Monday, August 9, 2010

I want a more equal Singapore

(Unpublished - August 2, 2010)

As Singapore turns 45 soon, most of us cannot help but be amazed at the short period of time we have taken to be where we are today.

We may have developed and progressed economically and become a first world nation, but I feel there can be more effort into making us a first world society.

Although there are many areas to be addressed, I refer specifically to the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Singaporeans, who are victims of policy, populist rhetoric and stereotypes.

It is gross injustice that the grounds for acceptance of our fellow LGBT Singaporeans are articulated in the terms of economic productivity, yet there exist the criminalisation of consensual same-sex sex, the lack of anti-discrimination laws pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, and discrimination at various levels of society.

At the same time, LGBT Singaporeans are subjected to myths that associate their sexual identities with paedophelia, promiscuity, crime, sexually transmitted diseases, moral corruption, corrupt "Western values" and other items worthy of moral panics. These are not only untrue and unjust, but also does not make the rest of us heterosexually identified people more saintly.

It appears that in the recent decade, we accept LGBT people so they can generally be exploited for their talent and labour, to help elevate Singapore's economic status. Yet, at the same time, we uphold institutional and social discrimination.

The mainstream media is also doing little to address this social inequality. It refrains from positively portraying sexual minorities, and at the same time, does not provide sufficient information and coverage on LGBT-related issues, unless a prominent public official initiates discussion on this area, as we have seen in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Queer-affirming people like myself, who support the inclusion and equal rights for sexual minority Singaporeans, end up silenced just like our LGBT friends have been.

Our government should not be tardy, apathetic or over-rationalising in adopting their "wait-and-see" approach to making Singapore a plural and truly diverse society.

I believe the government and media should take ownership in social justice, and lead by example by making the necessary changes in policy and in practice that favour the fostering of equality in this nation, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

The government and the media have the privilege to address this inequality, something LGBT Singaporeans do not, as they live in a society homophobic and transphobic, apathetic or ill-informed.

We are still a young nation, one that is capable of even more achievement, such as equality for LGBT citizens.

Ho Chi Sam

Afterthought: I guess it's non-publication proves my point that sexual minority issues in Singapore will never be discussed in the Straits Times forum unless a prominent public official initiatives discussion or if an event of significant public interest occurs.

9 comments:

Ash said...

Well, short of a populist stance, I cannot see how else our government should behave towards this issue.

More or less, I believe a government should be democratic, and only intervenes with popular opinion only where it is necessary.

Insofar as the issue with homosexuality is concerned, it is difficult to expect the government to take a proactive stance in choosing sides– the most they can do is go along. I do not think they should lead the charge either way.

To be fair, our Government has not expressed their own conservatism in the matter, and instead only reflected the stance of the majority. Bear in mind that while we have a strong religious voice in Singapore, our ageing population also means that the majority of Singaporeans consists of the older, more conservative generation.

I personally do not have anything against homosexuality, although my personal experience has been that the gays I know have been so hurt by society that they've turned into mean, bitchy and backstabbing people as a reflection of how they've been treated (oh well). But regardless, I do agree that they should be afforded equality.

I think that in all fairness, the so-called criminality of 377a has been largely unenforced. A sword of Damocles if you choose to view it that way, but I nonetheless see it as a toothless precaution– if ever it were enforced, for example, there would be sure to be outcry.

I do however disagree with the notion of gay-pride events and the like, as that goes beyond being tolerance and granting basic rights, to positive embracement and the granting of privilege. That is something that simply rubs wrong against the grain of society, at least as it stands right now.

While homosexuality and the acceptance of it is steadily becoming more mainstream, would it sit well for our government to go further and push for the rights of hypothetically less mainstream beliefs/minorities? How about popularising or providing for believers of vampiric druidism, or scientology. After all, shouldn't there be equality for all minority groups? (I understand that these are examples of religions. But I reckon it wouldn't sit well to give examples of alternate sexualities/fetishes like necrophilia or dendrophilia, etc.)

I think the government has to draw a line as to where it supports minority groups. It has to allow the minority a voice (as I think it has, at least during the repeal-of-377a, or the AWARE saga), but short of that, it cannot champion every minority right. Especially not one that still rubs wrong against majority of society.

Ash said...

To summarise:

I do not think it is the government's place nor role to push an agenda/belief either way. Just as you would not expect the government to advance a religious agenda, it is only fair that you do not expect them to actively push for a more homosexual-friendly Singapore. Separation of state and religion is paramount, and I think the Government should be all but neutral/reflective in the matter, rather than actively pushing for either side– something which I think they have done.

If what you want is better education that homosexuals are not bad people, then I think it is up to the activist groups to educate the masses. As long as they do it in a humble, peaceful manner, I can't see how there will be substantial opposition.

What I do suspect, however, is that most people already know of homosexuality, and that any intolerance still present is due to personal or religious belief– not because of ignorance. A belief is ultimately irrational, and there is no educating someone who refuses to be a convert.

Concerned said...

I will continue to support the PAP government, at least I know that they have the resolutions to maintain our mainstream "One Man, One Woman" family nucleus and stop the sneaky LGBT from covertly infiltrating our society with their freakish, dirty and most sickening sexual illness!

