Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What the hell is wrong with SingNet?

The internet connection with SingNet appears to be slowing down.

YouTube videos do not stream as fast, and some do not even stream at all.

Connection is sometimes intermittent.

Blogger.com dashboards are also missing the toolbar of icons, which include "insert hyperlink" and "insert picture".

What is wrong with SingNet?

Feel free to repost this on many websites. Singaporeans need to know what on earth is happening.

Feel free to share your problems with SingNet.

Please stop ripping us off.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Lee and the Half-hearted Civil Servant

The public sector has about 110,000 employees, making the Singaporean government the largest employer at 4% of the total labour force.

Some see working for the bureaucratic public service as a secure option, and there are others who enjoy serving people and improving the nation (yes they really do).

There's probably a public sector job for various strata in our society, well except for the lesser educated.

The government needs talent with paper qualifications to be able to execute its long term plans - sturdy reliable spokes in the wheel of the state machinery.

And from the many rowers of the civil service boat, some are chosen to continue the leadership and work, and the whole process is renewed.

For some segments of the employed, the government hands out scholarships, attracting young talents, enticing them with college/university fee waivers and stipends, and after which a job in the relevant departments of their appplication.

These teenagers put pen to paper and seal off 3-6 years of their young adult lives.

But isn't it odd that brilliant minds with possible leadership skills and out of the box creativity, end up becoming a footsoldier?

Maybe the way things are run in the civil service allows the talent to be firstly immersed into the culture of civil service, and learn what is it like to be a pawn or a spoke. Because after all, ceteris paribus, they may become a more important pawn or spoke. (Similar to the defence force for those serving their national service)

Like in all sectors, there will be a portion of employees who feel jaded and disillusioned with their work.

The thing is, is the disillusionment working in the civil service the same kind of disillusionment working the private sector?

Why does a civil servant feel disillusioned or jaded?

Is it an intrinsic thing where he/she cannot reconcile his/her expectations with the realities of governmental bureaucracy?

Or is it an extrinsic thing where the environment, working conditions and management within the public sector are not very conducive for the character and professional development of the employee?

Some in the civil service are on occasion (to be conservative) on the verge of tears. Maybe it's work stress. And many people will reason that stress is part of work. (To be fair, stress is also not exclusively confined to the civil service).

As usual, in the context of meritocracy, we obsess ourselves with merit and the individual. If you're strong/good, you are duly rewarded and progress; but if you feel jaded or bordering on depressed, it is your fault. Surely there is something wrong with a system that makes us think like that, that makes us less compassionate and understanding of others.

Is internal feedback failing? Can there be better man management? Do people care about mental health?

We have progressed so far under the leadership of demi-god Lee Kuan Yew, who has imparted into us, formally and informally, values of pragmatism and survivability and so on. We are definitely beyond fighting for survival now, but sustaining it and developing ourselves in other domains. And since we are sustaining it, can we not develop enough compassion and savvy to reduce the invisible tear-shedding?

Well, this is the part where I digress from the topic of the stressed civil servant to that of mental health.

Mental health record/history and job application do not really go well hand in hand. Companies do not want to be responsible for what them view as a "personal" mental problem. There already is stigma here.

Next, employees are mindful not to show their emotional vulnerability in front of the people that matter (i.e. bosses), again because of stigma. They also worry about what will happen to their career (in that specific job) if they actually sought help for depression or anxiety for example.

Given our mindsets, there is very little awareness of depression in the workplace in Singapore. As we chase the paper, chase materials and other ideals, we forget that as social creatures, most of us can feel down for prolong periods of time.

Most of us will negate this phenomenon saying "it's all in the mind", "get on with it", "be strong", but these merely show a lack of understanding about the depression that afflicts our friends and loved ones. We think that it is the depressed individual who has to change and adapt, and that the world is normal. I think the world, society and the workplace have a part to play too, but these parties have enjoyed a long history of "innocence".

I think it is becoming disturbingly trendy that people don't give one another credit and in the event of failure or breakdown, look for individual factors.

There are civil servants who breakdown because they are heavily invested in their work and personal lives. I see no wrong with their dedication. They deserve a kind of management that will bring the best out of them, theoretically. But in the civil service, only a handful steer the boat compared to the thousands of rowers. Some are okay with the whipcracking by the slave drivers, but there are others who do not appreciate that kind of treatment.

This lack of compassion on the part of management probably explains why some have wisen up to working within their means and doing what they are paid and nothing more. Their dedication matches their pay and treatment, no emotional investment, no heart.

While what has been discussed is not exclusive to the civil service, I feel we should all ultimately be nicer people and respect those who have emotional investment in what they do. Otherwise, we will have a nation of half-hearted civil servants if we already do not have it.

-add-

On a side, I think that in recruiting the top talents for the civil service, the government has effectively reduce the talent pool of civil society. Civil servants cannot challenge the state in the domain of civil society. I wonder if I'll be able to write to the press regularly and blog openly if I worked in a Polytechnic (a statutory board) for example.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Excuse me, are you a heathen?

(Unpublished - July 22, 2009)

I take issue with George Lim's letter "Let's reinforce unity of purpose in fighting terrorism" (July 22).

Specifically, the word "heathen" was used by him to describe how religious people have been wrongly criticised for being self-righteous.

The usage of "heathen" already speaks of self-righteousness, as Lim distinguishes the non-religious from the religious, with implications that the former are misguided.

Historically, "heathen" was used as a label to identify those who do not worship the god in the Judaeo-Christian monotheistic religion. It can be wrongfully used to describe a Hindu or a Buddhist for example, so does this not speak of self-righteousness?

It is a step back for modern society if there are people who continue to deride or condescend those of other faiths or those who do not subscribe to any specific religious ideology.

Labelling people "heathen" is indicative of the desire to not only create a unity, but also carve out a homogeneous society. This is obviously threatening to the diversity we enjoy in Singapore as each of us have our own values.

The upholding of diversity here is based on appreciating and respecting different cultures and identities.

Lim blatantly mocks all outside the Christian faith, and surely his letter all the more inspires us to appreciate diversity and tackle moral absolutism and its dangers.

Ho Chi Sam

Quite a short letter, but unpublished. I can't help but admire George Lim Heng Chye. If only my opinions are as well sought after as his, given the frequency at which the Straits Times publishes him. Most of us will sit on our butts and grumble, but the self-righteous fundamentalist puritan of a man who writes the most homoerotic material ever published in the ST Forum, actually spends time and effort writing regularly to the press to air his views and put his name to them. Salute.

I have nothing else to say but VOTE FOR ME!!!

http://sgblogawards.omy.sg/category (go here)

Cast your votes for me in the "Most Insightful Blog" category (one vote per day). I have been joking that if I did't win it, I would probably quit blogging and activism (and can probably finish my thesis much earlier, find a decent job, have more time for exercise, cooking and self-learning... not too bad after all).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thio, NYU and human beings

The latest news is that NUS law professor, Dr Thio Li-Ann, has cancelled her visit to New York University.

http://abovethelaw.com/2009/07/breaking_dr_thio_might_not_com.php

While there may be other academic ambassadors of Singapore to represent the country in other universities, I feel a little bit sad for Thio.

For a while now, she has received flak over news that she would be a visiting professor at NYU, teaching Human Rights in Asia.

Her appointment was met with a petition protest, and along with other online discussions and the obligatory flaming, it was a sign that someone whose track record of irrational homophobia would probably have difficulty teaching at a university like NYU.

There are two possible ways at looking at this.

On the one hand, it is said we should be confronting words and logic, instead of the speaker – a clear separation of rhetoric and personality.

On the other hand, there is the perspective that rhetoric and personality (or personhood rather) are intertwined.

In the case of Thio, we discard Voltaire’s statement (although Evelyn Beatrice Hall actually wrote it; we’ll never know) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” and base our criticism of Thio on the belief that the personal cannot be separated from the political.

We disapprove of Thio’s words and Thio herself, to the point her career (or a part of it) is affected.

It is quite interesting to observe how some of us select specific perspectives or frameworks to make sense of certain scenarios – we either choose to separate words from the person, or choose to link words to the person.

If a person holds a political view (everyone does so any way), should he/she be penalised for it? I’m not talking about Potong Pasir and Hougang residents.

Aside from the irony of a homophobic person teaching human rights, I think she is more than qualified to teach it. Her beliefs are personal to her, and she has every right to put them out in public, in exchange for opposing views that target not her personality but her views, of course.

The perspectival flipflop shows that in certain domains, certain scenarios, how we selectively create rules of engagement to suit certain causes and agenda. For less ideologically challenging situations, we will defend a person’s right to say things. For other scenarios, we have a different set of rules of engagement.

The two possible reasons why some folks want to “make life difficult” for Thio are:
1) Prevent Thio from being in a greater position of authority to spread her divisive views
2) To an extent, let Thio know what it feels like to be ‘discriminated’ for what you are and what you believe in.

We have to acknowledge that Thio has the intellect, paid her academic dues and of course the critical thinking abilities of a professor. But is her brand of critical thinking insufficient and less critical for some of our liking?

We may want to outshout (metaphorically) and probably silence people like Thio, perhaps in the pursuit of political correctness. But in doing so, do we ourselves threaten the foundations of diversity that underpin their existence and their perspectives?

