Let me tell you about myself:
I have hands so soft, you’d think I’d never done a day of chores in my life.
I dyed my hair every colour of the rainbow, so it’s an odd auburn now. I wear thick-rimmed, square-framed obnoxiously branded glasses for actual sight-related problems. I don’t dress conservatively, so when people bother asking me “what are you?” like I’m a museum oddity, they’re surprised at my heritage: melayu tulen, as they say.
I speak accented English – some odd combination of my mother’s British intonation and the American TV shows I enjoyed growing up. I can barely speak Malay, and the Malay I speak is Damansara-accented at best, mat salleh-on-holiday at worst. My Cantonese pronunciation is better than my Malay, and I have heard the words pengkhianat bangsa more times than I care to count.
I have been with Chinese men almost exclusively since 2014.
I decided most Malay men had a certain mentality I couldn’t tolerate, and my family constantly said I wouldn’t ever attract a proper Malay man anyway – so I decided to go against the May 13th conventions and date Chinese boys. Foreign-educated, Anglophile Chinese boys because the mix of a foreign accent and Malaysian values was an intoxicating aphrodisiac to me. My grandparents said diversity was being progressive these days, and I saw my mother fume in the next room. I think she hates me.
I reclaimed the parts of my body that were mottled with bruises and handprints with black ink injected into my skin, tattoos to remind myself that while I saw ghosts of what used to be – I can ground myself with what is: Greek Hellenistic imagery, a yakuza-esque half body piece that remains a homage to my lineage and my values, geometric constellations that remind me that I might fall amongst the stars, but at least I’m somewhere in the heavens. Seven tattoos for the seven different chapters, and I’ve just finished a new one – an 8th is on its way.
All of this is important, shh. Read, listen.
21st October, 2019 – 23rd October, 2019
I won’t forget waking up at 12:35pm on a Monday morning, opening my front door to a corporal with a badge saying that I was to be brought in for questioning. Saying I was being charged with the penal code. Promising I would be home in a few hours, escorted by building security, maintenance, management and a few female officers. I wonder if there’s CCTV footage of me weeping as I walked down the corridor.
I won’t forget being questioned in a sparse office by an investigator who obviously hated me on sight. By police officers who belittled and mocked me. By authorities who used their personal biases to treat me like a criminal, all because I sounded posh and could barely speak Malay. Of being accused of ‘attempted emotional manipulation’ because I could not stop crying.
I was scared. I was alone. I wasn’t even allowed to know what I was being charged with until they were taking my statement.
I won’t forget being escorted in last night’s dress and silver handcuffs tight around my wrists. I won’t forget being shoved into the police lock up, being told to strip naked and put on the stark orange uniform. I won’t forget being laughed at while they took stock of my things: phone, identification card, jewellery and glasses.
I didn’t get my glasses back until I was discharged.
They’re only allowed to keep you got 24 hours during an investigation. Unless they request a remand. Which they did. I just remember being cuffed in a long chain to five other PRC girls who didn’t speak a word of English, being dragged blindly to the magistrate’s court and being forced to walk up four flights of stairs after waiting in the lower cells. I remember waiting, and wanting water, and almost passing out.
The police kept asking if I was on syabu. If I was afraid of a urine test. If I was that weak, that dumb, that spoiled.
I was denied basic human rights, due to that investigator’s comments: no psych meds, no water.
Bare, cold concrete floors to sleep on and flickering yellow lights high up near the barred windows. I heard rain one night. A metal hole in the floor as a toilet. I didn’t know what day it was, let alone what time it was. I will never see those yellow lights the same way again, never forget the way the police gasped at my tattoos and the way they kept asking me if I was tulen – pure.
I’m not an object. I’m not an item. I refused to be when I was exiled at 18, when I was exiled in May – I am show pony and trophy no longer. But in detainment? I was subhuman.
I was released at 4:00pm, 23rd of October 2019. 51 and a half hours in police detainment. My fiancé signed my bail – jamin mulut. I found out what they attempted to charge me with – CPC 506: criminal intimidation.
I think the cops were initially believing the original report, but definitely disbelieving after the investigation of the house, looking at the documents submitted, and listening to all the statements given (3).
My chosen family missed me. They celebrated my return, and let me rest in my own bed after a hot bath.
My mother did not, instead chose to chide me on excluding the family and extending my time in detainment unnecessarily. I didn’t want to tell her. I didn’t want to tell my family. I wanted as little people involved as possible.
I mistrust everyone now. I have three new psychiatric diagnoses at the hospital, one new medication and one increase in medication dosage. My main psychiatrist isn’t helping, I’m trying out art therapy.
This experience scarred me, and proved to me that the bias against those of us who are purportedly ‘pure Malay’ and don’t behave according to societal norms is something all too true. How can we evolve and aspire to move forward as a society when our authorities would do things like this?
How are we supposed to trust them to keep us safe?