Culture International Lifestyle

Being gay: 8 things I learnt after leaving Malaysia for New York

Like Alvin Tan, I too left Malaysia on a jet plane to flee an oppressive and intolerant government… no la that isn’t quite the reason, but I left because once upon a time I fell in love (fuh romantis giler), got into a long-distance relationship for 4 years (!!!!), and we decided that it’s time to bridge the gap.

For obvious reasons, we can’t bridge the gap in Malaysia. Well technically we can la if we want to give up on all the benefits that are accorded to heterosexual couples who also want to build a life together, or erect pretenses (heheh) just to blend in with the people around us… but who wants to live like that mirite?

So we made a decision to have me move over to New York on the fiancé visa, also known as the K-1 visa. And boyyyy did I learn a lot in the past few months.

1. Bureaucracy is same same but different

Actual questions in one of the many US immigration forms... Source: www.uscis.gov

Actual questions in one of the many US immigration forms… Source: www.uscis.gov

You’d think that as a developed country, the United States would have a better and faster way to process visa applications. They’re understandably strict—especially to citizens of not-so-developed countries—so that people don’t jump ship. But it blows my mind just how tedious this process can be.

I could, of course, leave it to lawyers to help me with the process. But then I found out that we were the ones who’d have to do most of the legwork (filling up forms, provide evidences, etc.), while the immigration lawyers pocket a sweet, sweet roll of USD3,000+ (RM10,344 as of today’s terrible exchange rate). The Asian in me was screaming: HELL NO!!

So we decided to do it ourselves. By using our Google-fu, we found this really helpful online guide that we followed religiously.

Apart from the usual forms they made us fill up (about 10 forms in total), according to the guide, we also had to provide “documentary proof” that we’ve actually met in person in the past two years, to prove that we were still in love like the star-crossed couples from The Notebook:

Copies of all airline boarding passes, train passes, itineraries, hotel receipts, passport stamps (make sure you can read the dates on the stamps), and other documentary evidence that you have met within the last two years.

And thennnn we also had to prepare these for the visa interview 5-6 months later:

Include photos, travel documents, emails, online chat logs (pick several over the prior few months), etc..

Waliao a bit the intrusive can.

For a better picture, take a look at this flowchart. I can’t even attach a screenshot of it, otherwise it’s too long as there are TWENTY THREE steps from beginning to the end—the end being the green card in my hands.

Now contrast this with Malaysia’s permanent residency programme. If you’re a foreign national, you can get a Malaysian PR (not to be confused with Pakatan Rakyat) if you are:

  1. Filthy rich: you have at least USD 2 million to put for safekeeping in any bank in Malaysia. Oh, and you can only withdraw it 5 years later ya
  2. An expert: meaning that your skills and talent are recognised by an international organisation
  3. A professional with outstanding skills (??)
  4. A spouse of a Malaysian citizen: you must be married and have stayed together for at least 5 years
  5. Qualified through a point-based system: you must have at least 65 points. It’s like B for SPM or whatever these young’uns are getting these days

Unfortunately, there have been numerous complaints by foreign spouses of Malaysian citizens who went through far worse red tape with Malaysia’s Department of Immigration. Foreign wives must have lived in Malaysia continuously for 5 years, while it’s 10 years for foreign husbands. Seriously. WTF? This excessive wait was so painful that they even banded together and established the Foreign Spouses’ Support Group (FSSG). The fact that they needed to do this is really sad.

I guess no matter where we are, bureaucracy is something we can never escape. Like taxes.

 

2. Same-sex marriage gives benefits and rights, just like heterosexual marriages

 

A photo from our wedding day.

A photo from our wedding day.

My wedding day was fairly low-key. It was attended by a few family members and friends, after which I was quickly introduced to the American culture of getting crunked at 2pm (only on wedding days). I woke up the next day, fully expecting sparkles to literally brighten my life. Or something. Alas, it’s just like my 5th birthday: uneventful. Nothing really happened.

