Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mein Kampf: Manifesto of a Minority

Mein Kampf: Manifesto of a Minority

In the later half of 2005, the Communications and New Media Department of the National University of Singapore, of which I am an undergraduate student, brought in one Dr Linda Perry, as part of its plans to expand.

Dr Perry comes from the University of Florida and brings tons of experience in journalism with her. I must say I am not a hands-on kind of person; I like to call it “brains-on”. I only found out my limitations when I took her module on media writing.

In taking the course, we were thrown into the deep end of the pool. We had to find a non-profit organisation for which we will design and write an online newsletter. I did not like the assignment, given it required some travelling and making some contacts with strangers. Furthermore, it was a group assignment and people who know me, know how I detest group work. “Work” is okay, but “group” is not. I was year 2 (sophomore) then. Well, as of now, I’m changing, so give me some time.

Then, after a couple of weeks of deliberation, one teammate decided we cover Focus on the Family Singapore (FOTF). That sort of rang a bell because I heard of FOTF in another concurrent Sociology course I was studying. Dr Laurence Leong was the instructor of this mass media course and mentioned that we should always be critical of media messages and cited FOTF as one of the few examples.

My curiosity led to some simple internet research on FOTF, in the midst of doing the media writing assignment on FOTF, the work of which can be found on http://linda.perry.net/affinity.

The entire team focused (pun intended) on issues directly related to FOTFS (Singapore), dealing with the usual “morally correct” views espoused by the organisation on pre-marital sex, family, marriage and parenting. I decided to find out more about the organisation’s view on homosexuality, kind of a ‘DUH’ statement in retrospect.

Of course we had to write 2 articles, one involving an interview with someone related to FOTFS, but I ended up interviewing someone from MCYS, dealing with welfare. What a sore thumb I am. The other article was of course a feature on the “good things” championed by the organisation, sort of an exercise to improve their communications campaign. I stuck out like a sore thumb again when I decided to focus of the contentious “bad things” the organisation rejected, which did little to contribute to the good image the project was tasked to.

In the process of the work, I interviewed Dr Leong, the vice-president of FOTFS Joanna Koh-Hoe and the guy who replied my email to People Like Us, Miak. I feel embarrassed that I told Miak I would send him my article once I was once with it. But somehow, I lost his email address upon cleaning out my yahoo email. Now that I know that Miak is possibly reading this, he can read the article at http://linda.perry.net/affinity/homosexuality.htm. I am not very proud of my article any way, so even if I had Miak’s email, I would still be embarrassed enough not to send it to him.

I learnt one, of many many many skills, in my time at NUS so far. I learnt not only to hear, but to listen. I learn to listen in the capacity of a person who is an empty vessel (in a good way), unopinionated, and open to the ideas and views given by others. Most of us listen, but we continue to hold onto the rigid and comfortable predispositions we were socialised into. These are the very barriers to listening, and we end up not listening at all, despite believing that we are listening. You need some level of humility, and a large stomach to contain that pride, momentarily.

I soon realised that every lecturer in NUS is actually that damn good, despite some being greatly hated by most students. At the semester-end student review of the course and instructors, wherein most students will often, I heard, write negative reviews, I had always wrote positive reviews. Yes I am being Paula Abdul here, but honestly, when you grow up and develop, you do so based on positive points because you take home the positive points. If you took home the negative points, what can you do with them? Change them to become positive points, turn them into strengths, which ultimately translate back to using positive points.

I see school as a tennis training session. It’s okay to make mistakes and you have the space and time to learn. You make a thousand mistakes in training so that you are prepared not to make any (if possible) when you leave training. You make these mistakes while trying and giving your best. After all, the fees are already paid, and the lecturers are there to be “used”.

Yes. That is how I am able to romanticise my experience at NUS, which will come to an end soon next year, unless I proceed to doing graduate studies.

I learnt some more stuff through my interview with FOTFS. But I learnt a lot more from Dr Leong and Miak, other than their views. I thought Miak, as a “layperson” would know little, but just felt a lot; more heart than head, but was taken aback by the knowledge he possessed from research and reading. Dr Leong, in my exchange with him, told me that to be a “rebel”, one had to work very hard. I would choose to think that this is probably one of the very few experiences in 2005 that perhaps cemented my interest in academia.

Of course, there was this highly abstract course taught by Dr Sreekumar in the Communications and New Media department, regarding theoretical critiques of knowledge management, in which I was completely lost for months before finally understanding what the hell was going on, in time for the exam. From then on, I saw things in concepts and analogies, and enjoyed and appreciated their complexities. Perhaps my dislike for people (not persons) was another motivator.

August 2006, I took a Sociology course on religion, and decided to focus on religion and homophobia in Singapore for my term paper, which I took great pains in writing. I chose the topic for my essay partly because I wanted to prepare for another course I intended to take, taught by Dr Leong the following semester, which was on sexualities. Mind you, the religion/homophobia term paper was meant to be a group effort, either 2 or 3 members in a team. Sore thumb Sam requested to do alone. Maybe the lecturer appreciated some form of deviance, and allowed me to do the assignment alone. I wanted to be the “rebel” and I was prepared to work hard. It was rewarding, the grade of course, and the knowledge and experience gained from reading the literature.

I knew what I wanted to do then, but decided to finish the course of sexualities first. That was when I started writing to the Straits Times a lot more frequently to air my views. It’s really hard work, mind you. Rejections are all too very common, and when they got published, they were edited.

My letters usually deal with human beings. I regretted writing this letter on educating people on feeding stray cats because this might attract crows, and that crows attack people. Somehow it was construed to be anti-cat, and I became “Wee Shu Min” for a couple of days, with the animal-lover internet mob ripping my “fake” reputation to bits. Through the usual profiling of hate-figures, some claim I was an “elite”, but I live in a HDB flat and my dad, at 60, is still working. Others claim that I am all brains, but no soul, in the process mocking NUS. One claimed that his/her younger brother knew me because he is my friend and I think that one hurt me the most, because this “friend” did not clarify with his elder sibling that I am not the person he/she thinks. Furthermore, I do not think I can claim to have friends in school, save for one or two who have graduated; everyone else is an acquaintance and I don’t really hang out with them outside school. Any way, I love animals (prefer dogs to cats actually) and writing badly was my mistake and I hold myself accountable for it. I learnt it the hard way.

My girlfriend said jokingly, “You went through the baptism of fire. Now you are a man!”

I exclaimed, “Yes, I am now a man!”

You see, this is the rites of passage one has to take when one writes to the Straits Times, when one takes a position and lets everyone know his/her position. Like I wrote in my first “Straight Thoughts on 377A”, published in Alex Au’s site and here too, I joined the acting auditions (and later secured a leading role in the English drama) to know what is it like to be an actor. It is not easy, and I have the experience and credibility to say so. Now when I criticise actors and actresses, I believe I have some minimal credibility to do so, in contrast with someone who has never got off his/her couch.

Of course, the first half of 2007 got me acquainted with this Dutch lecturer from the Communications and New Media department, who has done activist work and is an advocate of women’s rights. I had always thought, “What the hell is wrong with these people, all these rights activists, feminists and stuff?” Dr Ingrid Hoofd, who is now my honours thesis supervisor (my paper on sexual minorities in the Straits Times), frequently mentioned “power” and “privilege” in class. I finally understood something.

The sheer presence of Dr Ingrid and Dr Sreekumar in the classroom is already highly inspirational to me. Yes, you get questioned, challenged, and ripped to shreds in the classroom, but it’s all enrichment. In my fourth year now, after taking courses from the sociology and media departments, I found that I love learning (although I hate studying).

Another thing that has got me to empathise with sexual minorities in Singapore is not that I have any gay friends, but how I see myself in my social environment. I do not have any gay friends, maybe I might have, but they are probably not “out” to me. My “gay-dar” sucks.

I feel like a minority in so many ways. As mentioned, I am “Chinese” on my NRIC, but I’ve struggled with Mandarin my entire life. My family speaks English to me all the time. I went to Ang Mo Kio Secondary School and later Nanyang JC, both “neighbourhood” schools. In between, I spent 3 months at Victoria JC, but realised I could not fit in either because of the social environment.

I often get teased, ridiculed and questioned for my inability to speak Mandarin. This did not help in the Army during National Service. Everyone wanted to be “manly” in Army. “Manliness” was associated with working-class grind-it-out aesthetics, broken English, and predominant use of Mandarin with Hokkien as a mode of communication. Those who speak English are seen as middle to upper class, as snooty individuals who knew and cared little about the Chinese-educated folk. They are less “man”, more “sissy”. Most of the English-educated persons in the army as a result adopted this front to become work-class persons with broken English, just to assimilate. Why can’t we all be who we are and accept each other as who we are? We are after all, defending the same country, aren’t we?

In school, I feel like a minority. I sit alone. I sit near the front. I want to ask questions. I want to give my piece of mind. People think I am out to score points, or to prove others wrong, but I am only out to know myself better, know the limitations and strengths.

I felt and still feel like a minority. It’s depressing. And this perhaps reinforces my dislike for people in general. I do not want to mingle with people, although I appreciate the company of close friends or personal interactions with individual acquaintances. But even social recluses have belief systems.

I believe that minorities deserve to be understood better. The only way for minorities to be understood is for those in privileged positions to momentarily leave their positions and attempt to comprehend the realities that minorities confront. For example, our society has done a lot through the Yellow Ribbon project to integrate ex-convicts back into society, but there is still a lingering stereotypification and stigmatism of ex-convicts. Society has structures, no doubt, but structures are not rigid in the long run. Things change, structures remain the same because of people in power having maintained or expanded their power, because of people in privileged positions having maintained or elevated their positions.

