hell in afterlife.” – Anis, 31, E-Commerce Business Executive

19. Uncharted

Photography: Shawn

“For me, navigating around being queer in Malaysia feels like going through uncharted waters blindly as it’s hard for me to put myself out there and find a community of people who I can click with.” – Shawn, 21, Intern

20. Undercover

“Being the ‘B’ in LGBTQ+ in Malaysia, I feel like I'm doing undercover work. Sometimes I feel like I don't belong in the queer community because I'm not gay enough. Sometimes I also feel like a stranger in our society because I'm not straight enough. There’s no middle ground.” – Skye*, 24, Designer

 21. Versatile

“We have to learn to be extremely flexible. We often need to hide behind a mask and be somebody we’re not because we’re living in a homophobic society.” – James, 25, Multi-Level Marketer

Even though Pride Month isn’t celebrated extravagantly in Malaysia, providing a safe space for queers to gain support is the best we can do. Here are two queer-affirming spaces you can check out:

1. PT Foundation is conducting a national HIV program that aims to reach out and provide free STI test and treatment referrals to all communities primarily in the Klang Valley. Feel free to send a DM to @jomtest_ptfoundation to know more.

2. Graphic artist by day and drag queen by night, Carmen Rose hopes to continue amplifying queer/marginalised voices through her Instagram, @carmnrose, with LGBTQ+ affirmative content.

*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Featured image: Marta Branco/Pexels

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