Daniel Adams: Boys

PhotoIsrael 2021 Photomarathon Winner Daniel Adams

‘Malaysia’s federal code, which dates back to British colonialism, punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to twenty years in prison. The country’s thirteen states and federal territories each have their own Sharia criminal enactment, applicable to Muslims. Almost all such state laws prohibit same-sex relations. They also prohibit “posing” as someone of a different sex, making Malaysia one of the few countries in the world that locks people up for being transgender.’ (The Deceased Can’t Speak For Herself: Violence Against LGBT People in Malaysia – Neel Goshal, Human Rights Watch, 2019)

 

It’s never easy growing up in a home yet alone in a home country in which your sexual orientation is constantly looked down upon. The LGBT community still faces struggles every day in and day out. I wanted to create a series of images of gay men (all of whom I know/have met before who inspire me). Thank you for constantly being yourselves and pushing boundaries. 

Teiajman

MUA: Vivien Loh

High school was the most difficult time I had to sit through. From figuring my sexuality and having to deal with the constant bullying I got from my classmates, and other personal issues. I’ve been called “pondan,” “faggot,” which in turn made me feel like an outcast. It was a lot to deal with that I fell into serious depression. It also affected me when I was in college thinking that I will be cast out. But I also started finding ways to accept myself, slowly but surely. I would find my solace in arcade games, spending countless of hours there alone.

Accepting yourself as who you are is always the first step to loving you as you are, and that was when my journey started. But being ostracised by your own community was another obstacle I had to face.

Racism/Colourism doesn’t just stop because you’re gay and that’s a prevalent issue in our community. One night at a gay bar, I was given a face of disgust by other gay men that was different from me, I immediately felt unwelcome and left. I couldn’t for the love of god go through the judgement that was passed on by those men.

Hazlami

MUA: Hazlami

My orientation is something that I have never been comfortable talking about. Throughout my life, I have stayed positive and with that comes a blissful life -- I always feel lucky despite being labelled by people. I've set my mind to not succumb to the labels being put on me, instead I focused on being my own person. I always hope people would recognize me as an individual, for who I am rather than what they see on the surface or my orientation, race and etc. But if they don't, oh well, we can't please everybody.

The French have this saying “je une question d'amour” which translates to “just a question of love”. This saying has stuck with me from as far back as I can remember. All this while I’ve lived in my own bubble, floating from one place to another, only to be comfortable when I'm being myself. For me, its not your label nor your orientation that defines you, its how you love and care for people that makes you who you are. Most important kind of love is loving yourself no matter what others say about you. I guess that’s what keeps content and oblivious of the outside world. I'm just happy in my own bubble and in my bubble, there's no place for hate, all love.. always.

Sam

MUA: Samuel Effron

I’ve always been the most feminine boy ever as far as I can remember and have always been bullied for it. At the time, I didn’t understand the reason behind the bullying and wasn’t affected by it much either. It really didn’t bother me when they called me names like “pondan” until it did. Fast forward to my college years, I started accepting myself and leaving toxic people behind (best choice I’ve ever made). Resorting to art and humor was few of the ways I coped with the constant reminder that my existence as a gay individual was not welcomed by the society.

Today, I am so grateful enough to be surrounded by queer people who uplift me in what I do, straight people who aren’t focused on my sexuality, but rather in my art, and I am filled with gratitude because of it. Sure, it’ll take time to unlearn all the homophobic sentiments that you were taught, but it takes no effort to be kind to another fellow human being.

 

At the end of the day, we all bleed the same color.

Carlos

MUA: Carlos Khu

I was blessed growing up and having a beautiful childhood with a Loving family. I remember the bullying started during primary school. Other kids would call me names and I never understood what all that meant. Until one day I found out what all those words meant. Knowing deep inside that that's who I really am, I felt like I was falling into a deep black hole.

I realized that I'm gay when I was around 9 years old. I was terrified of what my family, friends and people would think of me. This was the moment where I felt and believed that I could be unloved. I remember praying every night to be straight, so I can wake up be happy and feel loved again. School days were the toughest and loneliest times, not because I didn't have friends or of the bullies but because I was so unhappy and lost with myself, I didn't want to accept who I am and that end up turning me into a bully too. I couldn't tell my best friends at that time, the only people who knew about me were my online friends, they made me realize that I wasn't alone and the first time I felt loved, understood and accepted for just being myself.

Self acceptance was the toughest journey for me. It was a long, dark and lonely road. But everything changed when I knew of Lady Gaga, her artistry, music and messages gave me hope and made me brave and accept who I truly am. Through her I made amazing friends along the way who are now my family. I had to rebel to learn how to Love myself. I had Pink hair for 6 years (since 2013) despite my mum's disapproval but now it has become something so "normal" and I've become the gayest person and I LOVE IT! My pink hair taught me to embrace my insecurities, my loneliness, ultimately it taught me to love myself. I admit some days I don't feel so strong, but I'm so lucky and grateful for the people around me who Loves me unconditionally. My only wish is to give this Love to everyone.

Adam

MUA: Vivien Loh

Being gay in Malaysia is no walk in the park, it’s not exactly a living hell either. Scratch that, sometimes it is.

As a child, I was bullied for being effeminate ever since kindergarten. I grew up being called names like “pondan”, “lembut”, “sotong”, “faggot”. I still wince and die a little inside when I hear some of those names now. Though I excelled academically, I dropped out of secondary school after PMR. The verbal and physical abuse I endured on a daily basis was too much. The relentless homophobia I experienced culminated in being diagnosed with depression when I was 16. I went through stints in psychiatric wards and survived countless suicide attempts. I still carry around my self-harm scars, though they’ve faded it is a constant remainder of my painful past.

