There’s nothing comic about transphobia

There’s nothing comic about transphobia
By Zan Azlee

MALAYSIANS can be a pretty judgmental lot.

We assume, presume and have preconceived notions about everything and everyone. We tend to be insensitive and consider anything different as bad and negative without really trying to understand it.

Take for example the recent video by Hitz.FM, which is said to Malaysia’s No 1 hits radio station. The station’s morning show crew produced a comedy video featuring two of its announcers, RD and Arnold.

The video shows the two walking in what appears to be a mall, laughing as they discuss something about “being gay”. Both stop short, however, when they notice a tall, slender and seemingly attractive woman walk by.

Egged on to approach her, RD tries to strike up a conversation with the woman but then notices she is transgender. Their reaction? Both RD and Arnold vomit in disgust.

Comedy and parody are fine and we all laugh at tasteful humour. But in my opinion, this video simply reeked of prejudice, insensitivity and a clear lack of spatial awareness on the part of its producers… and it seems many felt the same way too.

Gender and sexual rights groups, activists and some segments of the general public expressed displeasure and labelled the video transphobic. The media paid attention and eventually, Hitz.FM took down the clip that was loaded on their Facebook page and apologised for the gaffe.

To those who didn’t get all the fuss – this isn’t about being overly sensitive or lacking a sense of humour.

Instead, this is a dismal display of how society (at least parts of it) isn’t paying attention to the sensitivities of others. Comedy does not mean we laugh at others’ expense. It means poking fun and provoking commentary – intelligent comedy, that is. That video by Hitz.FM was obviously not at all intelligent. Even calling it toilet or shock humour would be an insult that comedy genre.

I’d also like to bring to attention the issue of a supposedly gay event to be held in Kuala Lumpur. It was reported in the media that a gay party was being planned in the capital and that it’s supposed to be promoting an even bigger gay party to be held later on in Bangkok.

Organisers never applied for a permit for the gig but rumours of it were enough to push Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to issue a statement.

Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said he instructed the police not to approve such a gathering. He also said the immigration department had been ordered to deny entry to anyone planning to visit Malaysia to attend the event.

This is yet another display of phobic and discriminatory behaviour against those who are different.

Also, how is it not a violation of human rights for a country to deny entry to people of different sexual orientations? How do you really determine if a person has different sexual orientations anyway?

Malaysia should instead be making an attempt to engage and understand these minority communities. Ignorance isn’t at all bliss in this case. Quite the contrary, ignorance will be what hampers efforts for nation-building, creating prejudices and discriminatory behaviour against what and who we perceive as “different” from others. Is this really the kind of world we want to live in?

[This article was originally written for and published at]

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