Following our meeting with the Minister, many comments were made in public and in private.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but one comment on our website stood out. The comment started off promising, recognising the typical social roles and contributions of queer persons. It quickly degenerated into a vulgar and violent threat of severe physical assault. When a person incites violence against a minority, whether they are ethnic, religious or sexual minorities, it becomes hate speech.
We decided to make a police report because we are vulnerable, not just as individuals, but as a community. Many queer persons receive threats from persons they know or strangers, at school, in National Service or in casual, social settings. For some who look different, it is a common occurrence. Threats or acts of violence are usually under-reported, but by persons of stigmatised identities, even more so, because they face additional stigma and repercussions.
Hate speech can escalate into hate crime. The recent report in The New Paper about a gang rape is an example of a hate crime, where a person is targeted because they are perceived to be of a particular social group.
As a society, we need to signal that such threats and acts are not acceptable. They offend public decency and are unjust. We would like to encourage everyone to stand up against threats and violence, whether you are a survivor or a bystander.
Stay tuned for updates.
I attended the Population Townhall on 9 Oct, a consultation organised by REACH and the National Population and Talent Division as part of public engagement initiatives for our population issues. Citizens who completed the questionnaire posted on www.population.sg were invited to attend the session.
I wanted to contribute more progressive input towards this initiative. The language used on the website and questionnaire was very heterosexual-centric. I kept seeing the phrase "get married and have children", although not everyone will want to get married before having children. This remains true even for heterosexual couples, who may feel that they are ready to be parents but not married couples.
The panel included DPM Teo Chee Hean, Minister Grace Fu, Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Amy Khor (REACH's chairperson), who was moderating.
This article is by guest writer Bernie Leong.
In Lillian Faderman's groundbreaking book, Gay L.A., she writes that in 1942, "A circle of lesbian friends pooled their money and purchased a row of rental houses in Los Angeles. They created an early lesbian enclave, constructing communal areas such as a swimming pool, where they would meet each other regularly; and the homes in which they did not live, they leased only to other lesbians. They provided not only fellowship for one another but also social services. For example, when the sixty-year-old resident of the community suffered a ruptured aneurysm, and doctors wanted to institutionalize her permanently, her lesbian neighbours organized rotating shifts to dress and undress her, feed her, and keep her stimulated by conversation. Against the doctors' dire predictions ('She will survive as a vegetable'), she recovered normal speech and became fully functioning after three years."
I heard someone remark, one day, that there "were too many gay plays" during a certain year, perhaps 2007 when Asian Boys Vol. 3 was running. I sought his reasons for saying so, and was satisfied at the time that he posed it as an opinion. But I also stewed over it after the incident.
I wish I had said the following three things to him:
(1) Would he have said the same about a play of another minority group? How would it sound to say, "Oh, there are far too many plays about race now. Having one or two is okay, but it was just too much."
The thing about being a minority group is that we are perpetually underrepresented in popular discourse. We don't have the luxury of being able to pop into a cinema every day and be able to see queer-identifying men and women living lives with their partners, pets and kids. Trying to balance out that ratio and having you squirm just means that you are used to the imbalance, not that it is in the natural or right way to go.
(2) To be fair to those who share his perspective, there may be a disproportionate amount of queer content in theatre compared to mass media meant for public consumption. However, a feature of the medium and of art in general is to push boundaries and to deal with the marginal issues of the day. If being gay were one day considered a normal facet of human life, and if power relations were somehow to equalise, I'm pretty sure it would become a far less interesting topic to depict in theatre. I hope we are moving towards that.
(3) With the presence of so many queer individuals in the theatre scene and the liberal slant of the arts community, it's surprising that there aren't more so-called gay plays around. Not that anyone, gay or straight, is obliged to address the topic in their art. But the stark absence of LGBT characters in plays and films, when they are the very people we know and love in everyday life, may just be reproducing the invisibility people with straight privilege are so used to. It's why I like to be pleasantly surprised by subtextual hints that protagonists have had same-sex attractions in their pasts. These things happen.
Skyride at Sentosa, Singapore
This picture reminds me of never-ending questions, and conversations that go in circles...
While having dinner with a Christian gay friend, she asked, ‘Anj, i have a question to ask you...’ Over my piping hot ramen, i took a deep breath and placed my chopsticks neatly at the side of the wide ramen bowl. And i studied her carefully for a few seconds as she began the conquest of her spicy minced pork ramen. She has been my friend for some years now and has asked me the darnest things. Sometimes i wonder how it is possible that a friend of mine would hold such values.
Gay people around me ask questions like...
• ‘Don’t you think there’s something wrong with lesbians who dress like men? Why don’t they just be FTMs?’
• ‘Don’t you think there’s something wrong with butches? They are born like women therefore they should behave like women.’
• ‘Bisexuals cannot be trusted. They shouldn’t be in the community.’
• ‘Gay people who are promiscuous should just be shot because they are bringing the community down.’
Christian struggling gay friends ask me additional questions like...
• ‘Wasn’t Sodom destroyed because of homosexual activity? My church friend told me so.’