The presence of Thio and the likes of the legend George Lim Heng Chye, serve to remind us to the troubles we have in society, the troubles we have with (divisive) opinion, and not necessarily their personal troubles. Their seemingly legitimate ‘concerns’ with specific issues speak not only of the issues they seek to address, but also the overall picture of how fucked up our society is.

Their concerns serve a function too – to remind us how we can improve on how we see things and how we think. For instance, the concern about sexual morality in the context of growing acceptance of homosexuality serves to remind us not only about the problems with homosexuality (from the speaker’s perspective) but also about homophobia itself (about the speaker’s position).

When you talk about a problem, you raise 2 problems:
1) The problem you are talking about, and
2) Your mindset, which caused you to create, identify and discuss the problem in the first place.

The more the homophobic speak, the more they remind society that homophobia exists. It is then up to individuals to choose whether to address the contents of the speech or the homophobia buttressing the speech.

It is very much similar to religion itself. A devil is identified as a problem, but the devil’s identification speaks of the manner in which the god is justified as the solution or the right thing.

Most of us are already capable of understanding this. For instance, we know the problem with the PAP suing political opposition members bankrupt as not merely a problem with defamation, but also a problem with political strategy and leadership.

In my opinion, essentially, when individuals get together to become people, to become affiliated with culture, ideology, rituals, we become meaner, we start politicising similarities and differences and create more problems for one another.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who's afraid of the big bad fag?

Beware gay men. They prey on your children. They tear your family apart. Bla bla bla.

I realise most of us grow up with friends and family members telling us things about the "sexually deviant", "morally corrupt", "promiscuous" people out there, around the corner, hiding in your closet (HA!) waiting to get you or your kids when you least expect it.

The fear and hate mongering serves two purposes. One, to draw and embolden moral boundaries of separation and distancing - which leads to the demonising of queer people; and two, continue the misinformation.

It must be established that in every community, there are always people who will prey on children. However, the queer folks get more of the spotlight. In these instances, I notice that queer perpetrators are further demonised for their sexual identity on top of their crime of perversion against children, while straight perpetrators just have the latter portfolio.

For a community that is relatively misunderstood, invisible and numerically small, it is all the more easier to create and maintain stereotypes. Puritanical moralists, who feel obligated to maintain their singular (or tribal) moral dominance, create their own monsters and demons to point the way to "goodness" and what is right. Once in a while, we will create the occasional moral panic as we parade our own creations of monsters in public to remind everyone of the rigid yet fragile boundaries of a brand of morality we take for granted to be universal.

In the army, most of us practise the H1N1 preparedness protocol of social distancing when we encounter effeminate colleagues. Of course, their presence probably threaten our masculinity, an assumed to be key ingredient for us Alices to being respected in this 2-year wonderland.

Speaking of Alices, we have grown men gossiping like stereotypical schoolgirls or middle-aged housewives as we ritualise our homophobia. We joke about being "ass-raped" and we puff out our chests in mock anger if our sexual orientation is questioned.

To an extent, we make something out of nothing. It is as if every gay and/or effeminate man have the uncontrollable urge to desecrate the sanctity of your unsuspecting posterior. But all these heterosexist moralising and ritualising have turned possible friends into straight-out villains.

I'm really puzzled. Why do we want to do this? What is the threat here?

How or in what way does a random gay person, among other queer people, threaten me?

Queer persons get beaten by their parents and/or siblings and/or friends, thrown out of the house, randomly ridiculed and scolded, as if they are threats to something.

Perhaps they are indeed threats. Threats to an order we are so desperately to upkeep. But for what?

As I am conscious enough not to start the Oppression Olympics, I think straight society is the threat to itself. It is a paranoid, defensive and uncompromising network of norms and discourses, unreflective and unwilling to reflect on itself.

I do not feel less straight in the presence of a gay man, a lesbian woman, femme, butch, futch (new word for me), a trans man, trans woman, genderfucker/blender, bisexual, pan-sexual, "try"-sexual, PAP-sexual. I don't feel threatened at all. I don't think these people threaten my family too. I have as must emotional, moral, spiritual investment in them as they have in me - probably none - so why should I bother judging and telling them what and how to be?

There is too much self-righteousness going around, that it is suffocating. It is time we stop the name-calling and spreading of misinformation, or rather, lies. We have become the pathological liars ourselves as we conveniently surround ourselves with stereotypes and misguided impressions/hearsay about the dangers queer people pose to our personhood and lives.

You don't need to create misinformation or put other people down just to feel good about yourself right? (Unless you are a politician belonging to the ruling party as that tactic would be justified in most cases.)

Why do we want to feel good about ourselves by pursuing external affairs when we can be spending the same time and effort addressing the internal issues we have with ourselves and our mindsets?

Honestly, ask yourself, when was the last time you felt threatened by a queer person? What did you feel or do or say in reaction to that? In what way do you think this queer person can make you a poorer person, or physically unsafe? (exclude gay man selling time share stuff of course)

When you talk about moral fabric, whose moral fabric are you talking about, or imagining to be so singular, so universal, so real, like society's vulnerable hymen?

When you talk about slippery slope, to what extent are you personally involved and invested in making this an incline in the first place?

Take away all these "external issues", and start focusing on yourself and what you have always been thinking, and ask yourself if you are personally threatened and how so.

I may be scared and wary of people, because some are deceitful, antagonistic, or downright malicious, not because they like women and/or men, or not because they feel they are a woman or a man or neither. Your sexual preference and gender identity poses no threat or harm to me. On the other hand, it is the misinformation and hate mongering that poses a lot of unnecessary threats and harm to everyone else in this place.

Boyfriend carrying girlfriend's handbag. Man holding man's hand. Woman lip-locking with woman. No threat. There's no bomb, no anthrax, no lawsuits carried out by Davinder Singh (if you're on the receiving end, it will be GG).

Well, if there are indeed threats (to image, "face", ideological membership to religious organisation/hierarchy, and other social constructs), please feel free to share. I must hear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sam cooks rice!

Welcome to another edition of Sam Can Cook. I've recently got a rice cooker and decided to take my relationship with cooking to another level. Rice is definitely the healthier choice.

But on occasion, we do have our pastas.

Spaghetti with tomato and mushroom pasta sauce. Boiled shrimp. Pan-fried cod. Oyster sauce chicken. Xiao bai cai.

Speaking of xiao chee byes, don't you get a little bit frustrated when people are evasive about saying stuff about themselves? Why are some people so secretive about what they do, where they stay, how old they are and so on? If only everyone is upfront and honest, because they are irritating otherwise. It shows a mistrust we have of one another, and a possibly the belief that our image (whatever price we put on it) depended on it. There's no price to pride for a person, and then, there are people.

And then, there's the white, cheesy, creamy pasta sauce. Mmmm mmm, I like. The same dishes of course. Limited but still tastes good (for me).

Not very healthy I know. So I am making the switch to rice noodles. They cook faster too. Kway Teow. Some recognise it as Hor Fan Kway Teow. It is accompanied here by chicken, fish, egg, a couple of balls and some juicy cheese sausage awaiting a grown man's swallow. Pardon my George Lim Heng Chye moment.

And from "rice noodles", I've progressed to rice. Got calamari rings too this time. I have had my fair share of balls and edible lingums, it's time for the soft chewy yoni-analogues. That's what you get when you have a cook with some knowledge of (trans)gender theory.

Cooked the same old shit, but good tasting stuff. Pan-fried my cod fish again. Omega 3 oozing in my veins. The wife can only eat one piece given its apparently oiliness. Don't look at me!

Above: The recurring character that is my oyster sauce chicken. Chicken thigh + oyster sauce + basil leaves + dried till leaves + all-purpose seasoning + BBQ sauce + black pepper + ground pepper + tomato ketchup (all in small portions), pan-fry with lots of garlic and if you're lucky, diced streaky bacon bits. I choke on my drool.

Above: The cod is wedged between my thongs. Fry them skin-side down and cover.

And you don't just cook rice with a rice cooker. Coming back from Boracay, the Philippines, I harboured the ambition to cook garlic rice.

Bought a cake of butter (what's the collective noun of butter by the way?). Melted it with the rice in the rice pot. Melted more of it on the frying pan, chuck in a fistful of ground garlic till they're golden brown. Threw the rice into the pan and stir gleefully. Wonderful stuff.

Tada! The food is so Beautex! The rice is yellow with butter and garlic. The wife says it's better than Manhattan Fish Market's rice. Hehehehe. Of course, every househusband should be able to cook rice better than Manhattan Fish Market's rice.

Right of the astonishingly green vegetables is a bowl of diced potatoes. Not just any potato. It's my take on the Danish caramelised potato, which is apparently a Christmas food. Joycelyn's paeleontologist friend, a Dane, told me about this simple dish.

It tastes really good. Depending on your heart condition, melt a generous load of butter on the pan, toss in some (or a lot, depending on how you measure things) sugar, and throw in the potatoes when the mix is caramelising. Yes, very unhealthy, but so very good. I should have drowned the whole thing in salt and have mayo dip, but there's only so much my heart can take.

I may be your anglophobic nightmare of a "jiak kang tang" kid, but I can cook my fair share of "kang tangs" too. Of course, rice is a healthier option than potatoes.

Homecooking may lack the excessive salt and seasoning we get from outside, but it makes up with the abundance of blandness that is the love and occasionally sexual minority activist sweat put into it.

