Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AWARE, Jihadist Sleeper and Unanswered Questions

I had the privilege to meet playwright Alfian Sa'at in person at the recent Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance (SinQSA) meet-up last Saturday.

During the SinQSA meet-up, I (cautiously and politely, I was probably scared shitless by the turn-out) addressed the implications of the AWARE saga on Singapore, and at the same time talked a little bit about sexual identity and orientation.

A member of AWARE also dropped by to share with us her experience in counselling and social work. She also talked about the kind of help that AWARE provides for the community.

Yes, back to Alfian. Deep down inside, I was a little awed talking to him. I guess I am like that when meeting most people I have read about in the news. (Maybe if I meet George Lim Heng Chye, I might feel a bit awed too). Perhaps it is the respect I have for such figures and personalities.

We discussed for a while about the death threats made to one of the new executive committee members. One exco member was reported to have received a letter by a "masculine gay", who is a "Jihadist sleeper".

I gave my thoughts to Alfian, after which I said I wanted to blog about it but felt I was not in the right position to comment. Firstly, I am not a Muslim. Secondly, it is religiously sensitive. He said it's ok I talk about it, so here goes.

The "masculine gay" term seems to be awkwardly constructed. From what I hear, read and research, people will usually identify as "gay", "gay man", "homosexual", but seldom "masculine gay".

In fact, even "masculine gay", which somehow presents an oxymoron, is more remotely used, and would rank before, say, someone who identifies as a "twink", "bear", "chub", "cub" and so on. That said, a gay man is seldomly likely to say, "Pleased to meet you, I am a bear!"

So, self-identified homosexual men will normally use "man" or "male" as the noun to their adjective "gay" or "homosexual". In fact, "man"/"male" is already more obvious, and the statement/declaration would be simply "gay".

In a world fraught with terror and American discourses on terrorism, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical about the death threat, knowing that it came from a "Jihadist sleeper".

First and foremost, from what I know, the word "Jihadist" is an anglicised word, set in a Islamophobic context. Simply put, a Muslim person will not identify himself/herself as a "Jihadist". "Jihadist" is a label from an Islamophobic discourse, created for the rest of the world, non-Muslims in particular, to "understand" terrorists who happen to have identified as Muslim.

Words, symbols and terms change in time. The pink triangle, originated from the World War Two Nazi persecution of homosexual people, took a couple of decades or so to be finally used as to represent queer identities/movements.

Currently, I doubt we are "mature" enough to embrace "Jihadist" as a positive or neutral word, let alone a symbol for a social movement. It is still too early for us to shed away the Islamophobic undertones of the word.

I have heard from various Muslim elders and in documentaries, and a rather inspiring piece of philosophy, that "the greatest Jihad is from within". It is rather unfortunate that Islamophobic discourses have hijacked the philosophical nature of Jihad and associated the term with overt violence.

Jihad represents the struggle with the self. I may not understand the tenets of Islam, or the deeper abstract spiritual/religious notions associated with the statement, but even a simple literal understanding of it is sufficient for me to see how Islamophobic discourses have change our idea of "Jihad". To this extent, I feel "Jihadist" is a colonised version of the word "Jihad", to come to embody unsympathetic impressions and conceptions of Islam.

Death threats, in this case the ones that the new AWARE exco members received, have no place in our society and they ruin dialogue and civil society. However the nature of the death threat involving the "Jihadist sleeper" is a bit suspicious.

Of course, perhaps the writer of the death threat wanted to write a message in the "language" of the reader, who might probably be more inclined to Islamophobic rhetoric and discourses. That too is a possibility, but that will require a lot more cultural savviness on the part of the angry writer.

And even if the issuer of the threat is a culturally savvy person, why would he/she/it/hir/hyr/zhe (in case the person might be transgenderal, we need to consider these self-identifiable pronouns too!) make a self-reference of a "Jihadist"? Like I said, the word "Jihadist" is currently imbued with negative meanings from the Islamophobic lens. The term "Jihadist" is currently a third-person's label, and it does not help that a majority of people in the world, influenced by media and rhetoric, have attributed it to acts of terrorism.

I hope what I say here makes sense. So please think about the "Jihadist sleeper" threat.

I believe there are more civil ways to "threaten" people (not really threaten actually). Boycotts are an example of non-violent measures to get your message across. But you should have tried engaging in dialogue first, before finding other strategies to be heard.

Operation Leper is one form of boycott. It is an initiative that calls for the boycott of businesses owned/managed by various members of the new exco. I believe this is part and parcel of life in civil society and the community. We are always making negotiations and demands, and in the process there is a lot of arm-twisting.

Since dialogue is useless to improving transparency and honesty, a boycott of related businesses is a sound strategy to send a message. Physically, there is no harm. But for an middle-to-upper class person, it hits hard at the money. Any way, the call to boycott is only effective if people heed the call and act. So there is an element of personal choice, where the "boycotter" voluntarily decides to stop patronising the business. There is nothing malicious here. All is fair in the world of business. Business is built on the foundation of good relations with your publics any way. Maliciousness is when people want to burn your coffeeshop down, not stop buying coffee from you.

So when the business of middle-to-upper class people who are involved in civil society are hit, they will probably move down the Maslow's hierarchy of needs and their true priorities will come to be revealed, whether they care more about society or the money-making stuff.

Still, the death threats posed to the new exco should be taken seriously and condemned. Death threats are a threat to pluralism, although the new exco members are also a symbolic threat to pluralism themselves. In pluralism, you have got to have the representation and participation of various people, not only middle-to-upper class Christian ethnic Chinese women. Can women of other backgrounds, culture, religion, etc. feel safe like that?

Back to threats, I hope the matter is resolved quickly. Do not make threats, especially death threats. If you feel aggrieved, there are many channels to help you. Unless, of course, it is MINDEF, where there are no such channels because you have ultimately no rights, and dozens of deaths and suicides cannot shake its uncompassionate and soulless structure.

Instead of writing death threats, you can talk to community leaders, your MP, any MP actually, a Minister (who is only one email away), talk to the press, or get someone who is a respected public figure to represent your views. After Seng Han Thong was, on two occasions, punched and torched, I am sure MPs will continue to reassure people that they will do their best to help them, and I am sure the government will make a greater effort to listen, just to reduce the possibility of more casualties.

Don't "participate" by bringing violence into the picture, because there are better ways to be heard and to be respected for what you have got to say.

By the way, the AWARE extraordinary general meeting has been moved from Toa Payoh to Expo. It is a huge thing. Even if the new exco members retain their seats, I expect greater backlash, in the form of boycotts, aggregated public information (i.e. information of the members that have previously been on the internet, so that is not really an invasion of privacy) and of course pressure on the organisation to be "inclusive". At the philosophical level, I am interested the kind of feminism the new AWARE will adopt. They will be under a lot of pressure to define and explain it all.

Ideally, the vote of no confidence should stand, simply because AWARE needs plural and diverse participation and representation.

At the same time, I do not think the AWARE coup on March 28 was as elaborately orchestrated as what most speculations would have claimed. But I believe that each of these (new) women have individually garnered support and membership (for their supporters) prior to the AGM, and it probably spread among family and friends, so it will not appear too obvious that each of them actually engineered their own victory, never mind all of them engineering the takeover together.

If only we knew the truth. This world is a shitty place because of two things, people don't listen enough, and they are not honest enough.

So what if Dr Thio Su Mien is their "feminist mentor"? She has only "good" intentions as she claims. Mind you, the women who stood for elections had to be democratically elected. A lot of the "legitimately elected/voted" rhetoric has clouded and diverted attention away from the fact that AWARE has seen a surge in membership from January onwards.

This leads me back to one of the very first few questions I posed. How and to what extent has the influx of new members in January to March affected the AGM elections?

Attention should be given to these new members. Have they been recruited to vote for these candidates? Sure, they may not know the candidates personally, but have they been instructed or advised or mentored to vote for specific candidates?

Sometimes we allow the rhetoric of "democracy" to pass through the metal detector. But this time, we must look at how the constitution of AWARE was (ab)used in the first place. If it is a case of "majority wins", why not bring your own majority in to win?

The press should find out more about the members who joined AWARE from January to March, and who have attended the March 28 AGM to vote. It is strange and risky for an organisation to be lead by women, most of which have yet to pay their dues in the organisation, and all of whom are voted by people who probably haven't paid their dues either. At the same time, not having your hands dirtied doing community work, counselling, running programmes under the banner of AWARE, makes your criticism of AWARE less credible.

It is very much similar to someone criticising television programmes and actors. Most of them have not been part of production or acting before. From experience, I can safely say it is not easy.

Moreover, in the case of the new exco, what kind of feminism do they subscribe to? Do they know what feminism is, or rather, what feminisms are? If they know, good for them, and they do not really need a feminist mentor. For instance, a criticism of poor media representation of women is not constitutive of feminism. You may claim masculinist oppression at the level of the media institution, or at the level of market demand for such misrepresentations. That is not feminism to me, at least not in today's context. You must also consider the choice and the agency of women, and to an extent people who identify as women, as well as people (females) who do not want to identify as women. Is the new exco's feminism homophobic, biphobic, transphobic? Is the new exco's feminism Chinese elitist? Does the new exco see "feminism" as a singular entity, variations of which are nonexistent? Think about that.

