What it's like to be gay in Brunei, the world's most homophobic country

  • 11/04/2019
The flag of Brunei
Brunei has rolled out extreme new laws against homosexuality. Photo credit: Getty

Brunei has made being gay an offence punishable by death, but that doesn't mean there aren't members of the LGBT+ community still living in the tiny Muslim nation.

A man going by the name of 'Khairul' spoke to Newshub's The OUTlook podcast about life in one of the world's most homophobic countries.

He says for the most part, Brunei doesn't feel dangerous - despite the threat of being stoned to death in public.

"It's not really something scary or amazing or fun at all. It's pretty quiet.

"As long as you don't really admit yourself to be gay in public it shouldn't be a problem, or act in a certain way that will cause distress to other people."

Khaural lives with his family, who are very religious and don't approve of homosexuality.

"There is that feeling of being restrained, of not being able to be open with myself. Between me and my family, it's a really hard time for me because they don't know that I'm gay and I'm different. They are very homophobic."

While he used to struggle with having to repress his sexuality, it's not something he thinks much about anymore. 

"I got used to the idea of hiding myself because my support system is that I have some friends I hang out with. Some of them do know that I'm gay, most don't. I can't really say anything about it with the new law.

"We don't know what the government might do or what they're planning next. However what we do know is there will be a stronger Islamic presence."

Dating in Brunei as a gay man is pretty much impossible, Khaural says. Apps like Grindr provide a way to make a connection, but most same-sex encounters can't get too personal because of the danger.

"Personally I'm a shy person and I don't really talk to people, but when they do talk to me it's more or less a no strings attached fun. It's just for fun.

"The best way to be able to have a conversation with someone you're willing to chat with is either you know them in person before you found out they were gay, or you go and search for LGBT communities online. Some of them might be in there."

While moving somewhere more tolerant might seem like the best move for Khaural, he says it's difficult for someone who's lived a sheltered life.

"When I was younger, I did travel with my family, visiting mostly Asian countries. I've never been to a Western or European country."

He wants the world to know that his homeland isn't an inherently bigoted place.

"What I would say to people in New Zealand is that Brunei is not a bad country, it's just the mistakes of the people [in] the government."

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