The more I try to make the food taste better, I find myself going resorting to unhealthier options - more oil, salt, sugar, seasoning, etc. Maybe if/when I possess a steamer (referring to the one in the kitchen! You're sick I tell you.), I'll start making steamed food for a change.

That's it from me. I hope to try doing other dishes next time. I've yet to finetune the butter garlic rice as the rice still comes out a little dry. Maybe more water should be put into the rice cooker.

I see a link between intellectual curiosity, tennis, music and cooking - stuff that interest me a lot - and I also realised why I am drawn to them. There is a certain degree of exploration, introspection, creativity and wonder, and at the same time, there is technique, approaches and the discovery of strengths and weaknesses.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The SinQSA Game Show

Here is another plug for the SinQSA Game Show.

Check out more details at http://sinqsa.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/the-sinqsa-game-show/.

The Facebook event group is at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=122505997743&ref=ts.

Quick, form a team of 2 and sign up! There'll be prizes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Defending What's (Y)ours! National Service and the Forest of Hokkien Vaginae

This letter is really interesting.

(July 14, 2009) Horrified by many profanities in matinee show on NS life

I attended the matinee show Own Time Own Target at the Drama Centre in the National Library building over the weekend. One magazine lauded it as a 'laugh out loud, rediscovery of zany side of national service'. I presumed this meant it was a family-type show and took my two teenage sons, aged 16 and 14, to the show on the premise of a MediaCorp-owned magazine review.

To my horror, I was cringing uncomfortably in my seat the whole show, highly disturbed by the language used. I do not have a problem that the language was coarse and in dialects. But it was offensive when every sentence and curse uttered by the officers (rightly or wrongly, provoked or otherwise) at the NS boys in the drama was a profanity of the female genitals.

The show was a full house, with young and old, males and females equally represented. I am sure I was not the only one who was disturbed by the excessive cursing and swearing by the officers at the recruits. My observation was that people laughed out loud not at the clumsiness of the recruits but mostly because they felt uncomfortable with the profanities.

As a mother, I find it hard to imagine that after years of sheltered school life where students are taught values, to be gentlemanly and polite and respect their elders, these boys have to do NS run by officers who do not blink an eye when they curse their mother, sister, girlfriend and the whole female population by way of conversation.

My boys were shocked to realise that NS is a rite of passage where they will be officially subjected to bullying, shouting and cursing - nothing gentlemanly at all.

If this is a light-hearted look at life of NS boys during basic military training, I fear to know what my boys will face in their real-life situation when they enlist. Please, someone, assure me this is not so.

Wee Hua Boey (Mdm)

What the fuck? Cursing is part of life, and definitely army life.

In the army, different classes mix. The English-educated middle-class folks who come from 'good' homes, will mingle with the working class folks, who probably have their own expressions of masculinity and working class pride.

Some people like to drink their milk, say their prayers and be 'good', and there are some who like to puff their cigarettes, say their "chee bye"s (vaginae, the plural of vagina by the way) and be respected.

The army is also one place where class not only conflates into one (unless you a treasured white-horse to be bubble-wrapped), but also the common performance of masculinity. It makes us more "man" when we celebrate misogyny, sexual prowess (not with other men, as that is very much shunned upon) and smelly vaginae. It's the one place where we share this working class connection.

It's really interesting that when men in the army try to be more 'masculine' by picking up traits characteristic of working class males - smoking, tattoos, maybe drinking, cursing in Chinese dialect (a sign that you are street smart), speaking broken English, walking like you had a swollen penis and testicles.

In some working class settings, you are "sissy" if you spoke good English any way. You must be yonic-centric in your communication, for example say something that's loosely translated, like "Penetrate Broken Smelly Vaginae! That vagina bus took such a fornicating long time! Your horse vagina!"

Seriously, if you want an organisation to champion cervix cancer awareness, look to the Singapore Armed Forces. They are obsessed with female genitalia as if their masculinity depended on it.

Well, that is how the army runs. But in Singapore, we cannot resist conscription based on principle. Even if you detest this mentality, you cannot choose to not enlist based on what you believe in.

Madam Wee's boys will understand that this is society's rites of passage for boys to become men - to get acquainted with working class values. It can be very jarring for most middle class folks any way. Cursing in Hokkien is one good way to perform this brand of masculinity. You need your healthy dose of "chee bye"s to become recognised as a man in the army. Very heterosexist, and very sexist.

But there is the occasional exercise of restraint, as the working class character takes upon itself the role of the middle-class gentleman. They cut down on the misogyny and cursing in the presence of female staff.

There is nothing gentlemanly in NS. There is bullying, psychological and physical. And there are the cover-ups. For every "vagina" that is uttered in the army, there is someone covering up something. When you pride yourself in reputation and image, you will pride yourself in covering up and perhaps lying.

Any way, I feel all the performances of gender in the army is ridiculous. The institution of the army leverages on gender stereotypes and heterosexist norms to create the conformity they need. Of course these features are just extra toppings on the reality that national service is compulsory.

We are here to defend interests beyond ours. We are alienated from our physical and emotional labour as we sacrifice our youths for the nation's goals, some of which some of us do not believe in. Like I said before, when they talk about "defending what's ours", I would see it as "defending what's (y)ours!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quoted: Potong Pasir, Hougang to get lift upgrading

(Quoted - Straits Times. Jul 14, 2009)

Residents living in Housing Board flats in the two opposition wards can expect to benefit from lift landings on every floor under the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) earlier than expected.

Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for National Development, said yesterday that precincts in Hougang and Potong Pasir will be among 65 selected for the LUP in the current financial year, which started in April.

This marks a shift from the Government's stand after the 2006 general election, when it said the two wards would be placed 'at the end of the queue' for the LUP.

The number of precincts for this year is higher than the 50 in each of the past few years.

Speaking to reporters at an HDB event, Ms Fu said town councils and grassroots advisers in the two opposition wards, along with those in other constituencies, have made their nominations for the LUP. The selected precincts will be announced in 'a few months' time'.

Falling construction costs and available capacity in the industry were the reasons for the ramping up, she said.

'The Government is committed to rejuvenating the HDB estates, in good and bad times. Given that this is the right time of the cycle - costs are coming down, there is available capacity in the construction industry - it is a good time for us to step up our efforts,' said Ms Fu.

Ms Fu also said the inclusion of the opposition wards did not signal an imminent general election.

Started in 2001, the LUP is popular with HDB residents, especially those living in older blocks with lift landings on fewer floors.

During the 2006 election, a number of candidates promised to get residents onto the coveted project.

The Government foots between 75per cent and 90per cent of the upgrading bill, depending on the resident's room type. The remaining 10per cent to 25per cent is shared between the town council and the resident, with the resident's share again depending on his room type.

Permanent residents pay the full cost.

Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, secretary-general of the Singapore People's Party (SPP) and chairman of the town council, could not be reached for comment yesterday as he was on a flight to London.

Mr Desmond Lim, the SPP's assistant secretary-general and consultant to the town council, said the move could win further support for the SPP.

'It shows that the selection of precincts is done according to the criteria set out by the HDB, like the age of the blocks, and not due to political reasons,' he said.

He added: 'This is what we've been fighting for. During the last general election, we made a promise to have lift landings on every floor. Now it's happening.'

Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Potong Pasir resident Benedict Chen, 26, said the LUP was long overdue in his estate but wondered whether it was a sign of an imminent general election.

Said the bank analyst, who has lived in Potong Pasir all his life: 'If you've lived here long enough, you are used to seeing these things as 'pre-election candies'.'

Over in Hougang, logistics official Doreen Tan, 33, said: 'The lift upgrading is good to have because there are a lot of elderly residents in these estates.'

Married with one child and another on the way, however, she worried about the dust that the construction will cause.

She was also concerned that retirees and elderly residents in the estate might not be able to pay their share of the lift upgrading cost.

'I am not sure how much we have to pay...If the price is okay then it should be all right,' she said.

She added: 'Perhaps the Government can do something more for us other than lift upgrading. For example, they can build covered linkways - they are simple, just from one block to another.'

As for the politics of the project, she said she had no comment, 'so long as there is an upgrade'.

Another Hougang resident, student Ho Chi Sam, 25, said lift upgrading would benefit elderly residents most and could increase house values in the area.

He added: 'It's about time that the Government put public funds to good use and helped the people without discriminating against specific constituencies.'

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grace Fu Fa-La-La-La Upgra-da Dumba Dee Doo Dah

Hurray! Hougang will be upgraded, along with that forsaken place they call Potong Pasir.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/442132/1/.html

Channelnews Asia is very cheeky in this article. As of 10.32pm, the following picture was attached to the article:


Very cheeky indeed.

The funny thing is, it is odd that when issues concerning all Singaporeans are discussed in the same breath as politics. We talk about the government and the opposition party/ward in the same paragraph. Shouldn't it be PAP government and opposition party/ward? Ah never mind.

This is definitely good news to residents of Hougang. But the thing is, residents still have to vote on whether they want lift upgrading. Each non-lift landing level homes will still have to foot a percentage of the cost of upgrading if I am not wrong.

Election bells must be ringing? Or is it all a coincidence?

Any way, the upcoming elections is going to be a very interesting one. The PAP cannot simply blackmail voters with upgrading, and they should have never done so in the beginning, given that upgrading essentially involves public funds.

