Faith under the rainbow: religious bias and the queer community in Southeast Asia

LGBT, opinions, Things That Bug Me

“You can’t be gay!” She said,

“Why not?” I questioned,

“Because it’s haram…”  and just like that the conversation ends.

What makes homosexuality a bigger sin than blind faith and ignorance? It’s through personal experience and stories in community spaces that I found out how conservatism is the trigger to the injustice that blinds logic.

Growing up where heterosexuality is the default, being queer is something that launched a million questions. Sure, to some it wasn’t a surprise but others were not as kind. A lot of the responses surround the belief that being queer is just about being physical with someone of the same gender – and while it’s frustrating, there are still many that does not differentiates gender and sexuality. It’s about time for the stigma of queers being nymphomaniacs to be out of the picture. I want to open the conversation on the psychological aspects that includes culture, gender, and discrimination or intolerance experienced in the community.

I’m now conducting my own personal research based on academic resources and other’s experiences that would hopefully bridge the gap where misunderstandings happen.

The questions I had to answer include but are not limited to:

  1. Are you sure?
  2. How did this happen?
  3. Maybe you should look into therapy?
  4. Have you sought to find God to change you back to normal?

This research isn’t limited to just queer individuals. Allies and friends of those under the umbrella term of queer are welcome to submit their opinions, woes, and questions on the topic of faith under the rainbow. This research is planned to be the base for a larger set of articles that I hope can be a voice that helps and supports the community where needed.

So answer me any of these questions with your story:

  1. How religious were you growing up? (did you go to church/the mosque/temple on a regular basis and on your own accords?)
  2. When did you accept yourself as a queer individual?
  3. How did you handle the situation (if your surrounding wasn’t supportive)?
  4. Do you still practice your religious responsibilities after accepting your individuality?
  5. Are you generally happy?

But most importantly,

What would you like the world to know about being an individual and someone that is part of the rainbow community?

Those opposing are also welcome to send in submissions of opinions on the matter, though anything harmful and ignorant will be flagged.

I’m open to a level conversation – not a one sided argument.

I will take in account the sources of my research and do the best to have an objective voice that advocates equality without dismissing or insulting anyone’s faith or belief. Nevertheless, this research is an opinion based entity that will be on qualitative grounds.

Drop me a comment or tweet me at @shenntyara, and I’ll try my best to go through them one by one.

Those choosing to email please put in the subject line: Faith and Rainbows. 

Please put a disclaimer if submissions are meant to be anonymous, I want everyone who has something to say to know that it’s safe to open up (even to a random person on the internet like myself). Feel free to record a video if that is your preferred medium – I will blur out faces if you’re not comfortable with being out.

Submission ends this April 28, 2018.


Regarding Grace and her consent

opinions, personal, Things That Bug Me

So I was shook when I saw this article by BBC, for a company that holds values in hardline journalistic integrity, they were incredibly biased and made it seem like a bashticle that serves just the negative and one sided view upon the situation. It was when my friend sent me this Babe article, I could taste the sick in my stomach, knowing that something similar has happened to me and probably other people before.

The thing that many in the comment section said that got me to actually writing about the issue is along the lines of these words:

Why didn’t she leave earlier? Why even go down and accept the back rub?

Which is where my story comes in, this happened when I was in college, and he was a friend I would hang with at the campus coffee shop.

What had started as flirtation led itself to occasionally hooking up. Damien* and I would be barely friendly in public spaces, but behind closed doors he would be more commanding. He masked it as an interest in role-play and BDSM – I followed along because in my head at that time it was what college students did.

The consent I gave to him soon was ill-fated when he wanted to try choking during intercourse. I generally don’t like constricting my neck area, even with scarves and turtlenecks I would always fidget around with it. So when he said he wanted to try I had already said no, he agreed until he was in a different headspace and continued to place his hands around my neck… I froze and let him finish because it I struggled, he would think it was a game (even with the safe word).

