'Elska' Brings Intimate Diversity From Kuala Lumpur
By Advocate Contributors
Elska shares intimate queer photos and stories from Asia’s most diverse city, Kuala Lumpur. Read below for more.
Elska Magazine, a publication dedicated to revealing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for its latest issue. Inside readers are invited to get to know the city and queer life there by meeting a dozen regular local men who are introduced through intimate photography and stories.
Kuala Lumpur is well-known as one of the most diverse cities in Asia, with a demography that includes predominantly Malay, Chinese, and Indian residents. For a publication that’s become considered as one of the most diverse outlets in LGBTQ media, it’s in many ways the perfect Elska city, and the demographics of Kuala Lumpur are well-represented in the issue. However, Malaysia is also a country where LGBTQ rights are not a priority, making this issue especially well-suited to giving queer Malaysians a more substantial voice and platform.
“I never really expected to make an issue in Malaysia because I just assumed that as a majority Muslim country where homosexuality is illegal, the locals wouldn’t be keen to do it” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell, “but last autumn after we published our Manila (Philippines) issue, we got a passionate letter from a guy in Kuala Lumpur imploring us to give his city the same attention. So I asked him to spread the word and within a week I received over a dozen messages from similarly passionate local men. I couldn’t ignore their excitement, so I booked a flight and hurried over."
Elska Kuala Lumpur includes twelve chapters, each dedicated to a different local member of the LGBTQ community. Inside these chapters is a selection of photographs shot in an honest, documentary-like style, whereby the men show their neighbourhoods, their homes, a bit of their personal style, and very often their naked bodies. It’s a format that sets an example of queer people not hiding, undeterred by societal norms about sexuality, gender, beauty standards, or racial inequities. For a country, and a world, where inequality is too often just accepted as normal, the example set by these men is most welcome.
Each of the men in Elska also contribute a personal story to help get to know them even more intimately. Some of the texts in the Kuala Lumpur issue include: Sam Z’s introduction to a that archetypical gay experience, the sauna, detailing the excitement, the fear, the lust, and the disappointment; Gems A's ode to how rare and beautiful it is when a trans man can find a partner who isn't fixated only on ‘the equipment’ underneath the clothes, reminding us that trans visibility is too often accompanied by a fetishisation that renders the person within still invisible; Jules N’s story of living in a country where he feels unwelcome, how this affects his mental health, and how he tries to use art to keep going; and Ashul S’s tale of discreetly coming out to his mother through slowly erasing ambiguity but without ever daring to use LGBTQ vocabulary, highlighting an acceptance that is real yet never really complete. Elska Kuala Lumpur is 196 pages. It is sold in select retailers around the world or from the Elska Magazine website in a classic print format or in an electronic version. A companion e-zine Elska Ekstra Kuala Lumpur is also available exclusively from the website, featuring behind the scenes tales, outtakes, and other bonus content not seen in the main magazine. A list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.