Just go for it!
Sometimes a kiss isn’t just a kiss.
Sometimes it can change the world.
When singer Adam Lambert makes out with male members of his band during his concerts it is a part of his Boy George retro-kitsch glam-rock theatricality, an act of defiance against sometime-blatantly homophobic jeers the ‘American Idol’ contestant has endured.
On Tuesday, he announced that he would heed the Malaysian government’s wishes and not kiss anyone onstage during his concert in Kuala Lumpur. He said that his “main goal was to keep people entertained, not make them uncomfortable.” “It’s a tough decision to make, but there are so many amazing fans in Malaysia that it’s more important for me to be able to come and do my show there for them and entertain them and thank them for supporting me.”
I’m not Adam Lambert (actually, I can’t name one of his songs) but if it was me up on that stage, I would have a full-on, no-holds-barred, snog with a guy. I would kiss a boy and, yes, I would like it.
First of all, the government restrictions, which ban kissing, stripping and jumping (?!) on stage during concerts are gender-neutral and therefore not connected to Malayasia’s horrendous homosexuality laws, so I would imagine the punishment would be less harsh than twenty years in prison for sodomy. Malaysia has the unfortunate combination of priggish colonial laws along with fundamentalist Islamic groups all too willing to use homophobia to gain political power. For instance, while cross-dressing is not technically a crime, transgendered Muslims can be charged under Syariah law for “impersonating women.”
While prosecution for gay sex is relatively rare, for groups like the “People’s Anti-Homosexual Voluntary Movement” (which lobbies for stricter anti-gay laws) and, one fears, the Malaysian government itself (which banned gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people from appearing in the state controlled media in 1994) it is all about appearances and to keep queer sexuality hidden and shameful.
Which is why Adam Lambert should kiss a guy on stage. I assume there’d be a fine, or they would ban him from performing in the country again. Are they really going to arrest an American celebrity? And if they do, they have instantaneously brought the attention of the world onto the state of LGBT rights in Malaysia.
In the 1991 documentary ‘Truth or Dare’ about Madonna’s ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour, when she is about to perform at (what was then still called) the Skydome, a couple of Toronto police officers arrive to warn Madge that if she performs ‘Like a Virgin’ as she has during the rest of the tour she could be arrested. The cops’ problem is her “simulating masturbation” which they claim goes against Toronto the Good’s decency laws (“So what’s considered masturbation?” Madonna asks. “When you stick your hand on your crotch,” her brother replies.)
Discussing it with her managers, she is adamant that she does not want to change her show, that she is an “artist” with “artistic integrity” and that, as a further bonus, if the officers arrest her after the show, she will be in every newspaper in the world the next day (no one could ever accuse Madonna of avoiding attention). After mocking the “fascist state of Toronto” during her dancers’ prayer circle, she performs the song as she always did, grabbing her “crotch” and humping a bed on stage. The police do nothing. Perhaps they thought a warning would suffice in order to protect delicate Toronto eyes?
Later in the film, while in bed with her back-up singers, Madonna remarkably admits that she sometimes is haunted by “who do you think you are” doubts. She knows she is not the best singer, nor the best dancer, but she explains that her interest is in pushing boundaries and exploring new ideas. Considering ‘Truth or Dare’ era alone, her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour brought a black-latino-queer world of ‘Vogueing’ and pansexuality into the mainstream. Even if you believe it’s all self-centred careerism (as one critic put it, “one long hussle”), you have to admit Madonna has a knack for pushing society’s buttons.
If Adam Lambert really cares about his Malaysian fans, and not just continuing to do concerts there and in the rest of Asia, he should consider his queer fans in the audience. They have never seen a gay person on TV, let alone a kiss. The fearlessness of it would inspire them to be unashamed of who they are, and if it was followed by an arrest they would see clearly what needed to be changed in their country. In this complacent era of facebook ’causes’, where redemption misleadingly seems a click away, it’s worth remembering that sometimes you have to risk something in order to change anything.
If Adam Lambert is thankful for the support of his Malaysian fans he should consider supporting them.