In that moment I relied on my ability to hold my breath, I racked my mind hoping no marks would have been left behind, I hoped that because I let him do that then he would not bring our twisted relationship out in conversations.

I barely told anyone about my fuckship with Damien even if it lasted a few months. I continued hooking up with him because of my fear of other people finding out. Another time he put true terror in my head was our night out with his cousins; wanting to just have a night out dancing turned real fast when it was bout time to go home.

He had promised to send me back before my parents woke up, “it’ll just be a minute” was what he said when he had to stop by his cousin’s apartment so I said I’ll wait in the car, we both had been drinking and I should have gotten a taxi home but again when he clenched his hands on the wheel of the car, I froze. Knowing if I tried to get away there’s a higher chance of him hurting me.

So, I went up to the apartment and we hooked up again – it was in my head that his cousins were looking  at me like vultures waiting for a meal, but I was sober and I made sure the lock worked because when he was “getting the keys” as I cleaned myself up, I was holding my tears hoping they wouldn’t barge in – especially since he told his cousins to “go ahead” when dancing at the club.

That was my last outing with him, slowly I started to ignore him altogether and after a few months of excuses not to see him alone, I was rid of him. Yet the memories remain.

Time isn’t a factor when it comes to these encounters, until I read other #metoo stories I thought my past encounters had been dismissed. But yesterday at work, on a smoke break I had a flashback that made it hard to breathe easy. A lingering scent of musk followed me from the club, the apartment, the car, and now it was in my cigarette – before I knew it, this post was created.


In light of my story, I can confirm that it’s not as easy as calling them out, even to their faces – the factors to consider are more than just the “it’s his words against yours…,” it is the overwhelming sense of being in danger, it’s knowing the person is stronger, it’s being called out for something else that could be worst (which Damien still did, fyi!).

So no, fellas in the BBC comment section, it’s not as simple as walking out the door.

In his position, Grace could’ve lost her credibility if Aziz were to just mention her badly. His reply was a PR message drafted in 31 hours by his team of people. I was rooting on him being an example of how you can be a successful comedian no matter your gender, race, or sexuality – without being predatory!

But I won’t go on about him, for too long we’ve been talking about his narrative, his actions, his POV, him being a POC, the unpredictability of the scandal… no, it’s not his story to glorify while a female photographer, working her hustle, speaking out anonymously, is nowhere close to being the first in the cookie cut scenario.

Grace like many women in schools, colleges, offices, social media and even public transportation, go through or have gone through conformity in lieu of consent. Not for the thrill of rough sex, but for the safety from it.

I, until today knew I could have done things differently those times with Damien, but the person that I was did not see it that way, she, I, we used to think it’s our fault, to a sick point thinking that we deserved it, because we stepped away from the “good girl” life we were brought up in, because “boys play rough honey, get used to it!,” because “God wouldn’t have put you in that situation if you had been more religious.”

I guess that’s all I have for now, there are a few other instances with different persons but I’ll ease into those stories on my other posts sometime this year (I’m a horrible blogger I know!).

But if you slide into my DMs or drop a comment, maybe I’ll post sooner 🙂

* Not his real name, but he probably knows who he is.

A History Lesson in Pancasila

LGBT, opinions, Things That Bug Me

DISCLAIMER: This article is purely the opinion of the writer, it is not written to be bias or leaning to any political party nor it’s opposition. 

I grew up in the bustling city roads of Jakarta, to be a half breed of Indonesia and a western country, I was nicknamed bule that directly means caucasian. It was always my pet peeve that even during my stay in Malaysia, I was addressed more towards my western side because of how I looked. I was born in a midwife’s clinic in the center of Menteng, I went to preschool in the national plus institution behind a church and mosque, I wore proudly my red and white uniform during the weekly flag ceremony as the entire faculty and students recited our nation’s five pillars. My passport is as green as my blood runs red. 

