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Piercing transcendence: a queer theorising and theologising of non-heteronormative Malaysian men

posted on 21.02.2017, 23:54 by Goh, Joseph Nicholas Geok Lin
This thesis analyses the meanings that non-heteronormative Malaysian men ascribe to their sexual identifyings and practices, and the connections and/or conflicts that they experience between sexuality and transcendence. Men who either self-identify or are labelled as homosexual, gay or bisexual, or men who are romantically and/or sexually involved with other men but resist labels, are explicitly denounced by certain political, social and religious enclaves as deviant and sinful. Academic research by Malaysian scholars on the sexual identifyings, sexual practices and spiritual sensibilities of non-heteronormative men within their political, socio-cultural and religious ethos is rising. My thesis contributes to this emerging Malaysian scholarship. It engages in a theorising and theologising of non-heteronormative men from queer theoretical and socio-theological perspectives in relation to Malaysian contexts. My emphasis on theological—and not just religious—aspects can provide additional valuable, under-researched insights on their sexual and emotional wellbeing. Drawing from in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 30 non-heteronormative men, my qualitative study deploys a Constructivist Grounded Theory Methodology to analyse and interpret their narratives. Although queer theories and theologies serve as my theoretical frameworks, I also enlist diverse sociological, psychological, philosophical, theological and sexuality studies from Southeast Asia and beyond to further articulate my analyses. My research findings reveal that sexual identifyings and practices, and notions of ‘man,’ agency and love among non-heteronormative men are unstable and evolutionary ventures that both embrace and resist popular understandings of such concepts in pursuit of greater personal meaning-making. Non-heteronormative Malaysian men assimilate popular understandings of ‘man’ and religiosity, as well as global identities of ‘gay,’ ‘homosexual’ and ‘bisexual.’ Yet, they also rework them according to the specificities of their lived experiences. Furthermore, my research findings on the complex connections and/or conflicts between sexuality and transcendence among non-heteronormative men have enabled me to reassess and expand normative theological understandings of concepts such as discernment, natural law, creation, sexuality, loving God, prayer, divine involvement in human lives, interweavings of sacredness and sexuality, and sin. These specific ‘doings’ of their sexual identifyings and negotiations with their sense of the transcendent as non-heteronormative Malaysian men in Malaysia is what constitutes the ‘Malaysianness’ of my study.


Principal supervisor

Sharon Adeline Bong

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Arts and Social Sciences (Monash University Malaysia)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts