Comic Illustrations / Ilustrasi komik: Johnny Ong
She came to a workshop I had conducted over two weekends. She paid her own way, and travelled to and fro without any complaints, because she so wanted the training. I thought I would lose her as a participant by the second weekend, but there she was, on the dot. Since then, she has become a friend. Someone I would go and visit whenever I had the chance. We would talk about the work that we both do, what is the latest news, and the challenges we face. I would try to help her in whatever ways I could.
Her health is not so good these days. So she would send me a text message once in awhile, and ask me to pray for her. Whenever it is time for me to leave and return home, at the end of my visits, she would have tears in her eyes. It is at times like these, that I think to myself, the words of Richard Bach are so true, “the bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life”. I cannot help but admire her, as a friend, and who she is as a mother to her children. She has so much love for those around her, for those less fortunate than her, for those struggling to regain their self-esteem, for those struggling to make ends meet, yet she too struggles to make a living. I believe very few come close to her generosity.
She chose to produce a digital story about her lesbian daughter, and questions how fellow Muslims can condemn her daughter's love for her partner, yet continue to claim that "war" and "murder" in the name of religion, is holy. Her story is not the only story of how lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans and queer people suffer condemnation in Malaysia. There are many, some more visible than others.
I was pleasantly surprised that she would be willing to tell this story, her story of her, as a mother, and her disappointment with those who would judge her child. I never learnt of this powerful story until the first day of the workshop. I only have greater respect for her.
Note: There are nuances in Malay that just cannot be translated into English. I have resisted providing an English version of her story because the translation lacks the intimacy her spoken words carry. I do realise, that a translation is still needed for those who do not understand Malay. So please do refer to this transcript in English with the understanding that it still falls short of the power of her spoken words in Malay, of a mother's plea to the Malaysian society, and in particular to fellow Malay-Muslims.
Mum, mama, or mummy
Who among us would not worry
For the child inside us
For 9 months, bound as one
Wherever we may go
We are always together
To be finally two at birth
A complete other
A new character
A new life
A new point of view
Instincts of a different gender
She is attracted to her
And that is her true love
I am her mother
I care not what they say, those who choose to whisper,
They invasively question why
They accuse me of neglect
I reply, you who have ill thoughts
Look to your failings first
My daughter is happy
But I, her mother
I worry, will always worry
What will happen to my daughter?
If society condemns her deviant, will they crush her love?
If I, her mother, if I would turn away
From those who put her down
What will her life be like?
What of her soul? Would her life be a living hell?
Is her love so wrong?
While crimes like murder and war are considered holy?
Yet my daughter’s love for that other
Is assumed a terrible sin