Normalised Everyday Discrimination

I grew up in Malaysia, a land of amazing food and culture coupled with horrifying, institutionalised, politicised nationwide racism and homophobia.

Last week a particular news item took the country by storm.  An 18 year old boy in a boarding school had been hospitalised.  He had been bullied for being effeminate.  Raped with objects and burnt with cigarettes and clothing irons.  By the time the news became widespread, he was in hospital with so many pervasive physical injuries that some newspapers reported that he was brain dead.

A lot of people are very upset.  The lgbt group I help to moderate is in mourning.  They are also angry.  So angry that there has been calls for the bullies to be raped, castrated and executed themselves.  The grief is thick in the air and there has been many tears shed over Navheen’s death.  Some media articles have said that he wasn’t even gay, he was just a bit effeminate.  We the LGBT community don’t care.  He could have been gay, he could have been trans – I guess we would never really know now.  We count him as one of our own, his death the death of family, and we are angry, and sad.

We have all been there, being different in Malaysia is frowned upon, and however it is that you stand out – if your standing out isn’t in an acceptable way, you will be bullied.  I witnessed a cousin who was getting chubby being bullied by family during Chinese new year holidays.  I experienced bullying myself in school for being a girl liking Star Wars (apparently only boys are allowed Star Wars).  I’ve seen bullying at every level – and yes professionally as well as in education.  Racial politics is so pervasive in Malaysian culture, moral policing so rampant – Members of Parliament have been hounded out of their seats for having leaked photos of sleeping in the nude.  (Aside : What business is it of anyone whether someone sleeps in the nude or not?!?!  Malaysia is a hot country!! And the pictures were taken without permission and published without permission, she was violated, but she was the one who had to quit, and not the people who violated her privacy!! GRRRRR!!!)

There is a lot of talk about punishment, talk about the (bad) influence of lgbt-right-activists.  There has been fingers pointing at all directions, but here on my blog I want to point the finger on one thing which few are talking about.  Normalised Everyday Discrimination.

Borrowing from this post which was widely shared after the Orlanda shooting last year.

People of Malaysia: You weren’t the bullies, but you sneered at transwomen on the streets.  You weren’t the bullies but you think gay people are sinful and need saving.  You weren’t the bullies but you were upset at rainbow flags at political marches.  You weren’t the bullies, but you use slurs for queer people.  You weren’t the bullies, but you would vote against legal protections for queer people.  You weren’t the bullies, but you are the culture that built them.  You put the slurs in the bullies’ mouth.  You put the sticks and stones in bullies’ hands.

Normalised Everyday Discrimination.  What is everyday discrimination?  It is the posts I see every day of the queer malaysians group I help moderate.  Teenagers and/or young adults who get disowned and have to leave home because their parents have disowned them for being queer.  Adults with young children who turn their heads away and tell their children not to look when a same sex couple holds hands in front of them.  Purportedly queer-friendly adults, with gay friends, who do introduce same-sex couples to their children, but hide the fact that they are a couple, just ‘friends’.  People who say “I don’t mind that people are gay, but can you please not shove it in my face”.

To this people I say: Imagine coming home from a two week holiday with your husband/wife, going into the office and everyone asking you how your holiday went.  Try describing your fantastic and fun-filled holiday without gendering or naming our partner (which will also gender them).  Imagine spending 4 years in the same work place without ever once referring to your husband / wife by their name or gender.  Does it sound easy?

When we ask to be accepted, we are not asking to be allowed to have sex in front of you.  Merely that we can do things you take for granted.  If you can hold hands with your opposite-gender partner in public, we would like that too.  If you can kiss your opposite-gender partner in public, we would like that too.  If you introduce other friends to your kids as ‘uncle peter and auntie fiona’ and the unspoken implication and acceptance of them as a couple is shown and demonstrated to your kids, we would like that too.

In a country and culture where the politics is divisive and racial, I am aware that this is a big ask.  When children are still told at a young age that the “ah neh neh (racist term for indian) will come and take you away if you run around outside”, or that the Chinese are all greedy money-minded pigs, or that the Malays are all lazy and inefficient – when the culture of discrimination of all types is so pervasive and universal, it is easy for queerphobia to be slipped in there too.  It is easy to tell kids that all queer people have aids, or all queer people are paedophiles.

But I am asking.

For Navheen.

For me.

For my brethren in Malaysia.

Stop normalising everyday discrimination.

 

Dear iBiL

Dear idiot Brother in Law,

In our culture it isn’t my place to say anything about your child-rearing methods, as I was brought up to treat you as a respected and honoured older brother.  But I don’t live in ‘our culture’, nor do I live by it, nor do I see the value in it’s overly deferential rules, so I will write them out here.