But seriously though, the progress of gay rights in the US have only begun to bear fruit when the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court in July 2013. This was just last year. Even though some states have already legalised same-sex marriage, married gay or lesbian couples back then were not able to receive the same rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples, such as:

  • Filing joint tax returns. It’s the new sexytime.
  • Getting an exemption from estate taxes and gift taxes for the surviving spouse, which forms the basis of United States v. Windsor that toppled DOMA
  • Employment benefits, like getting insurance benefits from your spouse’s employer
  • Medical benefits, like being able to visit your spouse when he or she is admitted to an intensive care unit
  • Family benefits, like applying for joint adoption
  • dan lain-lain

I’m already benefiting from my husband’s employer-sponsored health insurance, where I didn’t have to pay a ridiculous USD 300 amount for a simple 5-minute check (WTF) to see whether my throat was infected… true story. Imagine if I were to get married when DOMA was still around— I wouldn’t have been able to be listed as a spouse on my husband’s health insurance. This insane bill was what I would have to face.

 

3. People can criticise the gomen AND not get jailed

The NYPD patrolling on a bicycle to enforce the Sedition Act... not.

The NYPD patrolling on a bicycle to enforce the Sedition Act… not.

So this happened: Najib recently said that the Sedition Act would be maintained and even strengthened. Maybe Najib mudah lupa, but the Internet and most Malaysians don’t. This was what he announced back in 2012:

“The Sedition Act 1948 will be repealed and replaced with a new National Harmony Act as part of the country’s political transformation plan.”

The Sedition Act has been pretty much used as an instrument of fear. I remember how my mum had requested in the past that I take down my blog posts and Facebook statuses that were critical of the Malaysian government, in case I, beloved child, was sent to jail.

But criticisms are where you will improve from. Do you think this article will be published here if CILISOS’ editor-editor berkaliber offer constructive criticisms but instead of trying to improve, I kept screaming “I WILL SEDITION YOU” in return??

This isn't sedisyes right, CILISOS? Source: memegenerator.net

This isn’t sedisyes right, CILISOS? Source: memegenerator.net

When I got to the US, I saw how people freely criticised the government and Obama in all mediums (TV la, radio la, Fesbook la, Twitter la, dan lain-lain). And… dum dum dum, they can also like whatever Facebook page they want! I’m pleased to report that they also did not send you to prison just because you drew satirical comics of the government. In fact, freedom of speech is enshrined by the Constitution (limited only by obviously bad things like slander or child porn).

Even though I feel a little freer here thousands of kilometres away, I’m still shackled by a fear that has never quite left me. The fact that I chose to use a pseudonym to write this very article is telling of a society that has been conditioned by fear.

Speaking of which…

 

4. It’s still hard for gay people to hold hands in public, even now

The simplest form of public affection. Photo by Lynn Friedman

The simplest form of public affection. Photo by Lynn Friedman

I know, it’s funny. Here I am happily married in New York, and I still don’t even dare to do something as innocent as holding my husband’s hands in public. Why leh?

Back in 2013, there was a sudden increase of gay bashings in NYC, where in one case the trigger was apparently because the couple were holding hands. Reading this news made me fearful. That gay people would be targeted and attacked simply by being themselves is NOT acceptable. It’s the same as targeting and attacking people by their race, something that the victims have zero control of. Yeah… it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

Sadly, I’m not the only one to feel this way. A survey in Europe found that 2/3 of those asked were afraid to hold hands with their same-sex partner in public. And Frank Bruni, a columnist at the New York Times, said this during the 2013 gay bashings in NYC:

“..when my partner takes my hand in public in New York City, I look at the sidewalk ahead. I note how many pedestrians are coming our way, and how quickly, and whether they’re male or female, young or old, observant or distracted. And I sometimes take my hand back, wishing I were braver, wishing our world didn’t ask me to be.”

I’m not sure when I’ll finally be comfortable in my own skin, or be brave enough. Holding hands is not a political act for me. It’s simply a gesture of affection I want to extend to the one I’m in love with. But on the other hand (pun not intended)…

 

5. Most New Yorkers don’t bat an eye when you tell them that you’re gay

Gay St, NYC.

To them, it’s like saying that you’re Asian or left-handed, or that you really like baking cheesecakes when you’re depressed. It’s not something surprising or shocking. It’s just another part of you: a characteristic that shouldn’t define you.

In New York, any new people I meet or random customer service agents are not taken aback when I refer to my husband as… my husband.