Ask any of my foreign friends, and they can tell you how proud I am to be Indonesian, however with the rise of extremists and radicals in the streets of my beloved nation, that pride I have has definitely been shaken.

Close to 62 years ago in August 1945, a group of young activists kidnapped our leader to force our country out of the occupation of the Japanese and into independence. However it was on June 1st 1945, when Pancasila was erected as the base of our nation’s views due to the diversity across the archipelago of Indonesia. With over 300 languages spoken, over 400 cultures, and 1000+ islands; Indonesia was one united by these five points.

  1. A divinity that is an ultimate unity (in Indonesian “Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa“),
  2. A just and civilized humanity (in Indonesian “Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab“),
  3. The national unity of Indonesia (in Indonesian “Persatuan Indonesia“),
  4. Democracy predicated on the inherent wisdom of unanimity arising from deliberation among popular representatives (in Indonesian “Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan Perwakilan“), and
  5. Social justice for all Indonesian people (in Indonesian “Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia“).

It was assured to the nation that we are not able to have one without the others.

Fast forward six decades later, the country has shifted and in my eyes forgotten the true meaning of being Indonesian. I won’t say I have been the best citizen, but – as idealistic as it may sound – I try my best in every way that I can to better myself not just for my personal gain but also for my country’s future.

With seeing how radicals use this ideology in the opposite way it was made for makes me furious. Seeing what has been happening in the political scene and the reasons leaders use to “defend” Indonesia has me itching to demand a history lesson to be re-taught to these influential people that seem to forget our second and fourth pillar.

It teared me up in pride knowing that Timor Leste, a former province of Indonesia held a Pride march in solidarity to their LGBT community. It was a rush of envy that I felt reading about Singapore’s Pink Dot event. Yet, the LGBT related news that I read connected to Indonesia was regarding the demand by extremists to boycott Starbucks because they are a known supporter of the community and how this propaganda was being pushed and accepted by a significant amount of the nation’s citizens to be against the first pillar.

Nowhere in our five pillars was it written to discriminate and push hate towards anyone whether it be their system of belief, appearance, culture, or sexuality. Closing the Pancasila is the pillar I wholeheartedly believe in; Social justice for all.

I believe in signs, and while it might be far fetched, could we just appreciate that Pancasila is celebrated within the same month of Pride? I had only realize this tiny bit of information a few weeks into June 2017 where I celebrated Pride for the first time as a bisexual.

While my pride of being Indonesian was shook, my hopes of a better Indonesia remains strong. It’s my hope that with the change of time and the growth of modern thinking, Indonesia will be what it was planned for. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is what’s written in the sash that the Garuda holds in his claws; united in diversity. 

I hope that in the near future, that diversity includes the LGBT community.


Subjectivity, Objectively.

opinions, Things That Bug Me

It came to my attention that my opinions were taken into dissection, and I honestly appreciate that because as I disclaimed – these are my opinions.

I wrote in what I felt was objective, having said that,  I was presented with views on how it seemed as a conformity to patriarchy mainly because my posts gave the impression that I was writing against the girl’s actions; when instead I was questioning about whether they both warranted the attention that the coverage got them. This comes from what is available for me to base on for my opinion which were the slander and judgement by netizens in the comment section.

This comes down to how individuals tend to take what they want when there is an emotional attachment to a message, unfortunately it also tends to leave out logic and objectivity. Thus, creating a path for mixed messages and reading between the lines; in psychology, this is called pareidoliaa concept of a perceptual set, or seeing things we want to see and using that as a problem solving method because of previously set ways or beliefs. This concept while linked into explaining superstition, can also be linked to confirmation bias.

While we’re on biases, I would like to touch more on how the content in mainstream media’s coverage has been diluted by the subjective manner of how the case was written.

What was published became a doorway perceived by keyboard warriors to blatantly voice out hatred towards the parties involved, I write parties because I saw criticism shifted to the girl, the boys and the institution.

I feel that this would be the right place to repeat my disclaimer that this is written solely based on my opinions upon my observation.