Growing up, I was told that I was an abomination, that a mongrel had more dignity than me, as a family member once remarked. I went through hell and back to stand where I am today.

My message for all my queer brothers and sisters out there who feel alone, ostracized, struggling to come into terms with their sexuality and or gender identity: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are here for you. We are lawyers and doctors, painters and teachers, activists and neighbours. Our strength is in our united diversity. We belong in this world, we matter. We are deserving of unconditional love and endless compassion. We love you, I love you. Hope is unwavering, never give up on yourself. We haven’t given up on you.

Peter

MUA: Peter

I’ve always feared yellow.

Growing up in a very heteronormative upbringing, I was told that yellow was a colour for girls and having struggled with my sexual identity, I couldn’t risk showing any semblance of femininity. But yellow itself isn’t a scary colour, it does not care whether I am afraid of it, it does not falter. It does not bend to the stereotypes we assign them to.

Sunflowers still bloom in their full glory even when a thousand aphids fear them.

Marigolds come back every summer no matter how hard the previous winter had buried them in snow.

Like a lion learning how to roar,

And a child standing up after their first fall,

I will learn to love -

Every sunset drenched in yellow,

Every leaf at the end of autumn,

No matter how melancholic and mellow,

I will learn to love,

And embrace that fearless color, I call yellow.

Kevin

MUA: Kevin

I grew up in a Christian school so it was hard being different; the name calling, the bullying, been told to change and seek for God by people older than me etc. Life was tough. But I wouldn’t change myself for anyone. Why? Because change must be something you have to do on your own, not when people tell you to. One shall not seek for change just for others’ sake. Because you will never be happy being something or someone you’re not. People sometime think being different is a bad idea and it will effect a lot in life but I beg to differ.

As you see in this picture, I am no different from anyone else, I’m still a human, I still have feelings, I can be success like anyone else. I think the message I want to put out there is to just be yourself, don’t let others tell you what you should and should not be because that’s what makes you ... YOU . Unique.


 

Win Shean

MUA: Mandy Lee

Being queer scares me. At least the thought of it. Fortunate enough, i wasn’t a victim of bully but what if I was ? The thought itself frightens me.

It has always been hurtful being told you have to do what boys do, being rejected or being told names that just couldn’t seemed to scrub of the back of my head. It isn’t pleasant.

Later on, I found myself surrounded with the community. with their trust and support, They created a safe space for me to express and understand myself better. That’s when I’ve never felt more alive.

Everyone deserves a chance to be themselves. So instead of turning out backs on each other, let’s help each other to create a better world for the future generations of queer individuals. I had that treatment growing up so it’s only fair that I give back to the community.

Jin

MUA: Mandy Lee

Been labeled in different languages back in school. Been laughed at my gestures whenever I am at a gathering. Been judged by my preference at home. When I look back at my life, all the tease is like a trailer of my own identity. Well, now y'all can enjoy the film with a bucket of popcorn.


 

Imran

MUA: Imran

I was 17, and it was the morning after prom when I first came out to my two best friends. Since then, I’ve lived my truest life as a fully out gay Malaysian, from building a home with the greatest people I’ve ever met, to extending this family with other Malaysians through the art of drag and more recently coming out to my mother, a reality all too foreign from what I knew at 17. The trajectory I’ve been on has been one hell of a journey, and I’m honestly content with my life.

At almost 22, I suddenly find myself on the verge of yet another chapter of self discovery. This time more difficult, but also a lot more reassuring. I’ve spent the last 4 years getting to know myself and now I shall do it all again coming out as gender queer. But that’s also made me realize the resentment and animosity society has for genderqueer/trans folks that exists even in our own community. But that, is a talk for another day.

The fact that I can share so much of my life with the world makes me one of the few lucky ones. It makes me lucky enough to have a support system. Lucky enough to have financial security, and lucky enough to have a space to retreat to despite how scary the outside is.

My liberation doesn’t just end with me. We are all deserving of space in this community regardless of our identity. When I exhume the experiences of fellow queer Malaysians, I see a tale of hope and perseverance, but I yearn for a future where we no longer have to fight in order to free ourselves from hate and discrimination. And I vow to make that yearning a reality.

Hellys

MUA: Hellys

I am Malay, Muslim and gay. I live in a very pious family quite a distance away from the big city. As cliche as it is, I always feel that I do not belong there. I always think to myself, “How am I going to fit in here if I don’t watch ANTM or project runway?”. I feel like I have to please the stereotypes that come with who I identify as, however I do what I want and I’ve become used to being a Lone Ranger in life. It’s not that I don’t have friends, it’s just that I don’t mind being alone. I have my own world that I live in and it’s amazing and all of you lovely people are welcome to come and join me! Honestly, I’m not just gay, I’m a little bit of a freak too! Most of my experiences being gay in this country is negative/shitty, but I want to put my energy into creating better experiences with genuine people. I want to fall in love with all the kindness from my beautiful community.


 

Thaaya

MUA: Khushboo

 

“Would you still love me, mom?

Would your dreams still be the same?

Would you tell your friends or would you be the damp?

Still the same, only brave

Still the same, only real

Still the son, only 7 colors brighter”

Daniel Adams

Daniel Adams is a Malaysian conceptual, portrait photographer who explores and blurs the lines between gender, identity and cultural norms. He also delves into the usage of social and political ideologies throughout his concepts, wanting his work to start discussions amongst its viewers. Along with the exploration of these subjects, Daniel also looks for the unusual and the not-your-everyday aspects to implement into his photography, aiming to recreate the surreal images in his head. Daniel has recently moved back to Malaysia after studying BA (Hons) Photography at Falmouth University for three years in England.