Back in Malaysia, telling people that you’re gay involves strategies, which, I tell you ah, are as calculated as Malaysian politics. What usually went through my head involved answering these questions:

  1. Is this person religious??
  2. Is this person conservative or liberal?
  3. Has this person commented on social justice issues before?
  4. Does this person look like he or she has lived through World War II??

Fortunately my friends who regularly commune with God have proved my pre-conceptions wrong — they’re perfectly fine with who I am. My parents’ reaction to my coming out has been surprisingly mild as far as Asian parents go. I know my story is probably the exception rather than the rule. Societal and governmental prejudices in Malaysia have a long way to go.

Like that one time when I was at the US embassy in KL for the fiancé visa interview, and I had to tell the security guard that this angmoh lang standing next to me is, in fact, my fiancé. She looked bewildered, and asked, “Are you sure?” (“Yes, yes I am.”) She then retreated into the depths of the security guard post (three steps back), made a phone call, and… then allowed us in.

Yeah, equality will take some time.

 

6. Straight NY guys wear V-neck and sleeveless clothes

V-neck and shirtless clothes gone wrong. Source: screen.yahoo.com

Not like this, tho. Source: screen.yahoo.com

Whoa bro, it’s true.

In fact, men of any sexual orientation from many countries wear these items of clothing. While window shopping or strolling in Central Park in NYC, I saw many, many dudes wearing V-neck tees and sweaters, and sleeveless ones during the summer. Come on, straight guys reading this, surely you must have worn singlets before (or even now)?

Why is this news? Back in 2012, some NGOs in Malaysia held parenting seminars (attended by Malaysia’s Deputy Education Minister) that published guidelines on how to identify gay and lesbian schoolchildren.

The guidelines said that gay men like to wear V-neck and sleeveless clothes, as well as prefer to wear tight and bright-coloured clothes. For lesbians, they like going out and having meals with women, and prefer to sleep in the company of women.

Image by imgflip.com

Image by imgflip.com

Okay…

The stereotypes are staggering, and worst of all, misguided. I can only conclude that these NGOs have not spent a lot of time with many heterosexual people. Because these are the things that straight people do too.

 

7. It’s easier not to care about what other people think on Facebook (or anywhere else)

Photo by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Photo by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

I used to control who can see my Facebook posts, like the boss of a state-controlled media. My Facebook friends were meticulously divided into two separate lists:

  1. Those whom I’ve come out to or whom I believe to be fine with LGBT people
  2. Relatives, acquaintances, and those whom I don’t believe to be fine with LGBT people

I was self-censoring my thoughts, carefully making sure that only those who were on my “trusted” list could see my posts that deal with my sexuality or LGBT issues. I was the textbook conflict-avoiding Asian — afraid of rude comments that would demoralise me.

After talking to a few gay friends, I realised that I wasn’t the only one leading a public double life. We were afraid of what people would think of us and how they may react should they know that we’re gay, and so we crafted separate public images.

But since I moved abroad though, I found myself caring less about what other more conservative friends may think. I can never please everyone, and I’m just being who I am: your typical nerdish Asian guy who just happened to be attracted to the same gender.

 

8. Equality is when you stop using ‘partner’ to talk about your other half

A short-lived CBS sitcom. Source: blogs.shawconnect.ca

A short-lived CBS sitcom, Partners. Source: blogs.shawconnect.ca

Ah, ‘partner’. It’s a useful term to use when you want to be open to people about your sexuality yet be coy about it at the same time. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of using that word a lot when I really meant ‘boyfriend’ or ‘husband’. It’s almost like a euphemism.

The now-cancelled sitcom in 2012 called Partners cleverly made a play on this very word. It was derived from its plot about a straight guy and a gay guy who are BFFs-cum-business partners, where both have their own respective boyfriend / girlfriend, or ‘partner’. Hence the name of the show.

But saying ‘partner’ to mean my male romantic interest has always felt weird to me. It’s like airing an open secret where both the listener and I clearly know what I meant, but both refuse to say that word because… You-Know-Who la. It’s He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. A taboo (oh snap, an obscure Harry Potter reference!). I was trying to cause the least offence, because Malaysians can be uncomfortable about the subject of homosexuality.

Since more people in New York treat LGBT people like regular human beings and with respect, there hasn’t been any need for me to use a purposefully ambiguous term like that. Maybe this is what equality feels like.