How the articles were written and published were a in a form of cognitive bias; I saw this as a learning opportunity, so I asked my friends with media background to tell me what difference did they see in the articles posted compared to my 2 cents?

What I’m allowed to write down on record was a divide between the media seeing the viral topic as a currency that would elevate their readership, and the defense against rape culture. But while I’m still gathering information on rape culture outside the western world, can we press pause and see the side effects of what media content has been proven to come with?

Like for instance, cyber bullying and public shaming comes hand in hand with the rise of social media once a tweet that touches on social sensitive issues goes viral.

Rosen points out a deep truth in her commentary on how unsettling the aftermath can get once an individual is outed as an alleged perpetrator or victim in a crime that is presented to the justice system of social media with public opinion as the jury.

Stan Lee said it best in the neighborhood super hero franchise Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility”; this research on how climate change was covered in media; has proven that while the media does not directly tell us what to do, it is key to the setting of agendas and focusing public interest on particular subjects, which operates to limit the range of arguments and perspectives that inform public debate.

That said, in my opinion, the mainstream media’s responsibility should be taken account for the backlash and repercussion it may cause with the story it publishes as well as the writers linked to their publications,  whom has the ability to persuade public opinion with a set agenda.

While it is still in question on how platforms work to moderate their users, it should be in the publisher’s interest to follow the 6 basic roles of media on how their influencers deliver a message to their followers. I feel like those advocating as journalists, regardless the content or targeted audience, should always be objective

That is what is taught in media writing 101, is it not?


Helen of Twitterverse

opinions, Things That Bug Me

FULL DISCLAIMER – This article is solely the opinion of the writer.

As a follow up to my post yesterday, I would like to touch on a few things.

The official statement from the involved institution has been released. Was this necessary? Of course, it’s a standard procedure.  But was it necessary for the girl to share it with the world? Not really.

As stated, the boys and girl involved had only been in the college environment for a month or so – their journey has just begun. The girl/victim had recently been acknowledged by Elle Malaysia as a badass in their article for speaking out about her incident. This was a fashion magazine and there is this freshie on campus, and there is this cry of a rape threat. For some reason, that’s a bit of an odd mix…. or is it just me thinking this? She was badass for launching a thousand ships of altercation between people and causing a commotion that has impacted institutions and such. Helen of Twitterverse indeed.

Now to my take on this case, as a former media student, I feel that the story has been misappropriated to a point where it’s no longer a fight for women’s justice but one that goes against it. Considering how fast words can travel online, I think it’s time now more than ever that we need smart women to stop debasing their intelligence and directly shoot out a flare gun on to the twitterverse.

Kellie Low, 24, Malaysian PR graduate had a similar stance on how this case could have been handled, especially the girl involved. “I find the guy’s more at fault for joking so nonchalantly about something apparently beyond his comprehension, but the girl should not have blown up the issue, regardless of how upset she was. Screenshot, confront the person who made the rape statement, but why play victim-and-villian by posting and making it viral?”

From where I stand, female empowerment does not mean we have to degrade our opposite gender, but instead we should educate them. Blasting retweets and sharing posts on our newsfeed is not necessarily the only strategy to go about this.

The darker side of social media should be brought out of the light on how “tweetivists” take justice into their own hands without thinking of the repercussions they activate with 140 characters or less. Last year this article by the Observer relates the social justice warriors that take to social media to the Totalitarian doctrines and Marxism theory. Creator of Scandal, Shonda Rhimes has also pointed this out in her speech at Dartmouth that instead of merely tweeting #justice, they should act positively in the causes that they believe in. So why not instead of tweeting how the institution or boys involved should act upon this case, they go ahead and volunteer hours at a local shelter.

When I asked Tanya Nazeer, 24, who’s a fellow media student from Tanzania, she delivers a valid point; “There’s plenty of ways this could have been handled. I get it that the girl was just speaking out about the incident. But the keyboard warriors are the one who add fuel to the fire. They are the ones causing the PR mishap. The university shouldn’t take this as a scandal – yes they are your students. But take the opportunity to show how you care for the students and how you actually intend to change their mindsets for the better.”

