Malaysia, where gay sex is illegal, used to be home to a community of gender non-conforming shamans

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01/17/2020

Homosexuality is doubly illegal in Malaysia as it is banned by the country’s secular, colonial-era legal code, as well as its special Islamic courts. LGBT+ people have no legal protections against discrimination in the predominantly Islamic country, and the government currently runs a gay ‘rehabilitation programme’ and last year claimed it had ‘cured’ 1,450 people of homosexuality. But Joseph Goh, a gender studies lecturer and researcher at Monash University Malaysia with a PhD in gender, sexuality and theology, wrote a piece for the Malaysian site Queer Lapis revealing the country’s “non-cisnormative and non-heteronormative past”. The manang bali, a group of gender non-conforming shamans from the indigenous Iban tribe, lived in Malaysian Borneo for hundreds of years before the British colonised the area in the 1800s, bringing Christianity with them.

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