Pentingkah paparan watak-watak LGBT di media?

Disiar di Merdeka Review, tanggal 17 April 2012.

Kelewatan ini melihat desas-desus pengharaman paparan watak LGBT di kaca televisyen telahpun mendatangkan lagi persoalan tentang wajarkah individu-individu LGBT mempunyai tempat di siaran media. Bagi saya, jawabnya ya, tetapi saya juga mempunyai rasa ragu dengan pendirian saya. Pertama sekali, watak lesbian, gay, dan transgender terutamanya di filem-filem dan rancangan televisyen tempatan hampir selalunya stereotaip-stereotaip yang negatif. Sebagai contoh, watak yang dianggap ‘gay’ selalu disamakan dengan lelaki yang ‘lembut’, cerewet, dan slapstik tahap kewanitaannya.

Watak-watak yang difahamkan sebagai ‘lesbian’ pula hanya mempunyai satu jelmaan; wanita yang mempunyai gaya pemakaian dan pertuturan seperti lelaki atau ‘butch’. Watak transgender atau Mak Nyah pula tidak lain dan tidak bukan seorang wanita yang menjual tubuhnya dipersisiran jalan atau penghibur di kelab malam yang terlalu marak make-up dan gaya kewanitaannya. Secara lazim, watak-watak LGBT akan insaf, dikecewakan, atau diseksa dalam drama televisyen dan filem tempatan, contohnya filem Anu Dalam Botol.

Kesemua stereotaip-stereotaip ini memain peranan dalam media; kesemuanya berfungsi sebagai watak satu-dimensi yang digunakan sebagai bahan jenaka atau kontroversi yang tidak bertempat. Menurut peneliti-peneliti media, apa yang dilihat di media merupakan paparan dan gambaran yang dibuat oleh masyarakat majoriti atau kebanyakan untuk tontonan kebanyakan, dan jarang sekali buat sukuan minoriti masyarakat. Pendekatan yang diambil untuk mengharam penggambaran watak-watak LGBT di media untuk mengelakkan masyarakat Malaysia (yang bukan LGBT) daripada menyokong gerakan hak-hak seksualiti dan menzahirkan gender adalah sangat simplistik.

Mengikut pakar-pakar media juga, penonton dan pengguna media adalah lebih celik daripada yang dianggap oleh lembaga penapisan Malaysia; setiap satu pengguna media mempunyai cara menafsir imej-imej dan maklumat media dengan cara tersendiri. Tetapi ini tidak bermaksud setiap individu bebas berfikir di bawah satu kerajaan yang kuat menyensor dan menyempit wacana. Akhirnya, kebebasan menonton, berfikir, dan menafsir media dari pelbagi sudut pandangan individu tertakluk kepada macam-macam faktor, terutamanya yang berupa politik, sosial, dan taraf pendidikan individu.

Habis, mengapakah penting watak-watak LGBT dipaparkan di media tempatan? Pertama, paparan yang ‘realistik’ mengemukakan isu-isu dan pengalaman komuniti LGBT dengan harapan ia boleh ‘memanusiakan’ LGBT. Jika penonton (yang bukan LGBT) dihidangkan dengan stereotaip-stereotaip sahaja, secara tidak langsung ini akan mencorak pendapat khalayak tentang apa yang mereka fahami tentang komuniti minoriti ini. Kedua, seperti mana-mana penonton filem atau drama televisyen, kita suka melihat dan boleh berkongsi perasaan dengan watak-watak yang pada zahirnya lebih kurang seperti kita. Inilah sebabnya drama yang diperankan pelakon utama wanita akan selalunya mempunyai lebih ramai penonton wanita daripada lelaki. Ketiga, personaliti media atau artis LGBT boleh memainkan peranan positif sebagai ‘role model’ seperti Dorce Gamalama kepada yang anak-anak muda dan remaja yang dijadikan sasaran samseng-samseng yang merasa diri mereka lebih alim.