 

– —- –

So these are 8 lessons that I’ve gotten to appreciate and understand since moving to New York. And there’s still more that I’m gradually learning everyday.

It was a little hard for me to dive into the deep end of a completely different culture at first. Americans are typically more direct when conveying a point, as opposed to Asians who beat around the bush and insinuate and hint in a manner that would “save face”. Drivers actually stop at the stop sign and zebra crossings to allow pedestrians to pass. Winter is also coming (or already here), and the cold is so very biting for someone who lived in a tropical country all his life. (I was told it will get worse.)

With my social circles and support system dwindling to nearly nothing, it gets a little lonely sometimes. Starting my life all over from scratch in a new land isn’t easy, especially when I still don’t have a full-time job. Sure, I’ve my husband and I’ve made a few new friends, but they’re away most of the day for work, and it’s easy to slide into homesickness.

Chinese New Year reunion. Photo by Nathaniel

Chinese New Year reunion. Photo by Nathaniel

But when I think about it though, this is the only time I’ll ever escape the usual nagging questions from relatives several times a year: “Got girlfriend edi or not?” It takes setting a distance of over 15,000km to avoid this question possibly forever.

But during the times when I’d pine for home and nasi lemak and nasi kerabu beef tenderloin (dalam mulutku bagaikan nikmat syurga), I thought to myself that I would be willing to be subjected to intrusive questions by relatives a hundred times over. Sometimes there’s just no place like home. But for now, my home is New York, and I’m writing a new chapter of my life together with my husband.

NAH, BACA:
LEAVE.... or STAY in Malaysia? We asked 57 millenials what they would likely do

54 Comments

  1. Ean

    04/12/2015 at 4:09 am

    This articles really helps me alot, thank you.
    since i honestly want to get marry with my American gf (since i’m a female too),
    but we don’t know how, different religions which we both don’t mind about it, as long we both love each other, there are lot of stuff that we need to know more, and your article helps me a lot to consider what should i do to gain visa just to get marry in there.

    and after i read your articles. HOLY SHIT, that is alot of process.

    We decided that i should stay in States once i graduated from my study which is long timeeeee..
    since its hard for people even my family to accept the fact that i’m gay and going to marry with her. (which they dont know about i want to get marry with her).

    Futhermore, since there is too much procedure just to have a visa, even to meet her in there, she decided to meet me in Malaysia which is easier for her compared to me. Gladly she is one understandable person.

    well i hope i can migrate to other country that can accept gay people way easily,
    and even make things easier for me, as i’m way comfortable with peoples that didn’t judge me being myself.

    I hope everything goes smoothly for you and i hope it same goes to me.

  2. Simon Chen

    22/10/2015 at 8:32 pm

    Interestingly in Youtube, check out the Rubin Report where Milo Yiannopoulos and Dave Rubin Discuss Gay Rights.

  3. Bigheadedprawn

    14/09/2015 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Owen,

    My love is Malaysian. if both of us are not US, is there any way to get to US to get married and enjoy a happy life like you? Am so jealous with you…Can you drop me an email? Or do you have skype?

  4. no name

    20/07/2015 at 1:56 pm

    if only i don’t have a half million of loans under my name, i’m sure gonna try moving out of this country ASAP[ malaysian also]….i’m old 35 years..had experience bad and nasty words and treat from friends…and now live alone coz my love life leave me for a guy..coz she know that we can never be together in this country…and many of my friends is avoiding me…if only i have a chance to love and live peacefully for being lesbian………..

  5. Shabbirfan1

    04/07/2015 at 4:36 pm

    Hey Owen, I loved reading this. I might choose the same path of migrating to the USA, albeit I am still young. I feel like, I need to talk to you. Would you please email me, thank you very much 🙂 Hoping you’ll get back.

  6. Jang Marcelino II

    30/06/2015 at 8:35 pm

    I wish i can be like u too!!!! Very tired everyday be plastic beg to cover who are we!!!!!so hectic that life actually

  7. Carliff Rizal Carleel

    30/06/2015 at 12:06 am

    Awesome article Owen. I read every word. Very insightful. Thanks for sharing. Btw, where can I go to get the ‘Nasi Kerabu beef tenderloin’ that you mentioned? Sounds yummy!