I'm glad that AWARE is now a gone case and it will not cause any further harm. We should next target all those unscrupulous LGBT activist who had disguised themselves as so called "artist" from spreading their terminal disease through the art & theatre scene.

The majority mainstreamers in Singapore have the resolution and will do whatever they can in keeping freakish and deformed creatures like Sam Ho from poisoning our society and our next generations!

Aud :) said...

@Concerned
DUDE YOU NEED SERIOUS HELP.

I'm a Catholic but even I am open to other views. LBGTs are still HUMANS just like you and I. It's people like you that perpetuate such hatred and stereotypes.

And Sam is entitled to air his opinions. It's HIS blog after all. But flaming him on his own blog only goes to show how low-life of a person you are.
Am so disgusted.

储涵 said...

一時的錯誤不算什麼,錯而不改才是一生中永遠且最大的錯誤..................................................

Kittyeatdog said...

@Concerned.
haha.
You are wrong on so many levels. But to point out the obvious, Sam is not deformed. He's actually kind of hot. But its just me being gay, you know, the thing you conveniently refer to as a terminal disease.
Be careful not to catch it the next time you breathe.
And the next time you sneeze, that might just be it.
You've caught the gay.

BOO.

=D

BABO said...

Hi Sam,

I cannot help but to write to demolish the many ill-conceived assertions made by one of your reader, Ash.

Firstly, I am not a member of the LGBT. But, have friends and relatives who are. Enough to know that this is certainly not a disease. Or illness as so confidently asserted by another reader, Concerned. LGBT people are for sure a minority. But, not invisible or so well-hidden that ordinary people would not come across them in their day-to-day lives regularly. And appreciate their worth and contributions. Rather than show extreme repugnance (like sick Concerned) or worse mock empathy (as shown by not-so-straight Ash). Unless, these latter people are brought up ignorant or indoctrinated, or both.

Ash’s sense of democracy is so narrow, so Singapore Government that it is so certainly wrong. His misconceived democracy of majority over minority, of populist stance, of popular opinion, of what is mainstream, of the grain of the society, of being neutral and reflective, of activism for the minorities, of opposition only from the masses, etc., etc. (unwritten, but enough) is so unique. And I thought Fascism was dead and buried.

His idea of democracy is also contradictory. How his majority government supports minority groups or not is so twisted up that he ends up literally in bondage, ala BDSM. And he is not freakish, but normal. Convenient labeling, I say.

Why I said his is a mock empathy for equality for LGBT? He hides behind the majority who are obviously hetero and he asserts that they have a strong religious voice, are older and more conservative (just like him……). I wonder if his meaning of equality includes true justice and non-discrimination for the minorities, not just one defined by the majority. I am not hopeful, if coming from him.

Without explaining what he deems as normal sexual orientation, one can see clearly that his ideas on sexual orientation of LGBT is so out of this world and completely misplaced. He links their sexual orientation to extreme sexual fetishes, Necrophilia, Dendrophilia, etc. – a case of an ignoramus resorting to further misinformation and fear-mongering. He might as well throw in whole penal code book at them, to make it complete.

Perhaps the greatest injustice and discrimination shown to LGBT people is that of Section 337a. Ash sees it as a “toothless precaution”, “largely unenforced”, “if it were enforced, ….. there would be sure to be outcry”. How insincere words could be. Precaution against what or who? Outcry from who? Enforced by who? Only he knows. But, he gets it politically correct when he said LGBT can view this as their “Sword of Democles”. His kind of sword of justice. In one fell swoop, openly LGBT people cannot become politicians without being labeled a criminal. The closet LGBT ministers, politicians that we have or have had do not count. If this is not a pure discrimination by criminality, I don’t know what else is.

We don’t have to go far to see this being played out. The prosecution (or persecution) of Anwar across the Causeway under a similar (historically) legal and statute provision is indeed a rare enforcement. Even, in a more conservative Malaysia.

Ash, for all his political rhetoric, is nothing more that another mouthpiece of what is not right for Singapore.


BABO

BABO said...

Hi Sam,

You are spot on when you said the following.

“It is gross injustice that the grounds for acceptance of our fellow LGBT Singaporeans are articulated in the terms of economic productivity, yet there exist the criminalisation of consensual same-sex sex, the lack of anti-discrimination laws pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, and discrimination at various levels of society.”

“It appears that in the recent decade, we accept LGBT people so they can generally be exploited for their talent and labour, to help elevate Singapore's economic status. Yet, at the same time, we uphold institutional and social discrimination.”

The government is still all economics. It courted LGBT people for their creativity so badly needed to steer the economy further. But, it stops short of giving them what is rightly theirs.

Vampyre said...

Hi Sam,

From the bottom of my heart, i thank you again and again for speaking up for us, even when many of us have given up shouting into the stonewall of silence on our rights.

Every National Day i see queer celebrities featuring promptly in the celebrations, and i wonder if their participation is helpful to the cause, or whether we as a community should stop allowing ourselves to be 'exploited', if i may use that word. Of course i could be reading too much into things.