Religion is not wrong, neither is it neutral. But what makes religion right is how meaningful it can be to a person or a community. What is morally wrong (see deontology) is when the person or community goes out telling others/outsiders that it is right. Just invert/reverse the situation and you will know what I mean. This is why I dislike people, but am okay with persons. I think people should not go out to hate religion just because some poster-boys and opinion leaders say things that we disagree with.

Thio Li-Ann, I believe, is driving a big truck that would have never been approved by ROV. This truck emits thick smoke. It is uncomfortable to smell. But this truck exists in a space where thick smoke is the norm. Like when I went to Thailand, the air in some streets is unbearable, but the locals are cool with it.

When we try to tell Thio and her supporters and conservative folk that the smoke they emit is harmful, they will say, “What smoke? I don’t see any smoke? No smoke, no harm.” You see, Baey Yam Keng talked about speaking the language of the government at this 377A forum at the National Library in the middle of the year. Here, we need to speak the language of the truck-driver and I do not refer to using analogy of “straws” and “noses” to resolve our issues.

It’s not about the “gay agenda” any way. In history, we had black men fighting for black men. We had women fighting for women. But let’s not forget that we have had white men too fighting for black men. And that we had men also fighting for women.

If men never fought for women, and left the cause for women alone to fight, we will have this reality:

- Women voting? That is so wrong!
- Women working? That is unnatural! They are just daughters, wives and mothers!
- Women in sports? That is immoral! They should be in the home!
- Women being sexual? That is illegal! They have no sexuality!
- Women should not be having this public seminar/forum because it is against public interest. Women should not be organising this mass jogging session or a picnic because they are endorsing the womanly lifestyle.

I am sure women feel more about oppression and discrimination, more so than their male counterparts. But now, women have ascended to a privileged position where they have become the oppressors, along with the men. Together, they oppress sexual minorities. Maybe that is how society evolves. Maybe when sexual minorities ascend to the same position as the “moral majority”, we will find another group to oppress. We’ll never know, but that is why we have history lessons, on the surface, to learn from the past and improve for the future.

We are all minorities in some way or another and it is not our choosing most of the time. Who wants to be a minority any way? To be criticised, ostracised, stigmatised, medicalised, technicised, discriminated, excommunicated, and so on? But on the other hand, since one is a minority, should one equally deserve the right and space to be proud of one’s identity?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The plants in the garden

I see a garden with many plants growing. Some plants are smaller while others are larger. The gardener is perplexed because he has allocated an even spread of fertiliser across the finite space that is the garden. Little does he know that the roots of the larger plants grow beyond the space that is the garden and these plants receive additional nourishment from other places, wherever their roots extend.

Derived from the United States, the Religious Right in Singapore has firm supporters in most of the middle-to-upper class folk here. You scratch beneath the surface of prominent officials, opinion leaders and community leaders, you will realise the unrepresentative religious affiliation, some more conservative, some more fundamental, others less fundamental. Well, they don’t call it the Religious Right here any way, for it sounds too “fierce”.

These are the elite who represent their various communities, championing moral campaigns and codes for all to follow. Never mind diverse interests and differing moral philosophies, they want moral commonality and homogeneity. Not that that is a bad thing for it makes the country a lot easier to police, but diversity is what makes Singapore Singapore.

If Singapore society is based on one set of moral codes that determine the homosexual identity to be only a behaviour, or a lifestyle, all the more will people not want it to be “endorsed” or “mainstreamed”.

“Are you trying to say it’s ok?” is a very common rhetorical question, with deep-rooted homophobia. Something straight people first need to confront is their homophobia.

What causes your homophobia?
- Religious fundamentalism?
- Subscription to right-wing authoritarianism?
- Stereotypification and stigmatism of sexual minorities?
- Subscription to specific gender roles and behaviour?

Let’s look at racism. What causes you to be racist? What causes you to have distrust of other races? What causes you to be uncomfortable in the presence of other races? Is everything others do less moral than you think?

Conservative folk will never comprehend homophobia on the same level as racism. This is because of an information gap, in which a wedge is being driven by religious fundamentalism and homosexual stereotypes.

News reporting and media depictions of homosexual people occasionally portray them as mentally unstable, sexually perverse and criminal, and these serve to reinforce perceptions people hold of sexual minorities. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between a person’s personal beliefs and his perception of media messages. A religious fundamentalist will always agree with anti-gay reports, because these reports confirm their beliefs. Even seemingly objective reports of crimes involving sexual minorities as offenders will create an untruthful simulation of reality and normality for the homophobic reader. He or she will continue to believe that this is normal, that gay people are “just wrong”.

So what does it mean to “endorse” or “mainstream” the gay “lifestyle”? What is the gay “lifestyle”?

Gay people wear clothes, have hobbies, some go clubbing, eat food, work to earn some income, pay taxes, have friends, have relationships, have private sex (because public sex for any one is illegal any way). So what kind of lifestyle is that? What are we trying to include and what are we trying to exclude?

Let us now include some aspects of the “straight lifestyle”. Well, some straight men have flashed their penises to young schoolgirls, if not, have molested them too. Some straight men beat up their wives, or maids. Some straight men write racist things on their blogs. Some straight men, who are married, go to Geylang or Batam to have sex with prostitutes. Some straight men gamble and are unable to control it. Some straight men download porn and masturbate to it. Some straight men see an attractive passer-by and think to themselves, “how I wish I could have her as my girlfriend” or “how I wish I could bone her”.

What kind of lifestyle is the straight lifestyle? What kind of lifestyle is the gay lifestyle? We only choose to see the wrongs in the gay lifestyle because we measure it with our deep-rooted religious fundamentalism, we associate it with crime, depravity and immorality, we view homosexuality based on perceived-to-be “values” other homophobic persons and gay-hating messages have inculcated in us.

We thus associate homosexuality with crime, paedophelia and other social ills. And when engaging in dialogue, there is already a stark imbalance. Sexual minorities and civil rights activists will view the conservative and gay-hating folk as equals in the debate, but conservative folk will just view sexual minorities as diseased human beings. Dialogue has never been fair from the beginning. You view sexual minorities as weeds in your garden.

If only we can get homophobic people to answer the following question, “why do you have negative feelings and attitude towards gay people?”. It will either be boiled down to conservative religious beliefs or gross misinformation and lack of knowledge of homosexuality.

In my opinion, it is not a matter of being “conservative”, but a question of the degree of obstinacy. The values of a straight person should deal with the question “how to be a good straight person”, and not “how to discipline the gay person”. If you are moral and upright, homosexuality will not bother you. If you are self-righteous and hungry for power and dominance, diversity will bother you, because you suffer anxiety at the prospect of wanting to control everything.

Sexual minorities fight for sexual minority representation, respect, recognition and rights. The “moral majority” fight for its ideological comfort. More rights versus more comfort.

I must reiterate that I belong to the “moral majority” because of demography and that I claim to be moral – I do treat others with respect because I want to be treated with respect too. Religious fundamentalism causes us to condescend others. Fundamentalism is actually perfectly fine with me if confined to the individual, because ideas and ideologies are only most meaningful within the person. In “enlightening” and “empowering” others with the same ideas and ideologies, we may be in a way oppressing others and it becomes less meaningful for them. Unfortunately, religious fundamentalism cannot be disassociated with notions of political power and power relations. The big tree with far-reaching roots will definitely not have its far-reaching roots diminished, and the other plants that “side” with it (sorry for anthropomorphising plants) will still remain smaller plants.

The big tree will still get to decide how the garden is run, how much nutrients will be left for other plants. If one plant grows out of the garden or entwines the fence, the big tree will liken that activity as unnatural as “shoving a straw up one’s nose to drink”. There is still space in the garden, does the big tree want to get bigger? Does it need to get bigger?

Singaporeans will learn

(Unpublished - Oct 25, 2007)

Singaporeans will learn

Dear Editor,

The ‘consensus’ reached is that private gay sex between consenting adults continues to be criminalised but not actively enforced, and there will still be space for sexual minorities.

Is this notion of ‘space’ for sexual minorities the same that belonging to us straight folk? To say that there will still be ‘space’ for gay men in our society, yet keeping the section 377A alive but passive, is not unequivocal.

‘Space’ consists of the social, the economic, the political, the legal and so on. These domains are not mutually exclusive. Would it be fair to provide sexual minorities with physical space and not grant them the legal space? This does little to curb stigmatism of sexual minorities. Worse still, it exacerbates stereotypical perceptions and reinforces homophobia, retarding or even reversing the integration of sexual minorities into society.

I believe a viable solution is the decriminalisation of private and consenting acts between adults, and the continuation of criminalising nonconsensual acts of sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying of minors and adults. To keep Section 377A is representative of the reality that we want some Singaporeans to be more equal than other Singaporeans.

There is a lot of moral rhetoric involving “Asian values”, “conservative majority” and “family values/unit” that has cropped up to combat the threats brought by the “gay agenda”. We only have to look beyond the rhetoric and know the embedded deeper-lying political agenda. Singaporeans will learn.

There is one thing we can take away from this episode. This is still hope for representative democracy in Singapore, despite the fact that some have called for Siew Kum Hong’s head, depriving him the right to represent Singaporean sexual minorities and in turn depriving the right of sexual minorities to be represented. Singaporeans now know that the so-called “gay agenda”, the true intentions and meaning of which have been overestimated by conservative folk, is not only the agenda of gay people, but straight people.

