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Queer Malaysia: Gay men on life and love in a country where homosexuality is outlawed

Same-sex sex relations might be illegal in Malaysia, but LGBTQ people will continue living - and loving.

By Will Stroude

Liam Campbell has spent the past five years meeting local LGBTQ people in cities around the world, photographing them and gathering their stories to publish in Elska, the magazine he founded.

His latest journey – featured in the Attitude September issue, out now to download and to order globally – took him to Malaysia, a country where same-sex sexual relations remain illegal, and where he was surprised to find a thriving queer community regardless.

Inside this month’s issue, we find out more about the lives and loves of these men whose very identities remain outlawed – and you can get an exclusive preview below…


Photography: Liam Campbell

“I am cynical about life [for gay people here]. I don’t think things will change.

“Some Malaysians are ignorant. They hold onto the beliefs they have, and while I hope they won’t use those beliefs to hurt anyone, that’s not the case.

“As the power of religion grows in this country, I personally don’t think Malaysia will accept the LGBTQ community any time soon.

“I hope in the future I can go to a new place, get a new identity, start a new life and live my life to the fullest.”


Photography: Liam Campbell

“I was approaching 30 and was frankly tired of the disappointing merry-go-round of gay dating. The euphoria of sex and self-discovery in my twenties had begun to wane. I didn’t know where to go when the party ended.

“Growing up gay was hard enough, but growing older while gay was terrifying.”


Photography: Liam Campbell

“We were together for two years and six months. We practically grew up together, trying to learn from each other and everything.2

“I was his first actual boy love, and he was my first actual lover.

“Everything went downhill when he decided that he just didn’t like boys any more, and that’s when I decided I needed to go ham with alcohol.”


Photography: Liam Campbell

“We all came from different places, different stories and different lives. Yet, we all are living on the same planet. Different yet the same.

“We have all gone through the same emotions made up by same colour of blood, flesh and bones.

“Yet, our diversity and authenticity make us perfect together, different yet the same.”


“I am feeling kind of lonely. I want a date. The clicking sound of my phone was accompanied by app notifications, messages upon messages coming in, pouring like water.

“The phrase ‘trans man’ was visible in my profile, and the bio sounded too good to be true for some. ‘No, I don’t have a dick. Don’t ask.’

Read more about the lives of gay men in Malaysia in the Attitude September issue, out now to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £3, or digitally for just £1.54 per issue.