Like so many couples, they heeded the pull of family, and moved back to KL. The difference is that Malaysia doesn’t recognise their marriage.
K. tells us what it’s like to move home as a gay couple. This is his story.
I’m in my late 30’s. I grew up in KL.
Growing up, I felt pressure as an only son. You have to do well. You have to look after your family.
I felt…not normal. I didn’t think I could be the person they wanted me to be. I thought, “I have to go away.”
In 1999, I went to London to study. But I didn’t study at first. I needed to earn some money. I got work as a hairdresser. I had some experience working in my sister’s salon.
It was tough. I’d never been away from family and I worked like six to seven days a week.
In my second year there, I enrolled in an English course and worked freelance. I did a distance learning course and finished my dissertation and got an MBA in 2003.
I did freelance interpreting jobs – Chinese to English – for solicitor firms, refugee camps, hospitals, courts.
During those years, I never thought I would come back again. Never ever.
I met P. in 2001 at a bar in London. He stopped me and gave me his number.
We lived together for a few years. Just before he got a job transfer to South Africa, we got married in 2006. I didn’t feel comfortable moving with him to south Africa without being married.
Our wedding party was at his club in London. It’s very old, grand and formal and was in a James Bond film! It was the first gay wedding at that club.
I didn’t like South Africa. After four-and-a-half years, P. got an offer to go back to London.
I still enjoyed London a lot. I have a circle of friends – mainly Malaysian. Some were also Malaysian Chinese guys married to white guys. The money was okay from interpreting work but there was not much prospect.
My friends from my MBA course who had moved back to Malaysia had corporate jobs. I knew I could easily get a better job in KL.
My thinking had changed from not wanting to come back to Malaysia ever.
After all, my mum is still here. I didn’t want to have any regrets if she goes.
I thought Singapore might be good for us. For him, as a Westerner and for me, since it’s close to Malaysia.
We went to Singapore for six months. We rented a small HDB flat, a room actually. We didn’t really like it! We liked the efficiency, but it’s too cramped and I didn’t feel like I had enough space.
We had a house sitting empty in Malaysia, that we’d bought a few years back. We always left the possibility of moving back.
While in South Africa, we had also applied for an Australian visa for skilled immigrants. We thought Australia would be a good place to bring up a kid. We visited Melbourne, Sydney and did some traveling to see what it was like.
We thought it was very slow and laid-back. Melbourne, which they say is so nice…everybody was like….in slow motion. It was too slow and too far away.
After not working for a few years I was quite eager to work and I wanted to find a place where there were a lot of jobs.
So we decided to move back to KL.
All the years I was away, I came back to holiday and meet people. I realized, KL is more gay-friendly than 10 years ago. There are clubs. And I’ve met gay couples who are living together.
Now I’m getting older, it’s not such a big issue any more.
At work, everyone knows. I don’t hide. It’s a younger generation – late 20’s. They’re okay with that.
All my sisters know. Except my mum. I still don’t know how to tell her.
I gave her a few hints. I say I stay with my white friend and travel with him. I don’t know what else to say!
She’s never been to my house. I pick her up once a week and take her out.
She takes turns living with each daughter for few months. She sees it as a shame. You got a son, but you don’t live with your son. What’s the point of having a son?
All she wants is to live with me.
We’ve been back for a few months.
It’s not as bad as anyone would imagine.
Eventually, it’s yourself.
The fear is within you.