Malaysia mempunyai sejarah menolak keras penyanyi luar negeri daripada mementaskan muzik mereka kerena hala seksualiti mereka yang gay. Pengucapan perkataan ‘gay’ juga pernah dilenyapkan daripada bibir pelakon Sean Penn yang memenangi anugerah Oscar pada tahun 2007 untuk peranannya sebagai ahli politik Amerika gay yang pertama, Harvey Milk. Lagu Lady Gaga, Born This Way (Lahir Sebegini) yang membawa mesej positif tentang toleransi dan penerimaan identiti LGBT pernah di tarik dari siaran radio kerana melanggar “budaya dan tafsiran akidah agama”. Pengharaman yang bersifat anti-LGBT ini tidak dilahirkan daripada sentimen homofobia atau transfobia semata-mata, tetapi menjelma dari wacana awam kita se-Malaysia tentang gender dan seksualiti yang semakin menyempit. Secara lazimnya, lembaga sensor filem Malaysia mempunyai pendirian yang ketat terhadap penyiaran aksi lucah, termasuklah pasangan perempuan-lelaki bercumbuan.

Kerana sempitnya fahaman khalayak dan ahli-ahli yang mewakili majlis sensor film tentang apa maksudnya gender dan seksualiti, dan apa bezanya aksi seks dan identiti yang berdasarkan seksualiti, akronim LGBT disamakan dengan perbuatan seks semata-mata. Malah, LGBT sering dikaitkan dengan cara hidup ‘songsang’, aksi liwat, dan seks bebas. Paparan watak-watak dan personaliti LGBT di saluran media dan di industri filem tanahair seringkali adalah negatif, ini adalah kerana pembikinnya hampir tidak sama sekali gay, lesbian, atau transgender dan kurang memahami pengalaman komuniti yang ingin digambarkan.

Jika pendekatan kita tentang gender dan seksualiti beranjak dari perbuatan seks ke perkara yang difahami dan dialami oleh khalayak seperti percintaan, pernikahan, dan rumahtangga, ia memberi peluang kepada komuniti LGBT untuk bersuara tentang perkara-perkara yang dikongsi bersama masyarakat Malaysia yang bukan LGBT. Ramai yang akan setuju bahawa hubungan seks adalah perkara peribadi, tetapi apakah ramai yang sedar bahawa seksualiti sedikit sebanyak mempunyai implikasi di pentas awam; seksualiti berkait rapat dengan percintaan, dengan siapa kita berpegang tangan di tepi tasik, dengan perkahwinan, dan juga soal-soal rumahtangga.

Seksualiti dizahirkan melalui tarikan kita kepada lelaki atau perempuan, ia membuatkan kita jatuh cinta, dan ia juga sebahagian daripada identiti kita, sama ada kita menggelar diri heteroseksual, biseksual, atau homoseksual. Oleh yang demikian, seksualiti bukan perkara yang tertutup tetapi di’pentas’kan secara terbuka. Di sini saya kaitkan kembali peranan media dalam memaparkan kepelbagaian gender dan orientasi seksualiti dengan menegaskan bahawa media adalah seperti cermin masyarakat. Kerana itu, komuniti LGBT yang membentuk sebahagian daripada rakyat Malaysia dan turut menyumbang kepada pembangunan negara sudah tentu berhak direpresentasikan and bersuara di wahana awam.

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Multicultural cohesion: who is doing it?

A person brought to my attention an article by Farish Noor who bemoans (he does a lot of this in his writings of late) the national impasse of bringing Malaysians together no thanks to a linguistic and culturally segregated education system. Aside from not talking about segregated education system as colonial heritage whose impact on Malaysia in the long run, Farish Noor groans about the political cowardice implicit in the refusal to establish a linguistic and culturally uniform education system, so that everybody can communicate with each other and hopefully communicate with elites and the powers that be. In other words, have access to hegemonic discourse. The bottom line for an overhaul of our education system is national cohesion and integrity, that we are bound by a sense of Malaysian-ness more profound than an excessive love for food.

