Monday, August 10, 2009

Just do it

January 1st is not the new year for me, but August 10th.

That's because my entire life for now revolves around the university's calendar.

My thesis will be top priority. Hopefully the ethics review board will not stall me. Hopefully I can get willing persons who identify as transgender or previously identify as transgender. Hopefully I can write something substantial by end of 2009.

Knowing my capabilities, I believe the following academic year should not be much of a worry. But somehow, I feel tremendous pressure with regards to my thesis.

The more I think about the ethics review board, or the impending recruitment of interviewees, the more I think about myself and my beliefs. In fact, the thesis on "transgender representations" is essentially a thesis on the self. As I try to identify, confront and critique transgender discourses in Singapore, I realise I'm creating my own discourse for its own confrontation and critiquing.

The anxiety is also in the upcoming SinQSA event. In my limited experience, nothing goes as planned for events, and we should always expect the unexpected. Knowing that alone does not calm any nerves, nor add an hour more of quality sleep.

Just came back from the Pink Picnic today at the Botanical Gardens. Had fun playing with the frisbee, which caused me substantial distress and grief - over a 2 week delay for a product that should have been delivered in 5 working days.

People (friends, acquaintances, faces I remember, and strangers) were happy and having fun. I think that makes a difference.

My brother, who is soon bound for his doctorate studies overseas and only returning every summer, has on a few occasions told me about making a difference - a.k.a. actually doing something about something.

The hot-headed and hard-to-please youth in me has always manifested in complaints about life, people and society in general. Simply bitching, unsatisfied.

"Why is bla bla bla like that? Bla bla bitch bla bla bitch bitch..."

"Why don't you do something about it then?"

Somehow it clicked. Lying dormant in me has always been the "put your money where your mouth is" mantra. That is why I chose to go to Ang Mo Kio Secondary School and Nanyang Junior College (because I wanted a school that was near, aside from meeting the qualifying grades); that is why I decided to go for auditions and try acting (because I was a harsh critique of local productions and acting); that is why I tried modelling (because I was critical of modelling); that is why I make music and send out demos (because I believed I could write better music than some of the stuff that are being overplayed by the radio stations, and I did not get any where). And what did I get out of it all? Doors slamming in my face, and the feelings of rejection and disappointment. But at least I walked away with the experience of having been rejected and been disappointed, instead of sitting on my butt in a greater state of ignorance, and continuing my complaints and criticisms.

That's also why I say "yes" to being part of the team behind the queer-straight alliance. It was a "why not?" kind of "yes", rather than a "yes yes yes" kind of "yes". But I guess it is important to put your money where your mouth is again. So just do/did it. I mean, I am already queer-affirming/accepting, and I have already spoken up in my personal capacity to rebut the ludicrousness and bigotry that stifles other Singaporeans.

I have the feeling that the SinQSA role for me is becoming more of a leadership position, and something I am in the process of reconciling. For a non-queer-identified individual, the motivation for forwarding queer issues, rights and awareness is and will always be extrinsic. This means, I will speak up for a gay friend not because I speak up for his/her friend to identify and to live, but rather stand up against the hatred, fear and discrimination leveled against him/her.

My identification as "straight" is a reaction to people like George Lim Heng Chye, who also identifies as "straight" (in a forum letter in 2003). If a defensive person plays the game of identity politics, I am also implicated for I share the similar identity traits as he does. I am equally driven by my distaste for being misrepresented, misunderstood, underestimated, mis/distrusted or any of the combination.

Not all straight-identified people are pre-occupied with defaming and dehumanising those who identify as queer, or a non-heterosexual and/or non-"normal" gender identity. Not all straight people readily and uncritically share, spread and proliferate bigotry, prejudice and hate against sexual minorities.

If you are a straight person who disagrees with another straight person who spews such self-righteous generalisations, you should stand up at this gross misrepresentation of not only the intended victims of bigotry that are queer people, but also yourself and your forgotten values and beliefs.

Do something about it. You need not go for the jugular and campaign for elections, or go on a hunger strike. In a society that allows people's beliefs to apparently manifest in discrimination and prejudices against others, you have every right to let your beliefs of tolerance/acceptance/affirmation shine through - be it in speech, conscious action or a simple daily routine.

Instead of complaining, you do what you believe is just. Any way, there are others who have already begun doing what they believe is just, but apparently, "just" to them constitutes discrimination and hate-mongering, and the conversion of many others into continuing this culture of discrimination and hate-mongering, naturalising it in the process.

