(Published - ST Forum. April 2, 2008)
I refer to last Saturday's Science section article by Ms Chang Ai-Lien, 'MM's reassuring comments seal researcher's move here'. The article reports that Professor Kerry Sieh, who is gay, has recently accepted to work at the region's biggest earth observatory because of the increased tolerance of gay people in Singapore. Also cited are Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's views in an interview last year, which state that while homosexuality is genetic, the lives of gays should not be interfered.
While this is symbolic of tolerance of sexual minorities in Singapore, we must exercise caution at how egalitarianism is strategically practised in Singapore. Tolerance and acceptance of diversity should not be expressed primarily in terms of economic progress and development. It should extend beyond the mere inclusion of non-Singaporeans.
If the increased tolerance of sexual minorities is purely symbolic and articulated for the economic imperative, for example, the attraction of foreign talent, I worry for the local sexual minority community, for little will be actually done to improve public education and the social integration of people of other sexual orientation. I hope this does not result in a double-standard treatment of local and foreign sexual minorities.
As Singaporeans so ingrained with the values and rhetoric of economic pragmatism, we should be aware of how we accept diversity. People should not be accepted based solely on what we perceive them to be worth. They should be accepted fundamentally for who they are.
Ho Chi Sam