In short, if you join the dots, the PAP is actually using public funds (your taxes) to "buy" your vote and "fix" the opposition parties. Talk about alienation in the suburbs! The tax payer is alienated from the value/worth of the tax he/she pays. Despicable, says Daffy Duck.

Grace Fu today cast the Level 3 STFU area-of-effect spell on the political conspiracy and provided pragmatic economic reasons for the decision (i.e. low construction costs).

Yes, it has been planned for a while. Don't need to be too suspicious. The problem here is transparency.

Low Thia Kiang was probably more than irate when the bunch recently upgraded flats in Hougang Ave 7 were torn down, and even more pissed to hear Grace Fu's please-understand-my-position reasoning that her Ministry does not even know 7 months in advance what redevelopments would take place. His contention was that there was lack of ample warning and that money was wasted on upgrading those flats.

see http://geraldgiam.sg/2009/02/parliament-debates-hdb-rental-flats-upgrading-e-engagement-and-gaza-crisis/ for more.

Of course, when you demolish flats, you relocate the people who didn't vote PAP. This is craft micromanagement.

Actually, the Ministry knows more than the statutory boards in Singapore; the latter are the former's bitches. There is the vague grand scheme of things set in place for the stat boards to follow. That's how bureaucracies work.

There is this thing called the Master Plan, and it definitely sees beyond 7 months.

At the end of the day, the problem here is transparency. HDB is as secretive as the ISD, and any other governmental institutions. The less we know, the more we will vote PAP. When you control information, you are not only in power, but you are able to tackle misinformation quickly and sue a couple of folks for defamation because you have the information upper hand.

Oh well, at least we are getting lift upgrading. It will definitely have to be completed by 2014 any way.

I think it will be very interesting that construction will suddenly stop halfway during the impending General Elections.

In 1997 when I lived in white side of Hougang, the paint job took a break and the scaffoldings were seen enveloping every flat in the neighbourhood. And you had the PAP campaigners talking about upgrading. So tempting right. Give you a sample and make you feel grateful for the rest of it.

That's politics I guess. So dirty, like the used sanitary pad and multiple cigarette buds that pepper my air-conditioner compressor.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Susan Stryker's "My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage"

Since I am reading transgender stories and discourses, I figured I should share them.

Below is taken from http://www.annelawrence.com/twr/mywords.html. I hope I am not violating anything. But will take it down if notified.

It is an article by Susan Stryker (who edited the book The Transgender Studies Reader with Stephen Whittle), titled "My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage".

It is a wonderful piece. Among other issues, it discusses subjectivity and how we find ourselves and negotiate with certain dominant discourses.

Here it is:
________________________________________
My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix -- Performing Transgender Rage
By Susan Stryker
________________________________________
[Note from Anne Lawrence: "My Words..." is not always easy reading. If you are tempted to skip any of it, at least read the final three paragraphs -- some of the most moving writing about transsexualism you'll find anywhere.]

INTRODUCTORY NOTES
The following work is a textual adaptation of a performance piece originally presented at "Rage Across the Disciplines," an arts, humanities, and social sciences conference held June 10-12, 1993, at California State University, San Marcos. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference, its theme, and the organizers' call for both performances and academic papers inspired me to be creative in my mode of presenting a topic then much on my mind. As a member of Transgender Nation -- a militantly queer, direct action transsexual advocacy group ---I was at the time involved in organizing a disruption and protest at the American Psychiatric Association's 1993 annual meeting in San Francisco. A good deal of the discussion at our planning meetings concerned how to harness the intense emotions emanating from transsexual experience -- especially rage -- and mobilize them into effective political actions. I was intrigued by the prospect of critically examining this rage in a more academic setting through an idiosyncratic application of the concept of gender performativity. My idea was to perform self-consciously a queer gender rather than simply talk about it, thus embodying and enacting the concept simultaneously under discussion. I wanted the formal structure of the work to express a transgender aesthetic by replicating our abrupt, often jarring transitions between genders -- challenging generic classification with the forms of my words just as my transsexuality challenges the conventions of legitimate gender and my performance in the conference room challenged the boundaries of acceptable academic discourse. During the performance, I stood at the podium wearing genderfuck drag -- combat boots, threadbare Levi 501s over a black lace body suit, a shredded Transgender Nation T-shirt with the neck and sleeves cut out, a pink triangle, quartz crystal pendant, grunge metal jewelry, and a six-inch long marlin hook dangling around my neck on a length of heavy stainless steel chain. I decorated the set by draping my black leather biker jacket over my chair at the panelists' table. The jacket had handcuffs on the left shoulder, rainbow freedom rings on the right side lacings, and Queer Nation-style stickers reading SEX CHANGE, DYKE, and FUCK YOUR TRANSPHOBIA plastered on the back.

MONOLOGUE
The transsexual body is an unnatural body. It is the product of medical science. It is a technological construction. It is flesh torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born. In these circumstances, I find a deep affinity between myself as a transsexual woman and the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Like the monster, I am too often perceived as less than fully human due to the means of my embodiment; like the monster's as well, my exclusion from human community fuels a deep and abiding rage in me that I, like the monster, direct against the conditions in which I must struggle to exist.

I am not the first to link Frankenstein's monster and the transsexual body. Mary Daly makes the connection explicit by discussing transsexuality in "Boundary Violation and the Frankenstein Phenomenon," in which she characterizes transsexuals as the agents of a "necrophilic invasion" of female space (69-72). Janice Raymond, who acknowledges Daly as a formative influence, is less direct when she says that "the problem of transsexuality would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence," but in this statement she nevertheless echoes Victor Frankenstein's feelings toward the monster: "Begone, vile insect, or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust. You reproach me with your creation" (Raymond 178; Shelley 95). It is a commonplace of literary criticism to note that Frankenstein's monster is his own dark, romantic double, the alien Other he constructs and upon which he projects all he cannot accept in himself; indeed, Frankenstein calls the monster "my own vampire, my own spirit set loose from the grave" (Shelley 74). Might I suggest that Daly, Raymond and others of their ilk similarly construct the transsexual as their own particular golem? (1)

The attribution of monstrosity remains a palpable characteristic of most lesbian and gay representations of transsexuality, displaying in unnerving detail the anxious, fearful underside of the current cultural fascination with transgenderism. (2) Because transsexuality more than any other transgender practice or identity represents the prospect of destabilizing the foundational presupposition of fixed genders upon which a politics of personal identity depends, people who have invested their aspirations for social justice in identitarian movements say things about us out of sheer panic that, if said of other minorities, would see print only in the most hate-riddled, white supremacist, Christian fascist rags. To quote extensively from one letter to the editor of a popular San Francisco gay/lesbian periodical:

I consider transsexualism to be a fraud, and the participants in it . . . perverted. The transsexual [claims] he/she needs to change his/her body in order to be his/her "true self." Because this "true self" requires another physical form in which to manifest itself, it must therefore war with nature. One cannot change one's gender. What occurs is a cleverly manipulated exterior: what has been done is mutation. What exists beneath the deformed surface is the same person who was there prior to the deformity. People who break or deform their bodies [act] out the sick farce of a deluded, patriarchal approach to nature, alienated from true being.

Referring by name to one particular person, self-identified as a transsexual lesbian, whom she had heard speak in a public forum at the San Francisco Women's Building, the letter-writer went on to say:

When an estrogenated man with breasts loves a woman, that is not lesbianism, that is mutilated perversion. [This individual] is not a threat to the lesbian community, he is an outrage to us. He is not a lesbian, he is a mutant man, a self-made freak, a deformity, an insult. He deserves a slap in the face. After that, he deserves to have his body and mind made well again. (3)

When such beings as these tell me I war with nature, I find no more reason to mourn my opposition to them -- or to the order they claim to represent -- than Frankenstein's monster felt in its enmity to the human race. I do not fall from the grace of their company -- I roar gleefully away from it like a Harley-straddling, dildo-packing leatherdyke from hell.

The stigmatization fostered by this sort of pejorative labelling is not without consequence. Such words have the power to destroy transsexual lives. On January 5, 1993, a 22-year-old pre-operative transsexual woman from Seattle, Filisa Vistima, wrote in her journal, "I wish I was anatomically 'normal' so I could go swimming. . . . But no, I'm a mutant, Frankenstein's monster." Two months later Filisa Vistima committed suicide. What drove her to such despair was the exclusion she experienced in Seattle's queer community, some members of which opposed Filisa's participation because of her transsexuality -- even though she identified as and lived as a bisexual woman. The Lesbian Resource Center where she served as a volunteer conducted a survey of its constituency to determine whether it should stop offering services to male-to-female transsexuals. Filisa did the data entry for tabulating the survey results; she didn't have to imagine how people felt about her kind. The Seattle Bisexual Women's Network announced that if it admitted transsexuals the SBWN would no longer be a women's organization. "I'm sure," one member said in reference to the inclusion of bisexual transsexual women, "the boys can take care of themselves." Filisa Vistima was not a boy, and she found it impossible to take care of herself. Even in death she found no support from the community in which she claimed membership. "Why didn't Filisa commit herself for psychiatric care?" asked a columnist in the Seattle Gay News. "Why didn't Filisa demand her civil rights?" In this case, not only did the angry villagers hound their monster to the edge of town, they reproached her for being vulnerable to the torches. Did Filisa Vistima commit suicide, or did the queer community of Seattle kill her? (4)

