Friday, February 8, 2008

Religion and accepting sexual minorities 101
Anonymous Mom-o'-Success said...

Quoting Solo Bear: "Pro-gays appear to say that anti-gays see homosexuality from the religious perspective. Maybe it’s true."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, which I too concur with. Now, my two-cent's worth of thoughts:

I shall not be apologetic even if my view on homosexuality is perceived as very much a religious perspective or even if I am accused of fanaticism. And if it is true that pro-gays find it unacceptable that religion is an element in a discourse on gay lifestyle, how then does one explain gays wanting to be part of a religious outfit - like being ordained a priest, or being married in a church, or practising a religion which by tradition equates homosexuality with the commission of a sacrilege and a scourge...?

If pro-gays or gays themselves deem it unjustified to argue along the line of religion in wanting to justify their stance, it is only fair not to link their cause and their battle to any religion which preaches otherwise, nor should gay proponents make attempts to convince and influence heterosexuals or offspring of heterosexuals into embracing their way of life, and penalising those who choose not to play by their rule.

This had happened where I work when certain gay educators were proven to have given preferential treatment towards effeminate male students (who are not necessarily gay) they wanted to 'convert' to their lifestyle, or students who seemed to be inclined towards a gay lifestyle. They failed to observe professional work ethics, put the students at ransom (some succumbed to their veiled threats to ensure good grades). In so doing, they have blatantly imposed on the students' beliefs and convictions to satisfy their baser needs. And that is certainly disgusting.

Yet gays and pro-gays would often see themselves as victims, helpless and discriminated against. As illustrated through the above account, they are very much the predators. In wanting to satisfy their carnal desires, they compromised on the vows they were supposed to uphold as educators.

I share your view when you said "They can engage in their relationship for all I care..." as I take the stand that we should agree to disagree. Yet in my faith, the status of a gay is even lower than that of a prostitute. One may have heard of how the devils would rejoice at an illicit, out-of-wedlock carnal relation, but those same devils would distance themselves from being witness to the same act involving two of the same sex.

As stated earlier, I shall not be apologetic in presenting a religious perspective on the issue of homosexualism. If God had wanted gay lifestyle to be the accepted way of life, would there not be Adam and Adam instead of Adam and Eve; or would not one son be married to another son of Adam, or a daughter be married to another of his daughters. And would God not have created a womb in the man as well as the woman for the purpose of procreation through same-sex intercourse ...?

Even in the animal kingdom, mating would involve two, each from the opposite gender. As a believer in the Creator, I would say that God has designed life on earth such that the opposite attracts and the opposite complements one another.

And we would talk of the natural thing to do in nature, as opposed to an unnatural thing to do, like engaging in a lifestyle that is traditionally, customarily, generically, unnatural. And something which is unnatural is abnormal, bizarre, preposterous, pseudo, outrageous, perverse, perverted, made-up, freaky, deviant, gross, weird, irregular, sham, queer, man-made, phony... the list goes on and none too pleasing to hear.

The gays and pro-gays are fighting tooth and nail to force down the throat of their detractors their world view of a world devoid of time-tested morality and social mores - whatever the faith or religion; yet cry "Foul!" when faced with views which oppose their idea of an ideal lifestyle.

If the animals (which are devoid of humanistic thinking skills) can understand the need to complement, be attracted by or be attractive to the opposite sex, then where would gays be placed, really, in the hierarchy of living beings...? Below that of creatures in the animal kingdom...? If that's the case, is it right then to take society down with them to a level below that of creatures in the animal kingdom...?

For sexual minority rights to be a more legitimate issue in Singapore, a new set of discourses, approaches and focus should be explored.

Gone are/should be the approach to "religious fundies" that they are bigoted, blinkered, biased and other unkind "B" words. When you confront anti-gay religiosity, you have to address both elements and not remove religion and religiosity from the discourse.

At the same time, when you confront absolutist thought and teleological reasoning/explanations, you cannot simply bring in relativism and skepticism. In modern political society, you have to enter the framework within which the absolutist thought resides. You don't seek to disprove absolutist thought, but seek to discover the limitations and inconsistencies that form part of it, and make them explicit and known.