Always look for ways where you can contribute, where you can participate. No role is a small role, but a role not taken at all is a role that never have and never will exist. A lot of us sit and complain, but play no role in the actual addressing of what makes us complain in the first place.

If you care about something, find a way to contribute to fixing/improving it. The means and tactics of doing so depends on what skills, abilities and talents you are aware you have.

And when you are actually doing something in line with your beliefs, don't expect others to follow suit, and don't blame them for not doing so - simply because they are different persons and they have their own beliefs. This is not an indicator that they are against you or not.

I had this problem with SinQSA and active straight participation. Perhaps the ideas and programmes we have are the least attractive and engaging. Expecting active straight participation at the level of SinQSA is an unrealistic and misguided expectations. As we look around us, there are many examples of queer-straight alliances being forged on a daily basis, amidst the ignorance and hatred.

A straight person might have his/her own queer-straight alliance in befriending and standing up for a friend who is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. On a higher level, a straight person who has no known queer friend or relative, also creates an alliance with dozens of queer-identified strangers when he/she takes a moment to educate a friend who oozes homophobia.

If bigoted hate-mongers can take the liberty to manifest their hatred and denial of queer experiences, issues and identities, you have to stand up and say you disagree. You need not stand up and say that in the face of these individuals and their organisations. There will always be people who will make greater sacrifices and do that. In your small capacity, you can share your views with your friends and loved ones, just like hate-mongers share their views with their friends and loved ones. An unspoken point of view is a silence, coming from an individual assumed to be void of any opinion, and often times taken for granted as an agreement with the prevailing discourses.

You deny your subjectivity when you shut up in the face of adversity and in the climate that adversity has created for you. Do not be afraid of being labelled a "rebel", for you are merely a individual thinking critically, asking a question and seeking to make an informed decision in a domain you believe that is lacking that critical thinking, fearing to ask any question, and seeking to continue to be misguided.

To plug the brand Nike, just do it. If you feel strongly about something, do not pretend to be ignorant, unaffected or choose not to engage it. The most significant contribution you can do is stop being afraid of hiding away from what you feel strongly about. Take a leaf out of the book from those who have already begun to created a world where some human beings are more equal than others. They may have the headstart in establishing and naturalising their discourses and dogma, but it is never too late for you to make a difference.

Queer rights for me is not my top priority. Health, family and happiness are top priority (although they're intricately linked to our economic system, bo pian). Other priorities include the need to always find avenues to express myself (in music, sport, writing, possibly art, and the occasional gesticulation). But that does not stop me from making my small contribution as I try to change minds by attempting to encourage people around me to think a little more about themselves, the things they say and believe in. After all, most of us would like to make informed decisions as a daily and lifelong objective, so why not help with that?

That is why education is important and special to me, not only for the young, but the rest of the population. I'm not only referring to the middle class construct of education and the institution, but about the reality that people are always capable of learning a little something more (about themselves and the horrible world, of course).

There are prevailing beliefs that cause substantial inconvenience to people. For example, it is stigmatising to say you are depressed and need to seek help. That is why I write to the press about it. (and also because I sometimes feel really down for long periods of time, don't we all?)

We will never reach a utopia for everyone, because everyone has a different idea of love and justice, no matter how hard we try to identify, isolate and glorify similar traits (we cannot ignore differences). But we can slowly adjust and move away is lessening the inconveniencing and suffering of others - and we begin with ourselves.

When you have stood up and made your small contribution, I believe you would at least have the right to complain about the experience, rather than making a complaint based on a little less experience, won't you?

I am putting in a little bit of effort myself. You see, I hate "people" and I often bitch about how shitty this world is and how ugly people are (inside, that is). If it bothers me enough to rant about it, I look to what I have (and possibly taken for granted) and start doing something about it. I try to be more positive when others try to drown an occasion in negativity, be more politically correct when suffocating in the thin air of cynicism. Of course, there are times I have the strong urge to use profanity, violence, or pure indifference to resolve things. It eats me inside out, but I know resorting to those measures do not constitute making a difference.

Maybe all of these thoughts are an attempt to (over)rationalise in a world dominated by specific discourses and systems of beliefs utterly irreconcilable for the many minds and souls that inhabit it. Well, you can peel away the layers of meaning and find there might be a supreme being or a deity underneath it all, or you could break the jigsaw puzzle into many pieces, when isolated contain absolutely no meaning at all. You'll find out yourself any way.

For the time being, I see meaning in participating and contributing because it's in line with what I believe in. What do you think?

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