I want to lay claim to the dark power of my monstrous identity without using it as a weapon against others or being wounded by it myself. I will say this as bluntly as I know how: I am a transsexual, and therefore I am a monster. Just as the words "dyke," "fag," "queer," "slut," and "whore" have been reclaimed, respectively, by lesbians and gay men, by anti-assimilationist sexual minorities, by women who pursue erotic pleasure, and by sex industry workers, words like "creature," "monster," and "unnatural" need to be reclaimed by the transgendered. By embracing and accepting them, even piling one on top of another, we may dispel their ability to harm us. A creature, after all, in the dominant tradition of Western European culture, is nothing other than a created being, a made thing. The affront you humans take at being called a "creature" results from the threat the term poses to your status as "lords of creation," beings elevated above mere material existence. As in the case of being called "it," being called a "creature" suggests the lack or loss of a superior personhood. I find no shame, however, in acknowledging my egalitarian relationship with non-human material Being; everything emerges from the same matrix of possibilities. "Monster" is derived from the Latin noun monstrum, "divine portent," itself formed on the root of the verb monere, "to warn." It came to refer to living things of anomalous shape or structure, or to fabulous creatures like the sphinx who were composed of strikingly incongruous parts, because the ancients considered the appearance of such beings to be a sign of some impending supernatural event. Monsters, like angels, functioned as messengers and heralds of the extraordinary. They served to announce impending revelation, saying, in effect, "Pay attention; something of profound importance is happening."

Hearken unto me, fellow creatures. I who have dwelt in a form unmatched with my desire, I whose flesh has become an assemblage of incongruous anatomical parts, I who achieve the similitude of a natural body only through an unnatural process, I offer you this warning: the Nature you bedevil me with is a lie. Do not trust it to protect you from what I represent, for it is a fabrication that cloaks the groundlessness of the privilege you seek to maintain for yourself at my expense. You are as constructed as me; the same anarchic Womb has birthed us both. I call upon you to investigate your nature as I have been compelled to confront mine. I challenge you to risk abjection and flourish as well as have I. Heed my words, and you may well discover the seams and sutures in yourself.

CRITICISM
In answer to the question he poses in the title of his recent essay, "What is a Monster? (According to Frankenstein)," Peter Brooks suggests that, whatever else a monster might be, it "may also be that which eludes gender definition" (219). Brooks reads Mary Shelley's story of an overreaching scientist and his troublesome creation as an early dissent from the nineteenth-century realist literary tradition, which had not yet attained dominance as a narrative form. He understands Frankenstein to unfold textually through a narrative strategy generated by tension between a visually oriented epistemology, on the one hand, and another approach to knowing the truth of bodies that privileges verbal linguisticality, on the other (199-200). Knowing by seeing and knowing by speaking/hearing are gendered, respectively, as masculine and feminine in the critical framework within which Brooks operates. Considered in this context, Shelley's text is informed by -- and critiques from a woman's point of view -- the contemporary reordering of knowledge brought about by the increasingly compelling truth claims of Enlightenment science. The monster problematizes gender partly through its failure as a viable subject in the visual field; though referred to as "he," it thus offers a feminine, and potentially feminist, resistance to definition by a phallicized scopophilia. The monster accomplishes this resistance by mastering language in order to claim a position as a speaking subject and enact verbally the very subjectivity denied it in the specular realm.

Transsexual monstrosity, however, along with its affect, transgender rage, can never claim quite so secure a means of resistance because of the inability of language to represent the transgendered subject's movement over time between stably gendered positions in a linguistic structure. Our situation effectively reverses the one encountered by Frankenstein's monster. Unlike the monster, we often successfully cite the culture's visual norms of gendered embodiment. This citation becomes a subversive resistance when, through a provisional use of language, we verbally declare the unnaturalness of our claim to the subject positions we nevertheless occupy. (6)

The prospect of a monster with a life and will of its own is a principal source of horror for Frankenstein. The scientist has taken up his project with a specific goal in mind -- nothing less than the intent to subject nature completely to his power. He finds a means to accomplish his desires through modern science, whose devotees, it seems to him, "have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its shadows. . . . More, far more, will I achieve," thought Frankenstein. "I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation" (Shelley 47). The fruit of his efforts is not, however, what Frankenstein anticipated. The rapture he expected to experience at the awakening of his creature turned immediately to dread. "I saw the dull yellow eyes of the creature open. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped" (Shelley 56, 57). The monster escapes, too, and parts company with its maker for a number of years. In the interim, it learns something of its situation in the world, and rather than bless its creator, the monster curses him. The very success of Mary Shelley's scientist in his self-appointed task thus paradoxically proves its futility: rather than demonstrate Frankenstein's power over materiality, the newly enlivened body of the creature attests to its maker's failure to attain the mastery he sought. Frankenstein cannot control the mind and feelings of the monster he makes. It exceeds and refutes his purposes.

My own experience as a transsexual parallels the monster's in this regard. The consciousness shaped by the transsexual body is no more the creation of the science that refigures its flesh than the monster's mind is the creation of Frankenstein. The agenda that produced hormonal and surgical sex reassignment techniques is no less pretentious, and no more noble, than Frankenstein's. Heroic doctors still endeavor to triumph over nature. The scientific discourse that produced sex reassignment techniques is inseparable from the pursuit of immortality through the perfection of the body, the fantasy of total mastery through the transcendence of an absolute limit, and the hubristic desire to create life itself. (7) Its genealogy emerges from a metaphysical quest older than modern science, and its cultural politics are aligned with a deeply conservative attempt to stabilize gendered identity in service of the naturalized heterosexual order.

None of this, however, precludes medically constructed transsexual bodies from being viable sites of subjectivity. Nor does it guarantee the compliance of subjects thus embodied with the agenda that resulted in a transsexual means of embodiment. As we rise up from the operating tables of our rebirth, we transsexuals are something more, and something other, than the creatures our makers intended us to be. Though medical techniques for sex reassignment are capable of crafting bodies that satisfy the visual and morphological criteria that generate naturalness as their effect, engaging with those very techniques produces a subjective experience that belies the naturalistic effect biomedical technology can achieve. Transsexual embodiment, like the embodiment of the monster, places its subject in an unassimilable, antagonistic, queer relationship to a Nature in which it must nevertheless exist.

Frankenstein's monster articulates its unnatural situation within the natural world with far more sophistication in Shelley's novel than might be expected by those familiar only with the version played by Boris Karloff in James Whale's classic films from the 1930s. Film critic Vito Russo suggests that Whale's interpretation of the monster was influenced by the fact that the director was a closeted gay man at the time he made his Frankenstein films. The pathos he imparted to his monster derived from the experience of his own hidden sexual identity. (8) Monstrous and unnatural in the eyes of the world, but seeking only the love of his own kind and the acceptance of human society, Whale's creature externalizes and renders visible the nightmarish loneliness and alienation that the closet can breed. But this is not the monster who speaks to me so potently of my own situation as an openly transsexual being. I emulate instead Mary Shelley's literary monster, who is quick-witted, agile, strong, and eloquent.

In the novel, the creature flees Frankenstein's laboratory and hides in the solitude of the Alps, where, by stealthy observation of the people it happens to meet, it gradually acquires a knowledge of language, literature, and the conventions of European society. At first it knows little of its own condition. "I had never yet seen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me," the monster notes. "What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them." (Shelley 116, 130). Then, in the pocket of the jacket it took as it fled the laboratory, the monster finds Victor Frankenstein's journal, and learns the particulars of its creation. "I sickened as I read," the monster says. "Increase of knowledge only discovered to me what a wretched outcast I was." (Shelley 124, 125).
Upon learning its history and experiencing the rejection of all to whom it reached out for companionship, the creature's life takes a dark turn. "My feelings were those of rage and revenge," the monster declares. "I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me" (130). It would have been happy to destroy all of Nature, but it settles, finally, on a more expedient plan to murder systematically all those whom Victor Frankenstein loves. Once Frankenstein realizes that his own abandoned creation is responsible for the deaths of those most dear to him, he retreats in remorse to a mountain village above his native Geneva to ponder his complicity in the crimes the monster has committed. While hiking on the glaciers in the shadow of Mont Blanc, above the village of Chamounix, Frankenstein spies a familiar figure approaching him across the ice. Of course, it is the monster, who demands an audience with its maker. Frankenstein agrees, and the two retire together to a mountaineer's cabin. There, in a monologue that occupies nearly a quarter of the novel, the monster tells Frankenstein the tale of its creation from its own point of view, explaining to him how it became so enraged.

These are my words to Victor Frankenstein, above the village of Chamounix. Like the monster, I could speak of my earliest memories, and how I became aware of my difference from everyone around me. I can describe how I acquired a monstrous identity by taking on the label "transsexual" to name parts of myself that I could not otherwise explain. I, too, have discovered the journals of the men who made my body, and who have made the bodies of creatures like me since the 1930s. I know in intimate detail the history of this recent medical intervention into the enactment of transgendered subjectivity; science seeks to contain and colonize the radical threat posed by a particular transgender strategy of resistance to the coerciveness of gender: physical alteration of the genitals. (9) I live daily with the consequences of medicine's definition of my identity as an emotional disorder. Through the filter of this official pathologization, the sounds that come out of my mouth can be summarily dismissed as the confused ranting of a diseased mind.
Like the monster, the longer I live in these conditions, the more rage I harbor. Rage colors me as it presses in through the pores of my skin, soaking in until it becomes the blood that courses through my beating heart. It is a rage bred by the necessity of existing in external circumstances that work against my survival. But there is yet another rage within.