Ho Chi Sam

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The doctor, the lawyer and the mathematician

(Unpublished - Oct 28, 2007)

The doctor, the lawyer and the mathematician

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the articles by Janadas Devan and Andy Ho (ST, Oct 27).

There has been a lot of moral rhetoric from the anti-repeal camp in the past few weeks, which to an extent, mirrors the Christian Right and “ex-gay” movement in the United States, consisting Exodus International, Homosexuals Anonymous and Focus on the Family.

On “ex-gay” discourse, people like Thio hold the belief that homosexuality can be cured, often citing the Spitzer study.

Robert Spitzer helped remove homosexuality as pathology from the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. However, in 2001, he presented a new study that stated that gays can become straight if they wanted to. Rather than critiquing the study or recognising its research and methodological limitations, antigay Christian groups in the US use the study as a spearhead to repathologise homosexuality.

It is here I believe that society, though being more intelligent, has not become smarter. Intelligence helps us because we are able to better understand our experiences, relationships and environments. However, the very same intelligence has empowered us to medicalise and technicise these experiences. It is thus not a matter of ultimate truth, or which social group’s “truth” is most true, but a question of ethics.

Ethical implications will arise if we medicalise and technicise social relationships and behaviours. The medicalisation of aspects of social deviance, namely behaviours that depart from social norms, predispositions and dominant ideologies, poses serious ethical issues. In the Victorian era, women and children were thought to be asexual. There had been studies that correlated, or at least attempted to link, ethnicity with crime.

It is through medicalisation and technisation that humankind, and its obsession with mastery, can control its experiences and environments. We can now observe the effects of the medicalisation of homosexuality, despite it having long been depathologised. People today still want to control homosexuality.

The development of academia is, to a very large extent, influenced by the political and religious ideologies of various researchers and academic circles. The political and religious ideological situatedness of researchers are often not discussed in their studies and are further obscured by the veil of “objectivity”, which is what science, strives to be. In fact, social science too strives to be objective, but has yet to find a place in many societies, given popular subscription to the perceived superior wisdom of lawyers and doctors. When seemingly “objective” research confirms one’s pre-disposed beliefs, it is tempting to treat the beliefs as the truth and stop seeking information thereafter. Selective reading will only beget selective listening. That is one way society can be polarised.

With that in mind, I believe Singapore society and politics can do better with the presence of persons trained in humanities and social sciences, to add balance to the contributions of others whose disciplines have inclinations to medicalise or technicise. No disrespect intended, for I do not claim that mathematicians, for instance, are incapable of thinking and feeling about social issues. Look at Lee Hsien Loong.

Ho Chi Sam

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Straight Thoughts on 377A (part 3)

Straight thoughts on 377A: Reflection

The bomb was detonated not to destroy, but to light up a world for all to see what is truly going on. In brighter lighting, one sees one’s friends and foes in greater detail. In brighter lighting, one sees the lines and blemishes on one’s face a lot more clearly.

The leadership stopped following and started leading again.

The ‘consensus’ reached is that private gay sex between consenting adults continues to be criminalised but not actively enforced, and there will still be space for sexual minorities.

Is this notion of ‘space’ for sexual minorities the same one belonging to us straight folk? To say that there will still be ‘space’ for gay men in our society, yet keeping the section 377A alive but passive, is not unequivocal.

‘Space’ consists of the social, the economic, the political, the legal and so on. These domains are not mutually exclusive. What makes a Singaporean different from an Australian is the space in which the Singaporean inhabits, which consists of a unique mix of the abovementioned domains.

For sexual minorities, there will be definitely be physical space for them. They need a roof above their heads and they need to have decent living conditions. We do not want them to be what Goh Chok Tong passionately coined as “quitters”, but continue to contribute to society and the economy. As such, we can afford sexual minorities a fair bit of social space, in the form of “little bohemias”, as well as economic space, in the form of employment, allegedly even in sensitive positions in the civil service.

Is there legal space for gay people? Have we ever considered the social and psychological implications of dissimilar legal rights being accorded to different peoples in the same geographical space? A robber who steals from a bank will be labeled a “criminal” because he/she has committed an act that is recognised as a crime under the criminal law, regardless of whether or whenever he/she gets caught. This does little to curb stigmatism of sexual minorities. Worse still, it exacerbates stereotypical perceptions and reinforces homophobia, retarding or even reversing the integration of sexual minorities into society.

It is a slap in the face to say that “legal untidiness and the ambiguity” are acceptable, especially so for a nation that prides itself in having an efficient legal system and being one of the least corrupt countries in the world. That is all I can say about that.

I believe a viable solution is the decriminalisation of private and consenting acts between adults, and the continuation of criminalising nonconsensual acts of sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying of minors and adults. To keep Section 377A is representative of the reality that we want some Singaporeans to be more equal than other Singaporeans. Mind you, sexual minority Singaporeans have played and will continue to play an important part in building, shaping and maintaining the Singapore identity; not only the ‘majority’. In your Singaporean heart, can you accept that?

There is a lot of moral rhetoric involving “Asian values”, “conservative majority” and “family values/unit” that has cropped up to combat the threats brought by the “gay agenda”.

Let me tell you what is my “straight agenda” for sexual minorities. Section 377A should be repealed, but a law protecting minors and acts of consent should continue to be in place. Gay couples deserve to have the right to be married as the “majority” today appreciates the idea of monogamy as a stable “family unit”. They also deserve to adopt children because good parenting, like bad parenting, is “colour-blind” in every sense; wherein there will be good examples as there will be black sheep.

“Asian values” has its economic roots. Just look to the 1970s and you will find out who is its daddy. The economic dimension of “Asian values” was later diluted and the notion embraced other ascriptions of society today, including that of the moral. Today, “Asian values” is often used as a two-prong weapon in Singapore to combat the perceived corrupting influences of Westernisation and globalisation, and at the same time use to justify discrimination against sexual minorities.

The “conservative majority” is another political tool used by segments of the educated elite to rally others in the population. This reminds me of a very much politicised version of the “free hugs” campaign. Nobody expects to be hugged by a stranger, nor expects to be hugged at all in the first place, a sign of apathy. Yet by participating in the “free hugs” campaign, and getting hugged, the campaigner can say that you supported the “free hugs” cause. But did you truly understand the meaning of the campaign in the first place and find it equally as meaningful as the campaigner.

What does the “conservative majority” want to “conserve”? Its tyranny, bigotry, flows of misinformation, hatred, fear, ludicrous irrationality and self-perceived ‘universal’ values? If everyone were the same, physically and emotionally, anything and everything that is mentioned can be preserved, whether true or not, and no one will care.

That said, Singapore is not really built for diversity then, no matter how hard we try. There continue to exist in our society peoples with deep-rooted inertia – inertia to change. Change is a constant. Longevity of original thought and ideas only last as long as the life of an opinion leader. After which, it is almost impossible to fully replicate or codify that thought for future generations.

Society and the ground beneath you will change. You may choose to stand with your herd in the same position all day, all week and your herd will suffer a half-day of heat and a half-day of cold. You move because you have needs, and you have needs because things change. If you do not acknowledge the presence and importance of change, you are inertial to it.

Sometimes, change is something a frog will see once it climbs out of its well. The whole world may have been the same before and after the frog’s exit from the well, but it may still present a whole different experience for the frog.

I feel very saddened that sexual minorities are viewed as sexual deviants, and conflated with criminal acts of bestiality and paedophelia. People should know better. What is wrong about bestiality and paedophelia is that there is no consent given and that the law should protect the innocent. The country is being run on laws that treat people as if they are incapable of making responsible decisions for themselves. Opinion leaders of the conservative folk will jump at this and use it to oppress sexual minorities.

Institutional mechanisms must be in place to weed out the misinformation and educate people on the true meaning of “representative democracy”, “civic responsibility”, “civil responsibility” and accepting diversity. If diversity never existed, we probably won’t need representative democracy, but that is far from reality; we are more diverse than we perceive ourselves.

Conservative folk will worry about “homosexual experimentalism”. That is a viable point because they will want to maintain heteronormativity. However, even in experimentalism, we should not be looking how we should govern such behaviours, but rather look at whether consent is given. No one is robbed nor killed. There is a lot of suggestively homosexual activities between “straight” men in the local army. They are however done in jest, dry humping and all. Is this “natural” enough for your “conservative” eyes and ears? The problem does not like in homosexual men, but straight men too, but unfortunately society sees homosexual men as more sexual than straight men. You read about rape cases involving a man and a woman, often young, and you yawn about it. Your senses will be stirred and attention grabbed when you come across the man-bites-dog news of a man raping another man. Sensational and less forgettable. That is how you will think of gay men, and sexual minorities in general.

If you want to control people living on the same plot of land as you do, Singapore is not the right place, and neither are many other countries in the world, because people are different. If you have a belief, by sheer probability in a diverse population, your belief will be challenged. What are you going to do about it? Work hard, gain political power, be the government, plant the friends who hold the same beliefs as you in various key industries and the media, and start oppressing these the “dissidents”?

I may be seen as biased when I say this, but what we have seen is the battle between logic and non-logic. There is no way that logic and engage non-logic. No common ground. No concept of a ground at all. The motivation to defend “conservatism” is born out of the need for continuity. Through continuity, things remain the same, leaders will be leaders, the powerful will be powerful, dominant ideologies will still rule the land. Are these compatible with macroscopic and microscopic changes surrounding the subscription to continuity?