Let’s step back to the starting point of this particular case. It is not about glorifying rape culture, but the public statement that a person of a political leader. How can we expect the socio culture in Malaysia to be more than a developing country when the leaders are still acting this way? I don’t see how it is justice when the institution drowns in the melting pot of opinions, while the man who started the joke goes off scot-free. 

Now that the student involved has been given a punishment of 100 hours of community service; can we also hand over the learning opportunity to not only the warriors retweeting but also Mr. Parliament? I think that should be fair, don’t you?

As for the girl in question, a badass? Yes but not in the fashionable sort.


The Generation of Going Viral

opinions, Things That Bug Me

Which is a bigger crime, a group of boys talking nonsense or the girl who took the joke too far? In my personal opinion, both are at the same level or idiocy. 

Now I get that getting many followers can mean you get the chance of monetizing your social media account. But at what cost?

In a recent incident, screenshots of a private group chat went viral. As any group chat involving boys with raging hormones and no other output, there are lewd commentary about the “fresh meat” on campus. Do I condone the locker room talk? Of course not. But when the individual comes out and rants on her public twitter account instead of waiting for the institution they are all studying at to respond, it creates a PR mess.

I am in not directly involved, however as a graduate of the media industry, I would like to put my two cents in – not like anyone has yet to do so. 

Shall we first get to the background of this said joke, in which one of the group chat participants wrote “She’s gonna kena raped by me, then the must marry me” – this running joke started with this statement earlier this year from the parliament regarding rape victims.

Now, whether it be the soccer team in Harvard, or a female rating group chat in Malaysia, I hold my opinion on how college boys are not the brightest stars in the galaxy. I’m not saying #NotAllMen or the overused quote “boys will be boys”.

Rape, in any sense of the word is not a laughing matter.

But to the girl involved, was it worth the example you posted? This is one in millions group chats that talk nonsense. If every group chat was exposed this way, almost everyone in the world would be convicted for soliciting lewd commentary. Not to mention the lack of eye candy articles that sell magazines and get traffic to online magazines shared on Facebook. 

It astonishes me how your tone changed after your tweets went viral to the point of being interviewed by Elle Malaysia where there was a comparison to Serena Williams.

From what I have gathered, the boys involved have been given their punishment. But the backlash of this incident will constantly follow them and in many cases these life events will create a mental instability (hello, there’s this new series showing exactly how things can go). The threats on their existence has already started to a point of the “perpetrator” making the “joke” is terrified to go back to his studies this coming Tuesday after the public holiday.

Now I have to ask this to the general public, how is it that glorifying and sexualizing attractive vets or nurses or even math teachers okay, while a private group chat is blown up out of proportion?

This group chat was one out of a billion that just happened to get caught. Don’t you think if all private chats were leaked everyone would be in jail or something? Yes, it was wrong. I do not defend the boys involved, but what people say as opposed to what people think and do are all different; and there will always be an abundance of online trolls and keyboard warriors.

It is ironic to me how as viral as juicy this fiasco has become, all articles written on it deviate far from the actually truth with conflicting and inaccurate information. For all we know, each individual involved are at fault at one point or another. 

This proves how what we are involved in is no longer the issue at hand or in the victims best interest. Instead, by making this more viral, we are actually amusing ourselves at the expense of all participants including the girl. 

A simple retweet of the original posts can be compared to going for surgery when all you needed was a good nights sleep. Is it truly impossible for this generation to mind their own business? Did we really have to dive into the comment section and dissect? 

In other words the villain here is now us. 

The best PR exercise to diffuse is through silence. By muting the argument until proper statement has been released. Until then, what we have is a crockpot filled of opinions. As my grandmother in the kitchen would say, too many hands makes the broth bitter.