Archive | February, 2009

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Astro Censors “Gay” and “Lesbian” From Oscar Acceptance Speeches

Posted on 24 February 2009 by Gabrielle Chong Yong Wei

Many thanks to Pang Khee Teik for contributing this piece.
Below is a letter I am writing to Astro. Please join me to write letters to Astro, as well as the media to complain about Astro’s censorship.

You may mail your letters to:
Malay Mail:
News Straits Time: (Attn: Letters)
The Star: (Must be addressed exclusively to The Editor of The Star)
The Sun:

I can’t find an email for the head of Astro. All I found was the above feedback form. Can someone get me relevant email addresses? Thanks!

Why did Astro censor the words “Gay” &  “Lesbian” from 2 Oscar acceptance speeches?


I want to thank Astro for screening this year’s Oscars, which gave us the very heartwarming wins by the screenwriter and the lead actor of the movie “Milk”. Congratulations too to the movie “Milk”, about the first openly gay man elected to public office in California who was then assassinated, for winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. The acceptance speeches by screenwriter Justin Lance Black and actor Sean Penn were both moving, bold and timely. They spoke up about the need for equal rights, to love, to share this land and to be heard. This year, the Oscars celebrated the kind of diversity that the arts is able to champion; it’s the kind of diversity that desperately needs championing in a world so overwhelmed by racism, war, and hatred.

This is part of Justin’s speech:

“When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married. I wanna I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.”

And this is Sean’s:

“For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

However, if you caught the Oscars on Astro, you would have noticed something so bizarre almost to be ironic. The words “gay” and “lesbian” have been censored from both these speeches. For me, this act of censorship defeated the very victory won by these two men. The two moments of silence rang out like the gun shots that killed Harvey Milk.

We live in a time when understanding is needed, when artists need to be bold in addressing the manifold injustices of the world. Hence, such a movie had to be made, such acceptance speeches to be uttered. But by its act of censorship, Astro has sent a message to all Malaysians that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public’s ears. As a gay man, I am truly offended. After all these years of contributing to the country through my work, of helping people regardless of their orientation, being proud of who I am and helping others be proud of who they are, I can assure you that the only thing wrong is how much hate gays have to endure simply for the way we love.

What is Astro trying to achieve with the censoring of the words “gay” and “lesbian”? Do they think these words will promote homosexuality? Let me assure you that homosexuality cannot be promoted, it just happens. Just as a person’s sexuality becomes apparent to him or her when the hormones kick in in the teen years; you don’t need sex promoted to you by the TV, your body does its own promotion.

Meanwhile, words like “terrorist”, “rapist” and “murderer” gets passed and nobody gets their panties knotted over how these words might promote terrorism, rapes and murders. On the other hand, words like “gays” and “lesbians” that describe people among us who happen love the same sex get treated like it is a crime to even mention in public. Is Astro promoting hate over love? Just what kind of society does Astro want to be creating? One where people can talk about terrorism but not love?

You want to know what breeds social ills? It is the kind of insecurity and low self esteem that results from such continual shaming through the media, that then leads to machismo, violence, bullying, and other superficial ways with which men employ to compensate for their insecurity.

Does Astro not know that many of its own staff are gay? I won’t name them, but trust me, I know many of them (and I congratulate Astro for smartly tapping into such a pool of talents). But is Astro now ashamed of its many talented gay and lesbian staff?

And does Astro not know too that a huge number of its viewers are gay and lesbian? Otherwise, why bother to screen “Brothers & Sisters”, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, “Six Feet Under” and other popular TV series that show how gays and lesbians are not only part of society but play vital roles in shaping that society for the better? Is Astro ashamed of its gay and lesbian viewers? And if this is some national guideline, then Astro needs to question it if it hopes to be fair to its viewers.

Stop censoring the words that describe who I am. I am a Malaysian. I work hard for the right to be here, and I work hard for the right to love, just like everyone else. Thank you.

Pang Khee Teik

+ + + +

Someone suggested to me to turn this into a petition. Maybe we should finally once and for all get the words “gay” and “lesbian” recognised as legitimate words that desribe a segment of the human population here in Malaysia. Anybody want to draft a petition and post it on

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“I’m F**king Ben Affleck” by Jimmy Kimmel

Posted on 24 February 2009 by lainie

Hi, how’s everyone doing? I have a video to share with you all, but first, an introduction:

screencap of “I’m F**king Matt Damon”

I don’t know if you people caught a particular episode of Jimmy Kimmel’s talkshow, in conjunction with his 5-year anniversary with girlfriend Sarah Silverman. They screen a duet Silverman performs with Matt Damon, called “I’m F**king Matt Damon“. The title sums it up, really.