On May 2, I believe it is only the beginning. Life will still go on. People will still be unhappy. We can carry on our voluntary boycotts and dialogues. If you believe in furthering the cause of women in Singapore, please go, join and vote; do not vote blindly and without conviction, or just because your friends/family asked you to. You must be convinced that you are contributing to the organisation and to women in Singapore. Women come in all shapes and sizes, all minds and souls (like men, although I occasionally feel men are actually getting the poorer end of the gender equality deal in Singapore these days).

I will be having my first anniversary, so there are personally more important things out there. I love society, but family comes first. For your info, when Adam Sandler said "family comes first" in the movie 'Click', it moved me to tears. Family to me is feeling safe, being honest and happy.

Unfortunately, there are too many people out there obsessed with the form of the family. For me, it is the function that matters.

Yes, this blog entry is over 2,000 words. Congratulations for coming to this sentence. Write in the comments section the secret password "I made it, Sam!" to redeem a special prize from me.

AWARE: Call to Action

We-Are-Aware.sg has made a call:

Hi all, http://www.we-are-aware.sg is a site set up by the old guards of AWARE.

There seems to be lot of support in cyberspace, but we don't know how many of those voices will be attending the EGM.

It would be great if all of you who are intending to come to the EGM and supporting the old guards could register on http://www.we-are-aware.sg, so that we can keep you informed of what to expect at the EGM, dos and don'ts/ etc. It will also help us plan and organise the logistics for the day, and to make sure that the event goes as smoothly as can be expected under these circumstances.

From our viewpoint, what is really at stake is the space for a diversity of views in our cosmopolitan, pluralistic, multiracial, multireligious and multicultural society. The continuance of an all-inclusive and secular AWARE depends on YOUR VOTE.

We hope that you will make the time to attend the EGM and vote for the old Guards.

-add-

Here is a Youtube video featuring a sermon from Church of our Saviour. I have no idea why someone will want to take a video. Interestingly, I actually appreciate watching clips of various religious congregations and practices. If only there's more of that on the Discovery Channel. But for now, there's Youtube.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sam's Sex Education Programme

There is the view that AWARE is trying to promote homosexuality under the banner of "sex education". That made me think of something unrelated to AWARE and homosexuality. (For more, you can read about AWARE's comprehensive sexuality education here)

-add- This is just in. The Ministry of Education has made a release on AWARE's comprehensive sexuality education programme. Click here.

My wife occasionally pokes fun at me, that I am the "boyfriend/husband with no sex education".

That is partly true, because I cannot remember much of the "sex education" I received in school.

Yes, there was "chapter 13" in our Secondary 2 science books. But biology some how turned me off, so I couldn't remember much.

I am a very innocent, bordering on naive kid. I had no idea what on earth was the menstrual cycle, probably till I was 15 or something.

They talk about contraception in the books, and I had no idea what the hell is withdrawal, or rhythm-something (related to the menstrual cycle).

The fact that I had no idea about all these, was because for most of my teens, I had no conception of what sex is all about. Yes, vaginal penetration. Then what? Babies?

Given my rather innocent and asexual teen-hood, I would have probably thrived in Victorian England, or Church of Our Saviour Singapore.

Interestingly, without any conception of sex, I was always attracted to girls, but not in a sexual way probably because (duh) I could not conceive of sex.

I have seen animals do it on the Discovery Channel, and the closest to human beings were the monkeys (although Creationists will frown at this statement).

Given my teenage experiences, I realise there are different "consumers" of sex education. Some are already sexually active, some want to experiment, and some want to go to school and get good grades (me!).

Nevertheless, I feel it is important that sex education today be more comprehensive and polycentric.

For an inadequately (sex) educated person like myself, I believe I can contribute some stuff on sex education. This brand of sex education is rather cultural, than sexual, as you will see.

1) Firstly, teach responsibility. Do not hurt others or yourself. Be responsible, be comfortable, be respectful. (By respectful, I do not only mean say "thank you" after sex)

2) Talk about contraception, the types of contraception, and various (major) religious views on contraception.

3) Talk about abortion, the pros and cons, and various religious views on abortion.

4) Talk about pleasure and erogenous zones in the body, and again discuss various religious and cultural takes on them. Do not invisibilise the clitoris, female orgasm, and render female sexuality as passive.

5) Talk about masturbation, and provide cultural and religious views.

6) Talk about sexual orientation, give a brief history on sexuality and cultural and religious views on sexuality.

7) Talk about sexual identity: Emotional attraction (feelings, fantasies and desires), physical attraction (skin colour, body type, gender type), status attraction (attraction to rich people, or rugged working class men), lifestyle preference (spending quality time with whom), and so on.

8) Talk about conception to birth. Probably can include the scientific and creationist perspective. Isn't that comprehensive enough?

9) Teach about sexually-transmitted infections and diseases (already being taught any way).

10) Provide objective simulations of sexual intercourse, so that the non-porn-watchers among the kids can understand what on earth sex is. Of course, parent consent is required; parents can also come and watch with their kids too.

11) Provide negotiation tips on how to say "no" when you are unwilling to have sex, or when you are tired from having sex. (Sex educators need to have humour too, you know.)

12) Talk about gender roles and some basics on behavioural science: for example masculine behaviour among men, and feminine behaviour among women. Talk about gender confusion, gender identity disorder and so on.

I think it is important for cultures and religions to be represented in sex education. Ultimately, it is up to the kids to choose which views they feel more closely aligned with.

Even better, religious and community representatives can be invited to participate too! They can speak about sex education from their perspective. It will be just like another Racial Harmony Day, minus the ethnic minority costumes.

My sex education proposal also allows parents of kids the option to opt out, and instead have an organisation of their choosing to teach their kids their preferred brand of sex education, abstinence pledges and 19th Century chastity belts and other iron/steel anti-masturbation contraptions included.

This proposal also introduces to our kids the different cultural approaches to sex education. At least kids can understand sex education from the scientific, the religious and the non-religious perspectives.

Hey! Looks like a lay person like me can help shape sex education in Singapore! If Sam can make sex education proposals, so can you! What do you think?

AWARE: The implications

(Unpublished: April 24, 2009. Well, at least I tried)

I refer to the reports on Aware’s Thursday night press conference.

I firstly would like to condemn the death threats some of the new executive committee members were said to have received.

There is no place in Singapore for such uncivilised acts.

We should have, instead, continuous, open and inclusive dialogue.

In view of that, I feel the latest revelations that Dr Thio Su Mien is involved being the takeover of the women’s interest NGO, also threatens this dialogue.

Aware is and has always been pro-women.

Her stance that homosexuality is wrong, and is merely a lifestyle that can be discarded, subjects women who identify as homosexual to becoming marginal or invisible.

I am shocked that the report confirms some degree of a coordinated effort to take over Aware.

I am disappointed that most members of the new executive committee have kept mum of their intentions until Thursday night.

I am saddened by the fact that the feminism practised by these women is exclusionary and discriminatory, namely against sexual orientation.

They could have formed another organisation befitting their collective interest, and along with Aware, present Singaporean women with more choices.

The news have now shown that this faction plays a zero-sum game, one that is intolerant, divisive and not open to dialogue.

As a happily married male Singaporean who identifies as heterosexual, I could have been ignorant and unaffected by the whole saga.

However, I have been worried about the implications of the events that have unfolded.

The support of queer, queer-identified or questioning women does not equate to the promotion of sexuality.

I find the rhetoric, that sexual orientation can be “promoted”, ridiculous and divisive.

It so happens there are sufficient legal and social sanctions here to validate this reasoning and discourse.

It is impossible to have a dialogue if one party does not respect and recognise the other.

It is all the more impossible for society to progress if the diverse representation and participation of women in Aware are unilaterally denied.

It may be for this new Aware a moral victory and the advancement of dialogue, but I feel this is a monologue intolerant of diversity.

Ho Chi Sam

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Christian Post on Aware and Homosexuality

Taken from The Christian Post. (accessed April 26, 2009. 12pm)

New Aware Exco: Real Coup by Homosexual Activists

For the past week they were blasted by members of the public for an aggressive 'takeover'.

But leaders of the 'coup' have revealed to the media that the actual takeover had occurred some years back when certain elements in the organisation had used it as a platform to promote homosexuality.

In an impromptu press conference conducted yesterday at Raffles Town Club, New Aware President Josie Lau opened up on the real crisis behind the NGO that had led the new team to run for leadership positions.

“I was being very polite when I said [that Aware had lost its focus]… It has really not lost its focus but I think it has gone further than that, much, much further than that,” she said.

“It has now become a single-objective organisation. So that's what the new team is here to do: we want to bring Aware back to its original, very noble objective, which is to represent all women, to advance their cause, all women whatever religion and race in areas such as professional development, their private life, their health... We need to look at ageism, all the problems... So we should be pushing those cause."

Lau and the other new leaders, who form a third of the entire exco, were democratically elected at the NGO's annual general meeting last month but have been accused of using strong-arm tactics to gain control of the organisation in what has been negatively portrayed by public media as an act of Christian fundamentalism.