What if my son or daughter was gay? What if your loved one is gay? Perhaps you will start thinking like Khoo Hoon Eng. Or would you contemplate sending him/her to reparative therapy, or perhaps to some local prominent church for exorcism?

The advocates of unconditional love, forgiveness and graciousness are supporting legal and institutional apparatuses and mechanisms that perpetuate conditional and exclusive love, ungraciousness, non-compassion, hatred and ostracism. Vicious cycle.

I once said that the problem with this world is that people don’t listen. I think there is another problem: This world lacks love. Stop being a people for a moment, be a person, and listen and love.

Sexual minorities, moral rhetoric and the Constitution

(Unpublished - Oct 24, 2007)

Sexual minorities, moral rhetoric and the Constitution

Dear Editor,

I refer to the Parliamentary reports pertaining to the discussion of Section 377A of the Penal Code.

The Penal Code, as part of Criminal Law, protects Singaporeans and residents in Singapore from harm. It is in no way a reflection of societal morality and values, since it was appropriated from British Law.

Furthermore, for one to have the belief that Section 377A reflects societal morality and values, indicates one's predispositions. Studies have shown that a person’s personal bias is related to perceptions of media bias (see Lee Tien-Tsung, 2005). Hence, moral perceptions of section 377A derive from persons who already are homophobic, and see neither bias nor discrimination in this section.

If we were to take the views of the majority and manifest them into policies, prostitution and polygamy may be outlawed, since these are two possible factors affecting the stability of families. The purpose of our Constitution is to prevent the tyranny of the majority and protect the minorities.

Thio Li-Ann reasoned that sexual minorities cannot be recognised as a minority group because of disputable traits that may not grant them minority status in Singapore. Race and gender are biological traits and our Constitution protects them. Religion and political affiliation are non-biological traits, yet are identities that our Constitution also protects. To exclude sexual minorities from protection, or worse, criminalise private consensual gay sex, is unconstitutional.

Our laws have been diluted by the moral rhetoric of opinion leaders who have risen to prominence in their respective professional fields. Religious representation at this level is far more skewed thanat the national level. This dilution, which has effectively influenced majority public opinion, has been maintained by the increased levels of religiosity in the country across the Generation X's and Y's.

At the same time, the politically-charged rhetoric of the "conservative majority" serves to galvanise the heteronormative hegemony in our society, manifesting in discrimination and hatred, as well as permit the political bullying of sexual minorities.

I believe that the rhetoric of "family values" and "conservative majority" is a guise to mask the fears that the repeal might undermine the moral authority of various religious institutions and in turn, certain individuals their respective communities and social circles hold in regard. Olson and Cadge (2002) discover that homosexuality is the most divisive topic in churches. The clergy, pastors and religious leaders are more concerned about denominational struggle, split and membership loss and choose not to discuss such a topic. Clammer (1997) observes the addition of services by churches in Singapore to "control the movement and retain members"(1997:193). All these show concerns over the sustenance of authority and power of the religious leaders in society.

The government should be unequivocal in the acceptance of sexual minorities and the recognition of their social, political and economic contributions to the nation. The retention of Section 377A displays its ingratitude and unwillingness towards acknowledging sexual minorities. This can be further compounded by the fact that sexual minorities are invisibilised because of rampant homophobia and criminalisation.

Sexual minorities deserve to have their spaces without the intrusion and ideological policing of parties that claim to be the moral majority. These spaces, contrary to widespread misinformation and fears, do not come at the expense of other Singaporeans, as we have seen successful integration of persons with special needs, and racial and religious minorities into society.

As Chua Mui Hoong observes, the PAP government chooses to follow, instead of lead. Fundamentally, above its obligations to society and citizens, the government has concerns about its popularity and legitimacy. People do vote and to an extent, decide what kind of government they want. Since such an issue is potentially divisive, it proves that society is indeed heterogeneous, indicative of diversity, something the"majority", whoever and however defined, is obligated to uphold.

We need to have representative democracy. Sexual minorities need fair representation and they need to have equal rights.

Ho Chi Sam

References:

Clammer J. (1997). Adaptation and Response: The Christian Charismatic Renewal. Ong J. H., Tong C. K. & Tan E. S. (Eds.) Understanding Singapore Society (Singapore: Times Academic Press) pp.178-197.

Lee T.T. (2005). The Liberal Media Myth Revisited: An Examination of Factors Influencing Perceptions of Media Bias. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 49(1): 43-65.

Olson L. R. & Cage W. (2002). Talking about Homosexuality: The Views of Mainline Protestant Clergy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 41, Issue 1, pp.153-167.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life's a ball

When you are thrown to the ground, you either bounce back, or you deflate upon impact.

You bounce because you are whole and filled with inspiration. Inspiration is motivation.

You do not bounce back merely because you were thrown to the ground. You bounce back because you are whole and filled with positive inspiration.

You do not bounce back because of the negative energy put into throwing you to the ground. You bounce back because you have kept the positive energy in you, inspired and gained from the persons to whom you have looked up, from whom you have learnt.

You look up to persons and open your mind to them because you respect them.

The beauty of it is that everyone is worth respecting. Everyone worth respecting is worth learning from. The ball is whole and strong, able to withstand negative energy, yet very porous to absorb positive energy and inspiration.

What kind of ball are you?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My morality is more moral than your morality

My morality is more moral than your morality, and needs more protection too.

In recommending that homosexuality be criminalised, people have cited that we should protect our values and morality. Are you truly out to protect your morality and values, or is it just about protecting the pride and your socio-political legitimacy, your position as a figurehead in your respect community?

What does moral and immoral mean? Isn't it about weighing the good and harm of certain actions and behaviour? Morality, with its roots in ethics discourse, is governed by some basic principles. In deontology, it is unethical, or immoral, to steal because you wouldn't like it if people stole from you. Thus, to discriminate and make hate speech against minorities is immoral because you wouldn't like it if either you were a minority or people made hate speech against you.

The use of the morality rhetoric seems to steer attention away from the insecurity of a defensive people out there. Their views, predispositions, comfort and expectations of society have finally been challenged. As opinion leaders, they stand to lose their authority and legitimacy among their herd. With the moral rhetoric and wielding the political sword and shield that are "children", opinion leaders have created a siege mentality among their followers.

Love becomes conditional. Compassion becomes exclusive. Graciousness becomes limited.

I'm no christian. I think that the god of the Abrahamic religion, known as "God" with a capital G, did a wonderful job creating persons. Persons like you and me. But persons like you and me, in my opinion, have created an abomination, and that is 'people'. God created persons; persons create peoples.

Sorry to leave out Buddhism, which deals with transcendence and suffering. Can we minimise the suffering of our fellow human beings? If you had a choice, would you want to suffer the sexual minorities, or your pride and power?

It is fine if one finds gay people disgusting. Sometimes, the aunty on the MRT train sees the young schoolboy and schoolgirl hugging, groping and kissing, and she has every right to give her opinion of the young lovebirds. "Disgusting". But is that immoral?

Does everything that makes you feel uneasy, or questions your beliefs, or makes you toss and turn in bed at night, warrants being labelled as immoral? Is it really "immoral", or rather "a departure from the beliefs I was socialised into embracement"? If something is different from your beliefs, will you say it is immoral? Then will a Protestant say a Mormon is immoral? Will a Christian say a Muslim is immoral? Who is more moral then? What are the measures?

Faith is all about believing. Believing in things are meaningful to you. Religion is just an institution for you to share your beliefs with other persons. Religion is also there to help you see beyond yourself, open your mind, thanks to the interaction with other persons. But why has religion made us so narrow-minded and hateful? Why do religions want to grow bigger and bigger? Are non-religious people less moral, less knowledgeable?

In my opinion, no group is less moral, no group is more moral. There is no judge. You may say your "god" will be the judge. What about the non-religious, what about the polytheistic-religious? Are you trying to say that your "god" in your faith has jurisdiction over others?

There is too much pride in us. We are too unwillingly to lower ourselves to help others. We have too much pride to say "sorry" or "thank you" or even to back off. If you want to talk about values, values should be dealing with this kind of pride. Values should empower you to make moral decisions, for which you will be responsible and accountable, and the meaning of 'moral' will be subjected to its context.

Think again before you say that private consensual acts of love between gay persons are "immoral", for the very behaviour you exhibit in saying it is already immoral.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

ST Insight: Email

Email to Straits Times. Oct 20, 2007.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am an Honours year student at the Communications and New Media department in the National University of Singapore, and I have been studying the news reporting of sexual minorities in the Straits Times in the past five to six years.

It appears that published forum letters and op-eds that are homophobic often come from particular families and groups. For instance, the Thio family, Su Mien and daughter Li-Ann, and Li-Ann’s senior essay supervisee student Angela Thiang Pei Yun. In the same law faculty, we have Yvonne Lee and alumnus Soh Chai Lih. Speaking of persons affiliated with the Law discipline, we have Claire and Boaz Nazar too, who also happen to have contributed online articles to Cornerstone Community Church, perhaps a clue of their religious affiliation.