So what does Jimmy Kimmel do? Why, get even.

screencap of “I’m F**king Ben Affleck”

With multitude gay references, this is Jimmy Kimmel and Friends with “I’m F*$king Ben Affleck”. Everyone, this is a list of Hollywood stars winking at you (with a clip of Silverman’s “I’m F**king Matt Damon” in the beginning):

Spot the celebrity cameos singing! Stop reading and just watch the video if you like to identify your own celebs!

There’s Brad Pitt as the Fedex guy, Perry Ferrell (of Jane’s Addiction!), the Madden brothers, Josh Groban, Macy Gray, Robin Williams, Cameron Diaz, Joan Jett(!), Harrison Ford, Christina Applegate, Lance Bass, Huey Lewis and of course, Ben Affleck. Identify the rest of them yourself, it’s quite fun.

Also, words cannot describe how surreal it is to have Josh Groban bellow that Jimmy Kimmel is …er, shtupping…Ben Affleck.

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Transfriendly N. American Universities and Colleges

Posted on 12 February 2009 by jiahuilee




Image from

In the past three to four years, many universities and colleges around the United States began to include gender-neutral housing policies as part of an effort to ensure that all genders, not just the binary, can feel safe, comfortable and respected.

In the next few weeks, Harvard’s Office of Residential Life will be stepping up its commitment to Harvard’s non-discrimination policy by making the process more welcoming and respectful of students with a gender-based need for gender-neutral housing. More information will be released officially through information sessions and published on the several websites connected to residential life, student life, and the LGBTQ community at Harvard.

I’m putting this information out as something to consider when choosing your college as the admissions acceptance dates loom near. I have tried searching to see if there are any organizations that list transfriendly campuses around North America but the closest I have come to is a directory of gender-neutral bathrooms in universities. This is also a good indicator of a university’s effort in trying to provide an inclusive education, regardless of sexual identity and orientation.

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New Straits Times Shows Disappointing Standards Of Professional Journalism When Reporting Transgender Murder.

Posted on 03 February 2009 by Yuki Choe

According to the Associated Press Style Book (often referred to as the Journalists’ Bible):

“Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

So I refer to my latest blog post, where Jassmine Shadiqe of the New Straits Times (NST) failed on all counts to do justice not only to the story (you can read the biased version here), but the writer also failed to give respect to the person who was murdered by describing the victim as a “transvestite” (a man in a dress or cross-dressers). She then proceed to address the victim by using male pronouns, and repeatedly parroted her male name. Unbelievably,  NST actually allowed this piece be published in this manner.


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I will make it simple for everyone. If you are sure the person is a male cross-dresser, then you can use the term “transvestite”. However, from the article, it is almost obvious that the victim’s identity is a woman. It would also be safe to say she is a trans woman because it seemed the people around her are aware of her gender identity. So she should be described as a classic transsexual. But what if you are still uncertain? Use the word transgender.

Why transgender? Because it encompasses all gender non-conforming people. It is like saying someone died, without accidently saying that an Indian died when it is a Chinese, or vice versa. It also avoids confusion between gender identifications. Most importantly, since this person was already murdered, can we in our most humble mode grant this person an affirmation to her identity on the basis of humanity?

And if a writer (or you), still insist to use that term because of (your) highly dogmatic views, well consider all the sciences on why people identity as the opposite gender of their sex. It also avoids distress in gender non-conforming individuals when someone do not repeatedly mentions a group of people with the incorrect terms and pronouns. I am sure if a cat understands English she will scratch the table to bits if she were to be called a dog. It is like calling a straight man, gay.

The sense of self in a transgender is often hard-wired inside the brain, especially in the case of transsexuals; and it is a scientific factual truth. Perhaps a good read to understand the issue will be this well written and researched article by Zoe Brain from Australia. And if the newspaper writers  (or whoever) is still lazy to read up and gain some mileage in terms of pure knowledge which will improve professional journalistic standards in our country (or self-dignity), then still please learn to at the least respect another human being. When a person is transsexual woman, address her as a woman, not a man. You certainly do not call an Asian as a Caucassion, do you?

So it is my hope that everyone, especially professional writers, do the right thing by using the correct terms and pronouns to describe someone like me. It will not resurrect this transwoman’s life. But it will surely make Malaysia a better place for all. It removes certain stigmas surrounding sexual minorities alike, while breeding love, respect and understanding to people who are different. And perhaps when these misrepresentations stop, the killing will too. Since we are moving towards Vision 2020 is it not time for us to progress intellectually?

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World’s First Gay Head of State

Posted on 02 February 2009 by Gabrielle Chong Yong Wei

And you thought that this day would never come.

From Huffington Post:

Icelandic Social Affairs Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir would be the world’s first openly gay leader if she becomes Prime Minister of Iceland, as is widely expected. Although Per-Kristian Foss served as acting Prime Minister in Norway very briefly in 2002, this represents the first time that a gay leader would assume the reins of a modern state. Sigurdardottir would also become the first female Prime Minister in Iceland’s history.

As has been extensively reported, Iceland is in the midst of an economic and political crisis that has brought down the ruling coalition of Geir Haarde. Although elections have been called for in May, Mr. Haarde has announced that he will step down because of the discovery of a malignant tumor on his esophagus earlier this week.


It is all but certain that Johanna Sigurdardottir will replace Geir Haarde (in background) as Iceland’s next Prime Minister.


This small North Atlantic nation was the first to elect a female head of state when Vigdis Finnbogadottir became its 4th president in 1980. Although that event was widely publicized at the time, Ms. Sigurdardottir’s appointment has been met with general apathy both inside and outside the country.

I guess I still have the attitude of most Icelanders when it comes to matters of sexual issues, because I failed to pick up on the newsworthiness of Sigurdardottir’s sexual orientation. “Oh, vow,” said an American friend of mine, “that’s really something! First openly gay world leader!”

Huh? Why, who cares? Even after living in America all these years, where hounding politicians into surrealistic hell about their private lives is the norm, it didn’t really ring bells for me. “I don’t see what her sexual orientation has to do with anything,” my mother told me yesterday. “It’s no one’s business but her own.”

My usually taciturn father agreed strongly. “She is the most trusted and respected politician in the country,” he said, “and she is simply the best person available for the job. Ja, that is just twisted thinking,” he replied when I told him that her sexual orientation would probably be more newsworthy in America than anything else surrounding her appointment.

Sigurdardottir, 66, has a long background in Icelandic liberal politics. She has been a member of Althingi (the Parliament) since 1978, was Minister of Social Affairs in 1987 until 1994, and again in 2007. She is one of the most popular politicians in the country; in a recent Gallup poll 73 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with her work. She is also the only minister whose popularity had increased compared to a similar poll undertaken in December 2007.

Sigurdardottir is the mother of two grown sons and is married to Icelandic writer and playwright Jonina Leosdottir. She is often described by many of her countrymen as the only politician who really cares about the “little guy.” She has devoted her career to fighting for the welfare and equality of minority groups – women, the elderly, the poor, disabled, and immigrants. She holds no fancy foreign diplomas – she has a Commercial degree from the Commercial College of Iceland – nor extensive family or wealth connections like many Icelandic politicians but has diligently worked her way up the political ladder through hard work and determination. Her professional career includes working in the 60s and 70s as a flight attendant for Icelandair (the old Loftleidir Airlines) and an office worker in Reykjavik.

Germans agonized over whether they were ready for its first gay leader in 2006 after that country’s leading homosexual politician, Klaus Wowereit, 55, who proudly hugged his long-standing boyfriend in front of television cameras, won a second term as mayor of Berlin. The French grappled with the issue in 2001 when Bertrand Delanoe, 59, one of the country’s first openly gay politicians became mayor of Paris. Last year, the popular Delanoe declared his candidacy for leadership of France’s Socialist party and has been said to be considering running for president in 2012.

“No one has ever talked about Johanna (Icelanders always use first names) as a gay person,” an Icelandic friend and a prominent journalist told me this morning. “She’s not hiding it either, the name of her spouse is on her Parliament and Ministry web pages, it’s just that nobody cares about it, any more than people cared in 1980, when Vigdis Finnbogadottir ran for president, that she was a woman and a single mother to boot.

“Johanna is very smart and not afraid to tackle difficult issues, and I think she can unite us,” my friend added. “Reasonable, sane people are not going to care about people’s gender or color. They just want the best person for the job.”
Photo credit:Vidskiptabladid/BIG

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