JOURNAL (FEBRUARY 18, 1993)
Kim sat between my spread legs, her back to me, her tailbone on the edge of the table. Her left hand gripped my thigh so hard the bruises are still there a week later. Sweating and bellowing, she pushed one last time and the baby finally came. Through my lover's back, against the skin of my own belly, I felt a child move out of another woman's body and into the world. Strangers' hands snatched it away to suction the sticky green meconium from its airways. "It's a girl," somebody said. Paul, I think. Why, just then, did a jumble of dark, unsolicited feelings emerge wordlessly from some quiet back corner of my mind? This moment of miracles was not the time to deal with them. I pushed them back, knowing they were too strong to avoid for long.

After three days we were all exhausted, slightly disappointed that complications had forced us to go to Kaiser instead of having the birth at home. I wonder what the hospital staff thought of our little tribe swarming all over the delivery room: Stephanie, the midwife; Paul, the baby's father; Kim's sister Gwen; my son Wilson and me; and the two other women who make up our family, Anne and Heather. And of course Kim and the baby. She named her Denali, after the mountain in Alaska. I don't think the medical folks had a clue as to how we all considered ourselves to be related to each other. When the labor first began we all took turns shifting between various supporting roles, but as the ordeal progressed we settled into a more stable pattern. I found myself acting as birth coach. Hour after hour, through dozens of sets of contractions, I focused everything on Kim, helping her stay in control of her emotions as she gave herself over to this inexorable process, holding on to her eyes with mine to keep the pain from throwing her out of her body, breathing every breath with her, being a companion. I participated, step by increasingly intimate step, in the ritual transformation of consciousness surrounding her daughter's birth. Birth rituals work to prepare the self for a profound opening, an opening as psychic as it is corporeal. Kim's body brought this ritual process to a dramatic resolution for her, culminating in a visceral, cathartic experience. But my body left me hanging. I had gone on a journey to the point at which my companion had to go on alone, and I needed to finish my trip for myself. To conclude the birth ritual I had participated in, I needed to move something in me as profound as a whole human life.

I floated home from the hospital, filled with a vital energy that wouldn't discharge. I puttered about until I was alone: my ex had come over for Wilson; Kim and Denali were still at the hospital with Paul; Stephanie had gone, and everyone else was out for a much-needed walk. Finally, in the solitude of my home, I burst apart like a wet paper bag and spilled the emotional contents of my life through the hands I cupped like a sieve over my face. For days, as I had accompanied my partner on her journey, I had been progressively opening myself and preparing to let go of whatever was deepest within. Now everything in me flowed out, moving up from inside and out through my throat, my mouth because these things could never pass between the lips of my cunt. I knew the darkness I had glimpsed earlier would reemerge, but I had vast oceans of feeling to experience before that came up again.
Simple joy in the presence of new life came bubbling out first, wave after wave of it. I was so incredibly happy. I was so in love with Kim, had so much admiration for her strength and courage. I felt pride and excitement about the queer family we were building with Wilson, Anne, Heather, Denali, and whatever babies would follow. We've all tasted an exhilarating possibility in communal living and these nurturing, bonded kinships for which we have no adequate names. We joke about pioneering on a reverse frontier: venturing into the heart of civilization itself to reclaim biological reproduction from heterosexism and free it for our own uses. We're fierce; in a world of "traditional family values," we need to be.

Sometimes, though, I still mourn the passing of old, more familiar ways. It wasn't too long ago that my ex and I were married, woman and man. That love had been genuine, and the grief over its loss real. I had always wanted intimacy with women more than intimacy with men, and that wanting had always felt queer to me. She needed it to appear straight. The shape of my flesh was a barrier that estranged me from my desire. Like a body without a mouth, I was starving in the midst of plenty. I would not let myself starve, even if what it took to open myself for a deep connectedness cut off the deepest connections I actually had. So I abandoned one life and built this new one. The fact that she and I have begun getting along again, after so much strife between us, makes the bitterness of our separation somewhat sweet. On the day of the birth, this past loss was present even in its partial recovery; held up beside the newfound fullness in my life, it evoked a poignant, hopeful sadness that inundated me.

Frustration and anger soon welled up in abundance. In spite of all I'd accomplished, my identity still felt so tenuous. Every circumstance of life seemed to conspire against me in one vast, composite act of invalidation and erasure. In the body I was born with, I had been invisible as the person I considered myself to be; I had been invisible as a queer while the form of my body made my desires look straight. Now, as a dyke I am invisible among women; as a transsexual, I am invisible among dykes. As the partner of a new mother, I am often invisible as a transsexual, a woman, and a lesbian. I've lost track of the friends and acquaintances these past nine months who've asked me if I was the father. It shows so dramatically how much they simply don't get what I'm doing with my body. The high price of whatever visible, intelligible, self-representation I have achieved makes the continuing experience of invisibility maddeningly difficult to bear.

The collective assumptions of the naturalized order soon overwhelmed me. Nature exerts such a hegemonic oppression. Suddenly I felt lost and scared, lonely and confused. How did that little Mormon boy from Oklahoma I used to be grow up to be a transsexual leatherdyke in San Francisco with a Berkeley Ph.D.? Keeping my bearings on such a long and strange trip seemed a ludicrous proposition. Home was so far gone behind me it was gone forever, and there was no place to rest. Battered by heavy emotions, a little dazed, I felt the inner walls that protect me dissolve to leave me vulnerable to all that could harm me. I cried, and abandoned myself to abject despair over what gender had done to me.

Everything's fucked up beyond all recognition. This hurts too much to go on. I came as close today as I'll ever come to giving birth -- literally. My body can't do that; I can't even bleed without a wound, and yet I claim to be a woman. How? Why have I always felt that way? I'm such a goddamned freak. I can never be a woman like other women, but I could never be a man. Maybe there really is no place for me in all creation. I'm so tired of this ceaseless movement. I do war with nature. I am alienated from Being. I'm a self-mutilated deformity, a pervert, a mutant, trapped in monstrous flesh. God, I never wanted to be trapped again. I've destroyed myself. I'm falling into darkness I am falling apart.

I enter the realm of my dreams. I am underwater, swimming upwards It is dark. I see a shimmering light above me. I break through the plane of the water's surface with my lungs bursting. I suck for air -- and find only more water. My lungs are full of water. Inside and out I am surrounded by it. Why am I not dead if there is no difference between me and what I am in? There is another surface above me and I swim frantically towards it. I see a shimmering light. I break the plane of the water's surface over and over and over again. This water annihilates me. I cannot be, and yet -- an excruciating impossibility -- I am. I will do anything not to be here.

I will swim forever.
I will die for eternity.
I will learn to breathe water.
I will become the water.
If I cannot change my situation I will change myself.

In this act of magical transformation
I recognize myself again.

I am groundless and boundless movement.
I am a furious flow.
I am one with the darkness and the wet.

And I am enraged.

Here at last is the chaos I held at bay.
Here at last is my strength.
I am not the water --
I am the wave,
and rage
is the force that moves me.

Rage
gives me back my body
as its own fluid medium.

Rage
punches a hole in water
around which I coalesce
to allow the flow to come through me.

Rage
constitutes me in my primal form.
It throws my head back
pulls my lips back over my teeth
opens my throat
and rears me up to howl: : and no sound dilutes
the pure quality of my rage.

No sound
exists
in this place without language
my rage is a silent raving.

Rage
throws me back at last
into this mundane reality
in this transfigured flesh
that aligns me with the power of my Being.

In birthing my rage,
my rage has rebirthed me.

THEORY
A formal disjunction seems particularly appropriate at this moment because the affect I seek to examine critically, what I've termed "transgender rage," emerges from the interstices of discursive practices and at the collapse of generic categories. The rage itself is generated by the subject's situation in a field governed by the unstable but indissoluble relationship between language and materiality, a situation in which language organizes and brings into signification matter that simultaneously eludes definitive representation and demands its own perpetual rearticulation in symbolic terms. Within this dynamic field the subject must constantly police the boundary constructed by its own founding in order to maintain the fictions of "inside" and "outside" against a regime of signification/materialization whose intrinsic instability produces the rupture of subjective boundaries as one of its regular features. The affect of rage as I seek to define it is located at the margin of subjectivity and the limit of signification. It originates in recognition of the fact that the "outsideness" of a materiality that perpetually violates the foreclosure of subjective space within a symbolic order is also necessarily "inside" the subject as grounds for the materialization of its body and the formation of its bodily ego.