There is also a tendency for the Straits Times to use ‘expert opinion’ such as those from doctors and reverends, to counterbalance other persons with respected honorifics. We have seen that between Reverend George Wan Tian Soo and Reverend Yap Kim Hao. We have plenty of doctors too, but most of their ‘educated elite’ and ‘expert opinion’ are homophobic, exemplified by Dr Gabriel Oon Chong Jin, Dr John Hui Keem Peng, Dr Ang Su Yin, Dr Vincent Chia Wei Meng and of course the now-popular Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang. Their views have challenged and grossly outnumbered those of Dr Yap Kim Hao, Dr Shirin Kalimuddin, Dr George D. Bishop, Dr Peter Goh Kok Yong, Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones and Dr Tan Chek Wee.

To give the Straits Times credit, views of the layman have been published. However, homophobic views are always buttressed by notions of family, values, morality and religion. Pro-gay equality views, which not only have disputed and exposed the existence of diversity in these notions, have touched on a larger range of issues such as social justice, equality and love. Representation of anti-gay views is large, coming form a larger variety of people, while representation of pro-gay equality views is a lot smaller, often coming from certain individuals.

The Straits Times has a responsibility to its readers, and not only the systematic framing of issues to mechanically balance views from forum contributors. Perhaps the publishing of seemingly unreasonable letters is a ploy to invite greater debate from its readers. Us readers will never truly know. But when it comes to issues concerning sexual minorities, there appears to be a relationship between the number of articles and the releases of prominent public officials, and most of these articles and follow-up reports and articles tend to favour the views of these public officials (see Goh Chok Tong in 2003, Balaji Sadasivan around 2005, and Lee Kuan Yew in 2007).

There are a great proportion of the educated elite who are Christian, or who have conservative religious values. Their penetration into the Straits Times is also a lot stronger, given their eloquence and accessibility to the internet.

It is also very worthy to note the period of silence, perhaps an “eye-of-the-storm”-like silence for the entire month of June 2007, following engaging debates, including the ‘public conversation’ between Yvonne Lee and her detractors. Were journalists taking a breather? Well, Janadas Devan (un)knowingly lit a match and the whole issue exploded again, and sexual minority news and reporting were back in business. Any way, reporters wait for news while journalists look for news. Was anyone looking during the silent period, or was there a directive somewhere which declared a journalistic holiday on sexual minority news reporting?

The Straits Times has kept its fingers on the pulse of society when it comes to issues concerning sexual minorities, despite the mechanical attempts to balance views from both camps. Maybe journalists should start looking harder for views of minority communities, for instance, non-religious people.

Chua Hian Hou and Keith Lin seem to be very present in most of the reporting, just like Lydia Lim in the 2005. Chua Mui Hoong and Andy Ho have of course, always been there. Unfortunately, Andy Ho has been bashed one too many times for his views pertaining to sexual minority issues. When it comes to reporting on peripheral, yet relevant issues such as HIV and AIDS, we have had Arlina Arshad and Salma Khalik. Of course, it does affect how readers think if sexual minorities, namely gay men, are constantly associated with HIV and AIDS in news reporting.

Enough of my journalistic work on journalists/reporters in the Straits Times. I have my views too, some of it available at Yawning Bread (http://yawningbread.org/guest_2007/guw-144.htm), as Alex was kind enough to publish an article which had some grammatical errors.

I learnt and read that society is not homogenous; it is heterogeneous. This is especially relevant to that of Singapore society, which is a salad bowl rather than a melting pot. On other levels, society is almost homogenous, due to power relations, such as the prevalence of heteronormality and its hegemonic control over the way we live our lives.

As we become more educated and affluent, and as our needs go up the Maslow’s hierarchy model, we begin to worry about many other things. For example, some woman is sweating over the ‘immoral’ Mocca.com advertisement which features a bodybuilder selling his flat.

What is worse is that educated people, who may be religious to an extent, are trying to advocate their moral and value systems for the public, through the media. Any way, Chee Soon Juan does it and he gets arrested. Often forgotten is principle that we should be respecting the spaces of various communities.

Of course, there should be resistance and sanctions against persons who cause harm to society. Sexual minorities do not actually cause harm to you and me. While their beliefs may differ from ours, what gives us the right to say they are less right, less moral and so on? If so, is there a religion or a race in Singapore that is more right, more moral?

A problem lies in our perceptions of sexual minorities, most of which are fed by misinformation, dated information and irrational fears harboured by opinion leaders. This is exacerbated by the implementation of policies because of the ‘majority vote’. How can one vote responsibly when one is not properly informed?

Speaking of votes, the government is treading the minefield with great caution. Society, being heterogeneous, will always experience a plethora of differing views on similar issues. Homosexuality is a very divisive issue. Studies have shown that homosexuality is seldom debated in churches and poses a divisive problem. It has been observed that pastors and priests primarily want to maintain their parish, rather than be concerned enough to discuss homosexuality. The same thing applies to our government, which is primarily out to get the popular vote to stay in power, and that is probably why certain unpopular policies are implemented after every General Election and none of which are implemented a year leading up to the elections. Perhaps societal unhappiness has an expiry date.

Homophobia is harmful to our society. It is a social disease, because it spreads infectiously and is propagated by influential figureheads in various communities. Singapore institutionalises and legitimises homophobia and we have a responsibility to stop the fear and hatred of minorities.

Racial and gender discrimination are not tolerated. You are born with a skin colour. You are born either a male or female. It is thus very easy to understand discrimination based on birth and biology. What most people fail to understand is that it is equally wrong when you discriminate against other non-physical identity traits, such as religion and sexuality. Religious identity is acquired through learning or through familial socialisation, while sexual identity is formed after childhood (or sometimes during childhood).

Sexuality is different from religion in the sense that it cannot be ‘unlearned’ and discarded. More often than not, sexuality gets conflated with other trends and behaviours and the identity aspect of it is forgotten. In Victorian times, women and children were assumed to have no sexuality. Now children are thought to have no sexuality, but will develop naturally into healthy heterosexual beings. However, what has been disregarded is the heteronormative upbringing and socialisation, all of which are based of previous predispositions and gender expectations.

I do not believe that Section 377A will be repealed, at least not in the next five to ten years. I see that the repeal petition functions more than just a petition; it is actually trying to open up more information for the general public and at the same time, allow us to reflect on our homophobia. We have seen the publishing of ludicrous, irrational and outrageously homophobic letters in the newspapers and now have the opportunity to realise how silly we ‘majority’ folk are. And we herd accordingly like cows without actually consulting our feelings. The government will just simply follow the herd of cows because it has to be popular and loved to stay in power.

If people want to talk about majority as a homogeneous entity, it is my duty as part of the numerical majority to disprove that, because there are straight people out there like myself who have finally realised how horrible and ungracious we straight people have become. We have forgotten what our first generation leaders have continually drilled into us, that we should not take things for granted. We should not take our privileges and comfort for granted.

I shall repeat what I wrote when I was first published in late May this year. “We are Singapore. Let's not only embrace diversity, but also celebrate diversity while respecting one another's boundaries without encroachment.”

Ho Chi Sam

Straight Thoughts on 377A (part 2)

I am up at 4.30am. I was supposed to sleep 4 hours ago. Here are my thoughts (will subject this entry to further edits when I'm more awake).

You know. Singapore is the darndest place.

We have dustbins everywhere but lots of litter. We have people placing packets of tissue on seats at public places such as food courts to indicate their reservation.

We have a 'Speak Mandarin' Campaign. In light of that, I joked with my secondary school classmate before the turn of the century, saying that sooner or later, we would have a 'Speak English' Campaign. I made a correct prediction. Of course, the teenaged me also made other predictions that humankind will eventually dump earthly waste (and radioactive waste) on the moon, and that I'll be a world famous songwriter/musician.

But never beyond my darndest imaginations I've witnessed such a passionate activity occuring before my eyes. Perhaps my eyes aren't sensitive to other passionate activities.

Of course, I refer to the counter-movement, Keep377A.com. It is simply amazing. Free speech in Singapore. Participatory democracy in Singapore.

The only time I can proudly claim I participated in the democracy was the first time when I cast my vote, as a resident in Aljunied GRC. Does starting the "Gomez, Gomez" chant at the final Workers' Party Rally in Serangoon Stadium count as participation?

A year later, I found myself believing in and fighting a cause I find meaningful in. You don't need to be homosexual to stand up for sexual minorities, as much as you don't need to have special needs to stand up for people with special needs.

I see this scenario now. The pro-repeal camp wears blue-tinted glasses. The anti-repeal camp wears red-tinted glasses. Both camps are observing this yellow ball. The pro-repeal camp will call it green, while the anti-repeal camp will call it orange. But the ball is actually yellow.

So both camps will come up head-to-head, and remove their glasses. They will hold their glasses up for the other to see and say, "My looking glass is clearer and better."

Let me examine the looking glass of the anti-repeal camp:

1) S377A is a reflection of the sentiments of the majority of society. Most Singaporeans hold conservative family values and do not accept homosexuality as the norm.

- Honestly, conservative family values is fundamentally about filial piety and no-no's to pre-marital sex. Being conservative is also following and doing things without actually questioning why you're following and doing them. Why wear white shoes with school uniform? Why must boys keep short hair? Why Elvis shaking his hips is morally unacceptable? Because we are conservative.

If we are truly conservative, why do we have prostitution and the upcoming casino? These are potential family-breakers.

Anti-homosexuality sentiment is just the inter-generational propagation of homophobia and hegemonic gender ideology. It is overtime become an instalment associated with 'family values'. But do 'family values' legitimise fear and hatred for homosexual people?