Under the leadership of ex-president Constance Singam, Aware sponsored the screening of the lesbian-themed movie Spider Lilies at its charity gala in 2007. When a concerned parent wrote in to the media asking why Aware’s choice of movie for a charity show was a film about two lesbians who fall in love, Singam said Aware embraced diversity and individual choices and was glad Singapore is now more open to discussing diversity.

In the NGO’s comprehensive sexuality education programme conducted in 30 schools for young girls aged from twelve to 18, homosexuality is regarded as a neutral rather than a negative word.

“The suggestion is that in this programme, young girls from twelve to 18 are taught that it’s okay to experiment with each other,” said Dr Thio Su Mien, the founding partner of a local law firm and first woman law dean at the National University of Singapore. Dr Thio says Aware was started by her contemporaries and friends and as a concerned party she played a part in persuading the four new exco members, namely, Ms Josie Lau, Ms Maureen Ong, Ms Jenica Chua and Ms Lois Ng to join the NGO and is presently acting as their mentor.

“And this is something which should concern parents in Singapore. Are we going to have an entire generation of lesbians?” She added that the parents to whom she had spoken about the sexuality programme were indignant. Such programmes, she noted, are not new and have been taking place in the United States and Europe.

Dr Thio insisted that she was not anti-homosexual. “I have nothing against lesbians or homosexuals personally. On a personal front, I’ve ministered, I’ve counseled them. They are in pain. And very often from families where you have abusive fathers, they do things with their daughters and the daughters revolt, rebel against society. We understand this is what it’s all about.”

On the way the NGO had gradually become a platform for the homosexual agenda, Dr Thio expressed: “I find to my dismay that Aware seems to be only very interested in lesbianism and the advancement of homosexuality, which is a man’s issue,” she said.

“Can we re-focus on the excellent objectives of Aware? Go back to its original purpose for it being an NGO?” She asked, remarking that the organisation had done great work in many areas.

Aware had also invited a Finnish activist as its speaker. The man was known to be a gender activist and started the men’s sub-committee in Aware. Dr Thio said he spoke about sexuality and noted how Finland had once discussed state-funded artificial insemination for women, leading to questions such as same-sex marriage.

Moreover the NGO had been seeing repeated moves to give male affiliate members the right to vote. The new exco questioned if this was a way to allow homosexual activist men to come under the umbrella of Aware. They were also concerned about Aware wanting to give teenagers and foreign women the right to vote as well.

In 2006, Aware held an event featuring lesbian-friendly mothers and lesbian daughters talking about themselves. The NGO had also invited well-known gay activist Alex Au to conduct a health education course on HIV.

Last year, when ex-president Constance Singam wanted to raise membership she mentioned in a newsletter that she was going to talk to SG Butterfly, a group of transvestites.

Honorary treasurer Maureen Ong said that she joined Aware because she was alarmed at the direction the NGO was heading. “I am a mother of three children, so I’m concerned that going forward, what are the children going to be taught on as part of the so-called comprehensive sexual education? I don’t want my children to say that oh, it’s all right to go and experiment with homosexuality, to experiment with anal sex, to experiment with virginity or the pill or even pre-marital sex. I’m concerned. I’m a parent. It’s shocking. How can this be done in our Singapore society?”

The new team also spoke of how two of its members, Aware president Josie Lau and honorary secretary Jenica Chua, had received a death threat after news of them being voted into the exco and how the Aware secretariat and staff members had been hostile and uncooperative.

Ms Chua said that some days ago her company’s corporate communications person called her as someone had emailed her company to say her involvement in Aware was bad for its reputation and urged the company to take action against her. She said a weblog had been set up calling on the public to boycott her business and lists her working address.

Ms Lau added that there is a weblog detailing her children’s names and their schools and that the secretariat had locked her out of her official email address. The secretariat has since been fired.

Ms Ng questioned the media’s motives for giving so much coverage to the issue and for quoting the old guard, some of whom were formerly journalists. “I have a question for the media: Why is ST pushing the envelope on our anti-gay story? I’d like to ask ST: are you playing a role in this Aware saga as well?”

It is believed that many of the 120 members who have called for an extraordinary general meeting or EOGM next month are lesbians or homosexual activists making a bid to vote out the exco by sheer numbers.

About the homosexual agenda

The homosexual agenda is believed to be a concerted, worldwide effort to mainstream homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.

These activists employ various means - with the media as a channel - to present homosexuals as a persecuted minority and appeal to human rights to get pro-homosexuality laws enforced. In turn, these laws are used to get other laws enforced and the cycle is repeated until the entire lifestyle is legalised.

Activists first seek the decriminalisation of sodomy. A pivotal stage, this removes the obstacle to demands on government funding to advance 'homosexual rights'. In the U.K. government funded programmes are geared to finding the best way to familiarise school children as young as four with homosexual relationships.

The next step is to get the age of consent for heterosexual sex and homosexual sex equalised. Thirdly, anti-discrimination laws are passed to promote homosexual rights, in many cases becoming oppressive laws that infringe on the rights of others.

In the U.S. a father was arrested for criminal trespass when he refused to leave the school where his six-year-old son was studying until the principal assured him that his son would be taken out of the class where the teacher teaches on homosexuality. He filed a federal civil rights claim against the school but the judge reinforced the right of schools to teach homosexuality without parents' consent or choice to opt out.

In another case, a Canadian human rights tribual ordered a Christian pastor to renounce his faith and never again to express moral opposition to homosexuality.

He had written to the local newspaper in Alberta denouncing the advance of homosexual activism, stating: "children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights."

He was ordered to pay $5,000 for pain and suffering caused to the complainant even though the tribunal conceded the complainant was not injured.

In the fourth and fifth steps same-sex marriage or civil unions are legalised, followed by homosexual parenthood and adoption rights.

This system has been successfully implemented in the U.S. and in Europe and Christian leaders have reason to believe that it is being aggressively initiated in Singapore.

Edmond Chua
edmond@christianpost.com

---


The above post is basically a circular within a specific socio-religious community. It is interesting to know the views of various communities too, or rather the views that are being circulated in various communities.

Rather than circulating views that embrace differences outside the community, the above article does the opposite. It is fine perhaps within the community, but for someone outside the community, I have my own reactions.

It is far-fetched to say that AWARE had used as a platform to promote homosexuality.

The word "promote" is also misleading. Acceptance or affirmation is not promotion.

Homosexuality cannot be learnt. That said, it is impossible we will have a "generation of lesbians". That is utterly ridiculous, as it is unfounded, misinformed and furthermore, mongering much fear among the wider community.

Yes, I acknowledge that there are people who choose to experiment sexually, but that does not wholly constitute his/her sexual orientation.

At the same time, it is impossible for members of some communities to even fathom the existence of different sexual orientations.

You may be "oriented" towards:
1) Someone you can emotionally identify with.
2) Someone of a certain ethnicity, culture, skin colour.
3) Someone of a certain aesthetic and body shape/type.
4) Someone of a certain lifestyle, fashion taste.
5) Someone of a certain gender, gender identity, gender role, sexual identity, sexual image, or even sexual orientation.
6) Someone of a certain socio-economic status, intellectual maturity, education background (think of SDU).
7) The list goes on...

The denial of the existence of sexual orientation (as innate and emotional) leads to the dehumanisation of homosexuality (among other sexualities).

These people will claim homosexuality is a lifestyle, implying it can be unlearned and discarded.

By rationalising and boxing sexual orientation as only just a "lifestyle", they ignore the individual histories, experiences and feelings that make queer people (who identify as non-heterosexual) human.

If "heterosexual" is a descriptive neutral word, so are "homosexual", "bisexual", "pansexual", "transsexual", "cissexual" and "asexual".

The discourse perpetuated by certain socio-religious factions in our society regard "other-"sexual as negative. What does that say about their moral agenda? And what are the implications of such a denial and moralising?

If it is true, I personally find Dr Thio Su Mien's statement "that in this programme, young girls from twelve to 18 are taught that it’s okay to experiment with each other" interesting.

Firstly, I believe that most children and teens are sexual and some seek to discover some pleasure/comfort themselves. However, they are perhaps uninformed and are unable to properly express any sexual angst or pleasure.

In some religious communities, and more so after the industrial period, people begin conceive children as asexual, just like women were conceived as asexual in those times.

Most parents are also walking away from the responsibility of teaching their children sex education, because they are either ill-equipped or unwilling to do so.

Sex education has been criticised by feminists for being generally being oppressive against women. The clitoris, its stimulation, female orgasm and female erogenous areas are seldom or never discussed in sex education. This has a long-lasting impact on how society will view female sexuality - as passive and perhaps non-existent.

If there is the alleged "advocacy" of sexual experimentation, I believe it should be done responsibly without harm or hurt.

The entire (religious-oriented) ideology that homosexuality, the act/behaviour rather, is sinful, is perfectly fine and valid within religious spaces. But when exported out of these religious communities and into the mainstream, it creates a devastating guilt-trap for people who do not identify with the ideology and who do not identify as heterosexual.

The moral crusade, at the ideological level, has no place in a multicultural and multireligious society like Singapore.

This new age puritanism also equates to a neo-colonialist threat to our Asian history. Think about the sex manuals (Kama Sutra, Chinese pillow books) and our history of transgenderism in South-east Asia.

