Monday, November 12, 2007

Appreciate Diversity

(Unpublished - Nov 7, 2007)

Appreciate Diversity

Dear Editor,

I refer to ‘Families and gays must keep an open mind’ and ‘Homosexuals should know that change is possible’, letters respectively written by Kelvin Lu Zixian and Shawn Tay Liam Yaw.

Both suggest the option of reparative theory to ‘straighten’ the sexual orientation of individuals. However, the generalisability of reparative therapy for all ‘confused’ persons is problematised by the fact that sexual orientation cannot be validly explained by science and that reparative therapy has a history of strong religious support.

To ‘re-orientate’ the sexuality of a person poses ethical implications, as well as possible averse consequences on the person’s psychological well-being. Societal attitudes and most religious teachings have already instilled a fair amount of guilt into the psyche of sexual minorities, causing most to have identity dissonance and psychological distress. Sexual minority youth are a lot more vulnerable to these problems.

We must understand that science and religion can be political, in the way they determine how society creates labels for different peoples. Sexuality, at the same time, should be understood as diverse and heterogeneous. Most successful reparative therapies may claim they have ‘straightened’ homosexual people, but how can we be sure that these therapies did not merely emphasized one component of bisexual identity, suppressing the other?

What exacerbates the problems brought about by the unseen agenda of and political relationship between science and religion, is that lack of visibility of various sexual identities. The invisibilisation process of minorities is only hastened by the socio-religious and political legitimisation of heteronormality, perpetuating an endless cycle of guilt and disonnance in sexual minorities. Furthermore, most of us conflate sexual minorities into criminals, drug addicts, paedophelia, bestiality and other social ills, diminishing their citizenship and humanity.

To be civil and socially responsible, we have to appreciate diversity and complexities, and not resort to discarding what the majority of people define as “different”, for the social definition of “different” changes in time. Diversity may threaten internal moral communities given conflicting values, but the very essence of survival in the modern world is coexistence and not ostracism, excommunication, disincentivisation, criminalisation, discrimination and prejudice.

Onus is on moral communities to remove the barricades and stop drawing lines, processes of which will only create more minorities. This will probably lead to ideological dilution of the community, but the rhetoric of “moral decay” is often used instead. Furthermore, we must question the rationale of policing sexual morality and the need to control people belonging to other moral communities.

It is ultimately not a question of who is, what is, or why is it. The reality is that there are minorities and there are people and institutions that maintain this. What are we going to do about it?

Ho Chi Sam

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