Rest assured. Homosexuality will never be the norm, simply because sexual minorities do not make up a substantial number in our population. What sexual minorities in Singapore want is just equal rights, opportunities and treatment.

I am also wondering if minors were used to sign this online letter at Keep377A.com. Is that valid?

2) Repealing S377A is a vehicle to force homosexuality on a conservative population that is not ready for homosexuality.

- No one bats an eyelid when we force heterosexual norms on homosexual people. We force them into the closet. They suffer in silence. Some commit suicide. Some suffer mental anguish. Some become reclusive. Well, homophobic persons will say "so what?". I believe in 2 ways of learning. You either receive knowledge through instruction, which is often ignored, or you learnt it through experiencing it. I believe and I hypothesized there might be a correlation between straight persons personally experiencing discrimination and their attitudes towards homosexuality.

One problem we straight people have is that we do not recognise homosexual people as human beings. Before we enter in what we believe is dialogue and reasoning, we already have the
preconception that these people are abominations of nature who will prey on our children and that they can 'convert' our family and friends and loved ones to become sexual deviants.

3) Sexual preference is not about civil rights and has nothing to do with equality or tolerance.

- Sexual preference is part of sexual identity. Identity is a right any one can have. Some identities are incentivised, or given concession and accomodated to celebrate diversity. For example, polygamy is allowed in Singapore for the Muslim population.

A man who has preference for another man, or a woman having preference for another woman, is truly none of our business. Whatever the man or woman does in private and with mutual consent is also not our business. Why do we want to be tyrants of love, dictators of behaviour and the police of morality when these do not concern us at all? Are we really embracing of our differences, or is that just a facade?

4) Repealing S377A would in fact be the first step towards mainstreaming the homosexual lifestyle, which has been shown elsewhere to lead to:

*Calls to specify the minimum age for consensual homosexual sex;

*A public education system that teaches acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle under the banner of "tolerance";
*The redefinition of marriage to include (gay) civil unions and same-sex marriages, and to extend marriage and parenthood benefits to them;
*Adoption by same-sex parents.

- One thing I've learnt about life, so far, that love is truly colour-blind, good/bad parenting is also colour-blind. Homosexuality to begin with is an identity, and to only view it as a lifestyle actually dehumanises and depersonalises it, making it seem only as a behaviour. To harbour fears of education teaching acceptance of homosexual lifestyle is very wayward, for education is not supposed to teach you to lead any kind of lifestyle. Rather, education should teach you to recognise diverse identities and communities and respect them.

It pains me a lot when some deem homosexuality as a practice. They call gay people "practicing homosexuals". Homosexuality is not a religion. You can practice a religion and its rituals, but you don't practice sexual identity, you live it. By labeling homosexuality as a practice, people will make homosexuality seem as if it is a trend that can be stopped, a disease that can be cured.

In another sense, what if we labeled heterosexuality as a practice. Are we assuming we are primarily asexual beings? Sexuality is sexual identity and vice versa.

5) In short, repealing S377A could lead to the modification of core family values and the family unit as we know it.

The majority of Singaporeans want our children to grow up in a traditional environment that espouses healthy and wholesome traditional family values. We do not want the homosexual lifestyle to be promoted or celebrated.

- In a traditional environment, women are disempowered and marginalised. In a traditional environment, parenting is using the rod over reasoning. Heck, where do you peg 'traditional'?

The homosexual lifestyle is a lifestyle that has nothing to do with straight people, yet straight people want to have everything to do with everything, to the point we want to control sexual minorities.

When a marginalised group speaks up, it has to speak loudly because its voice is always overpowered. I learnt this from some cat welfare advocate. Animal rights activists seem loud because they are often not treated seriously. In this case when sexual minorities speak out, they are seen as being too loud, or seen as attemping to promote their lifestyle. This fear is completely ridiculous to me.

The efforts of 'civil society' to mobilise people on both camps to engage in "dialogue" should be lauded. But apparently, a lot of sense is lacking. It is very obvious that one side wants to overpower and conquer the other, while the other side just wants to have some dignity and rights.

Take off your glasses for a moment. Let's see the world in the same colour for a moment. Sometimes, we become too comfortable wearing the glasses we have been wearing that we take for granted the reality in which we are living.

I wore the same coloured glasses as the anti-repeal camp. I was homophobic. I've tried wearing the coloured glasses the repeal camp are wearing. I see different things. I also see the world with my own eyes. Now I feel a litte better informed to make certain decisions and make certain stands.

Ultimately, you just need to be compassionate and gracious to feel what is right. Not think, not reason, not to know, but just feel what's right.

Here's another prediction of mine. There will be more straight people speaking up for gay people in the future and that might possibly make the difference.

My thoughts for you.

Ho Chi Sam

Friday, October 19, 2007

Homophobia is digusting and revolting

(Unpublished - Oct 18, 2007)

Homophobia is digusting and revolting

Dear Editor,

I refer to the series of letters debating the repealing of Section 377A in the Straits Times in the past three days.

I challenge those who want this section to remain.

Are they trying to say that homosexual people are less Singaporean than the straight majority? How can they reconcile this attitude with their citizenry?

Singapore is about diversity and appreciating diversity. We have laws to accomodate religious minorities, providing them necessary spaces and liberties. We have laws to protect employment discrimination along demographic lines. When it comes to sexual minorities, why are we unable to protect them?

I plead with the government and the anti-gay crusaders to come to their senses and do what is right.

We should ensure equality in our society, and not just construct laws according to the predispositions and prejudices of either the elite or the majority.

As a straight person, I see this injustice occuring under my nose, and am completely and utterly disgusted and revolted by such fear and hatred for sexual minorities, and that such phobia actually affects policy.

Ho Chi Sam

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Homophobe overstepped role in championing anti-gay cause

(Unpublished - Oct 17, 2007)

Homophobe overstepped role in championing anti-gay cause

Dear Editor,

I refer to Jenica Chua Chor Ping's letter 'NMP overstepped role in championing gay cause' (ST, Oct17).

Contrary to what Chua believes, Siew Kum Hong is doing his job as a nominated member of parliament as he is empowered to represent the under-represented and unrepresented.

The repealing of Section 377A, which criminalises gay sex, consensual or private or not, has no causal link nor correlation with the degradation of family values in Singapore. In that sense, it appears that anti-gay and homophobic individuals and communities are overstepping their role and are attempting to preserve institutional discrimination of sexual minorities, a reflection of their personal negative attitudes towards them.

Furthermore, how can Chua reconcile with the fact there do exist people who support family values and at the same time support fair representation and equality for gay people?Is Chua trying to impress upon us a universal set of 'family values', which includes homophobia and legitimises the marginalisation of sexual minorities?How fair is that?A member of parliament will serve his/her people. If Siew were to serve and act as a proxy for other minorities such as people with special needs, single mothers and the destitute, will society be questioning him the same way?

The only interest the "homosexual interest group", as Chua calls it, has is to be able to proudly call themselves Singaporeans and Siew is doing his duty to ensure equality in our society and that society is not governed by the tyranny of the majority.The Constitution states that all Singaporeans are equal before the law. Are sexual minorities less Singaporean than us? Does that mean some Singaporeans are more equal than others? How can the Constitution allow that to happen?

Let us stop abusing the privilege of being straight, and start doing something about our fear and detest for fellow Singaporeans.

Ho Chi Sam

Repeal 377A and Lim Poh Suan's Oct 16 letter

(Unpublished - Oct 16, 2007)

Repealing 377A has nothing to do with family unit, but everything to do with the moral crusaders masquerading as advocates of strong family units

Dear Editor,

I refer to Lim Poh Suan's letter 'Removing Section 377A threatens family unit' (ST, Oct 16).

There are many other things that threaten to break up a family, which involves a father, a mother and I presume one child or more. Uncontrolled gambling addiction, drug crimes, adultery, adulterous prostitution and broken down interpersonal relations between spouses are just some of the reasons.

Section 377A, which criminalises gay sex, has nothing to do with such a family unit. A well-adjusted person in a family will not use gay sex as a reason for its disintegration, unless this family wants to go out of its way to controlling sexual minorities, namely gay men, in Singapore. Even the failure in a family's attempts in moral crusading and policing of homosexual people will not signify its breakdown.

Strong families do not solely lead to a strong nation. You need active, participative and representative citizenry to make a strong nation. You need the removal of institutional and societal discrimination to build the foundations for a strong nation. You need Singaporeans like Siew Kum Hong standing up for fellow marginalised Singaporeans.

Why do we want to control private and consensual acts outside our family?We should be examining the pride and fear straight people have when it comes to homosexuality. The retention of Section 377A is a symbol of the retention of homophobia, stereotypes, stigmatism and the lack of compassion, empathy, graciousness and civil consciousness, values with which families are supposed to empower their own children.

Moreover, the retention of Section 377A will represent the situation in which the straight majority has takenits privileged position for granted. We end up protecting our interests, part of which are built up by irrational fears, lack of information and stereotypes, at the expense of protecting the rights of minority people.

The government has purposefully invested in education and enrichment of our children. At the same time, as much as we have gained such empowerment, we also have to obligation to ensure society does not merely serve the interests of a majority.

I stand by Siew.

Ho Chi Sam

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Song: Yesterday

No disrespect to the following esteemed individuals. A funny song developed in my head recently. And I always enjoy the occasional good clean parody.

In the tune of the Beatles' hit, Yesterday...

Yesterday,
Singaporeans were so anti-gay.
They kept three-seven-seven 'A'.
And all follow their hateful way.