The moral crusade, whether under the banner/rhetoric of "secularism" or "family values", attempts to rewrite history and change knowledge, streamlining everything into a singular, narrow, homogeneous entity.

It is here when new but historically hollow terms such as "conservative Asians" and "Asian values" spawn to imprison Singaporean diversity.

Back to the article. AWARE's engaging queer-friendly/affirmative or queer-identified individuals in its programmes indicate no evolution or misguided change, but an attempt to continue to be inclusive, and provide a space where women can feel safe.

AWARE should be a place where any woman can feel safe.

Safe from harm. Harm may be physical or emotional in nature. Harm to a person may include guilt and fear being placed into him/her.

The above article also talked about former president Constance Singam indicating she wanted to talk to SG Butterfly. The group was labelled as "a group of transvestites", which is far from the truth, and is rather simplistic and insulting too.

SG Butterfly is an online community, a support group and a humble information portal for Singaporeans (and others) who identify as transgendered, whether they are/were transsexual, transsvestite, cross-dressers and other related non-cisgenderal/cissexual terms. The group empowers trans-identified or gender-troubled individuals with information and resources. There are women and men in the community who have helped one another, emotionally, socially, professionally, etc. I do not see anything wrong with AWARE linking up with the group.

The newspapers have also been criticised for being biased. I am not sure about that. If they can published George Lim Heng Chye regularly... well... that basically says everything... the newspapers ARE NOT BIASED!

Interestingly, there is no homosexual agenda. Some groups are just conflating our efforts for greater inclusion and substantive equality into demons/a common enemy. This amounts to fear- and hate-mongering. Because, hey, it is probably not wrong to fear or hate a demon.

What is ironic is the ideological colonisation of neutral minds (e.g. Protestant Christianity on middle-class English-speaking ethnic Chinese Singaporeans) takes place alongside the battle with the self-created/imagined demon. So who is the real demon any way?

In my opinion, the non-religious Singaporean might be apathetic towards homosexuality in general, but when he/she is ideologically 'conquered', he/she becomes more inclined to demonising it.

Yes, non-religious people may also be uncomfortable with homosexuality, but they generally deal with it rather passively. Of course, there are some non-religious thugs who exercise their masculinity and use physical violence.

The reason why the alleged Christian Right has an obscene amount of freedom to enter other spaces (i.e. stepping out of its constitutionally-protected socio-religious boundaries), not physically enter though, is because the state can do nothing about it.

There is too great, too intricate and too complicated an entwinement between the conservative elite, educated elite and the political elite. The state will suffer if it steps in to "return" the movement back to within its boundaries.

Religion has more protection in Singapore than secularism. The values of secularism are plural and pluralistic, so it is difficult for any single person to stand for secularism.

It is very interesting how (some) religion plays the homophobia card to rally people, to align people towards a singular cause, an ideological solidarity.

In Singapore, homophobia does not only stem from (ironically) Western-inspired puritanism and Christian Fundamentalism alone, but also from our rigid Confucian gender scripting (learned the word "scripting" from someone at a recent SinQSA meet-up). So there are sufficient resources and background for Singaporeans to be generally homophobic.

Moreover, there are existing discourses that can be usurped to forward the Christian Right agenda. For example, that of birth rates and procreation (the Singaporean [ethnic Chinese, mainly] dwindling birth rate discourse), that of Section 377A (the legal discourse), that of heterosexual procreation (the biological discourse) and that of homosexuality as an illness (the old medico-psychiatric discourse).

I liken this possibility to the hijacking of AWARE. Resources are already there, so why not invade, occupy and use them?

I am puzzled. Why are some religions obsessed with sex and sexual behaviour? What do these religions gain from the disciplining of sex? There are wars, poverty, environmental destruction, terrorism, income divide, and they want to discipline sex.

If there are same-sex relations being portrayed or discussed in public, it does not affect my family. So what's the matter?

If same-sex marriage is legalised in Singapore, it does not affect my marriage. So what's the matter here?

Can't we all just co-exist?

Any way, there are still many questions unanswered regarding the AWARE saga. I have one. They haven't explained how they rallied women to join AWARE so they can be voting foot-soldiers. Too much focus has been given to the exco. Have we forgotten about the members who have joined in January to March and played the AWARE constitution game well, and "legitimately" vote the new guard into power?

Check out (you can choose not to believe them):
God Gene
Christian Fundamentalism
Fundamentalism
Fundies Say the Darndest Things!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thank you, Mrs Jean Tan

Sometimes, you don't physically be in a queer-straight alliance to do what you do, or say what you say.

I felt a bit disappointed I did not get published (yet), but one woman's letter captures some of the points I had wanted to make and she deserves to be heard.

Straits Times forum writer, Mrs Jean Tan, shows her support for diversity, and uses herself as an example, in that she has "homosexual friends" who come from "neither abusive nor dysfunctional families". She represents not tolerance, but acceptance. Thank you, Jean. (there are other letters too that have called for respect and acceptance: here and here)

Here is the online letter:

Will new leaders impose beliefs on Aware?

The Aware situation has left me with many disturbing thoughts as a woman, wife and mother. I have never been involved with Aware in any way, but I always felt there was a need for such an association.

It is horrible that the new executive committee (exco) members have received threats and we should not allow such behaviour in our civilised society. I hope the police can help Aware president Josie Lau and her family.

However, we should not be blindsided and link these despicable threats with the old guard.

As a parent, I am concerned about the more insidious kinds of influence and messages my child is exposed to and the environment he will grow up in. What about qualities such as honesty, respect, openness, acceptance of diversity and inclusivity?

The high-handed behaviour of the new exco members demonstrates that they lack these qualities - from the way they treat past exco members, to their keeping silent on their agenda, to the way they changed the locks and held a press conference without informing the old guard. Are these the actions of a caring society that should include and help women from all walks of life?

The new exco claimed it wanted to honour the work of the past exco, but Ms Lau now says she was 'being very polite' when she said earlier that Aware had lost its focus.

While the new exco claimed it does not have an agenda, it is clear now it does. The new leaders joined Aware under instigation or persuasion from a single source to push their agenda.

It is highly worrying that the Aware exco now comprises mainly women from a certain religious sub-group with highly conservative points of view.

It seems to me that, contrary to the new exco's claims that the old guard was focused on issues of homosexuality, it is the new committee that has an agenda to eradicate any opinions on homosexuality contrary to its own.

I find it unbelievable that Dr Thio Su Mien says she has nothing personal against homosexuals, when her understanding of them demonstrates her ignorance. The homosexual friends I know came from neither abusive nor dysfunctional families.

As a multiracial, multicultural society, we have always thrived on and celebrated diversity and inclusivity. Singapore has taken steps forward because we have shown that people of different backgrounds - be they religious, racial or sexual - can work together.

Aware, as an organisation that supports women and equality, should all the more embody these values of openness, acceptance and candidness.

Thus the situation with Aware has broader implications beyond the group itself. If it is shown - and I am just giving a hypothetical example here - that a group of people with a specific ideology can simply take over an institution that embodies acceptance of diversity and celebrates non-discrimination, what would that signal?

I am sure the new guard are all good women individually and they have the right to their own beliefs. But will they impose those beliefs and challenge the very pillars that made Aware the credible and welcoming organisation it was, and I hope still is, regardless of race, religion and sexuality?
Jean Tan (Mrs)

Unfortunately, the comments posted by some people in reaction to her letter reek of intolerance.

laymanbrothers
Today, 08:00 AM

Close the damned bloody organisation down

They are a disgrace to women to singapore by their bickering and hen-fight

The duly elected new exco was met with rebellion from day one and not given any chance to work, thanks to support by Straits Times and the open sniping by the duly voted out exco - sore losers, their mission of gay and lesbian promotion lost.

The more this saga goes on daily, the more infuriating to more people in singapore

Don't blame the new exco for subverting the organisation. It is the old exco who had subverted it to promote LGBT in the name of equality and inclusiveness! My foot ! It is blatant promotion of gay rights, period. Now we know they infiltrate the organisation like a jihadist!

I call upon the authority to close the damned thing NOW !

Charlllotte
Today, 08:03 AM

Gays are a deviant group . There are many gays in NUS , NTU and SMU . i am worried . Why aren't they doing something about it ? it is horrifying to find all these gays students in NUS , NTU and SMU

Gays are a deviant group . How can a mother feel safe to send her sons to NUS , NTU and SMU ?

nobird
Today, 08:46 AM

Promote Lesbianism? What does that do to our already low procreation rate?

Where are we going to get our babies from..Where are our future soldiers going to come from ?

Where are going to get the next generation of workers and tax payers to look after the mid age and the elderly of today?

What does this do to our Health budget?

This undermines our Total Defence Strategy.

Promoting Lesbianism is anti Nation building activity. Period - Shut down the lesbian movement before they shut down our beloved country with their deviant agenda !!!

Go to the EGM and stand up for decent family values and the Nation.

CharSiew
Today, 09:43 AM

regardless of race, religion and sexuality?

this jean tan don't even know the national Pledge... she must have been brainwashed by LGBT activists and perhaps trying to change the Pledge itself!

It's regardless of race, language or religion. Jean Tan isn't a Singaporean; singaporeans should know the pledge lah LOL!