I said, about you, in one of the thousands of whatsapp messages to sis2 : I do, currently, absolutely detest him and hold him in utter contempt.

Strong – no?

It isn’t you as a person whom I feel this strongly about – you can live how you want and I don’t give fuck.  But you as a father – now that affects people I love; children I am already observing to take on some of your negative traits.  Why do I abhore your parenting so much?  You are turning your children into the same inconsiderate, uncaring, lower-class-detesting, pseudo-science-believing, middle-class, privileged, materialistic & consumeristic idiot you are.  And when you stare at your daughter in disbelieve when she treats other people the way you treat them – I want to smack your head shout “WAKE UP!!!!!!” in your ear.

Your children can be total angels.  The look of joy on their face when they found two very grateful homeless people to give the brownies to was amazing and beautiful to see.  But in the run up to that moment, you made it all negative with “don’t shake their hands when you give it them, they have pee on it and are very dirty”.  You walked them all around Harrods and told them ‘look there are no homeless people’.  ERm… quelle surprise?  It was Harrods / Knightsbridge.  I had already said in the morning you (a) might not see many as it’s morning and (b) you won’t see any in knightsbridge.  While I am partly grateful you didn’t forbid them from doing it entirely – or made them throw it in the bin (maybe you have a picogramme of humanity in  you after all)… I still find your attitude towards the whole thing unpleaseantly dismissive.

The next time you complain your children don’t show care for people – ask yourself, do you show care for people yourself?  And when the children throws things away unnecessarily, or expect you to buy them duplicates when they loose stuff – ask yourself, do you show them the value of things?  If whole trays of brownies would better be thrown into the bin then given away,

The first time I snapped at you this trip – you had dumped your children with me all day, but left me shackled to within 1km from Harrods because technically we were still doing the childcare together and you were going to rejoin us.  Leaving the children with me isn’t the problem.   I am more than happy to have them.  But give me the benefit of planing, the freedom to take them wherever I want, and the promise that they won’t get told off for anything I did with them.  I am the adult, I take responsibility.

They climbed trees, got stuck and I guided them down safely.  They didn’t have so much as a scrapped knee and no broken bones.  What did I get from you when I send them the only photos I took of them this trip?  “they are lucky i wasn’t there, i am mr health & safety”  Yes, they WERE lucky you weren’t there.

I then spend hours with them in Waterstones, picking books with them.  Not for them, WITH them.  I pointed books they would like, they pointed out books that they liked, series’ they had been reading, and told me why they want them.  I even got the boy to choose two books off his own back.  What did you do for the 20 minutes you were in the shop (but not with the children?)   Run around trying to find comics from the ’80s.  Hmm… fat lot of good that did.  Your daughter asked me for an encyclopaedia on dinosaurs – because her younger brother had one and she didn’t, because she was a girl.  Now in itself is telling.  Why had she not asked her parents earlier if she wanted it that badly?  Did she feel she couldn’t?  You might want to figure out why she didn’t.  And when the boy went “how can girls like dinosaurs”…… I won’t go into how I felt at that statement.

I brought BOTH of them searching through the entire children’s section on dinosaurs, deciding together that the children’s books were a bit light on facts, and then up and down several floors looking for the adult sections.  I love bookshops and libraries which are so large we can get lost in them, and we certainly did this time.  When we found the animals section upstairs, we sat on the floor, with the 6 or 7 dinosaur books which were there in front of us, and we went through the pros and cons of each one.  Some were too heavy for the flight back.  Some were again too light on facts, and after an hour sitting there, we decided, TOGETHER, to buy the book that we bought.

When you got home, after I had got them fed, showered and into bed, reading.  You came in like a bad smell, complaining about London, about how heavy the water you insisted on buying (No, tap water does NOT damage your kidneys…) and how tired you were.  Your ball of negativity then asked to look at the books, you were curious about what they had done all day – fair enough.  When you picked up the dinosaur book and sniffed with disbelief that your daughter would want to read one, and then started to complain about the slight imperfections on it, I was starting to fume.  You ungrateful, inconsiderate buffoon.  You bring your children to London because this is where they were born and you want them to love it, but you regularly complain about it and how much you hate the underground or the people etc etc etc – is that conducive to teaching to loving London?  You buy evian for yourself to drink at home, muttering something indecipherable about your kidneys, but happily drunk tap water before, or in restaurants – the children learn that what adults say about health isn’t to be trusted because their dad blames food and drinks for ailments all the time but never actually stops eating or drinking those things.

