by Transvaal Gerbera

Call me lame and maybe I am. I was raised with the standard norms of the society; I was not exposed to anything out of line. I come from a family that questions the choices of others’ clothes– whether it was too bright or too tight. Even singer Yuna became victim to their criticism. Being raised to conform to certain beliefs brought me to think the same things too. This changed when I moved away from the place I’d lived all my life to Kuala Lumpur to study. 

After coming out to Kuala Lumpur, I was still straight. I liked guys, I dreamed of them, I liked their veiny hands, their muscular and broad shoulders, the bulges in pants and shorts– I liked them! Sadly, I was super awkward with guys and you can say that I’m a lot like Kat Hernandez from the TV show ‘Euphoria’; a virgin, loser around boys but exceptionally chatty online. So, most of my past relationships were online-based. I’ve met a bunch of boys with assorted personalities but they were mostly douchebags. There was one guy who kept asking for money and I was just fifteen at the time (how would I cater his seventeen-year-old ass when I was not allowed to work? And why did I have to give it to him in the first place?) and ‘nother who was just a horndog. But that was just the norm, right? All these guys were indirectly protected by the patriarchy where women are considered meek, submissive and ready to serve these holier than thou men. 

This all changed when I met this one guy online who had the same views as I did, he hated how his sister was the only one that was asked by his mother to do the chores meanwhile all the other brothers could laze around in front of the TV. He also hated the way women are treated as if our opinions are invalid at times. His passion to smash the patriarchy made me fall in love right away. To add, I had recently gained a friend who is literate about the fight to destroy the patriarchy and that made me feel whole. I fell in love with this guy a little bit too hard that when he could not give me what I wanted, I became sad, depressive and a lot of other toxic traits that I gained. 

We had been together for a long time but the only communication we had were through texts, calls and video calls. We never met. Not that we did not have a chance but he tried his best avoiding it when I tried my best giving him reasons to meet me. Our love flourished nonetheless. Till one point where I got tired of it and we ended the relationship for good this time. I moved on with a new guy and I loved him deeply. I guess living far away from my family led me to feel an inadequacy of love and attention that brought me to seek comfort in dating.

When I was happy with a new guy, I received an email from my ex that caught me off guard. It was a confession rather than information. All the reasons my ex circumvented me was because ‘he’ was not a he. He was actually a female, he was not proud of it (I will keep calling him ‘he/his’ because that is the pronoun that he wanted to be recognized with), he had dysphoric (a feeling that your body does not reflect your true gender that can cause severe distress, anxiety and depression) moments and it’s unbearable to watch because you feel powerless and wish you could take away that pain from your loved one. 

We finally met and all of the confusion took place. I did not know how to act, all the descriptions that he described himself of when we have not met was totally contradicting to how he is actually in real life. If you are wondering, yes, he wears hijab hence why it was baffling for me. I remembered I could not take it all in, I continuously uttered “Am I seriously doing this? Am I safe?” in my mind, repetitively. Those words did not leave my mind until he took off the hijab, that was when all the feelings that I had for him came gushing in. We were back together because I missed seeing familiar face; the face that I remember of him when we were video calling all this while. That’s him and that is who I want to be with for the rest of my life.

But society and religion never permit two females to be in love, to marry and to have sex with each other. This was excellently portrayed on ‘Hawa’ (also translates to Eve) a short film done by the multi talented actress, Sharifah Amani. Hawa starred Sharifah Amani herself, and Ayu, her lover was played by Shera Ayob. This short film however, took place with everyone who knows Hawa, knows her sexuality and her relationship with Ayu which my partner on the contrary kept everything to himself. His family knew nothing of his relationship with me and his friends thought he’s straight which made me think that Hawa is lucky to have everyone on her side supporting, not condemning her choices and decisions of how she wanted her life to be. 

‘Hawa’ was about Hawa who was in a relationship with Ayu and they were living together until there was interference from Hawa’s past lover, Adam who was acted by Zahiril Adzim. The thing about being in a relationship with an originally gay partner, she or he could not care less about everything except for her or his partner and in this case, Ayu who was not straight in the beginning showed a bit of reluctance being with Hawa. It can be seen in the short film where Hawa was drying Ayu’s hair and she seemed in daze. When asked a few times she then told Hawa that she was seeing Adam after the coincidence encounter at the bookshop where all three were seen in a frame. 

Hawa introduced Adam to Ayu as an ex-boyfriend and received a compliment from Ayu saying that they are a perfect couple referring to the love story of Adam and Hawa. However, Adam saw that as an opportunity to insult Hawa– implying that if Hawa was straight, she would be perfect. After Ayu’s confession about her relationship with Adam, she further rubbed more salt onto Hawa’s wound by saying that she felt even more normal being with Adam, referring that being with Hawa made her feel abnormal which is something one should never say when being present with the people that are having difficulties adjusting themselves with their bodies. And if we can look back at ‘normal’, what is ‘normal’, again? Who sets the ‘normal’ standard and why are we stifling ourselves to be in the ‘normal’ box?

Even though I was quite irritated with how the storyline of the short film went, I think it is also important that Sharifah Amani highlighted these things that are deemed taboo or sensitive because that is what is happening in our society. Right after Hawa got to know that her lover was with her ex-lover, she quickly went to see him and ran off to the middle of the futsal court where Adam was. She warned Adam about not to use Ayu as a tool for revenge that he had for Hawa but Adam did not buy that and told Hawa off by saying, “Aku boleh buat, sebab aku boleh kahwin dengan dia lah, kau boleh ke?!”. Hawa was stupefied with that phrase and not long after the two current lovers are getting married. 

As a symbol of love, Hawa did most of the preparation for Ayu, she was there for Ayu even when Ayu had a breakdown due to the confusions and pressures between choosing Adam and Hawa. And she seeked strength from her God, to help her go through the process of letting Ayu go. Meanwhile Ayu seemed so sure she did not want to go for her solemnization but right after the Qadhi (Muslim judge for marriage) declared that the ‘aqad’ (a marriage profess/vow) was legitimate, she seemed to forget Hawa who was there all the time. This short film is so relatable to me in a way I always have this fear which I do not tell my partner about because I am scared of the uncertain future of the what ifs. What if, he will marry another man just to please his mother, what if he will leave me because his family, what if he’ll walk away for religion and I never wanted to choose between faith and love, I want them both.

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