Monday, September 13, 2010

We need LGBT role models

The LGBT community in Singapore needs role models. (edit: My friends have pointed out to me the inaccuracy of this. I apologise for the lack of clarity. I intend to mean "more prominent role models who can reach within and beyond the community" as this post will argue.)

So what if we have straight allies or queer-affirming politicians? So what if LGBT Singaporeans eventually reach a milestone in which most are free from physical, emotional, legal and moral harassment?

In light of the news of Dr Stuart Koe facing drug possession charges, homophobic Singaporeans will find it easier to devalue and trivialise the gay community, never mind how an individual like him has spent the past decade raising LGBT awareness and advocating sexual minority rights, among other things.

As minorities, sexual minorities or minorities in opinion, you/we do not have the luxury of media blackouts/gags to protect your/our already perceived poor reputations. The media, conservative politicians and homophobic/transphobic bigots have long defined what LGBT Singaporeans are and should be, without the participation of LGBT stakeholders themselves.

Worse, the conditions for LGBT Singaporean participation in defining and distinguishing the community are not favourable. They face the prospect of further harrassment, job loss, familial and social ostracism, and these repercussions are informed by the media, conservative politicians and homophobic/transphobic bigots. It is a cycle of queer oppression that must be broken.


At the same time, I argue the need for LGBT Singaporean role models. I am absolutely sure that there are many successful high profile Singaporeans who have contributed to nation, society and economy, who are also gay or lesbian. There is no denying LGBT Singaporeans are as hardworking and talented as heterosexually-identified Singaporeans.

No thanks to the mainstream media, conservative politicians, homophobic/transphobic bigots and 2004 Balaji Sadasivan types, LGBT Singaporeans are made out to be crooks, criminals, sexual predators, druggies, paedophiles, immoral and diseased. And all these are done without the participation of LGBT Singaporeans themselves.

Imagine a scenario where Christian people are making representations on behalf of Muslim people, but without the participation of Muslim people. How fair is that?

Different people need to be heard. And with regards to LGBT Singaporeans, we need LGBT role models and high profile figures, born and bred in Singapore, who have sweated and bled for Singapore, to speak up.

These are the people who have accumulated enough wealth and savings, built a strong social and familial network, enough to see them through whatever backlash should they come out. Ordinary LGBT Singaporeans already fear the professional backlash should they come out. They risk losing their jobs and livelihood for being who they are.

We cannot do with "open secrets" and people who are just "out" within the community. If Singaporean sexual minorities want rights, we need to connect with folks outside the community.

There will be straight Singaporeans who will support the "out" high profile LGBT ones. There will also be those who will express indifference at sexuality, which is indicative that they will not be readily engaging in hate and fear-mongering against LGBT folks.

And for the high profile closeted LGBT Singaporeans to come out, they need not fear the repercussions, as it will go to show how selfish, intolerant and ignorant their "new" detractors are. You might lose friends, family and jobs, but also gain some.

If you feel that most of your life has been a challenge, but through sheer hard work and perseverance, you made it to where you are, you should be sharing your story. If you genuinely feel that future generations of LGBT Singaporeans do not deserve to go through the problems you had gone through as a queer/questioning person, do something for them.

Your silence is only complicit in the vicious cycle of homophobia.

Ever so often, in the community's discussion on sexual minority rights, there will be views that LGBT Singaporeans should come out of the closet.

I personally feel that not all LGBT Singaporeans can come out, or if so, have the capacity and resources to deal with the repercussions. This is why I believe successful and high profile LGBT Singaporeans should use their privileges to do so.

A community cannot help itself if the privileged stratum within it remains silent and inactive.

Just do it.

"I'm gay/lesbian. This is my story. Other gay and lesbian Singaporeans do not deserve the treatment they are getting today. Feel free to spend your time judging me, but I ask you, what are you going to do for your respective communities? What are you going to do to help gay and lesbian Singaporeans?"

"I'm trans. This is my story. Other transgender Singaporeans share the same problems as I have, some more, some less. I worked hard to earn your respect. But what is it about you that makes you reluctant in respecting and giving credit to others?"

Successful and high profile LGBT Singaporeans (in the closet) are more likely to enjoy media attention than your average closeted air-conditioner repairman. You use your position of privilege and success to do what is right, not right for yourself, but what is right for others who have and will suffer like you do or once did, but didn't have the capacity to speak up.

In an environment where LGBT Singaporeans remain oppressed, trivialised, infantilised and demonised, the silence of successful high profile LGBT Singaporeans does not help one bit.

Within the community, we have activists, social workers, academics/researchers, opinion leaders and respected figures who contribute to the wellness and enrichment of the group. The community also needs role models, not only to inspire the community, but to engage in dialogue with people outside it - to ask for and establish a more egalitarian position in society for all LGBT Singaporeans.

My message to the privileged, the successful and the high profile (closeted) LGBT Singaporeans: Please step forward and do something right.

1 comment:

Becky Cheung said...
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