CharSiew
Today, 09:44 AM

Since the old guard disagrees, and insists on their hidden pro-LGBT agenda, they should form their own "guniang" gang for Alex Au and other LGBTs to brainwash little children into accepting lesbianism and homosexuality. Form YOUR own gang and move on, girls!

angelinvestor
Today, 10:05 AM

The old AWARE Pro-Gay agenda has been uncovered by Dr Thio and team.

If they have not kicked out the old committee, Singaporeans would not have known that this 'respectable' women organization is just a pro-Gay group!

Why has it been hijacked by gay issues? Because i believe homosexuals are officially not allowed to set up a GAY society in Singapore.

luvmibiz
Today, 10:56 AM

It's unfortunate that gayism and lesbianism have infiltrated Singapore . We have a group of vocal pro-homosexual activists flooding the st forum with propaganda to fight a losing battle. The more they write and bicker about their loss, the more we know about their agenda to shift AWARE towards a gay right society. If this saga hasn't happened, they would have succeeded in turning the AWARE into Gayaware or lesbianaware. And the whole society would be a huge madi gras for these abnormal humans.

The list will go on in time.

To be a better man: To be like Thio Su Mien

I'm trying to make it light-hearted here. Please do not take this post seriously (I hope you understand "do not" and "take this post seriously"). Again, the death threats are uncalled for and should be condemned. Amidst all the confusion and anger, we need a song to, once again, tide us through.

The following song is a tribute to Dr Thio Su Mien, the "feminist mentor". It is sung in the tune of Robbie Williams' 'Better man'. I think the new exco can sing this song at the extraordinary general meeting as a sign of solidarity and tribute.

Songs will help us be more calm and relaxed. With that established, we can have dialogue and start listening to one another.

Since AWARE has been battered left, right, centre, it could do with a rejuvenating theme song!

Verse:
Send someone to guide me,
I need to have your charm,
Mother of Li-Ann.
It's "Mien" not "Mein".

Give us endless power.
Lord we'll win the poll.
Seventy-one years old,
You mentor fine.

Chorus:
As Josie Lau gets the blame,
We will grow through this pain.
Lord I'm doing all I can
To be like Thio Su Mien.

Verse:
Go easy on my conscience,
Cause its not my fault.
I know I've been taught
To shift the blame.

Mentor us like young girls,
Who've got careers.
Drive fags out of here,
And the Lez-bee-yans!

Chorus:
As Jenica gets the blame,
We will grow through this pain.
Lord I'm doing all I can
To be like Thio Su Mien.

Bridge:
Once we get more voters,
We win this round!
We don't make a sound...
We can not be found...

I know we have taken Aware this round!
Shut the homos down!!!

Verse:
Send someone to guide me
To hijack Aware.
Make it like we're there
To restore its name.

Give me endless pointers.
We'll do what we are told.
Mentor is so bold.
It's not 'hate crime'.

Chorus:
As we're bold, feel no shame.
Call press con, and smear its name.
Lord I'm doing all I can
To be like Thio Su Mien!

Friday, April 24, 2009

AWARE: Who's the Monster

It is utterly amazing what has happened in the latest “twist” to the AWARE saga.

Actually, there is no “twist” if you followed the cookie crumbs.

Some activists, neutrals and insiders have long warned about the conspiracy, reflected about the anti-gay backlash and even discussed the Thio family’s involvement in this.

Unfortunately, until last evening, they were merely speculative.

Even though there were facts and information about the new executive committee members, it could not be established if this takeover is a coordinated effort.

As from last night, it is still not fully confirmed that whether this takeover is an orchestrated one or not.

Dr Thio Su Mien, the mother of Nominated Member of Parliament Dr Thio Li-Ann, also National University of Singapore law lecturer, spoke up as the (some of the, rather) executive committee members’ “feminist mentor”.

It appears that the feminism that these women practise is one that is exclusionary, as it does not recognise sexual orientation (e.g. homosexuality) and sexual diversity.

It has yet to be publically and officially established that Dr Thio Su Mien is motivated by her religious beliefs.

So, for the moment, religious beliefs should not foreground our discussion.

And neither should death threats various members received, which should be condemned.

We should first look at the implications of the latest revelation on civil society, sexual minorities and “gender equality” in Singapore.

Most of these implications have already been discussed by various bloggers.

I am perturbed by the tactics of (most of) the new executive committee members.

They ascend to positions of power within the women’s interest organisation, and have maintained tight-lipped about their agenda and background until recently.

Last night, they play the religion card and exhibited a siege mentality best captured in Lois Ng’s remark that “suddenly I feel that it's a crime to be a Christian.”

In the beginning, why couldn’t they be loud and proud Christians?

Why must they conceal their identity and beliefs, as if they were not relevant, and smoke it with rhetoric consisting terms such as “pro-women”, “pro-family” and “gender equality”?

Now they claim victim of their own beliefs, as if they (the beliefs) have suddenly gained relevance.

“Gender equality” does not equate to the marginalisation, invisibilisation, trivialisation, silencing, discrimination and hatred of gender diversity and sexual diversity.

But in the case of these women, whose feminist ideology have been impregnated with ascetic monotheistic fundamentalism, “gender equality” is all that.

An unlikely but worthy mention, former president Constance Singam and Dr Thio Su Mien are women in their early 70s, but have and still display the passion they have for advancing the cause of women.

They differ in almost every other way, given their respective beliefs and ideals of what women in Singaporean society should comprise.

It all makes sense to me now with Dr Thio Su Mien’s involvement publically established.

With due respect, the women she individually coached are no “puppets” of hers.

But they are slaves of a divisive and destructive ideology (religiously charged or not), and they appear hell-bent on enslaving the rest of us Singaporeans, and unify us under this anti-gay groupthink.

But why should my queer-affirmative stance be less worthy, meaningful or relevant than your (self-)righteous position?

They fully deserve their space, but the hijacking of AWARE is an infringement and an abuse, politically and symbolically.

This is an abuse hidden by a convoluted mix of evasiveness and rhetoric.

It is unfair they try to impose their ideas of “right”, “wrong”, “virtue”, “sin”, “natural”, “unnatural” and other conceivable moral binaries, onto the rest of us with this usurpation of the AWARE executive committee.

This is ideological violence committed by the alleged Christian Fundamentalists.

The desecrated, the raped, and the annihilated number in the dozens: Women’s rights and choice, sexual minority rights, AWARE itself, civil society, gender equality, gender diversity, sexual diversity, and so on.

Yet when you challenge them, they fall back into their little bunker, one that is constitutionally protected.

This further exposes the lack of constitutional protection for sexual minorities in Singapore.

The lack of protection is exacerbated by the perpetuation of irrational fear, hatred and misinformation against people whose sexual orientation are not straight-jacketed as heterosexual.

Some of the very people who enjoy the privilege of societal and constitutional protection are contributing to this fear, hatred and misinformation.

These events have shown that it is not the sexual minority Singaporeans and their supporters who are (or have been) pushing the agenda and wanting to gain political space, but rather the self-righteous anti-queer members, who happen to be Christian Fundamentalist.

Sexual minority Singaporeans and their supporters have been asking for space and equality.

Dr Thio Su Mien and friends, among others openly and secretly involved in the takeover, are seeking to expand their space and become more equal than the rest of us lesser mortals.

They use this space to dehumanise people who identify as queer.

The fact that (most of) the new committee members have worked and kept to themselves indicate their intolerance for diversity.

It is not surprising if they are emotionally, intellectually and humanly incapable of conceiving diversity.

Does this mean that there are other people out there who have been mentored by Dr Thio Su Mien, who will take up positions in key organisations who have been deemed to have lost their “focus”?

Are the rest of us wrong, misguided or sinful for not being in alignment with her beliefs?

What should their doctrine, one that only acknowledges heterosexuality/ism and to a large extent cisgenderism and cissexuality, prevail over other doctrines and systems of beliefs?

The fact that they did not form another organisation modeled in their interests and beliefs, one that could ‘complement’/rival Aware, proves that they are incapable of accepting pluralism and diversity.

This is an ideological war, but silence has appeared to grip other religious groups.

It is perhaps because other religious groups know and respect the spaces they have, and the boundaries that surround them.

Sexual minorities on the other hand, have no space.

They are margialised and stigmatised by society, by law and by this ongoing ideological invasion.

I feel uneasy at the idea that this takeover may be indicative of a group taking initiative into its own hands and carry out this anti-gay crusade in our little island-nation.

This is at best ideological terrorism, where even straight-identified persons like myself feel afraid.

I fear I might not have the freedom to believe what I believe in; and even if I did have the freedom, I might be “replaced”.

I do not fight, but I stand for a heterogeneous society, one that is characterised by diversity and continuous dialogue.

By leaving out honorary treasurer Chew I-Jin, the new executive committee members have symbolically shown their preference for monologue.

Josie Chua’s attempt to ‘reconcile’ AWARE is in fact an ‘overhaul’, but beyond its terminological neutrality conceals the ‘destruction’ and humiliation of the 20-plus year old non-governmental organisation.

I stand at a crossroads here.

With regards to Alex Au’s analogy of pirates stealing the AWARE ship, is AWARE as a sinking ship worth salvaging?

Polarisation has blasted potholes in this ship.

