Saturday, October 20, 2007

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, 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 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


Alfian said...

First of all, thank you. : )

It is a political reality in Singapore that when speaking out about minority issues, the ones who come from the majority will tend to possess more credibility.

This is because the discursive space has been so frozen such that any calls, claims or demands made by a member of a minority group is seen as the promotion of self-interest, or to use a much more pernicious term, contains a 'self-serving agenda'.

Someone wrote in to the ST forum once asking why Siew Kum Hong had to mention that he is a straight man working for the repeal of 377A. The writer found the issue of Mr Siew's sexual orientation irrelevant.

But it demonstrates political naivete on the writer's part. The fact that Mr Siew is straight allows him to draw attention to the universality of the cause. This is something that goes beyond empathy. It is about a certain politics of equivalence. It is about being able to draw the connection between the oppression of homosexuals and the erosion of a secular, pluralist democracy.

Alfian. : )

Sam Ho said...

"I am a heterosexual man, married to a heterosexual woman and we have four heterosexual children. We believe that the right upbringing by parents will prevent improper and deviant future behaviours.
We also believe in a God who loves both the heterosexual and the gay, but He hates the sin of immorality."

George Lim Heng Chye. July 15, 2003. Straits Times Forum.

identity is important.