Saturday, July 30, 2016

LGBT dialogue must be grounded in lived daily realities

(Published on Today - June 27, 2016)

I refer to Mr Clement Wee’s letter “Both sides of LGBT debate guilty of undue zeal on issue” (June 24).

The previous writer (“MNCs’ main goal is profits, not sociopolitical outcomes”; June 23) mentioned how conservative religious discourse from the West has been seeded in Singapore.

This brings to the fore the paradox of local anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) narratives, which lean on the East-West dichotomy and into which constructs such as Asian values fit.

While the externalisation of local affairs and social justices to wider socio-economic and historical phenomena and processes is appreciated, we should focus on grounding our discussion in the lived daily realities of LGBT Singaporeans.

We could ask ourselves these questions: Can life be better for them or for Singaporeans of multiple marginalities? Can existing impediments to the well-being of LGBT Singaporeans be addressed and removed?

How can we play our role in improving the governance, equality and well-being of Singaporeans regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity?

How aware are we of the implications of local conservative beliefs and policies for the daily lives of Singaporeans of different sexual orientation and gender identity, including cisgender heterosexuals?

Contrary to Mr Wee’s suggestion, I am unsure what constitutes Western or local when it comes to having a dialogue.

Neither am I interested in investing time into understanding the essence of the “West’s way”, or whichever way, because that process distracts us from the issues in hand: Marginalisation, stigma, unequal rights, et cetera.

To have a genuine dialogue in Singaporeans’ interests, let us start with those who have been marginalised.

Hearing their feedback would give the majority of us a better understanding of our own realities, attitudes and behaviours, as well as a better idea of what needs changing, depending on our moral fortitude.