Sorry about the digression.  Back to the dinosaur books.  When you asked “why couldn’t you have picked a new one” and I snapped “We were in the adults section, where each book had only 1 copy – not the children’s, because the children’s books were too light on facts for her”, instead of seeing the value of that, instead of seeing your child’s intelligence and maturity in wanting an adult’s book on dinosaurs, you went on to continue smirking with disgust as it’s state and started going on about the marks on the back and how ‘you don’t know how many have sat on the floor reading it’.  FYI, we were on the floor for one hour – books laid out in front of us – analysing each one for it’s merits and feasibility (of taking it back home on the plane), so chances were that WE were the one which got that book a little big inpristine.  After all that when you started to call her over and to point out all the imperfections in the dust cover.  At that point I snapped.  You WILL NOT reduce the time I spent for her into ‘choosing the wrong book’.  I did that with her.  It was time I treasure, and it was incredibly rude of you to (a) not apologise for the way the day had turned out – disorganised and unplanned (b) not thanked me for handling the kids while you did your precious shopping and (c) try to colour everything I did with your overly protective helicopter parent, negativity filled lense.

I was furious.  So furious, I couldn’t go to sleep.  So furious I was downstairs by the canal at 1am pacing to calm down.  When you told me the next morning I shouldn’t have taken the risk of going out at 1am at night.. ERm.. It’s my home, I live here, I walk the canal everyday, I know what’s safe and what’s not.  Again, I am an adult, I make my own choices, I do not listen to anyone and I certainly don’t listen to you about the safety of my own estate where I have lived for 5 years.

My concert the next day was 5.30pm.  It lasted an hour.  My performance was roughtly 5.40-5.50.  You got the kids there at 6.25pm.  For my debut solo public guzheng performance.  That was….. Again… no apology – the women in the shop who gave you directions got the blame.  The traffic jam got the blame.  Getting on the wrong bus got the blame.  Riight, okay… so you are blameless.  I don’t even want to go into how I felt about this.  The way ‘bludgeon’ is in there multiple times and there are many swear words.

I am so furious about all of this because the children are lovely and you are ruining them.  You are teaching them to be inconsiderate, to not care for people who have less money than them, that shopping is more important than going to the park, that perfect book covers are more important than the content, that with money you can buy everything and replace anything, that adults can’t be trusted to be consistent, that it is okay to be disgusted and disdainful and contemptuous openly to people with less, that people with less can be treated like they don’t exist.  You are teaching them that it is okay to be you, and you disgust me.

They are lovely children and you are ruining them.

This has been a long letter.  I shall write the rest of it another day,

With heartfelt emotion,

TeS

Broken

The empathic snail is broken today….

The combination of inconsiderate pain in the arse brother in law.  Two kids whom I can see are starting to take on some of his inconsiderate pain in the arse traits, but are still lovely and I really want to try to teach them more empathy, care, love & consideration for others, and a sister trying patch all of this back together, but is 8000 miles away and can’t do much – has broken me.

I want to bludgeon him…. but I can’t.

Usually I walk away from people like that before they can affect me too much, but he was a guest in my house and his children are my nibblings whom I do care about very much and want to teach the soft beautiful trait of empathy to.  Which means, being the empathic snail… I now want to turn this rage on myself and cut myself open instead, and that is not okay.  This is a breakdown, and it is NOT okay that they have caused this.

I have strong east asian conditioning and I started off the trip by defering to him as an ‘honoured respected older brother’… which clashed very much with my do-what-i-want personality.  That made it okay for him to shout at the kids in front of me….. That meant when I wanted to take the kids somewhere, first I had to consider, can i convince him, if not, can i convince the kids, so that he will agree to go, which really narrowed down the places we could go to because the children already had memories of galleries and museums as being boring places.  As other people who deals with kids more have already told me… you don’t have to ask kids whether they want to go and do ‘place’.  You say “we are going to do this today and it’s going to be fun” and it WILL happen and it WILL be fun.

Needless to say.  This backfired.  I got furious after day 2 when he critiqued everything I did with the kids – after he had left them with me, unplanned, and shackled me to ‘within a bus ride of harrods’.  On day 3, when I had my debut guzheng performance, and he got the kids there 55 minutes late.  I was furious again.  With the kids around, I couldn’t show him any of the fury, and I whatsapped it all to my sister instead, which got some of it out, but not all.  She was very understanding, but it was her husband after all at the end of the day, and while she could rearrange the trip so they moved out and didn’t irritate me so much… while she could apologise on his behalf…. she couldn’t make him realise what he had done to me – how much disrespect he has shown me.

There were many things, but I’ve been petty enough, and the point isn’t what he did, but what is being shown to the kids.

