two steps forward

Malaysia’s First Gay Romance Movie Is Also Horrifically Transphobic

Dubbed Malaysia’s first-ever gay film, …Dalam Botol hits theaters in February and tells the story of a gay man who undergoes gender reassignment survey because he thinks his boyfriend will prefer it, but the relationship ends up cratering, and (he) starts hating his now-female body. Screened this week for bloggers and critics, the Malay-language flick (which translates to …In A Bottle) reportedly drew applause. But keep in mind: The country’s film board only recently starting approving movies with gay themes, and only those that do not condone homosexuality. So they were cheering a film that, even in its description, sounds pretty morbid.

But producer and writer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman (pictured center, with the stars) says her film, directed by the actor Khir Rahman, isn’t anti-gay. Just anti-trans. Yes, really.

The film, which cost $320,000 to make and is based on a friend who had a sex change in Thailand some 25 years ago and came to regret it, is not “an anti-gay movie,” she says. “I believe it’s not wrong to be gay, but it’s wrong to have a sex change. … It is just a simple love story between a man and a man, and a woman and a man.” (Sounds like he’s been talking to this guy.)

The blog Lean Is Mean summarizes the plot:

Rubidin and Ghaus[‘s … relationship] is tested when the former decides to undergo a sex-change operation. But Ghaus is unable to accept “Ruby” and walks out of the relationship. Sometime later, Ruby decides that a woman’s life is not for him, and decides to stop taking the female hormone injections. Now back to the masculine Rubidin – minus a few parts – he falls in love with Dina (Diana Danielle) and they decide to marry. But can she ever accept his past? Can Rubidin make her happy? Though … Dalam Botol’s plotline may seem far fetched, producer Raja Azmi swears it is based on a friend’s experience. “I am not making a judgmental movie. I am just telling a story based on one of my friend’ true experience. In his case, he regrets going for a sex change operation. “I have no right to judge anyone. I am no angel. I have my sins too,” she told theSun in an exclusive interview.

And keep in mind: Malaysia’s Censorship Board was involved from the beginning, reviewing everything from the script at inception to the final product, which opens with Ruby and Ghaus (played by Arja Lee and Wan Raja) shirtless and massaging each other on the beach. (Don’t expect to see the men kissing, let alone in bed together.) The board nixed the original title, Penis In A Bottle, hence the ellipses.

So if government censorship officials signed off on it, by definition it can’t exactly be pro-queer. Especially when Malaysia’s Islamic leaders are also signing off on the movie, but only because it sends the message that sex changes are horrible nasty things: The movie very intently sends the message that you’ll regret a sex change. For government and Islamic officials, the film is precisely the piece of anti-LGBT propaganda they might put out themselves.

NB: Meanwhile tonight Bollywood sees its first film with a gay kiss premiere: Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun opens today in India.