  8. leah

    06/06/2015 at 11:22 am

    I totally feel for you guys. Love and respect should be the foundation of everything. I am a muslim but don’t wanna be one. Face 2 years rehabilitation if jakim or jais find out. And even after the 2 years, the law for apostate is the death penalty. So much for freedom. I eloped with my American husband (but we stayed in malaysia because I was denied rights to leave the country) and later the government annulled my marriage although everywhere else in the world I am married. Syariah court ordered for me to return to my family. My dad is my wali which means in islam he owns me. I was 4 months pregnant when i was forced to return. My babys official father is bloody abdullah. My babys wali is my dad. All this crap about islam a peaceful religion. Come on. People gotta stop trying to be politically correct. Truth is the truth. Can’t wait to leave. Malaysia is slowly becoming an Arab infested country .moderate to extreme in a few years I guarantee

  9. markkarl

    11/04/2015 at 12:27 pm

    I’m a gay Malaysian too. I am now studying in the US and will be going back in 1++ years. Thinking about how my future is going to be like as a gay Malaysian has resulted in major negative impacts on my studies here. I can’t help myself but to find a reason why I have to continue living my life every single time I feel demotivated. Thank God, I still survive today.

    Life would be meaningless if I couldn’t love the person I want to love. I’m hoping to come back and live here some day but I don’t know how.

  10. Randy

    09/04/2015 at 4:55 am

    Hey Owen! Hope you’re doing well since you’ve moved to the United States!
    As a fellow member of the LGBT society, I was totally on the same boat as you were! I’m an Indonesian who grew up in Malaysia and the struggle that you went through were exactly the same as mine.
    Anyways, I live in Michigan now and would love to connect with a fellow Malaysian (I mean, I still hold an Indonesian passport but I have more Malaysian in me lol) like you!
    Hope to hear from you soon! gracias!

  11. tiqa

    05/04/2015 at 12:14 pm

    Heya Owen!! Im a Malaysian too and i have to say that being a bi muslim girl in a muslim country is like hell. I know that my religion forbids that kind of relationship but to me, love is love. You can’t choose who you fall in love with. I would really love to openly go on a date with my girlfriend and be in the lgbt community you know.

    Im still in the ‘closet’ if you have to say. But reading your article gives me and the others hope to live that way too and not be afraid. I would really love to migrate to another country. Preferably Australia to be free of this shackles. Cause right now, only my bff knows that im bi and shes okay with it. Really supportive too. So, thank you for writing this and have a happy married live with your husband!!

  12. Michael

    15/01/2015 at 5:18 pm

    Wow. Glad to know you’ve found your well deserved happiness Owen. Admin/moderator, can you help with getting in touch with author above? Thanks.

    • Owen

      16/01/2015 at 11:42 pm

      Hey Michael, thank you! I’ll reach out separately to you soon.

  13. YC

    13/01/2015 at 2:53 pm

    Woah! I am glad you have found your life and love and enjoying the married life in NYC! I am a fellow queer malaysian and it frustrates me to no end how people perceive homosexuality (or other sexualities apart from hetero) here, like it’s a big deal and as sins. And on top of that, they are plenty of closeted people here who pretend to be homophobics themselves. 🙁

    So it’s nice to hear that there are actually places out there in this world where everyone can walk on the streets with their spouses just like any other ordinary days. That’s really inspiring! While I am very tempted to wish that one day I could date someone from other nationality especially from more liberal places like NYC, most of all, I wish that people in this world can see love for what it is and embrace it regardless of gender, races, ages or any other random things. Thank you for your inspiring article. 🙂 Wish I could talk more with you!

    • Owen

      14/01/2015 at 11:16 pm

      Hey YC,

      It is indeed difficult to be born queer in Malaysia, since this is not something we have control over (both being queer and being born in Malaysia).

      It does seem like gay rights are progressing in more and more countries these days, and that’s heartening. And thanks for your comment! I’ll reach out separately to you.

  14. Kelvin

    11/01/2015 at 12:01 am

    Hey Owen,

    I’m not entirely sure if leaving a comment here is what you meant, but regardless I’ll just try this. :p

    Thanks a lot for offering to reach out to me! I suppose as much as I look forward to life in New York, it is intimidating to start school alone halfway across the globe — so this does mean a lot to me, really. I haven’t had that much luck looking for Malaysian communities in NYC (though I heard there’s a prominent Chinese community in Flushing, but I’m still pretty sure I’ll miss the “lahs” and whatnot, heh).

