Malaysia opens boot camp for effeminate boys

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Being a teenager who doesn't conform to gender expectations can be really difficult here in the United States. It's significantly more difficult in the Malaysian state of Terenggan, where education-department officials just established a boot camp for effeminate boys. Sixty-six boys from local schools were rounded up and sent to a four-day camp in the town of Besut, where they'll undergo physical training and religious instruction designed to masculinize them.

In an article in the local English-language newspaper The New Straits Times, tastefully headlined "Besut boot camp for 66 sissies," education-department director Razali Daud explained that "as educators, we have to do something about it before the young ones misunderstand people and reach the point of no return… If left unchecked, [effeminate behavior] could become a problem later in life for them, their families and society." He added, "We understand that some people end up as mak nyah [transvestite] or a homosexual, but we will do our best to limit the number."

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia; the country is 60% Muslim, and cultural norms are significantly influenced by fundamentalist Islam. (Above, Muslim students protest a 2010 concert by Adam Lambert.) But even the Malaysian government disapproved of the Terenggan education department's action, expressing "alarm and great concern"; according to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil,

"…[B]eing singled out on the basis of perceived characteristics is an extremely traumatizing experience, in particular for adolescent teens. Such profiling has potentially serious psychological repercussions and could harm the development and mental health of the children, as it exposes them to prejudices among their peers and members of their family and community."

Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign have both also registered their protests. While this probably would never happen in the United States, remember that just this week, Fox News accused J. Crew of encouraging gender confusion in male children, after a J. Crew ad featured a boy and his mom painting his toenails pink, yet failed to depict the resultant sundering of the heavens and collapse of human civilization. This world can be an awfully mean-spirited place.