Malaysian now organiser of NY gay pride parade

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — A Malaysian man who sought asylum in the US due to the discrimination over his sexuality is the director of what is set to be the largest gay pride parade ever in New York this year.

Julian Sanjivan, the volunteer in charge of organising the event in Manhattan business centre of the US city today, was elected as the march director by the Heritage of Pride committee last year.

Sanjivan’s tale was covered in a Wall Street Journal article on the preparations for the parade in New York, which examined the hectic affair of arranging the annual parade calling for equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people following the deadly shooting at an Orlando nightclub earlier this month.

According to the US newspaper, Sanjivan said he was granted asylum in the US last year, after he was picked for a programme sponsored by the US State Department. He had been a HIV/AIDS awareness activist prior.

Sanjivan said he found New York “overwhelming” at first due to the overt poverty and homelessness there, but found greater tolerance towards non-heterosexual people.

It was not all smooth sailing for Sanjivan, who said he struggled to find employment after his tenure with the State Department programme ended. He could not be legally employed as he was not a US citizen.

Sanjivan said he came close to becoming homeless as his savings dwindled by the day, before he was finally granted asylum.

“It was a very depressed time,” he was quoted as saying in the article.

Sanjivan now works at BubbleBall, a startup that sells and rents inflatable balls each large enough to contain a person, which are used for games similar in concept to bumper cars.

Interest in gay pride parades spiked in response to the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others.

Sanjivan’s prominence in organising the New York edition of the gay pride parade parallels the recognition given to Malaysian activists despite the rampant discrimination they face at home.

In March, Malaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub was given the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award for her work in the transgender community.

Muslim-majority Malaysia vehemently objects to the perceived rise in LGBT activities, which they deem to be an assault against Islam together with growing calls for greater civil liberties.

Local revulsion towards the LGBT community was demonstrated when some Malaysians rejoiced over the killings of gay men in the Orlando incident, and in their subsequent threat to boycott Honda over its message of solidarity with victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. – MMO.