Suddenly,
We've colonial mentality.
Keep the Act for you and me,
Marginalise the minority.

Chorus: Why (Yvonne) Lee had to go (write in Straits Times)?
I don't know; She had lots to say.
Why can't Thio Li-Ann
Be a nun if she hates the gay?

Yesterday,
Homosexual people had no say.
Lee Kuan Yew said it's okay,
But 'phobes and fundies want their way.

Chorus: Why must
Doctor Chin (Alan Chin Yew Liang), Andrew Lim (Andrew Lim Chia Wei),
And other guys
Go with
Thiang Pei Yun (Angela Thiang Pei Yun), Thio Su Mien (the mother of Thio Li-Ann, who supervised Angela Thiang Pei Yun's senior paper)
And that Lim Heng Chye (George Lim Heng Chye)?

Yesterday,
Goh Chok Tong said he'll hire gays.
Homophobes write in all day
To the Straits Times to just Kao Peh (hokkien for complaining).

Chorus (altogether now): Why you
Want to hiu (hokkien for avoid) MP Siew,
And block his way?
This is
Singapore and there's a law (the constitution)
That protects the gay.


Newspaper releases in 2007, otherwise stated:

Yvonne Lee - Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error (May 4); Three-point rebuttal to writer's response to article on gays (May 10); Gay debate continues: Writer responds (May 17)
Thio Li-ann - Hearing out religion in the public debate (Dec 15, 2004)
Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang - Homosexuality: Neither a disease nor an immutable trait (May 8); Figures speak for themselves: Practising gays have higher risk of HIV (May 15); Aids and gays: A flawed response (May 28); Let's conserve our marriage constitution as one between man and woman (Jul 16); Law and public education should go hand in hand in dealing with HIV (Aug 7); Beware the high-risk ‘gay lifestyle’ (Aug 8).
Andrew Lim Chia Wei - Decriminalising homosexuality: At stake is public morality, not pragmatism (Jul 26); One's idea of fun and humorous may be highly offensive to others and harmful to society (Oct 1)
Angela Thiang Pei Yun - Beware loose use of term 'sexual minorities' (Aug 10)
Thio Su Mien - PM’S commitment to core moral values lauded (Aug 27, 2003); Police did right in rejecting gay party (Dec 17, 2004)
George Lim Heng Chye - Govt should rethink hiring gays (Jul 15, 2003 - a classic); All the movies are about sex and violence. Time for censors to act (Oct 17, 2006); Censors were right to cover genitals in London Financial Times picture (May 14, 2007); Vital that we reinforce good industry practices to uphold our 'clean' image (Jun 6, 2007)

Shame on those who do not give people with mental illness a chance to prove themselves

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. October 17, 2007)

I refer to Mr Andrew Seah's letter, 'Why are employers reluctant to give the mentally ill a chance?' (Online forum, Oct 15).

While I feel it is very heartless of employers to overlook the hiring of persons who have or had mental illness, there should be more efforts towards informing and educating the public on mental health and related illnesses.

Such information will be vital in making society more understanding of mental-health issues. More importantly, it will combat prejudice against people with mental illness.

Society mostly view mental illness very negatively and associate it with feebleness of character. This is sad as the person will be stigmatised, which can manifest in loss of job opportunities and even friends.

Medication can help regulate and treat mental illness. One who takes medication or have recovered from an illness is not always a professional liability or incapable of performing tasks. Medication alone is useless to helping sufferers of mental illnesses recover, for they also need understanding and support.

Little credit is given to people who have suffered from mental illness and try to regain control and happiness in their lives. And shame on those who have not given themselves a chance to let persons who have or had mental illness to prove themselves.

Mr Seah's letter reveals an aspect of Singapore we have to look into: The lack of compassion. That is an illness our society is suffering from.

Ho Chi Sam

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Straight Thoughts on 377A

Straight Thoughts on 377A by a University Student (Oct 10, 2007)
(initially published on Yawning Bread, http://www.yawningbread.org/guest_2007/guw-144.htm)

“Sam, why are you so pro-gay?”

My classmate asked me this on Friday, as I was asking around to see if people were interested in signing the 377A repeal petition. I had been too busy to reply him then, but here’s my answer:

I’m not pro-gay. I’m anti-injustice.

I think we all encounter injustice in our lives. For example, I am Chinese by ethnicity, but can’t speak Mandarin well. I don’t look very Chinese either. I was frequently mocked in my childhood. “You are Chinese, so you should speak Chinese!” Coming from a neighbourhood school, Mandarin was the predominant language, so I’ve heard that from almost everyone. I felt discriminated against; an injustice to me.

Still, I made the effort to get some Mandarin into my system so that I could pass my exams and get that passport to the local university. (Maybe I was lucky too.)

It was in University that I finally learnt more meaningful things. I admit that initially, I was just there to get a degree, with which I could land myself a well-paying job, and happily leave behind everything I learnt. But I realise that university education has empowered me and made me more confident in expressing my thoughts. It would indeed be a waste if I left all that behind upon graduation.

Another thing I realised, is that thinking alone is useless when those thoughts are not expressed when it comes to standing up for what you believe in.

Maybe it’s a character trait. When I was 17, I read in the newspapers about an audition call for some English drama. I had always been a harsh critic of local television and actors, but it was only then that I realised that it was only too easy to sit on the sofa, point my finger, and open a critical mouth. So I decided to try acting for myself. It turned out to be really tough.

This was probably my own little rite of passage to holding myself accountable for my beliefs, and putting my money where my mouth is. It is for the very same reason that I continually write to the Straits Times Forum, even though my letters are usually rejected or else subjected to a fair amount of editing. The important thing is, I feel like I’m actually doing something that could make a difference, no matter how small, rather than just sitting around and complaining.

So what does a straight guy have to do with sexual minorities? Why even bother?

I believe in respecting spaces; that everyone should have his/her own space and not intrude into other people’s spaces. Perhaps a fair bunch of straight folks have had their ‘horrifying’ experiences with homosexual men, where they felt their personal spaces had been invaded. Then again, there are also many schoolgirls who also have had their ‘horrifying’ experiences with ‘cheekopeks’. There are black sheep in every society and community.

I used to be a homophobe because I did not see how “human” homosexual people were. When I became better able to understand their humanly pains, I started to see the discrimination, ostracism and hatred levelled against them. It’s like telling Chinese-looking kids that they ought to speak Mandarin. Although that may be a poor analogy, I think it’s still meaningful.

Homosexuality: It is an identity. Why are we trying to discipline and punish homosexuals; to “straighten” and institutionalise them according to our privileged predispositions? Why do we want to tell them who, and how, to love? Why do we want to invade their spaces?

Why are straight people so homophobic? Does homophobia justify discrimination, prejudice, and hatred, and do these manifestations justify institutional and legal disciplining and marginalisation of sexual minorities?

I think straight people are very lucky. We don’t realise that we are privileged, being in the position or side that is societally-condoned (at this point in history), and we take that comfort for granted. Straight people already occupy and live in a very big space, yet we continue to deprive sexual minorities of having their own spaces, thinking that it will come at the expense of our space, which is far from the case.

I thought to myself, “Imagine if one day, the community pointed its finger at me and deemed my identity, beliefs and self as wrong, immoral, sinful and illegal…” That would be a very horrible situation. I would experience a lot of dissonance. Would I do the good ol’ Singaporean thing and conform; cause no trouble?

There are people with special needs around us. There are also the poor, the aged and the ill. We don’t bat an eyelid to help them. But when it comes to sexual minorities - who are after all human beings as well - we whip out holy books, we talk about tradition, we talk about gender roles, behaviours and expectations, we even talk about medicine, we talk about our own moral and values system, but for all the ‘expert talk’, we end up not doing anything. Are our compassion and graciousness only limited to certain peoples?

When I went around asking classmates if they were interested in signing the 377A repeal petition, most declined.

“Lack of information”. “I already signed the online one.” (which was just an open letter; not a petition.) “I don’t want trouble.”

We are University students. We’re supposed to be educated, right? We are so vocal in class - we can criticise the government in the classroom, we can engage passionately in discussions - but when it comes to putting names down, when it comes to participating in the democracy, nothing happens. Words aplenty, action so scarce. If you believe in a cause, you have the right to be silent as much as you have the obligation to do something about it. It’s not as if by signing the petition, we are being rude to the authorities or anything. Education empowers you to make a better and informed decision.

Well, there were some legitimate reasons. “It’s my religious belief, sorry.” “I don’t support the idea, sorry.” I just thanked them and apologised at the same time. These people had their beliefs, and clearly stated them. That was fine.

I believe that it takes a lot of guts for straight men to support gay equality. Siew Kum Hong has the guts to stand up, represent and speak up on behalf of sexual minorities in Singapore. That is representative democracy. That is quite “manly” too, to appropriate societal conceptions and stereotypical depictions of the “manly man”. They say if a man can stand up for and defend his wife against a gang of robbers, he’s a “real man”. What about a straight man standing up for gay men? Siew does not stand alone because he has earned the respect of many persons out there. Perhaps this is his rite of passage.

