Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I got outed as gay by the Straits Times!

Hi, my name is Sam. I am 25 this year. I am going to be married at the Registry of Marriages to my girlfriend of 5 years on May 2, 2008. I think I got "outed" by the Straits Times today, just by them changing the title of my letter (note the underlined). Their editorial work is a slippery slope to conflating people with different ideas all into one.

One step forward for acceptance of diversity, but many more steps to go

(Original article - written March 31, 2008)

I refer to the article by Chang Ai-Lien ‘MM's reassuring comments seal researcher's move here’ (ST, Mar 29).

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 in the report are Lee Kuan Yew’s views in an interview last year, which state that while homosexuality is genetic and the lives of gay people should not be interfered.
While this is symbolic of tolerance of sexual minorities in Singapore, we need to exercise caution at how egalitarianism is strategically practised in Singapore.

In 2001, Michelle Lazar has written a paper ‘For the Good of the Nation: Strategic Egalitarianism in the Singapore Context’, addressing how the granting of equality, to women in this instance, is contingent upon meeting particular pragmatic nationalist objectives.

As such, I feel that while tolerance and acceptance of diversity should not be expressed primarily in terms of economic progress and development, it should also extend beyond the mere inclusion of non-Singaporeans.

If the increased tolerance of sexual minorities in Singapore 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.

At the same time, we should be quick to debunk the myths and stereotypes we hold of what are Asian values and conservatism, and how we use the rhetoric to almost exclusively associate the West with corruptive moral liberalism. Such a view will lead to a stronger denial of homosexuality in Asian communities, rendering sexual minorities invisible and emotionally unsupported.

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 solely accepted based on what we perceive them to be worth, but be fundamentally accepted for who they are.

Ho Chi Sam

Article below published in the Straits Times Online Forum, April 2, 2008.

Gays: Be careful of double standards

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

Afterthoughts: I got "outed"! Yes, I got a bit of my message across, but the people at the Straits Times have changed the title to "Gays: Be careful of double standards".

Knowing some basic English, the title means that there is a group of people called "gays" who are saying something, i.e. "Be careful of double standards", a phrase that is placed after the colon. Since I wrote the letter, I might be considered gay!

Of course there could be another interpretation, where the topic is on gay people, hence the topic "Gays"; and the sub-title would be "Be careful of double standards".

Shouldn't the title be "Straight man: Be careful of double standards"? I feel I've been grouped with the gay community, which totally undoes my intentions to prove that people from different segments of society may share different beliefs. I want to prove that there are people in fairly privileged positions, such as being heterosexual, that stand for the rights of others who are marginalised.

Not only am I a "gay" who warns of double standards, the word printed was "gays", which meant that I was part of a group trying to send a message across.

As mentioned before, I also believe that the word "gay" should be used as an adjective and not a noun. The press has yet to develop a sensitivity towards sexual minorities comparable to that towards other minorities. I mean, you don't label a segment of people with special needs "mental retards". We should not isolate one aspect of a person's identity and assume it to be his/her sole identity. Such simplistic labelling will engulf his/her other traits.

Of course, maybe the word "gays", followed by the colon and subtitle, was meant to refer to the topic of gay people and gay rights, rather than the speaker/writer/representative of the community. I hope.

9 comments:

Leon Koh said...

it's all about the choice of words.. life's confusing.. dont we all know..

Sam Ho said...

ya. but sometimes confusion leads to conflict. i don't know much about life though, but i'd prefer it to be simple haha.

Ned Stark said...

Haha...its rather unfortunate but it happens. Dr Huang has often written to the papers but his letters have not been spared the ruthlessness of the editors scissors. Nevertheless its rather laudable that you continue to write to the ST forum day in day out.

Sam Ho said...

thanks. when i have the time, i'll always write to the straits times, because it can't possibly be allowed to be dominated by people who praise the government or continue to enforce certain norms they think are universalistic.

the little eastern heretic said...

actually, i would have thought the second meaning would be the obvious one.

cos you, as the letter-writer, are only one person and hence cannot be considered 'gays'. so the first meaning wouldn't stand.

Sam Ho said...

yup, correct.

i was just taking the mickey out of the way the article was titled.

but it's interesting how the colon mark is used to sometimes separate speaker and speech, and other times separate headline and subtitle.

Xin Yi said...

I feel so extra, commenting on your blog. teeheee. anyways, congratulations, and maybe my future posts, if there will be any? should be on your other blog, haha cause i get bored. ok, makes no friggin sense. thankyou. byebye. cya arnd.....

Various Ramblings of A Random Mind said...

Freedom of speech > Social Acceptance of sexual minorities. Agreed? Without the first you have little of the second.

Sam Ho said...

totally agree.

conceptually, freedom of speech the largest hurdle. (on a sidenote, i'd prefer freedom of information)

but in order to remove the hurdle, we might have to engage in the smaller things.

it's more chicken-and-egg rather than just the egg, in practice.