What the new executive committee see as fixing, I see it as tainting.

Even though there have been alarm bells ringing since late March, I cannot help but feel disillusioned that such a thing can happen in Singapore.

Some might call for the government to intervene, but they would probably wait to see how this develops in the press and blogosphere first.

Furthermore, the realm of the conservative elite intersects with that of the educated elite and the political elite.

This PAP government cannot do without the support of these communities.

But it should consider whether it is justified that we live in a society where everyone has equal obligations, but sexual minorities get relatively lesser rights.

Shouldn’t every Singaporean have the same obligations and rights, or at least have the same balance?

I am sad, angry and disappointed that these women have used AWARE as a foreground to advance their anti-gay agenda.

AWARE is a group that looks into the interest of women, and there are women who identify as homosexual.

Are lesbian women not women?

Now, who are the real monsters?



Thursday, April 23, 2009

More (secret) rallies to support or save Aware

I received this anonymous email from an anonymous person from another anonymous person. It appears to be a rally to support Aware. You can support Aware to support the cause of women in Singapore; I believe you can also support the cause of women in Singapore through means other than supporting one singular organisation. If you speak up for women, or even casually raise an issue in a private or public space, you have already played a small role in support the cause of women. Yes, we all should support Aware and its programmes. But this email is a rally targeted at the more 'conservation' faction.

There are many factions out there: conservative, progressive, liberal, moderate (That's me! i r moderate; u r weasel!), etc. Let us have our own spaces and participate in meaningful dialogue. It is not about dominating one another, but the creation of many spaces gives people more choices to decide which space they ideologically or emotionally belong to.

Mind you, the letter may be not be authentic and might have been edited or even fabricated, so I am reproducing what I got just to discuss the rhetoric of it. This letter is also unsigned. I am not concerned with the intentions of the letter, so please do not think too much about it. But it is important to understand the rhetoric and make sense of it, like what I am trying to do.

Here is the letter, which is private and confidential!!! Don't circulate in the public k!!! (bolded and reddened by me)

---

Private & Confidential (not for public circulation)

Dear friends,

I write this in my personal capacity as a woman who is interested to ensure that the values and views about the kind of society we want to have and live in are not being influenced and determined by a small group of people or an organization(s) who claims general representation for women.

For the past week, the Straits Times has been expending extraordinary amount of pages, time and energy about the new Exco of AWARE. AWARE is an organization which principally seeks as its main objective gender equality in Singapore. The press has been inferring that a group of Christians with an anti-gay stance is taking over AWARE. They are casting a negative image on the new team. The new team says they are trying to bring the focus of AWARE back to its original mission i.e. to identify areas for improvement in gender equality, encourage positive change and support women in realizing their highest potential.

Some pertinent info about AWARE and its latest on-goings are listed below (for details please read the attached files):

1) AWARE had always advocated for women's issues of their times
e.g.. battered women in the early years, helping needy women find jobs, etc.

2) In recent years, the membership of AWARE has dwindled. To
bring in a new dimension, AWARE's focus shifted towards cultivating a diverse sexuality platform that includes endorsing alternative sexual choices.

3) AWARE recently brought its Comprehensive Sexual Education into some schools which embrace diversity and individual choices in their sexual relationships.

4) Held Charity Gala Premier movie, 'Spider Lilies', to raise
awareness of its Comprehensive Sexual Education. It is a Taiwanese lesbian-themed movie : "the two main leads are lesbian who explore deeper sense of love, companionship and longing".

We understand that the new Exco seeks to bring the focus of AWARE back to pro-women, pro-family and pro-Singapore. It seems that the old team who has called for an EGM, are garnering new members to remove the new Exco so that they can continue their pro-alternative lifestyle agenda.

These are some of the changes proposed by the old team which will be tabled at the meeting:

"Aware would be seeking to introduce several 'constitutional changes':
Expanding the voting rights to men, expatriate women and teenagers above the age of 15 ..".

I do not personally know any of the new team. Perhaps they could have handled certain things better but given the pace and heat of things there could have been some misunderstanding. But the important thing is whether the values they stand for are the same as the ones we hold fast to?

If these 'conservative' pro-family VALUES are important to you, too, we must come forward and do our part to preserve these values for the sake of our children, grandchildren and the generations to come. As such, I strongly urge you and your friends to be members of AWARE immediately because the EGM takes place on 2 May 2009. The application form for membership is in the attached file and it cost $40 for ordinary membership, Make sure you come to the EGM and hear for yourself and then decide how you should vote to make your stand known. Details of the EGM is as follows:

EGM of AWARE
Saturday, 2nd May 2009,
2.00 pm - 5.00 pm
First Choice Auditorium,
3 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
2nd Level HSR Building ,
Singapore 319378

Carpark facilities are at Blk 47, multi-storey carpark at Blk 18, next to Pei Chun Primary School .
Come early as a large crowd is expected and remember to bring your IC.

If you are signing up, please let me know so I can arrange for your
form(s) to be collected.

If you wish to circulate this email, feel free to amend it but kindly sign it off in your name, I would appreciate if you remove my name as the sender.

Thank you.

---

No, thank you!

Hey, a "small group" matters too. What is the "general representation" of women any way?

There are abused women, there are Chinese Tai-tais who wear nice ear-rings and pearly necklaces, there are single mums, there are women struggling with their sexual orientation (the struggle can be positive or negative), there are adulterous women, there are widows, there are factory-worker women, there are Indian Muslim women, there are women who do not get enough health subsidees, there are pre-operative transsexual women who need funds to go for sexual reassignment surgery, there are women rape victims, there are pregnant women rape victims, there IS woman minister, there are sexually active teenage girls, there are 70+ year old women (men too, actually) who are still working (cleaning or scavenging for recyclable material), etc. Come on! There are too many women out there in Singapore. In the first place, what is the point of having an executive committee compromising women who may not fully understand or even acknowledge the reality of some of the abovementioned examples? Have they paid their dues and got their hands dirtied (in a positive enriching way) in community engagement?

The new team says they are trying to bring the focus of AWARE back to its original mission i.e. to identify areas for improvement in gender equality, encourage positive change and support women in realizing their highest potential. - That is fine, but vague. Please identify what is "gender equality" according to you! Myself and the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance, two of many other parties, have already defined what we feel is "gender equality". In fact, let me add something about gender equality, can single men or single trans-women adopt children, like single women? Is that gender equality? Will Aware look into that?

And has the new Aware (as of the March AGM) answered the question of a woman's work discrimination based on her sexuality?

Define what you feel is "positive change". "Positive change" for me is to improve and expand the organisation's understanding of openness and inclusiveness. For example, extend that "positive change" by making the effort in including queer and trans women into it. To me, "positive change" is to be progressive and to be continually open to concerns from the larger public (of women, in this case).

"Support women in realizing their highest potential." - Yes, women have different kinds of potential, depending on their individual background, beliefs, identity and aspirations. That includes a woman's choice to be a professional or a home-maker, a mother or a single, to be married to a man or a woman, to bear or adopt a child, to keep or abort, to be happy in her own way as how she wants it. Will the new Aware support this?

-add- This reminds of why we have a Muslim man as a Minister for Muslim Affairs. It is because he is Muslim! Can a non-Muslim person understand and look after Muslim Affairs in Singapore? Perhaps. He/she might have done years of community work and research, and might have gained the confidence and respect of the community. By the way, all our Ministers (in the cabinet) have paid their dues doing a lot of grassroots work, and we have to acknowledged that. So I can't help but juxtapose this example with the new AWARE. 2 questions here: Does identity and beliefs matter? Have you paid your dues? -add-

"In recent years, the membership of AWARE has dwindled. To bring in a new dimension, AWARE's focus shifted towards cultivating a diverse sexuality platform that includes endorsing alternative sexual choices." - Firstly, we have the alleged takeover taskforce to thank for, to create interest in women's issues again. The organisation, AWARE, has to continually evolve, not devolve, to incorporate newer issues concerning women today. Sexuality is part of a person's identity, whether you identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or '-sexual' beyond categorisation.

"AWARE recently brought its Comprehensive Sexual Education into some schools which embrace diversity and individual choices in their sexual relationships." - This one is about choice. It probably implies a loss on the side of the pro-life faction of society. I still stand by my suggestion of a polycentric sex education programme. That way, we have more choices. Some can choose abstinence, some can choose contraception, some can choose toothpaste. Everyone has a choice, because everyone is different. There is nothing wrong with embracing diversity in Singapore, because Singapore's political and economic stability rests on maintaining the harmony of diversity. Are you upset with diversity? With regards to sexual relationships, what is inherently wrong with choice? And can your reason apply to each and every Singaporean?

We understand that the new Exco seeks to bring the focus of AWARE back to pro-women, pro-family and pro-Singapore. - Again, please define what you understand by "pro-women", "pro-family" and "pro-Singapore". With all due respect, judging by the demographic representation in the executive committee, it seems this is a vision best represented by the middle-to-upper class ethnic Chinese conservative woman who identifies as heterosexual. You may explain what "pro-women/family/Singapore" includes, but you are equally obliged to clearly and honestly explain what it excludes. And with the exclusions, if they exist, how relevant will this AWARE be to Singaporeans?

It seems that the old team who has called for an EGM, are garnering new members to remove the new Exco so that they can continue their pro-alternative lifestyle agenda. - "Pro-alternative lifestyle" agenda? What on earth is that? I tell you something, I lead an alternative lifestyle. Most men my age are not married. Most are single and working. Most do not cook and clean. Most will care about shaving their face. Most will not talk about gender equality and queer rights. Am I leading an alternative lifestyle? Is that wrong? How alternative is this?

With regards to the statement, please do not dehumanise our fellow Singaporean women who identify as queer. Lifestyle is only one aspect/manifestation of a person's identity. Queer should not be reduced to a lifestyle. By implying it, e.g. homosexuality, is a lifestyle, you are meaning to say homosexuality can be corrected and unlearned/discarded. Yes, there are some individuals who seek "correction" and there are others who do not. Are you going to help these individuals fulfill this potential? This rhetoric is getting old, by the way. So please stop the dehumanisation of our fellow human beings.

But the important thing is whether the values they stand for are the same as the ones we hold fast to? - Well, that is why we need pluralism in terms of representation and participation, and not an alleged and seemingly homogeneous bunch to steer AWARE. All of us have values, and some of us think that the values of others are not values at all. So how? Can we have a dialogue? Can we have diversity? Is your idea of "diversity" full of exclusions?

If these 'conservative' pro-family VALUES are important to you, too, we must come forward and do our part to preserve these values for the sake of our children, grandchildren and the generations to come. - Like what Alex Au have pointed out, "pro-family" is Christian Fundamentalist speak. I believe like human beings, families are different from one another. And these differences are defined by the values they have, some of which are common and some different. Dr Khoo Hoon Eng, separated from her husband, has two gay sons, but they still love as each. Is that family? It is to me. A lesbian couple supporting each other emotionally, financially and logistically - that is family to me too. The idea of family and home is fundamentally (sorry I have to use that word) about love. No love, no family. Moreover, this love is sometimes irrational and you don't have to justify it.

"For the sake of our children, grandchildren and generations to come" - Come on. Stop hiding behind the young. I liken this to a moral terrorist, who holds hostage a toddler and points a gun to its head. Let the young decide what is best for them. Let them choose what kind of "family" they feel most comfortable in, where they feel most loved, where they feel the least (or no) guilt and unhappiness, where they can be themselves, be honest, open and heard too.

By the way, values change in time, sometimes due to colonisation, migration, or the ascension of certain parties to power. So these changes are seen as good/bad/progressive/regressive by different people.

Let us not destroy our children. We are treating our children like how Cinderella's sisters treated themselves - chopping off their toes so they can fit into the glass slipper (is it glass?). But you get my point. I'd prefer our children to be well-adjusted, rather than forcing them to adjust. Let them find the values they best identify with. I'd prefer our children to be responsible and accountable, not secretive and elusive like the new AWARE executive committee. So come on, ladies, "think about our children, grandchildren and generations to come", and be honest and upfront and address all the questions and speculations.

On that note, I would like repeat (again) my views concerning the AWARE episode (this blockbuster multi-episode drama, not Red Thread, sorry):

1) I urge netizens/bloggers not to bash women (talking about cat fight and all that) or bash Christianity. We should devote our energies to fighting for diversity of opinion, representation and participation.

2) We must make the people behind the rhetoric responsible and accountable for what they say. They should be encouraged to define and explain what they say.

3) As for the people who plan to join the extraordinary general meeting (EGM or EOGM) to vote, make sure you care, primarily, about women's issues and rights in Singapore. Don't join just to vote for your team, but join because you know you are continually committed to furthering the cause of women (and men too, since it's under the banner of "gender equality") in Singapore. AWARE as the organisation needs passionate and dedicated members, not one-off ones.

If there is only 1 out 10 members who are getting their hands dirty doing community work, it is AWARE the organisation that suffers in the end. You should join AWARE because you are your own person and that you have made a decision that is closest to your heart, not someone else's.

You should join an NGO with an awareness of the relevant issues, not because someone told you to. These are my views because amidst whatever political struggle we have, we need to spare a thought for the organisation and its hard work and credibility.

I formed the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance (SinQSA) with a few friends because I believed in it, just each and every one of them did. I was scared at first because I did not know what to do. Nevertheless, we developed a simple mission/vision, and dedicated some time and resources to pursuing it, in our own ways. If you want a dialogue, you have got to start it; if you want communication, you have got to start communicating.

In the event any one wants to join SinQSA (not just as a member on the Facebook and mailing list), he/she will need to be aligned with our mission, and passionate enough to help fulfill it. The same goes for any organisation or team.

-add- I realised this ended a bit abruptly. Basically, I want to call for calm heads and open honest dialogue. As cliched as it may sound, it makes it a little less tense.

August 2006 song: One People, One Nation, One Party-State

Here is yet another song I wrote 3 years ago. It is a lot cleaner, surprisingly.

In the tune of our National Day song One People One Nation One Singapore, this is "One People, One Nation, One Party-State"l, written in August 2006:

*cue the 2 minute multi-ethnic orgy of instruments for the intro: Chinese strings, Malay percussions, Indian drums, etc.*

One people! One nation! One party-state!
That's the way that Lee will be
With his "strong" mandate! (66% is strong, dey!)
Every creed and every race
Are observed by the PA's gaze
One people! One nation! One party-state!

We build a nation with Lee's brains,
Put the commies in PAP chains. (that's what they did, WORD!)
They sue Chee Soon Juan again,
Claim he ain't Singaporean. (sia lah bruddurrrrrr!)
Sent him to Changi or
Queenstown for 5 years or more...

One people! One nation! One party-state!
That's the way that Lee will be
With his "strong" mandate!
Every creed and every race
Are observed by the PA's gaze
One people! One nation! One party-state!

And when the time comes for the test,
They gave us a package of some progress...
Then we'll need more polling days,
Stop the state from its fascist ways.
They reach out for public funds,
Give TH (Temasek Holdings) more winning runs!

*repeat chorus*

*cue all the instruments relevant to the major and other token ethnicities, for another 2 minute outro.*

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nudism in Singapore

Swede Jan Philip and Singapore A*Star scholar Eng Kai Er strolled around Holland Village in the nude on one January night.

They will appear in court again on April 30 to answer to the charges under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

I wonder sometimes, why is nudism wrong?

How does nudism offend someone else? Or rather, why is it considered offensive when a person sees the naked body of another person?

Nudism is non-sexual in most cases, so we are not talking about public sexual intercourse or other sexual acts, both of which have been given the "private" label of "sexual intimacy".

Yes, it is taboo even in most nudist communities for a man to walk around with an erection. But why are erections wrong or offensive? In what way do they offend the observer?

And again, in what way is it morally wrong for the two persons to be nude in the public? Imagine a 6-year old kid asking you this, "What did they do wrong?" How do we explain to the child, other than saying, "It's just wrong!" or "God said so!"

What is it in us that causes us to feel offended when we see nude people? How do we rationalise?

I think if I were to see a nude couple, I will probably be surprised and laugh, rather than feel revolted.

I think a lot of meanings have been ascribed to nudism, and in the end, resulted in stereotypes and myths dominating the issue/phenomenon.

Some say nudists or people who walk around in the buff, are perverts. The thing is, what is it about our minds, and our social conditioning and beliefs that have led us to rationalising and labelling them as perverts?

Onto shame. Do we feel more shame than the nudists folk, that we want to make them feel shameful about it as well?

I believe exhibitionism exists because of voyeurs, but most voyeurs prefer to be recognised as morally righteous.

Let's use the "think about the children" argument. In what way is nudism harmful to kids? Does it make children ask more questions and challenge our existing systems of beliefs, and see whether we are able to explain and justify each and every tenet? How can we prove that nudism is inherently wrong (on its own)?

I think that we are socialised into a world that strictly separates private and public. And to maintain this distinction, there are social and legal sanctions to regulate our behaviour. We use shame and fines/imprisonment to regulate. This naturalises nudism to be inherently immoral and wrong. So people, who are well-socialised, will be able to "naturally" develop the "correct" reactions towards nudism in different domains of life, private and public.

What is it about religion, pop culture, capitalism, patriarchy, etc. that makes us have an unfavourable view of nudism?

SinQSA's release on Aware

SinQSA is concerned about Aware; Questions have yet to be answered.

The Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance (SinQSA) expresses its concern at recent events concerning women’s equality advocacy group Association for Women’s Action and Research (Aware). ... (more at www.sinqsa.org)

December 2006 song: Let It Be, GST

Here is yet another song about GST, written in 2006. It is a little less offensive than the previous songs.

The song also feature rather heterosexist insults. It is difficult to claim I was sensitive then, but I would like to say now that I have always been sensitive and aware of what it takes to be politically correct. If insensitivity is observed to be taking place, it would have been an informed one, rather than an ignorant and arrogant one.

Disclaimer: The songs were cruder and had some obscene language and slangs. They are not out to offend. By publishing them, I have no intention to offend. By the way, the references to sodomy are metaphorical, not literal. Today, I shall provide an example of a parody song which some people might find offensive.

In the tune of The Beatle's Let It Be, written in December 2006:

When i find myself in times of trouble,
PAP will say to me,
"There's only one choice"
GST...

They always do it after elections!
Opposition will agree.
So much for the package (progress),
GST

Chorus:
Gee Ass Tee... Gee Ass Teeeeee
Gee Ass Tee... Oh GST...
Five will move to seven,
GST...

So this will help the lower income,
But what about the bourgouise? (boh-joo-ah-zee)
They'll still be fat like Shu-Min Wee,
GST.

The internet will do their witchhunt
Acting so self-righteously,
Losing credibility
Let them be

PAP, GST,
ISD, Lee-Goh-Lee
Form holy trinity
PAP

Though the tax is paltry,
It can do a lot for society.
That's the word of PM Lee,
GST.

I wake up to the tragedy
Of "unnatural death" by MRT.
The netizens are bitching,
GST

Gee Ass Tee... Gee Ass Teeeeee
Gee Ass Tee... Oh GST...
Shoved down the throat or up the ass,
GST...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We are Aware, are you?



Okay, the above picture is the Venerable Ming Yi, Ren Ci's head. He did a lot for charity actually. I am just plugging my wife's caricatures. It is my husband-ly duty.

Speaking of plugging, please have a look at http://www.we-are-aware.sg/. This is a website set up to clarify facts and stuff. Save Aware, they say.

On my part, I would like to repeat my message (and newer messages):
1) Do not be anti-Christian or anti-Christian fundamentalist, especially so in speech and writing. Let us not divide or polarise our Singapore further.
2) Let us continue to ask Aware to account for what they say or claim. Aware, whoever takes charge, needs to continually define and explain what the terms it uses, as well as the objectives it may develop. It is up to all of us to encourage Aware to be open and transparent, and continue to communicate clearly their goals and progress.
3) Apart from Christian-bashing, let us also not engage in women-bashing and Aware-bashing. It does not help anything at all.
4) This is not only an anti-gay thing, but it affects issues on pro-choice (abortion) and sex education, to name a couple of issues.

S Factor is ok

I have seen the advertisements, the shorts, the clips. I have also heard and read comments about it.

S factor. But I have yet to watch it on television.

Of course, there is YouTube.

I feel the show is all right. Yes, there is the exploitation of women and their bodies. But almost every show on television does that, and men are not spared either. Furthermore, you do not need to watch television to experience these, as they happen on daily basis. People unknowingly reproduce this discourse about their masculinity/femininity through their behaviour and body image.

But what is interesting is how human and how Singaporean these women are.

That is what reality television brings out, the best and worst in people. It functions as a social commentary, as reflection of the persons that we are and that we mix with. Why should we deny this? Why should we control/censor representation?

At the same time, these women possess something most of us don't, and that is the courage to go on national television and be part of a contest. The most of us only participate with words. They may have fun, feel comfortable and uncomfortable being on screen, say nice and nasty things, but that is all part of who they are.

Sure, there may be a movement that resists "dumb" depictions of women, but mind you, just like men, there are different kinds of women. Some do not bother putting up with appearances, some do not bother about speaking well or clearly, and some have a good laugh at themselves once in a while, and to some extent, playing the "bimbo" (coincidentally or not).

We are too obsessed with looking at dominant discourses and masculinist/patriarchal structures of oppression, or focusing on how the male gaze is guilty of shaping a breed of hegemonic femininities, in the end, portraying these women as helpless and agentless in such an oppressive domain (and jungle of androcentric institutions, like the media).

We forget to see/appreciate the perspective/position that these women have the agency to create their own discourses. What I'm saying is that we should consider another perspective, which treats these women not as objects or subjects, but actors and agents. Becoming or playing the stereotype "vacuous chick" may invoke the common discourse that situates the female victim in the masculinist domain, but it can also invoke newer discourses that primes the female as the agent. There are other views.

The unhappy gaze on the "bimbo" stereotype is often through the learned middle-class lady lens. In reality, like men, not all women receive higher education, not all women are fully articulate, not all women behave like ladies (that is unfortunately a European construction, ladylike-ness). The battle against stereotypes exists at the same time of the battle against this singular view.

You battle an "ill" because you have in mind an "ideal". But do not impress your "ideal" on other women, who may have their own "ideals".

Bikini, cream and jelly, a flesh parade and all. Yes, these women are bound by contract and all to play these games. But to indicate that this is oppressive, results in the non-consideration of these women as agents.

A woman may strive to achieve traits and characteristics she believes best to define herself as a woman, or a female, or as feminine. It just so happens that some traits may be contentiously male-constructed, or hegemonic cultural femininity. This scenario should not only invoke the criticism of partriarchy and masculinism because we ultimately forget about the woman's choice. We become too eager to locate her choice as subjugated to masculinist discourses and hegemonic femininities. I am not saying there exists agency, but I would like to show that there are other ways of looking at the same thing.

To summarise, a girl in bikini playing with cream, acting in a childish way that might suggest her inferior intellect, may invoke many discourses:
1) She is a subject of patriarchy, controlled and agentless.
2) She, via socialisation and consensus, adopts these hegemonic cultural femininity. Still a victim.
3) She is her own agent, navigating through the plethora of femininities, hegemonic and subversive, chooses what to be and what to perform.

Interestingly, a woman (20% overweight) wearing a bikini yields a different reaction/discourse as compared to a woman (5-10% underweight) wearing a bikini. This is because of how we rationalise body image and fit into whichever feminist discourses that appeal to us most.

Ultimately, the invocation of the (first 2) discourse that women are being oppressed, actually reinforces the conceptualisation of women as agentless and subjects/objects of partriachy and masculinist oppression. Next, the discourse also forsakes the individual histories of the women as integral to their respective identities, never mind the make up of these identities (hegemonic or not). By situating performances of femininity in structures of domination and axes of oppression, we leave no room for their individual histories and experiences.

While the discourse I am talking about may have its limitations, I believe its consideration, along with the invocations of the common discourses (used to criticise S Factor), will provide a discursive balance. Do think about it.

I will try to catch the show.

May 2006 song: Yesterday, by Steve

Here is another song, should be sung by Steve Chia. That guy worked his socks off. The media just killed his reputation.

Disclaimer: The songs were cruder and had some obscene language and slangs. They are not out to offend. By publishing them, I have no intention to offend. By the way, the references to sodomy are metaphorical, not literal. Today, I shall provide an example of a parody song which some people might find offensive.

In the tune of The Beatles' Yesterday, written in May 2006:

Yesterday, i took pictures of my maid and say,
"Hope i am not given away"
Oh I believe, she will not say.

Suddenly, I crashed my car into a bus only.
Media then came all over me.
Like my porn case, it came suddenly.

Why me? I'm so suay,
Put my job (political career on the line) on election day
Lost to Gan Kim Yong, now i long (lost 60.4% to 39.6%)
For yesterday-ay-ay-ay

Yesterday, I should have changed my porno ways.
Now the aunties think I'm gay.
But i'm not a wreck, like JBJ.

Why? He lost it all (can't recall if I was referring to Dr Chee, or JBJ)
When he defamed the trinity (father, son and the holy Goh)
Now, I'll live my word and I'll leave
My NSP... (acronym for his party)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Aware making me wary and weary

I'm tired. Exhausted too.

Tired of the rhetoric.

I'll keep this short.

It is important that the new guard at AWARE not only outline their agenda and goals, but define and explain specific terms they have been using in their rhetoric.

"Gender equality"

"Pro-women"

"Pro-family"

"Women's issues"

Be accountable, be transparent, be open, be honest.

Define, describe, explain, elaborate on what you feel these terms mean to you.

What is included and what is excluded.

This is beyond queer issues (which will be addressed by the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance). It concerns the group and the label "women". Does this encompass all the women, the chromosomally and/or anatomically female too? And does "women's issues" involve all the issues related to each and every woman in Singapore?

It will be helpful to know what is their ideal Singapore. I mean, everyone has their ideal Singapore. Like for Lee Kuan Yew, the ideal Singapore is where University graduate ethnic Chinese marry each other and produce graduate-material children.

So, what is this new team's interpretation of AWARE's vision? You know, the vision will be the same, but the interpretation, strategies and outcome/implications are different with different teams.

A note worth repeating: Let us be bold but fair and gracious as we question or criticise the new guard/team. Let us help them to be more accountable and open and honest.

Sure we may feel a bit unsatisfied that Josie did not really answer most of the questions posed to her on television last night, sidestepping them and all. But that does not mean we should stop asking questions. If they are truly keen on helping to make Singapore a better place, they will always be available and accessible, to answer every question.

I had the privileged to meet and listen to Madison Kelly, a male-to-female trans person, over the weekend. She's so down-to-earth, and knowingly/intended or not, spews such simple advice once in a while.

"When you're offensive, you can't really have a conversation." This probably applies to everything we do. Sometimes, conversations help us appreciate differences better. I'm going to use this quote over and over again by the way.

The next one is another simple, yet very wise, piece of advice (paraphrased it a bit): "When people feel they can be themselves, it makes dialogue so much easier." The statement speaks for itself, and applies to any one who wants to speak and also to be heard.

I'm a sucker for inspiration. Sometimes, the smallest things or the most mundane experiences inspire me in many ways. So I hope there are some out there who are as inspired as I am listening to these two pieces of advice.