An article by a Malaysian newspaper on how to identify lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people has sparked outrage on social media, as the country grapples with the growing influence of religious hardliners.
The LGBT community is routinely persecuted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where sodomy is a crime and the government sanctions campaigns seeking to curb homosexuality and transgenderism.
The offending article published last week by top-selling Malay-language daily, Sinar Harian, included a bullet point list giving tips on how to identify gays or lesbians.
The list describes masculine gay men as having a penchant for “wearing tight shirts to show off their six pack” and keeping facial hair, and a separate line that says effeminate gay men go wide-eyed every time they see a handsome man.
Lesbians were described as man-haters who are extremely jealous and enjoy hugging and holding hands.
“I know a lot of priests, I know a lot of ustaz (religious teachers), I know a lot of really religious people who love keeping long beards... are you trying to say they’re gay?” asked Arwind Kumar, who posted a four-minute video on Facebook criticizing the story.
Malaysia has a record of taking homophobic positions. In June, the health ministry launched a contest on how to “prevent” homosexuality and transgenderism, though it dropped it after pressure from LGBT groups.
A “gay moment” in the Walt Disney cartoon movie “Beauty and the Beast” almost led to a ban on it being screened in Malaysia last year.
In 2015, Malaysia’s highest court upheld a ruling that banned cross-dressing.
Neighboring Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population, is on the cusp of revising its national criminal code to impose restrictions on same-sex relations and consensual sex between men and women outside marriage.