Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Homosexuality Debate Goes On (2005 article)

The following article was written by a younger me almost three years ago. It was done for a class assignment on media writing. I didn't really like the way I wrote it, but still, I realised I had to put it on this blog, but have always procrastinated.

The article sticks out like a sore thumb, given the project's "adopted charity/organisation". Those who know what I'm talking about will probably think I'm a nutcase. Do have a look at the link provided later.

I will be providing afterthoughts in the next entry on what the interviewees have said. When I interviewed Joanna Koh-Hoe, I almost vaguely recall her suggesting I was "one of them" because of the questions I asked. I guess I should then try to register a society "People Like Them".

I genuinely cannot remember why I was actually interested in the topic of homosexuality during the course of the module and project. It was either probably I wanted to go against the direction of the team, which was basically aiming to copy and paste content from the adopted organisation's releases. The adopted organisation, which focuses on the family (pun intended), is so "holy" and upright, and it was probably expected that all the articles written by my 20+ project mates (yes there were more than 20 of us) were probably going to be equally as saintly.

Maybe it was done out of anger, to spite the direction the group was taking. I think I might have been rather apathetic to sexual minority issues. I just took on the topic because preliminary research on the adopted organisation revealed itself to be supremely homophobic. I started to ask the interview questions in my selfish campaign to spite my groupmates and the project.

Somehow along the way, I got more than I bargained for. Yes, I hate group work, and people probably think my EQ is as dismal as Singapore's press freedom ranking. But along the way, I found something I believed in. And now, I believe in what I do, just like everyone does and is entitled to do. So I do my small part and express my views in support of sexual minority rights. It's funny how minorities fight so hard to stop becoming "minorities" - as in the label with which certain kinds of unfavourable treatment is often provided.

For a better picture, just browse the weblink provided, and please don't call me a nutcase.

The Homosexuality Debate Goes On
by Ho Chi Sam
Fourth quarter, 2005

The debate on homosexuality and homosexual rights is ongoing. Should we be conservative and continue to marginalise the sexual minority, deeming their lifestyle immoral and sinful? Or should we adopt a libertarian perspective and accept and respect such lifestyle diversity? More importantly, can homophobia in Singapore society be cured?

With a different sexual orientation from the majority of the population, the sexual minority do have problems. Children and teenagers who discover they may have homosexual tendencies do not get the proper help and support they require, says Laurence Leong, a senior sociology lecturer in the National University of Singapore, whose current research covers news media, human rights and sexual policies.

“They turn to the church. The church will say it (homosexuality) is sinful,” Leong said, “So they turn to the school. The school will further reinforce that homosexuality is not right. So they turn to their parents. Parents are heterosexual. So who can they turn to?”

“In Singapore , we have many policies like housing policies and health policies. Along with these policies, we have welfare, which is implicit. However, there are no explicit sexual policies, and the same can be said about welfare.”

Leong says religion is generally conservative towards the issue of homosexuality. In a brief survey of 10 male youths and 10 female youths, all agreed that the values of any religion all point to heterosexuality. “Homosexuality is not natural,” said a male polytechnic student, 19, who is a Catholic.

This is echoed by Joanna Koh-Hoe, vice president of Focus on the Family Singapore. “Homosexuality in any religion, not only Christianity, is a sin, and morally it is wrong.”

“It is just human logic. Nature won't put a man and a man together and then they have kids,” said Koh-Hoe, who is an NUS psychology graduate. She said she believed “certain basic values should be homogenised” and “there should be a need for governing guidelines” so that the institution of the family is maintained.

However, there is a church that holds different beliefs. Free Community Church and its ministry, Safehaven, provide the Christian sexual minority population a place for worship and counseling. The Church believes that diversity should be embraced and society cannot be easily homogenised.

Safehaven is “gay affirmative and provides a platform for gay, lesbian and bisexual Christians to develop their spirituality, particularly those with faith-sexuality conflicts,” according to its website. Safehaven also provides seminars and talks. The content ranges from sexual responsibility, AIDS awareness and Bible studies.

In a July 5, 2003 , Straits Times article and July 7, 2003 , edition of Time, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced that gay people would not be discriminated against in employment by the state. This was greeted with a protest by the “Love Singapore ” movement. The movement, started in 1995 by Apostle Lawrence Khong from Faith Community Baptist Church , is supported by a local network of Protestant churches.

Both Dr Leong and Siew Meng Ee, 30, a pro-temp member of People Like Us, see the campaign of intolerance and protest against the sexual minority as one that can be mistaken for “hate” and “hate speech.”

The ‘Love Singapore ' movement believes that “homosexuality is an immoral lifestyle” and use the agenda of religion and the state to justify its cause.

“The state is patriarchal. Its values are patriarchal,” Leong said, “Why is religion used to justify intolerance towards groups? Shouldn't religions preach acceptance? Why is there a need to draw a line between people, accepting one, rejecting another?”

People Like Us is a society that strives to promote tolerance and the integration of the sexual minority into Singapore society. Many see them as promoters of homosexual lifestyle, instead of educators on tolerance.

Siew said, “People Like Us couldn't get registered as an organisation (in Singapore ) because general attitudes are still homophobic.”

Most counselors in Singapore offer reparative therapies for sexually confused persons. “In reparative therapy, they try to convert the individual who has homosexual tendencies to become a heterosexual,” Siew said, “They believe that homosexuality is wrong and can be corrected through counseling. I've a friend who went through the sessions, and he comes out even more confused.

“Counselors won't accept the fact that these persons-in-need may be homosexual, and they won't allow them to embrace their natural sexuality.”

Siew believes that troubled gays and sexually confused persons need help and counseling, just like normal people with problems. “It's very easy to say it is a sin and not do anything about their problems.”

Focus on the Family Singapore does provide counseling sessions. Koh-Hoe said, “However, when the individual is accepting of his homosexuality, Focus on the Family will refer him to relevant help groups and counselors to follow up.”

Joanna acknowledged that Focus is aware that there are teenagers who struggle with their sexual identity. Counseling and education are provided, she said, converting these teenagers to heterosexuality. “We have a values system and we want to promote these values, so we don't promote homosexuality,” she said.

A “Social Attitudes of Singaporeans” survey was conducted in 2001 by the former Ministry of Community Development and Sports, now the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports. The survey found that 85% of the 1,841 respondents find homosexual behaviour unacceptable.

This lack of acceptance can lead to inequality for the sexual minority. “(Homosexuality and equality) will always be a touchy topic. You need to be a minority, so you can see things (the majority of) people normally don't,” Leong said

So what is the solution to curing homophobia in Singapore society?

“They (the sexual minority) must be successful in what they do. This gains them the respect and recognition. That will decrease homophobia,” Leong said.

Siew summed up it, “Sexuality is just a small part of life, like schooling, working and getting up to brush your teeth. We just want these biases to be removed.”

No comments: