Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Straits Times needs some 'queer'

Got butchered by The Straits Times Forum again. This time, I feel a bit more vexed than the last time. This time, "sexual minority" became "minority", "queer and trans-identified women" became "trans-identified women", "gay people" became "gays".

This piece of editing has consciously omitted "queer", and I'm at a loss for words at what has happened. In the end, I feel the article has lost some of its meaning.

Original Article

Dear Editor,

I read with interest Wong Kim Hoh's article on the "Unknowns knock out veterans at Aware polls" (ST, April 10).

I notice the mention of names of AWARE members, Jenica Chua, Alan Chin, Claire Nazar and Angela Thiang.

These are individuals who have contributed to the 2007 debate in the Straits Times Forum on gay people and Section 377A of the penal code.

They share the same position, and do not condone homosexuality.

It is difficult and far-fetched to speculate on whether an exco or ordinary member's identity, beliefs and other organisational affiliations might have an impact on the leadership and direction of AWARE.

At the same time, we should applaud the effort and passion of the newcomers, who want to take on more responsibility and leadership in championing AWARE's vision for Singapore, which is "gender equality for all".

Nevertheless, it is interesting to learn of the reported influx and ascension of new members.

I am also interested to know what are AWARE's plans now for our community.

What is AWARE's stand on sexuality minority integration and equality? For instance, will AWARE champion the cause for social inclusion and acceptance of queer and trans-identified women?

What is the organisation's current interpretation of "gender equality for all"? Are gender and sexual identity included under this banner?

What is AWARE's position on sex education? For example, will it propose and promote a larger sex education syllabus, that is relevant and empowers our youths to make responsible decisions?

I wish the organisation well.

Ho Chi Sam

Published article

I read with interest Wong Kim Hoh's article last Friday, "Unknowns knock out veterans at Aware polls".

I noticed the names of members of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), namely, Jenica Chua, Alan Chin, Claire Nazar and Angela Thiang.

These are individuals who contributed to the 2007 debate in The Straits Times Forum on gays and Section 377A of the Penal Code.

They share the same position, and do not condone homosexuality.

It is difficult to speculate whether ex-co or ordinary members' identities, beliefs and other organisational affiliations might have an impact on the leadership and direction of Aware.

At the same time, we should applaud the effort and passion of the newcomers, who want to take on more responsibility and leadership in championing Aware's vision for Singapore, which is "gender equality for all".

I am interested to know what Aware's plans are now for our community.

What is its stand on minority integration and equality? For instance, will it champion the cause for social inclusion and acceptance of trans-identified women?

What is the organisation's current interpretation of "gender equality for all"? Are gender and sexual identity included under this banner?

What is Aware's position on sex education? For example, will it propose and promote a larger sex education syllabus that is relevant and empowers our youth to make responsible decisions?

I wish the organisation well.

Ho Chi Sam

Major problem here. Maybe I will write to the editors and explain to them the relevance of my using certain terms. I hope they do not come up with the reply "Singaporeans are not ready for 'queer', or 'sexual minorities', etc."

'Queer' may previously be a derogatory term, but like the 'pink triangle', with its Nazi-persecuted history and all, it (has and) will become a symbol to represent a collection of identities and a movement.

The GLBT, or GLBTTIQQ, (transgender, transsexual, intersexed, queer, questioning) discourses are to some extent not all inclusive, given their rigid terminologies/taxonomies (and their political and activist histories).

'Queer' should be the new umbrella, as we evolve our 'queer' politics.

'Queer' is beyond sexuality and sexual orientation, as it encompasses gender identity and sexual identity. The media should pick up on these new terms to educate the publics. New terms and buzzwords need not only come/originate from high-profile politicians. The ideas and rhetoric of ordinary folks or activists should also be captured in the press too.

Of course, 'queer' is not meant to be a static and rigid category, because there are categorically/"symptomatically" 'queer' persons who do not identify as queer. But for the moment, we should welcome 'queer' into our politics and rhetoric. it is a queer-straight effort to continually re-define and re-situate 'queer'.

'Queer' also represents a new movement (one we can shape). It is not about creating oppositions or polarisations, but a newer politics of inclusion. I'm even beginning to move away from using 'sexual minority' to discuss queer issues (although I still occasionally use it).

'Sexual minority' presupposes and implies the celebration of oppression, wearing your oppression as your badge, using that 'minority' status as a shield and as a weapon. 'Queer' on the other hand, is more encompassing. It distances itself from the 'minority'/oppression Olympics (identity) political strategies and rhetoric.

As in my previous entry, I believe that we need to make the movement from "gay is okay" to "queer is fine". It does not, much to the fear of people who are homophobic, glorify or normalise homosexuality, but by saying it is "fine", we are saying we accept this diversity and we accept difference. "Okay" signifies a certain hesistation, and implies a half-hearted tolerance. So, that's why I believe "queer is fine with me, it's alright" is a better banner, for the moment, for this new politics us Singaporeans are doing.

We should, at the same time, move from "pro-gay", to "pro-queer inclusion/integration". It is ultimately a battle of language and terminologies. A movement should be created such that it is difficult to be an "anti-". In this sense, it would be undesirable (for the sake of political correctness) for someone who identifies as an "anti-inclusion/equality" person.

The queer movement needs to agree on and state its goals for society. For instance, we have to identify what needs to be challenged and changed. We need to define what we think is "inclusion", "equality" and so on. Yes, us Singaporeans (especially our leaders) have this anti-colonial complex, so when we define our goals and boundaries, we need to distance ourselves from colonialist and imperialist notions of "freedom" and "rights", and choose for ourselves what matters to someone who identifies as queer in Singapore.

So, dear Singapore Press Holdings, dear Straits Times, it is about time you recognise 'queer'. Most of us are 'queer' in a way, because there will always be moments, experiences, opinions, etc. that we have that might challenge cissexualism and cisgenderism. The things we do or believe in might not be consistent with the hegemonic alignment of gender, sexuality, gender identity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender roles, sexual roles and so on. So that's queer too.

Yes, more words might convulate the whole rhetoric, but I feel that "gays" should be transformed into "gay people/persons". "Homosexuals" should be "...who identifies as homosexual". We need to humanise, not invisibilise, our queer 'humanity'. It will take time for such a change, but this change is better. Of course, to enforce it, and paradoxically, we need some right-wing implementation of political correctness. This is my struggle with doing queer politics. Political correctness is such a huge dilemma: How far can you go? How much can you say?

I may not be an authority or a leader in GLBT activism and politics, but I feel there needs to be an exploration of different approaches, not to strategies and communication campaigns, but to vocabulary and rhetoric. The idea that many groups, sympathetic to the queer cause and sexual minority rights/inclusion, are doing different politics, and it is the differences that define this movement. The differences speak for themselves. And I believe 'queer' is a term that can explain this.

Queer is here.

3 comments:

Solo Bear said...

Ha Sam, as if you don't know ST won't edit your words and content? Why even bother to contribute to their forum? I never trust ST.

Sam Ho said...

i know it.

but i can't avoid it, nor let my cynicism prevent me from "doing politics".

must keep trying.

moreover, there's lots of talk and opinion, so it's also important to be published in the papers.

change comes from within the system, so you've gotta engage the system. at least that's what i believe.

we might think that ST is rubbish incarnate, but there are a significant number of people reading it on a daily basis, so i think it's worth it.

sometimes, there are "crazy" folks airing their views on the forum and threatening some of the stuff i believe in, so i should do my part, make some use of my education, and make a stand and put a name to it.

Tor Hershman said...

I think it's time for some old time religion (Atheist humor)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m6qC6FCiY0