This primary rage becomes specifically transgender rage when the inability to foreclose the subject occurs through a failure to satisfy norms of gendered embodiment. Transgender rage is the subjective experience of being compelled to transgress what Judith Butler has referred to as the highly gendered regulatory schemata that determine the viability of bodies, of being compelled to enter a "domain of abjected bodies, a field of deformation" that in its unlivability encompasses and constitutes the realm of legitimate subjectivity (16). Transgender rage is a queer fury, an emotional response to conditions in which it becomes imperative to take up, for the sake of one's own continued survival as a subject, a set of practices that precipitates one's exclusion from a naturalized order of existence that seeks to maintain itself as the only possible basis for being a subject. However, by mobilizing gendered identities and rendering them provisional, open to strategic development and occupation, this rage enables the establishment of subjects in new modes, regulated by different codes of intelligibility. Transgender rage furnishes a means for disidentification with compulsorily assigned subject positions. It makes the transition from one gendered subject position to another possible by using the impossibility of complete subjective foreclosure to organize an outside force as an inside drive, and vice versa. Through the operation of rage, the stigma itself becomes the source of transformative power. (10)

I want to stop and theorize at this particular moment in the text because in the lived moment of being thrown back from a state of abjection in the aftermath of my lover's daughter's birth, I immediately began telling myself a story to explain my experience. I started theorizing, using all the conceptual tools my education had put at my disposal. Other true stories of those events could undoubtedly be told, but upon my return I knew for a fact what lit the fuse to my rage in the hospital delivery room. It was the non-consensuality of the baby's gendering. You see, I told myself, wiping snot off my face with a shirt sleeve, bodies are rendered meaningful only through some culturally and historically specific mode of grasping their physicality that transforms the flesh into a useful artifact. Gendering is the initial step in this transformation, inseparable from the process of forming an identity by means of which we're fitted to a system of exchange in a heterosexual economy. Authority seizes upon specific material qualities of the flesh, particularly the genitals, as outward indication of future reproductive potential, constructs this flesh as a sign, and reads it to enculturate the body. Gender attribution is compulsory; it codes and deploys our bodies in ways that materially affect us, yet we choose neither our marks nor the meanings they carry. (11) This was the act accomplished between the beginning and the end of that short sentence in the delivery room: "It's a girl." This was the act that recalled all the anguish of my own struggles with gender. But this was also the act that enjoined my complicity in the non-consensual gendering of another. A gendering violence is the founding condition of human subjectivity; having a gender is the tribal tattoo that makes one's personhood cognizable. I stood for a moment between the pains of two violations, the mark of gender and the unlivability of its absence. Could I say which one was worse? Or could I only say which one I felt could best be survived?

How can finding one's self prostrate and powerless in the presence of the Law of the Father not produce an unutterable rage? What difference does it make if the father in this instance was a pierced, tatooed, purple-haired punk fag anarchist who helped his dyke friend get pregnant? Phallogocentric language, not its particular speaker, is the scalpel that defines our flesh. I defy that Law in my refusal to abide by its original decree of my gender. Though I cannot escape its power, I can move through its medium. Perhaps if I move furiously enough, I can deform it in my passing to leave a trace of my rage. I can embrace it with a vengeance to rename myself, declare my transsexuality, and gain access to the means of my legible reinscription. Though I may not hold the stylus myself, I can move beneath it for my own deep self-sustaining pleasures.

To encounter the transsexual body, to apprehend a transgendered consciousness articulating itself, is to risk a revelation of the constructedness of the natural order. Confronting the implications of this constructedness can summon up all the violation, loss, and separation inflicted by the gendering process that sustains the illusion of naturalness. My transsexual body literalizes this abstract violence. As the bearers of this disquieting news, we transsexuals often suffer for the pain of others, but we do not willingly abide the rage of others directed against us. And we do have something else to say, if you will but listen to the monsters: the possibility of meaningful agency and action exists, even within fields of domination that bring about the universal cultural rape of all flesh. Be forewarned, however, that taking up this task will remake you in the process.

By speaking as a monster in my personal voice, by using the dark, watery images of Romanticism and lapsing occasionally into its brooding cadences and grandiose postures, I employ the same literary techniques Mary Shelley used to elicit sympathy for her scientist's creation. Like that creature, I assert my worth as a monster in spite of the conditions my monstrosity requires me to face, and redefine a life worth living. I have asked the Miltonic questions Shelley poses in the epigraph of her novel: "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?" With one voice, her monster and I answer "no" without debasing ourselves, for we have done the hard work of constituting ourselves on our own terms, against the natural order. Though we forego the privilege of naturalness, we are not deterred, for we ally ourselves instead with the chaos and blackness from which Nature itself spills forth. (12)

If this is your path, as it is mine, let me offer whatever solace you may find in this monstrous benediction: May you discover the enlivening power of darkness within yourself. May it nourish your rage. May your rage inform your actions, and your actions transform you as you struggle to transform your world.

NOTES
1. While this comment is intended as a monster's disdainful dismissal, it nevertheless alludes to a substantial debate on the status of transgender practices and identities in lesbian feminism. H. S. Rubin, in a sociology dissertation in progress at Brandeis University, argues that the pronounced demographic upsurge in the female-to-male transsexual population during the 1970s and 1980s is directly related to the ascendancy within lesbianism of a "cultural feminism" that disparaged and marginalized practices smacking of an unliberated "gender inversion" model of homosexuality -- especially the butch-femme roles associated with working-class lesbian bar culture. Cultural feminism thus consolidated a lesbian-feminist alliance with heterosexual feminism on a middle-class basis by capitulating to dominant ideologies of gender. The same suppression of transgender aspects of lesbian practice, I would add, simultaneously raised the spectre of male-to-female transsexual lesbians as a particular threat to the stability and purity of nontranssexual lesbian-feminist identity. See Echols for the broader context of this debate, and Raymond for the most vehement example of the anti-transgender position.
2. The current meaning of the term "transgender" is a matter of some debate. The word was originally coined as a noun in the 1970s by people who resisted categorization as either transvestites or transsexuals, and who used the term to describe their own identity. Unlike transsexuals but like transvestites, transgenders do not seek surgical alteration of their bodies but do habitually wear clothing that represents a gender other than the one to which they were assigned at birth. Unlike transvestites but like transsexuals, however, transgenders do not alter the vestimentary coding of their gender only episodically or primarily for sexual gratification; rather, they consistently and publicly express an ongoing commitment to their claimed gender identities through the same visual representational strategies used by others to signify that gender. The logic underlying this terminology reflects the widespread tendency to construe "gender" as the sociocultural manifestation of a material "sex." Thus, while transsexuals express their identities through a physical change of embodiment, transgenders do so through a non-corporeal change in public gender expression that is nevertheless more complex than a simple change of clothes.
This essay uses "transgender" in a more recent sense, however, than its original one. That is, I use it here as an umbrella term that refers to all identities or practices that cross over, cut across, move between, or otherwise queer socially constructed sex/gender boundaries. The term includes, but is not limited to, transsexuality, heterosexual transvestism, gay drag, hutch lesbianism, and such non-European identities as the Native American berdache or the Indian Hijra. Like "queer," "transgender" may also be used as a verb or an adjective. In this essay, transsexuality is considered to be a culturally and historically specific transgender practice/identity through which a transgendered subject enters into a relationship with medical, psychotherapeutic, and juridical institutions in order to gain access to certain hormonal and surgical technologies for enacting and embodying itself.
3. Mikuteit 3-4, heavily edited for brevity and clarity.
4. The preceding paragraph draws extensively on, and sometimes paraphrases, O'Hartigan and Kahler.
5. See Laqueur 1-7, for a brief discussion of the Enlightenment's effect on constructions of gender. Feminist interpretations of Frankenstein to which Brooks responds include Gilbert and Gubar, Jacobus, and Homans.
6. Openly transsexual speech similarly subverts the logic behind a remark by Bloom, 218, that "a beautiful 'monster,' or even a passable one, would not have been a monster."
7. Billings and Urban, 269, document especially well the medical attitude toward transsexual surgery as one of technical mastery of the body; Irvine, 259, suggests how transsexuality fits into the development of scientific sexology, though caution is advised in uncritically accepting the interpretation of transsexual experience she presents in this chapter. Meyer, in spite of some extremely transphobic concluding comments, offers a good account of the medicalization of transgender identities; for a transsexual perspective on the scientific agenda behind sex reassignment techniques, see Stone, especially the section entitled "All of reality in late capitalist culture lusts to become an image for its own security" (280-304).
8. Russo 49-50: "Homosexual parallels in Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) arose from a vision both films had of the monster as an antisocial figure in the same way that gay people were 'things' that should not have happened. In both films the homosexuality of director James Whale may have been a force in the vision."
9. In the absence of a reliable critical history of transsexuality, it is best to turn to the standard medical accounts themselves: see especially Benjamin, Green and Money, and Stoller. For overviews of cross-cultural variation in the institutionalization of sex/gender, see Williams, "Social Constructions/Essential Characters: A Cross-Cultural Viewpoint," 252- 76; Shapiro 262-68. For accounts of particular institutionalizations of transgender practices that employ surgical alteration of the genitals, see Nanda; Roscoe. Adventurous readers curious about contemporary non- transsexual genital alteration practices may contact E.N.I.G.M.A. (Erotic Neoprimitive International Genital Modification Association), SASE to LaFarge-werks, 2329 N. Leavitt, Chicago, IL 60647.
10. See Butler, "Introduction," 4 and passim.
11. A substantial body of scholarship informs these observations: Gayle Rubin provides a productive starting point for developing not only a political economy of sex, but of gendered subjectivity; on gender recruitment and attribution, see Kessler and McKenna; on gender as a system of marks that naturalizes sociological groups based on supposedly shared material similarities, I have been influenced by some ideas on race in Guillaumin and by Wittig.
12. Although I mean "chaos" here in its general sense, it is interesting to speculate about the potential application of scientific chaos theory to model the emergence of stable structures of gendered identities out of the unstable matrix of material attributes, and on the production of proliferating gender identities from a relatively simple set of gendering procedures.