With the political will to assert a change in the education system, what will be the likeliest outcome? That all schools are taught in Bahasa Malaysia, which is not neutral in its cultural baggage in relation to Malay hegemony inherent in Malaysian public life and governance? Or that all schools taught in English, which has much less to do with colonial baggage than that of current class relations?

Should the outcome be the former, non-Malay pupils will need to integrate into a cultural and linguistic system while (it is often assumed that) Malay pupils will have the upper hand, because well, Malay children speak Malay at home and the language will come more naturally to them in the classroom. To assert a linguistically uniform education system is fine in principle. But if the intended outcome is national cohesion based on language, we need to further examine the other factors that divide society, such as class, which is inconveniently wedded to the second possible outcome.

Farish Noor does not delve into the other factors however. Instead he cites the successful integration of second generation migrant children into the dominant societies of Germany, France, and the UK. How integrated they are! How unified they seem! All Turkish Germans are able to speak German and are rewarded with proper entry into greater society and opportunities to social mobility.

Issues related to multiculturalism in Western Europe have often couched on language. Migrants who enter the country to reside alongside their children who enter the education system must learn the ‘host’ country’s language. The level of language profiency is, however, another culturally-charged issue. As some European governments demand native-level fluency of its integration policy candidates, what can be demanded of them: native-level of grammatical correctness? accent? intelligibility?

Indeed, those who do not speak the local language will have the disadvantage of not being particularly employable and face greater risks of employment rights abuse and discrimination. These are often the arguments laid out as reasons for migrant communities to learn the local language(s), but also, more crucially, it is important as an indicator (for powers that be and a xenophobic society) of the level of willingness and effort that migrants demonstrate in order to integrate into their ‘host’ society.

And as I have tweeted on this issue before, policies directed towards integration and national cohesion conceal the power differences inherent in racist and xenophobic policies that serve to further perpetuate racism. What we must examine is: who is demanding for integration and national cohesion and who is demanded to do the integration.

While it might seem common sense that communities ‘new’ to a society learn the ways of its ‘host’ culture and mores, a society that often erroneously considers itself as unchanging and culturally stable, it must be pointed out that integration and national cohesion must be a two way process. Both sides must have the recognition and acceptance that their multicultural society is perpetually dynamic and that culturally dominant members of society are more inclined to racism and have greater leverage to inflict racist harm on an institutional level than minority communities.

Which is why despite findings that disprove the xenophobic assumption that migrant workers are taking away jobs from native communities, and despite racist sentimentalism that immigration is forever transforming the European or British “way of life”, a kind of life true only in mythic proportions, ‘native’ resentment is so hard to die. It is because native (mainly white) European societies have not been properly inducted at an institutional level into accepting that they too must integrate into a changing multicultural society. They too must accept changes in their views about non-White immigration to fit into a new reality.

To return to the multicultural Malaysian context, we expect the more culturally dominant community – the Malays – to reexamine their cherished beliefs about being the ‘original’ people of the land because it is this belief that causes the most anxiety, the greater amount of violence and footdragging, as it infers that Malays have much more to ‘lose’ than non-Malays should a pluralist egalitarian multicultural Malaysia exist. It is this same belief that fuels the anti-Malaysian ‘pendatang’ rhetoric, that non-Malays are somehow lesser Malaysians, not naturally embedded into the cultural fabric that by default privileges Malays and the Malay culture and language.

We have to acknowledge that in the project of national integration, each community, each individual, depending on their class/ethnic/gender subjectivity will be positioned differentially and the demands made (or lack of) on certain communities to demonstrate their willingness to integrate will reflect their various subjectivities. Malay hegemony in all facets of Malaysian public life, not only at an institutional level, must first be examined and taken apart in order to bring all Malaysians on an equal footing in our quest for national cohesion.