Monday, June 05, 2006

Kuching, Gawai Festival and Men

In Kuching, one can see the banners about the Gawai or Harvest Festival all over the spanking-new KIA.

Unique to Sarawak, the 1st and 2nd of June are public holidays but really is also the start of what was a month (now probably a week) long festival of feasting, drinking and merry making for the native races of Sarawak. The men of entire longhouses normally became inebriated. They also have the same door-to-door visits for family and friends much like the other races in Malaysia. So, a visit to a 60-door longhouse means that one can hardly walk after sixty thimble-sized glasses of the potent tuak or arak!

The name Dayak is a generic term to call these natives (Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, etc) ranging from the darker Ibans to the fair Kayans and Kenyahs.

The Dayaks (especially the Iban) men are some of the toughest workers in the world, can work under the toughest conditions and are now to be found all over the world working on oil rigs. Despite their tough macho image, they are generally very accepting of gays and do not treat them any differently from anyone else. In fact, this is true of their society as a whole.

True to their tough macho images, these men, while small of stature, with their lithe yet muscular bodies, give the impression of such sheer raw virility and sexuality that few other men (especially the gym-sculpted guys) can match.

My gay Sarawakian friends who had Dayak schoolmates and colleagues spoke of them as being broad-mindedness about gays and gay sex. In fact, one of them, Jin, has a Bidayuh boyfriend and had, previously, a number of STRs with these young men over the years. Sadly, these STRs never developed into LTRs - all of them got married as they get into their mid-or-late 20's. He is keeping his fingers crossed (being the "“horny"” guy his is, also "“his legs wide open"” :-P) in the hope that his current relationship can last.

So why is their culture of tolerance towards gays so different from that of the other Malaysians? It is really hard to say - most of them are Christians but they have not taken the route many Christians do but have instead retained part of their own culture while accepting Christianity.

Amongst the Dayaks, strange as it may seem, their traditional culture allows trial marriages where young people are allowed to form 'sexual liaisons' without a commitment to marriage. There is a time frame though and at the end of the trial period, they must either marry or terminate the trial marriage. Before the advent of Christianity, this was widely practiced but with the arrival of Christianity in the 19th Century, such practices slowly disappeared or went underground under the disapproving eyes of the imported repressed priests of the Churches.

Tribal or cultural memories of such repressed practices often re-surface with the loosening of the repression. In modern times, such practices came back not as trial marriages but under a modern arrangement of living together.

Gay STRs appear to fall well into this into this category of 'sexual liaisons' without marriage and the temporary relationships these straight men formed with gay men are sexual (non-monetary) in nature. They are also not shy about remaining friends after their gay relationships end upon marriage.

Malaysian society, in general, is not so liberal and one can only hope that this changes with time. We can take a leaf out of the book of life from these Sarawak native cultures for a better Malaysia!


At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it! »

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone willing to share how I can get in touch with some of these wonderful people?

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vegetarians who are visiting Kuching for the 1st time are advised to catch a cab as taxi drivers may be able to recommend a suitable Vegetarian outlet for a meal


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