    Thank you so, so much for reassuring me that life will get better in NYC; even if there’s homophobia, it sounds like it’s an anomaly rather than the overarching cultural climate, from what I can gather from your article. I really appreciate how you humanize the topic by talking about the little things — things like addressing your other half — because ultimately it’s those little moments that hit us the hardest.

    I hope to continue this conversation if you don’t mind/are willing to — just drop me an email at [redacted] perhaps? Cheers! 🙂

    • Owen

      11/01/2015 at 9:39 am

      Hey Kelvin,

      Just FYI I edited away your email address to preserve your privacy.

      I have briefly studied in a foreign country before and I know what it was like to be in a brand new place with minimal support. Some things I wish I had known earlier without having to make (expensive) mistakes and learning from them.

      Indeed, in NYC, homophobia is a rarity. And thanks for the kind words!

      I’m happy to take our conversation elsewhere — I’ll email you soon.

  15. Elysea

    08/01/2015 at 11:22 pm

    Wow. Your article is really inspiring, specially to yours truly, a nineteen-year-old boy who found out he was (and still is) diagnosed with HIV half a year ago. I have yet to get involve in a relationship with anyone even till now, due to myself being unattractive (I think) or whatever reasons lah. And now, with my illness, I guess I don’t worth a single penny to anyone. (Hmm. I guess I should stop thrash-talking myself. :/)

    In a way, I guess I’m lucky. I came out to my parents when I was seventeen, and they accepted me, not without some conflict tho it was minor to say the least.

    Back to my point. ARGH. I should stop digressing so much. Sorry. Anyways, after reading your article, it just dawned on me that I may have a chance of living a life free of judgement (not so free, but you know, the people in NY are less judgemental than those in Malaysia) and finding myself a partner (yes, I’m still using that ambiguous term) who will accept me as I am, sick, flawed and all. I will be moving to the States next year to further my studies as I took up AUP (aka American University Programme). Thank you, Owen for instilling hope in me. Hope to love, and hope for love. Thank you so much.

    • Owen

      09/01/2015 at 1:23 pm

      Elysea, I’m truly glad that the article has inspired you!

      Compared to the outbreak of HIV three decades ago, people living with HIV now lead completely normal lives with the help of medication. Most importantly, I hope you have the emotional support from other people that’ll pull you through during the tough days. There are support groups and hotlines you can call (http://www.ptfmalaysia.org/positive.htm) should you need a listening ear. If you don’t know already, there are also dating sites out there for people living with HIV, so don’t for once think you’ll be alone. Confidence is sexy. 🙂

      I know you’ll have a blast in the States when you come here next year. People here (at least those in large cities) are definitely less judgemental.

      I wish you all the best Elysea! You’re young and you have a lot ahead of you. Enjoy your college years, they’re certainly one of the best years in one’s life.

  16. abg gagah

    08/01/2015 at 5:21 pm

    moral of the story, being gay is suck.. even u stay outside malaysia.. true story

  17. Kelvin

    08/01/2015 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for the article — it’s inspiring to say the least, and it fills me with hope. I find Malaysia to be a really stifling place for LGBTQ youth, so thank you for the reassurance that things will get better when I head to New York for college in the fall. 🙂

    • Owen

      09/01/2015 at 6:23 am

      Kelvin, I’m glad that the article helped you in some way! And great to hear that you’d be studying in New York as well!

      Should you need someone to talk to or provide you with some tips about NYC, feel free to reply here and I’ll reach out to you separately. New York State is also gorgeous during the fall.

  18. Cik Adi

    08/01/2015 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Owen,
    Congratulation on your wedding, I am still looking for a suitable private place to held my ‘wedding’ here at Malaysia. Hehe

    Btw, I am interested in your health insurance part. I am working as insurance agent here and I am envious with Malaysian heterosexual that gaining all the benefits. Currently, we’re fighting for LGBT’s right at Malaysia is not like we would like to display our love PDA or marching naked all around the town (why all Malaysian think we will walk naked if Malaysian gov. approved us?).