I can write a 100-deep list… but let’s start with this

Shopping (acquiring more material goods, of which they already have an abundance of) is more important than spending time with people… And the mum complains to me the kids loose stuff all the time and they keep having to buy replacements/duplicates.  Hmm… I wonder why…

Limiting human contact is more important than being generous (When we were wrapping brownies up to give to the homeless… all dad could say was “don’t shake hands with them, they have pee on them”)

By choosing more time in shops, and choosing the option of a luxury £100 picnic with dad rather than the pick-your-own-in-the-shop picnic they would have gotten with me…. and because of some nostalgia they had at the park… when they had already been to the park twice on the day dumped them on me unplanned (grrrrrr)… Again they are choosing material wealth, closer family over less close family, valuing nostalgia over generating new memories, prioritising moneyed fun rather than learning the lessons I can teach them.

I can go on… but I have done enough nitpicking.

I feel deprioritised.  I feel unimportant.  I feel devalued.  And this has caused a breakdown.

It is only because children I love are involved  that this is happening.  If they wer adults and they choose wealth over family.. I would say, every time,  – fuck them, and get on with my life.

But they (or rather he) have fucked me around enough… and I am broken.  And I can no longer take the kids this week even if I wanted too – my mental health is now too bad… but this is a lesson for next time.. Get the adults out of the way, and just take the kids for a week, with my own plans, own itinerary, and my own list of soft skills to teach them.  And next time I’ll also teach them to cook!!

Children learn consideration by example.

Children learn by example, particularly soft skills such as caring for others, consideration of others’ feelings, love and empathy.  They can also learn the opposite by example, so if there is someone in the household showing them that it is okay not to care about others’ feelings, showing them it is okay not to care for the environment, the earth, or the people around them, then they have just as much chance of learning that than of learning love and empathy, even if there is someone in the household who does show it.

If the person who shows inconsideration by example then says “oh, you’re so inconsiderate, can you learn some consideration for others”, it doesn’t work, because they have seen inconsideration for others from this person, and all they will learn then is that it is okay to be a hypocrite.

Children don’t use the words which adults use to describe feelings and actions.   Often adults don’t use words to describe feelings and actions.  It is entirely plausible that an adult who grew up in an environment where very little emotion and empathy was ever shown to them, will become an adult who doesn’t show emotion and empathy.  This translates then to a lack of skill in classifying what these things are.

They may not realise, for example, that when they say “don’t shake the homeless person’s hand when you give them cake, they are very dirty and often have pee on them” is a very very negative response to the kid wanting to do an amazing, beautiful and caring act.  The child then learns that being caring gets a negative response, and learns to stop caring.  It could have been phrased very differently.  If the adult was worried about hygiene, they could have said to bring some baby wipes or alcohol gel along and to clean up afterwards if they don’t feel comfortable.  But by dismissing the kindness of the act, and labelling it with negativity instead, the child will learn the negativity rather than the positivity, if there isn’t another influence with the action which changes it back to a positive.

Similarly, a throaway comment of, “I don’t like drinking tap water, they are bad for my kidneys” buys bottled water in for the kids and himself to drink… the children will learn that it is okay to care for themselves, but not for their host, whose flat they are living in, and whom they should be encouraged to care for.  The host becomes someone whose role is to be there ‘for’ them, to ‘serve’ them, to provide accommodation, and not a human being to have consideration for.

If an adult who doesn’t read, teaches the children to only buy brand new pristine books, but then don’t teach them to value the books afterwards, whether physically, or the content – what will the children learn?  That the outside of the book is more valuable than the inside?  That it is okay to deface beautiful things?  Are they meant to be buying books for content, or for pristine dust jackets?

An adult who doesn’t have any consciousness of what they are teaching their children can be very very bad for the emotional development of the child.  It doesn’t matter what the adult says, it is usually what the adult does which matters.

The children will not learn consideration for others, if they constantly see inconsideration around them.  In the long run, people who grow up in in these environments don’t even have consideration for their family members.  It will be therre for show.  A sort of lip service – doing what they “should”.  But it isn’t real.  It is a charade of “looking after one’s own”, but not a genuine feeling of care.  The cycle then repeats, with the next generation growing up not knowing what consideration of others mean.  Only that they must behave a certain way around certain people, but people who fall outside their class need not be cared about.

It is quite possible that they may end up in the cut throat business world – and be successful.  However if they are not cut out for that world, they might end up with issues later in life.  It is emotionally dysfunctional, and I am extremely worried for my nibblings.  I will try my very very best to show them a different way to live, but with such limited access to them, and with their father providing such a strong example of how not to care for people outside their social circle – I do not have much hope and all I can do is to cry in silence.