HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 17 no. 3 (2018)

My Family, My Self: Reflections on Family Interactions of Malaysian Gay Men Within the Asian Cultural Context

Mark Stephan Felix

 

Abstract:

The social construction of identity in a multi-cultural setting becomes more intricate within the context of marginalized sexual identities and family interactions, dynamics, and roles. The research focused on the construction and reconstruction of identities of self-identified gay men within their families utilizing phenomenology as the theoretical underpinning to describe and analyze lived experiences. Qualitative research was employed utilizing one-on-one semi-structured interview questions. A total of 33 respondents were interviewed and data were recorded and transcribed. Data was analyzed utilizing a content analysis matrix for thematic and experiential construction and reconstruction of identity within family relationships and dynamics. Mixed results were found in terms of family expectations, family structure, family dynamics, family roles, family expectations, and family objections based on the identity of the gay respondents. Flexibility in adjustment to the sexual identity of the respondents was sometimes obstructed by family obligations, but also reflected acceptance and family affection. Cultural expectations of maintaining the “face” of the family were also taken into consideration by respondents when constructing their identities. The family is important in the construction of sexual identity in terms of acceptance and integration into familial roles. As roles are played out and expectations are met, a certain flexibility is evident in how families interact with gay male family members. Dynamics become more nuanced and require more intersubjective clarification and creation. While not reflective of Malaysian society in its entirety, the data indicates that change is occurring in terms of acceptance and integration of gay men within ethnic familial contexts.