Identities, as in different identities and diversity, always pose a challenge to authority. Authority is a dictionary, with words, definitions and symbols to determine what society and meanings should be. The notions of diversity and identity, good/bad, right/wrong, natural/unnatural, purity/pollution, human/animal are also moulded by authority. For anything that falls outside the categorisation of an authority, there are mechanisms in place to prevent or arrest this problem. This is internalised by people who subscribe to this authority, and sometimes subscription is not only based on irrational faith, but also economic dependency, emotional leverage and socio-political integration. Binary oppositions and dichotomies are constructs that inform of the dominant narrative that underlies a society.

In political discourse, it's not about philosophy or deconstructionism. You cannot make someone feel apologetic or sorry for what he or she believes in. As mentioned, you either discover the inconsistencies or contradictions in the system, or the flaws perpetuated by the system.

So, how does one deal with another who believes "gay" is a lifestyle, a trend, a fad, something that can be adopted and discarded, learned and unlearned, a phase? In linguistics, as in anthropology, a person's understanding of "gay", for example, is shaped by the symbols provided for them by authority and socialisation. In psychoanalysis, the person internalises the meanings, as well as the anxieties, of his/her social environment. In culturalism or symbolic interactionism, and even in social constructionism, these meanings and anxieties are made up of cultural ascriptions, through time and space.

In political discourse, you cannot bring these perspectives in. Political discourses deal with immediate problems and their "immediate" causes. There is also an economic agenda. So there isn't really much space for social theory and critical discourses.

For a better understanding, politics is also a language. In the language, there is a logic which determines how reality is perceived and lived. The language is inclusive as well as it is exclusive and isolating. In a society, a person is currently gay because he chose to be gay, or he is ill. As he is ill, he can be treated with "medicine" and "therapy", be institutionalised and re-institutionalised, integrated and re-integrated into society and the "natural order of things". In another society, gay-ness is just one who many other identities. If you don't have a language for homosexuality, it becomes framed a disease, a trait that can be eliminated, just because it doesn't figure in what is prescribed to be the natural order of things.

So how do we address heterocentric/homophobic religiosity? You have to enter the field on which this form of religiosity is playing and engage it. You have to pick up the same holy book the person reads and you have to talk about it.

Religious homophobia is prevalent and normalised. You don't take religious homophobia out of its domain for debate; you have to instead enter its domain. Homophobic religiosity is the body, while diverse sexualities are the virus. Homophobic religiosity is the pillar of society, while diverse sexualities are the termites. That is the dominant thinking. Homophobic thought sees introduction of change and its possibilities as subversion, as criminal, disrespectful, antagonistic.

Majority of society will never see homophobia as a disease crippling society. Their definition of diversity is limited to what serves their political purpose and economic agenda. If you want to talk about sexual minority rights, you enter the domain as the ill, the virus, the disease, the unwanted. You start from the bottom and you work your way up. This necessitates a different approach: one that is assertive, but not aggressive, antagonistic, alienating, arrogant. You need to be, as one prominent public official mentioned, gracious, nevermind if others are not.

Once you have accepted that you are fighting a losing battle, you have finally made the first step to fighting the losing battle. While others might "agree to disagree", you should "disagree to disagree" because you believe in something, because you have the same right to believe just like your opponent. You don't question the beliefs of others, but you will have to work a lot harder to create a situation or an environment in which others will question their own beliefs and absolutism. If the base for their absolutism is more absolutist belief, you might think you have hit a dead-end, but you have done a lot more than before. Make sure not only the function, but also the form and substance of absolutism is questioned.

Questioning is not about destablisation or displacement, for it paves the way for a deeper or wider understanding of something. For example, we should always question why and how absolutist thought defends itself. Sometimes, absolutist thought defends itself from being questioned, and you have to question why so. At the same time, you shouldn't make assertions that certain thoughts are fake or bogus.

How do you deal with a person who sees the world in blue because he/she wears blue-tinted glasses? You leave a pair of yellow-tinted glasses on the table, maybe a pair of green-tinted glasses too. It's up to the person to decide whether he/she wants to wear them, but you already have done most of the work by making it known that the world can be seen in different shades and perspectives. If the person chooses to say the world is "blue", it is up to you to wear the same blue-tinted glasses and engage him/her.

Any way, in my opinion, diversity should not be exclusive or limited. If there are privileges to be given and taken away, it reflects how society/religion views and defines diversity. A certain definition of diversity can create a society of selective listeners who subscribe to a certain notion of logic and reasoning. You cannot transcend it but rather have to tackle it by creating space for questioning.

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