    We just want to live and gain the same benefit as heterosexual in health insurance, savings, compensation, house loan, etc etc. (Why all Malaysian cannot think professionally regarding this issues rather than thinking our PDA and naked body?)

    In next 10 years, if Malaysia still can’t support us and think positively, I might run away and live in country that allowed same-sex marriage. Haha

    • Owen

      09/01/2015 at 6:17 am

      Hey Cik Adi,

      Thank you! I hope you’d be able to find a suitable place to celebrate your relationship. 🙂

      Health insurance and other ancillary benefits of marriage are not often thought of by many people, but they’re incredibly important to any two people who are committed to a life together. Unfortunately, many conservative individuals fail to see this or are unable to understand that LGBT individuals are—to borrow Lady Gaga’s song—born this way.

      Tbh I don’t think change would happen so quickly in the next 10 years in Malaysia, given the current political and social climate in the country. Hopefully neighbouring countries make better progress in terms of LGBT rights, so you don’t have to move too far away.

  19. Natalie

    08/01/2015 at 10:54 am

    Hey there!

    Great story you shared above. This is coming from a fellow Malaysian here in New York as well though for different reasons (mainly to escape the inefficiencies of the gomen).

    Feel free to shoot me an email if you ever feel bored and want to hear some “la'” and “don’t liddat la”s.

    Cheers and good luck!

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 2:09 pm

      Hey Natalie, thanks for the kind words!

      Great to hear from a fellow Malaysian in New York as well! I may very well take up on your offer. 🙂

  20. Jared

    08/01/2015 at 7:11 am

    I’m really happy for you! Thanks for sharing those lessons. It’s really weird and also a little creepy though, I never expected to see a photo of my relatives at the end of the post. How did that happen hahaha.

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks Jared, I swear I wasn’t stalking you!

      The photo was found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. I’m guessing a relative of yours uploaded it there? Let us know if you’d like us to change it!

  21. Richardo

    07/01/2015 at 11:53 pm

    Owen, you’re just great to share this! I love the American TV shows “Queer As Folk” and have watched it countless times and we’re lucky to be able to purchase the DVDs in KL! Very inspiring and cool! Wonder if you have watched them and wonder if it reflects the society in the US..

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:59 pm

      This may be blasphemous but I haven’t had the chance to watch Queer As Folk. Depending on which show you watch though, it can be reflective of the American society. One that comes to mind right now is The Wire, which is a very realistic portrayal of the society in Baltimore.

  22. Ricky

    07/01/2015 at 10:41 pm

    I am originally from KL but been living in NY for more than 15 years now. Last year I sponsored my now husband (never really considered the wife connotations ) and the process was so much faster than we had expected. Definitely agree with and like most of your points. We still don’t hold hands while walking down in Flushing, for example, but I don’t really care when I am in Manhattan, Brooklyn or in school. While on FB I still keep the more religious/traditional families separate. I guess a lot has to do with courage. So kudos to you! 🙂

    Best of luck with your new chapter of life and wish your partner and you all the happiness and joy! If you need to know more people in NY as your support system, feel free to contact me

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:49 pm

      Wow, glad to hear we have a lot in common Ricky! Like that NYT columnist said, it does have a lot to do with courage. And sometimes, it’s just easier to retreat to the Asian way of not wanting to court trouble.

      I’ll take up your offer and contact you soon! And thanks for the wishes. 🙂

  23. Nadia Ali

    07/01/2015 at 9:29 pm

    Congrats Owen & enjoy your new life in NY 🙂

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:24 pm

      I will Nadia, thanks a lot! 🙂

  24. Ryan

    07/01/2015 at 8:37 pm

    You are my new hero! I love the way you write and the tone of it all! Thanks for writing this piece and reigniting the belief that love is possible and even more so to marry. 🙂

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:21 pm

      Aww you’re too kind Ryan! I don’t know if I deserve the praise haha. But I’m very happy that it helps out at least one person! 🙂

  25. Chan

    07/01/2015 at 4:40 pm

    You have brought shame to your ancestors. Your parent should kill you before you grown up!!

    • Chak Onn Lau

      07/01/2015 at 8:21 pm

      We were tempted to delete this comment, but freedom of speech works both ways. Still….not sure if this is supposed to be funny, but please don’t visit our site anymore. Thanks.

