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.


Miak said...

chanced upon your blog. excellent writing.


Sam Ho said...

thank you.