WORKS CITED
Benjamin, Harry. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian, 1966.
Billings, Dwight B., and Thomas Urban. The Socio-Medical Construction of Transsexualism: An Interpretation and Critique. Social Problems 29 (1981): 266-82.
Bloom, Harold. Afterword. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. New York: Signet/ NAL, 1965. 212-23. Orig. pub. "Frankenstein, or The New Prometheus." Partisan Review 32 (1965): 611-618.
Brooks, Peter. Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge,1993.
Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon, 1978.
Echols, Alice. Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989.
Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. 213-47.
Green, Richard, and John Money, eds. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1969.
Guillaumin, Colette. "Race and Nature: The System of Marks." Feminist Studies 8 (1988): 25-44.
Homans, Margaret. "Bearing Demons: Frankenstein's Circumvention of the Maternal." Bearing the Word. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1986. 100-19.
Irvine, Janice. Disorders of Desire: Sex and Gender in Modern American Sexology. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1990.
Jacobus, Mary. Is There a Woman in this Text? Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist Criticism. New York: Columbia UP, 1986. 83-109.
Kahler, Frederic. "Does Filisa Blame Seattle?" Editorial. Bay Times [San Francisco] 3 June 1993: 23.
Kessler, Suzanne J., and Wendy McKenna. Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985
Laqueur, Thomas. Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1990.
Meyer, Morris. I Dream of Jeannie: Transsexual Striptease as Scientific Display. The Drama Review. 35.1 (1991): 25-42.
Mikuteit, Debbie. Letter. Coming Up! Feb. 1986: 3-4.
Nanda, Serena. Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijras of India. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1990.
O'Hartigan, Margaret D. I Accuse. Bay Times [San Francisco] 20 May 1993: 11.
Raymond, Janice G. The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Boston: Beacon, 1979.
Roscoe, Will. Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in the Ancient World. American Historical Association Meeting. 9 January 1994. San Francisco.
Rubin, Gayle. "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the "Political Economy" of Sex. Toward an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna R. Reiter. New York: Monthly Review P, 1975. 157-210.
Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. New York: Harper and Row, 1981.
Shapiro, Judith. Transsexualism: Reflections on the Persistence of Gender and the Mutability of Sex. Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity. Eds. Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub. New York: Routledge, 1991. 248-79.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Orig. pub. 1817. New York: Signet/NAL, 1965.
Stoller, Robert. Sex and Gender. Vol. 1. New York: Science House, 1968. The Transsexual Experiment. Vol. 2 of Sex and Gender. London: Hogarth, 1975.
Stone, Sandy. The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto. Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity. Ed. Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub. New York: Routledge, 1991. 280-304.
Williams, Walter. The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. Boston: Beacon, 1986.
Wittig, Monique. The Mark of Gender. The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon, 1992. 76-89.

Susan Stryker's "My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix -- Performing Transgender Rage," originally appeared in GLQ 1(3): 227-254. © 1994.
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© 1999 by Anne A. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D. All rights reserved.
(taken from http://www.annelawrence.com/twr/mywords.html)
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Friday, July 10, 2009

McCurley's open letter to Thio

Refer to here for the news and opinion related to law professor Thio Li-Ann's impending visit to New York University.

In it, there was an open letter by student Jim McCurley to the highly articulate and rather understated political liberal academic.

I shall reproduce it here:

I read your recent e-mail interview with Inside Higher Ed with some interest. It seems that you may be a little concerned about what awaits you at NYU this fall. As a gay person and a law student, I wanted to take the opportunity to reassure you and to welcome you to the university. I’m not sure if you’ve been to New York before, but I gather from your CV that you got a quite a fine education in the UK. Because of a few phrases you used in the interview, it occurred to me that you may not be familiar with some peculiarities of American English and I want to point out a few that may come in handy. First, we call chips “french fries” and crisps “chips.” Second, we generally call Members of Parliament “elites” and law students, well, “law students.” We don’t really use the word “diktat” a whole lot.

New York being New York, you may also find a few Yiddish words to be useful. Foremost among these is “chutzpah.” “Chutzpah” is hard to translate directly and its meaning is perhaps best illustrated by example. New Yorkers would say that a former NMP and graduate of Cambridge and Oxford who denounces gays in a rather vulgar manner on the floor of Parliament in a successful bid to enable their imprisonment calling the highlighting of her remarks by a few law students “ugly politicking” based on “their own prejudices, from whatever sources” has a lot of chutzpah.

Now, having grown up in a farming village in Kentucky and spent a number of years in the enlisted ranks of the Army, I share your distaste for both “ugly politicking” and “elite diktat.” As I’ve been called a “faggot” and been beaten up a few times, I don’t care much for “bullying” either, although I’m not sure having one of one’s own Parliamentary speeches circulated really qualifies as such. This may be yet another peculiarity of American English.

You are quite correct, however, that in the face of bullying, one must have courage. It also helps to have supportive gay friends. One of the nice things about gay folks is that we tend not to belong to either the “liberal camp” or “communitarian camp” which you described in your speech. We’re just into camp. Likewise, the gays at NYU don’t by any means have a problem with you, your right to your views, or academic freedom. We just don’t think that state power to imprison or discriminate against sexual, racial, or other minorities is a particularly “academic” question. Again, that’s American English for you.

Another generally appreciated feature of the gays is our sense of taste, which has been highlighted in television shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” You are a bit mistaken if you think that the gays at NYU want to censor you. It’s just that, like mixing polka dots with plaid or having George Wallace teach a course on civil rights in the American South, we tend to think NYU’s hiring you to teach a class called “Human Rights in Asia” demonstrates a lack of taste.

Dr. Thio, if you’ll have me, I’d like to be your supportive gay friend. We can have lunch, dish about men and listen to music together. I know a great tapas place in Greenwich Village and, as an American, I’d like to disabuse you of the notion that I have any interest in “refus[ing] to engage with dissenting views” or directing “intolerant animosity” at you. There are also a few great American songs I’d love to introduce you to. One of my favorites is called “Cry Me a River.” It was written by Arthur Hamilton.

I must make one friendly request before I let you go, however. We American gays are doing fairly well post-Lawrence v. Texas. Unlike our Singaporean brethren, we can’t be arbitrarily thrown into prison and can generally defend ourselves under the law. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our friends, the straw men. From “human right to sodomy” to “Americans … appropriating the rhetoric of human rights … [to] impose their views on a sovereign state,” you’ve spent a good deal of time knocking them down. Last I checked, they hadn’t done anything to you, so why not go a bit easier on them?

All the best,

Jim McCurley

NYU Law Class of 2010

Thio was notified of this letter and posted her reply:

A faculty member forwarded me your Open Letter and I must say it's wittiness made me laugh out loud, especially your comment about being "camp." Touche. When I mentioned camps, I was thinking of Frankie goes to Hollywood's two tribes song and perhaps it was a little ill-advised on my part, but such are my sorry cultural referent points.

I am a little weary of some of the sad posts from certain of my countrypeople who love to misrepresent and distort the nature of my views or the context and issue they were directed at. Always sweeping, uncompelling and with the tired litany of insults and presumptions, but then, perhaps they read religiously from Schopenhauer's Die Kunst Recht zu Behalten but fail to see the irony.

It really is the last straw.

Contextualisation is key, I am sure you will agree.

I was sorry to read that you were beaten up - that is never justified; and being called "faggot" is as ugly as being called "homophobe" so perhaps we will leave the name-callers to their own devices and treat each other first and foremost as human beings with intrinsic dignity. (Is that a howl of protests I hear across the cyber-waves by the usual band of demonisers? C'est la vie.)

I find the internet not to be conducive to genuine communication as people will say what they will say and believe what they want to believe. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Anyway, please do come knock on my door or drop me an email and have a coffee with me when I reach your not so sunny shores (if you do caffeine, that is). I would welcome having a civilised conversation with you; you can ask me whatever questions you might have to understand where I am coming from and what my political convictions are - if you care to know the truth of things. I find face to face talks are very effective in disabusing falsehoods and clarifying misapprehension and well, heck, distortions, particularly those redolent with malicious intent.

Thank you for the letter,

All the very best,
Li-ann Thio.

Interestingly, I somehow feel that people have the right to be convicted to their beliefs. Well, it is the enactment of these beliefs that encroach other spheres and weigh down on the beliefs of others, compelling them to feel threatened or to be changed. But that is a world that we live in.

I hope that some attention will be paid to what Thio has to teach. Beyond sexual minority issues and her personal beliefs, there are many things the Americans can learn about this part of Asia. Our relations cannot be built on stereotypes and prevailing and exclusive ideologies.

That said, it is sometimes ironic to me that when the upholding of diversity of ideology and opinion creates stereotypes and misinformation, creates aggression and passive aggression. I think this is worsened by the lack of sense of community and sense of social belonging of Singaporeans, that ideological institutions provide that alternative.

I actually look forward to any interview with Thio that finds out her views on sexuality and sexual orientation. Most of the time, she is somehow 'objective' about it. It is about time we get an insightful and personal interview with her. I am sure faith and religion are important to her too and that could be shared with all of us too. She is after all, human like us.