    • Carol_Yong

      08/01/2015 at 1:20 pm

      hate comment and wishing death on someone? real mature.

  26. Will

    07/01/2015 at 11:19 am

    good for u to be escape this hell hole call malaysia…. a once beloved country turning into a cesspool thanks to backward thinking idiots ruling the corrupt government…. we shall forever envy your escape…

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:17 pm

      I know I’m pessimistic myself, but some part of me is still holding out hope for the better.

  27. Tini

    07/01/2015 at 11:01 am

    i wish you both happiness and welcome to married life lol..ppl back back home here r too busy to judge other people regarding their religiousness (ni tak kesah agama apa sama aje kalau suka judge org), their sexual orientation, jobs etc…live both of your lives to the fullest ya..

    • Owen

      08/01/2015 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you Tini! Married life has been surprisingly uneventful. 😛 Being judgemental seems to be human nature; we can definitely do better than that.

      All the best to you too!

  28. jamal pak tongko

    06/01/2015 at 9:14 pm

    This feel weird but I’m not in placed to judged you even as a muslim, just live your life and Bârakah Allâh (“May Allah bless you”) 🙂

    • Chak Onn Lau

      06/01/2015 at 9:46 pm

      This comment made us smile pretty widely, Jamal Pak Tongko.

    • Owen

      07/01/2015 at 1:47 am

      Agreed with my editor. 🙂 Thanks a lot, Jamal Pak Tongko!

  29. ed couture

    06/01/2015 at 8:44 pm

    Actually I prefer the word spouse or partner. Calling your partner your husband implies you are the wife. I hated the “butch .. fem ” implications that were common back in the 50s and 60s.

    BTW, im from Massachusetts and now living in kuala lumpur Been here 11 years and love it .. but gay life here is very similar to what gay life was like in the usa back in the 50s and 60s. Its a slow change, I personally think it is 2 generations away before it is more accepted here.

    • Owen

      07/01/2015 at 1:46 am

      Ed, the word “spouse” is something I use occasionally as well. It’s the default gender-neutral word of choice that can be seen in many federal forms these days. I didn’t realise the word “husband” has such a connotation decades ago.

      Glad you love KL! It’s hard for me to see a more progressive change happening to Malaysia in my lifetime, but like you said, maybe change is just 2 generations away.

  30. Andrew

    06/01/2015 at 4:06 pm

    Owen,

    Congrats on your recent marriage. I sorta envy how easy it is for you to move to the US compared to what I had to go through 16 years ago. There was no such thing as the fiancé visa for gay people back then. The steps I had to go through to get here were arduous and almost impossible for most people. If you want to know more, feel free to contact me. Take care,
    Andrew.

    • Owen

      07/01/2015 at 1:39 am

      Andrew, I can’t even begin to imagine what you had to go through to move to the US, especially since there were far fewer options back then. The fiancé visa option is indeed very new. We were considering several other options as a backup plan, in case DOMA was not defeated (we were watching it very closely), none of which would be easy. It would’ve been long and painful.

      I’ll reach out to you soon!

  31. Charlie

    06/01/2015 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing with us your experiences. I have been in a long term long distance with my husband and it is really no fun. While I emphatise with the struggles and challenges faced by gay individuals and same sex couples, I cannot imagine putting myself through the harships you and others face just to love and be loved like everyone else. It isn’t easy being in a same sex relationship as it takes a lot of courage and strenght but I’m happy to read that you and your husband found happiness. May you and your husband have many, many, many more happy years together. Best wishes for 2015.

    • Owen

      07/01/2015 at 1:31 am

      Charlie, thanks for your words of support! It indeed hasn’t been the easiest of journey, both in terms of being gay and being in a long-distance relationship at that—like you said, LDR isn’t fun at all. If there’s anything I learnt from my own LDR, it’s constant communication! Technology has helped with that tremendously. I wish you all the best in your LDR with your husband!

  32. fatynn

    06/01/2015 at 1:55 pm

    I hope you live a peaceful life in NY. Back there i think the ppl are too busy to judge others.

    • Owen

      06/01/2015 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks Fatynn! Haha absolutely, I think the most common (and relevant) phrase I heard over here was: “You do you!”

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