So what does 377A mean to me? I’m not gay, so I admit I can’t fully empathise, but what I see is institutional discrimination. The law doesn’t really care about what straight couples do in the bedroom, but it still “cares” about what gay people do in private. Not only is what they do private, it is most importantly consensual. Why should we punish consensual acts? Minors and persons who don’t give consent, should be protected. That is after all what the law should do. The law should protect; not marginalise communities or even worse, legitimise persistent discrimination. If I were shut up on 377A, I would be allowing discrimination to carry on under my nose. The 70% government subsidy of my university education would be put to shame. If there are other ways I can contribute to society aside from paying taxes, this is just one little thing I can do. I want to say that there are straight men in Singapore who support gay equality. Sexual minorities deserve equal recognition, fair representation, proper respect and similar rights.

Conservative Singapore

(Unpublish - Oct 11, 2007)

Online petitions and "conservative" Singapore

I refer to Chua Hian Hou's report 'Online campaign to repeal gay sex law' (ST, Oct 10).

Firstly, in agreement with Alex Au, online petitions do little to sway policy. This is because of thenature of the internet, where anonymous participation contributes little to the seriousness and validity of some campaigns. This situation is compounded by the fact that the mainstream media and the authorities continue to not take new media activism seriously and that media activism, or activism in general, are not regarded the same way they are in other countries. Singapore should not only be a representative democracy, but also a participatory democracy.

Secondly, I have seen for the umpteenth time the use of "conservative Singapore" rhetoric. Perhaps this has partly got to do with the notion of 'Asian values',which originated in the 1970s and the rise of Asian economic power, emphasizing the difference between East and West. 'Asian values' then took a moral turn to include defenses against what most vocal conservative people deem as moral decay and decadence from Western influence and globalisation. What is very puzzling is that Singapore has many other problems in the 'moral' domain. We are going to have acasino. Prostitution is not illegal. Some Singaporeanmen, married and unmarried, still continue to go to Batam for sex. Sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility among teenagers are still a reality. Why then is more attenion being focused on homosexuality and sexual minorties in general?

Why do we seek to discipline other communities andother peoples, telling them who and how to love? Are Singaporeans truly "conservative", or are they just pushy and demanding of others? Does being"conservative" justify the stigmatisation, ridicule, discrimination and prejudice of other people? Does being "conservative" justify the deprivation of recognition, respect and rights of other communities? Does being "conservative" justify the creation of homogenous values as fitting to a "conservative majority"?

Ho Chi Sam

Mocca.com Advertisement

(ST Forum - Sep 24, 2007)
http://www.straitstimes.com/Free/Story/STIStory_160348.html

Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting

I wrote to Mocca.com on Sept 18 to voice my and my friends' disgust at the tasteless, vulgar advertisement that is being shown frequently over our television channels at all times of the day.

I got a reply from the customer service saying that contrary to our opinion, they had been receiving favourable feedback.

Whilst I agree that people have different interpretations of advertisements, I am wondering who the perverts are who think that this commercial, featuring a skimpily-dressed guy trying to sell his flat, is tasteful.

If majority of Singaporeans think this advertisement is all right, then I am very sad. It means Singapore's moral values have gone down the drain!

Could we have a consensus on this advertisement? If the majority thinks it is disgusting, then Mocca.com should take it off the air.

Vivien Koh Swee Hoon (Ms)

~
(ST Online, Forum - Sep 26, 2007)
Mocca.com commercial: Take it in the right spirit

I REFER to Ms Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement, 'Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting' (Online forum, Sept 24).

The writer must understand that there are a lot more flesh-revealing images on our media today. The man in the Mocca.com advertisement she so detests is apparently a bodybuilder and bodybuilders, just like women in beauty pageants, have to parade in skimpy clothing.

He was even doing standard bodybuilding poses. If that is disgusting, I don't know what isn't.

The advertisement was done to show the dynamism in advertising, using the irrational incompatibility of a bodybuilder selling his house as a technique to both draw laughter and advertise Mocca.com's services.

If Singapore's values have gone down the drain, we might as well scrap bodybuilding and beauty pageants as they reveal too much flesh. In that sense, we might as well ban bikinis and brief-trunks at swimming pools and beaches.

I think it is quite sad that new-age puritanism in our country threatens to rob us of our sense of fun and humour.

Ho Chi Sam
~

(ST Online, Forum - Oct 1, 2007)
http://www.straitstimes.com/ST+Forum/Online+Story/STIStory_162235.html

One's idea of fun and humorous may be highly offensive to others and harmful to society

I REFER to Mr Ho Chi Sam's letter, 'Mocca.com commercial: Take it in the right spirit' (ST, Sept 26).

I strongly disagree with his views that Ms Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement, 'Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting' (ST, Sept 24), constituted 'new-age puritanism'.

Ms Koh, as a concerned member of the public, has the right to object to the advertisement's indecent and offensive content.

''Decency' is determined by what members of the public think it is, and when they express it to be decent or indecent, as Ms Koh has done.

Mr Ho should cease from extreme labels such as 'new-age puritanism'.

What he finds fun and humorous may be highly offensive to others and harmful to society.
Ms Koh's complaint is a legitimate call to decency. We should avoid unhelpful and hurtful labelling of others.

The right to free speech is not absolute; there are unwritten responsibilities attached to any right under the law.

Public decency is a common good or community value. We should not objectify human bodies, but appreciate and uphold the dignity of each person.

Andrew Lim Chia Wei

~

(Unpublished - Oct 1, 2007)

I refer to Andrew Lim Chia Wei's letter (ST, Oct 1), which addressed my reponse (ST, Sep 26) to Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's letter of complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement featuring a bodybuilder selling his house (ST, Sep 24).

Lim, a homophobic married man who himself champions public morality (see ST, Jul 26 2007; also see http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2007/yax-765.htm), mentions my view that Koh's complaints constituted new-age puritanism. I would like to point out that Koh herself had attempted to rally Singaporeans to provide theirviews on this advertisement, and went on to say that "If majority of Singaporeans think this advertisementis all right, then I am very sad. It means Singapore's moral values have gone down the drain!" (ST, Sep 24,fourth paragraph). This indicates that she expects oneout of two possible answers to be favourable, using her universalised notion of "Singapore's moral values"to influence potential respondents.

The want to universally or uniformly enforce the disciplining of sexuality and gender roles constitutes some aspects of puritanism. If Koh disliked the advertisement, because the bodybuilder was Asian, a bad actor or anything else other than promoting theerosion of morality, I feel the problem is justconfined to Koh's aesthetic preferences.

Tastefulness and distastefulness have nothing to do with morality, and hence nothing to do with my view on the Mocca.com advertisement. If the Mocca.com advertisement was truly morally degraded and offensive, I advise concerned individuals to also lookat the cartoons children are exposed to.

1) In 'Spongebob Squarepants', there are blatant representations and displays of bare buttocks. Some characters' chins resemble buttocks and scrotum. Some characters' noses resemble erect penises. Spongebob's pet snail's name "Gary" is a Scottish slang forbuttocks.

2) In 'Cow and Chicken', there were also blatant displays of buttocks and numerous crude slangs forbuttocks. The character Chicken's waddle looks like scrotum, and the character Cow's udders are oftencrudely presented. There are also animal-like suggestions in the use of "beaver", which is a slang for the woman's vagina.

3) In other cartoons, you can observe "camel-toes" on female characters, whose tight trousers reveal the outline of the female anatomy, a pair of labia.And the above are only cartoons. What are the champions of public morality doing about it?

Furthermore, in the real world, we have bikinis,thongs, hipster pants, and brief-trunks, worn by people at public places or when participating incontests. How do people like Lim and Koh reconcile their disgust with the Mocca.com advertisement and all these other realities that surround us?

People who champion public morality and conservatismneed to understand the following:

1) People have different values systems.
2) Value systems change in time.
3) Is there consistency in what they champion? If so, should they champion the ban of beauty pagents andbody builder contests too, in accordance to Koh's reasoning?

I shall now pose this question to one and all: In place of the local chinese bodybuilder in the advertisement, what if it were Arnold Schwarchenegger in his physical prime, in that advertisement, speaking in his Austrian-accented English? Or what if it were, no offence to the advertisement, done by another bodybuilder with better acting skills? We first have to understand the difference between distastefulness and immorality. Next, if we have inconsistent answers involving my hypothetical question with Schwarchenegger, I do not think the issue concerns morality, but a question of how one perceives the Asian body. Is the Asian body more distasteful than the Western one then? Perhaps we still have this mentality to easily view the 'West' as relatively more morally decadent than us 'East', thus allowing us to let Schwarchenegger slip off our moral police radar.

Humanity has disciplined the woman's body for many centuries. Look at corsets, feet-binding, witchcraft accusations, the bur'qa and so on. The public morality champions in Singapore are continuing the disciplining and policing of male and female bodies, justifying their actions and campaigns based on predisposed and preconceived notions of a possible uniformalised moral governance of humanity and of course views on genderroles and sexuality. I still maintain my stand that we should be able laugh at ourselves. As for the practice of being morally upright, it is up to us to empower ourselves to make the right decisions for us and our families as how wedeem fit, and not impose on others our values system. People in the 1950s saw Elvis Presley's dancing as vulgar, and do we want to revive that button-upculture and impose it on everyone in Singapore? Then all schoolgirls should wear ankle-high skirts.

Also, my point is never to impose my values on any one because I simply did not state them, but to let Lim know that there exist many values systems out there. Since there exist many values systems in society, it is difficult to uniformalise or homogenise society.Since it is difficult to do so, groups will strive toget bigger and bigger, so they have greater representation and vocality to influence administration and policy. You only have to look to the Straits Times Forum to know where these groups o fpeople belong. How then, do we celebrate diversity if you cannot tolerate it?

Ho Chi Sam