The first out-gay pastor in Malaysia has thrown a traditional wedding banquet in Kuala Lumpur to show fellow gays there is support among straight people in the Muslim-majority country.
While acknowledging the high-profile dinner party Saturday (4 Aug) was controversial, Reverend O Young Wen Feng said he would like to show other gays that many straights are supportive.
His mom has been criticized for having a gay son, O Young told around 260 friends and relatives, but he tried to convince her that they are experiencing something very important.
‘If successful, thousands of kids won’t have an unspeakable secret deep in their heart,’ he said. ‘Thousands of moms won’t have to cry for their children, either.’
During the banquet, each guest was given a piece of heart-shaped chocolate, which comes with a note reading 'God loves tongzhi [gays]'.
O Young had already tied the knot with his Broadway producer husband Phineas Newborn III in New York last year, days after the American state approved of same-sex marriage.
His decision to wed on the Malaysian national day back then was a political gesture to show how the country had yet to gain full independence from colonization, in issues such as sexuality. O Young told Gay Star News university work back in the US has prevented him from choosing 31 August again this time round.
O Young’s Facebook page has been dominated by well-wishers, with some also expressing disappointment for not being able to attend the banquet in person.
Many attendants, including overseas LGBT rights activists such as Joanne Leung, describe the gathering as a heart-warming and moving one.
A local friend of O Young surnamed Wan says he is thrilled to have witnessed a pair of men reach a happy ending while he is alive and is proud of the couple.
‘Gays should fight for ourselves before a blissful day can come,’ Wan said.
Some NGOs had asked the Malaysian government, which can lock up gays for up to 20 years, to ban O Young and Newborn III’s wedding reception in advance.
The couple was in Hong Kong last week and spoke to a small group of some 50 about importance of marriage for gays.
O Young, who is a PhD candidate for sociology and theology, said marriage means more than just legal recognition and he started feeling ‘closely-linked’ to Newborn III after they formally registered their marriage.
Rituals can strengthen one’s social roles and recognition, he added, such that Newborn III’s family members have since treated him much more intimately.
O Young and Newborn III had each been in a marriage with a woman for seven and 16 years before they found their true love.
‘I realized before we were together that I needed to redefine marriage, not based on what had been taught to me, like the patriarchal society has basically taught us,’ said Newborn III, ‘but allowed myself to understand what marriage was going to be for me now, being in the 40s.
‘It's very, very different than what was explained and taught to me as a child growing up,’ he added. 'I found safe place to do this with O Young. And because of that, I think we’ve been able to establish a relationship that I would never, ever dream of, growing up.’