Hot in New York

To mark the first day in New York state when same-sex marriages could be registered, the New York Times ran a portrait page, featuring twenty couples. See this link (if it still works).  The picture I particularly liked was this:

Why? Because they were completely counter to the stereotypical image of a gay male couple. Michael Roberts (left) and Michael Johnson (right) have been together for thirty years, far longer than many heterosexual marriages. Why did they have to wait so long before they could get married?

Each portrait on the New York Times page came with a short audio file. The one by Michael Margolin and Michael Charles (thanks to Alan Seah for pointing it out) is particularly nice:

One of the Michaels said: “What really moved me today is, early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to church, dressed like this with our carnations, and a number of people asked us if we were getting married, and we said Yes. And the whole bus broke out in applause. Which was really, you know, made me feel Wow, New York is behind us. So all those things you hear about [how] this was forced on New Yorkers [and] wasn’t fair — the man on the street is very much in favour of it.”

* * * * *

The carnationed pair of Michaels went to church, as you would have noticed.

Other Christians might get apoplectic about that. About a week ago, I was attending a seminar at a local university in which several students presented papers summarising their project work. A pair of students presented a paper on a topic they had chosen: social acceptance for gay people. In the audience was Augustine H H Tan, a professor of economics (retired?) and former People’s Action Party member of parliament. During question time, Tan expressed his disapproval of non-heterosexual orientation. The students made an attempt to defend their thesis, in the course of which mention was made about how New York has joined a growing list of countries and states that has legalised gay marriages.

What followed was a remarkable outburst by Tan. I cannot recall now the exact words, but it took the form: “Mark my words! New York will burn for disobeying the word of god.”

There was a stunned silence before another academic, herself in her eighties too, gently pointed out that scriptures are open to interpretation.

Perhaps that god is indeed attempting to burn New York down, though so far, not quite successfully. There’s been a heatwave with the thermometer reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit ( 40 degrees Celsius) in New York City and 108 Fahrenheit (42 Celsius) in neighbouring Newark last Friday (22 July 2011).

* * * * *

That was the day when the Singapore delegation led by Halimah Yacob, Minister of State in the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports, and her delegation were in the hot seat at the United Nations. Singapore was being interrogated by international peers for compliance with the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). You can see a rough summary of the proceedings here.

The questions flew thick and fast over a whole range of gender-related issues, but for the purposes of this article, I will focus on those that touched on sexual orientation, it being my primary area of interest.

As reported by Jean Chong, a member of the Sayoni team also attending the Cedaw meeting, and which team had just two-and-a-half minutes to speak to the session,

We spoke about the victims of violence we know of and the silence that surrounds invisible women. Or the many gay men and women we know that linger at the edge of existence. We tried to put a name to the shame and pain that tortures our community endlessly and the insistent ignorance of those who claimed that they understand but know nothing. And did nothing.

Then when it was the government’s turn to reply,

We were disappointed to see the ignorance of the government in full display when question after question on SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity]  issues were placed upon them. Nothing was said except a weak denial or two on systemic discrimination. The answers if any were careless and displayed our invisibility to them for all to see.

– Sayoni.com, Our Cedaw journey, part 4, 25 July 2011.

(In the sections below, indented text is taken from the rough summary of the proceedings, the document hyperlinked above.)

Patricia Schulz from Switzerland pointed out that Singapore’s

Constitution prohibited and criminalized male homosexuality, she noted.  How did that affect lesbians? Finally, the media were fined for “presenting lesbianism as acceptable”, she said, asking how Singapore could reconcile such activities with the principles of the Convention.

As far as I can see from the rough summary of the proceedings, the Singapore governmental delegation did not answer that question.

Silvia Pimentel from Brazil, chair of the relevant Cedaw committee, asked

if a general anti-discrimination law was being considered and if reform of censorship laws on homosexual matters was being considered.  She also asked about laws to prevent domestic violence in the context of same-sex relationships.

Again the delegation appeared to evade the question, not addressing it in their verbal replies.

Schulz then reiterated her question, pointing out that

the delegation had not responded to the question about the status of lesbians.  Could the delegation explain whether all employment discrimination cases could be brought to court, or if any exceptions existed?

Finally, the delegation responded:

There were no plans in place to repeal section 377(a) of the Penal Code.  That had been vigorously debated in Parliament, resulting in divided views.  The general approach, however, was that the provision would not be enforced unless a complaint was filed.  There was no systemic discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, she emphasized.  With regard to censorship, all movies, including those with such themes, were subjected to the same review by a board of censors as all other movies.

(I added the emphases because I will come back to them later).

Pimental too reiterated her question, this time making it more specific to healthcare. She asked

Would Singapore consider the recognition of same-sex partnerships in order to make health-care benefits more equitable?

A member of the delegation then whitewashed Singapore’s shameful record, replying:

Most of Singapore’s laws were gender neutral and did not consider the sexual orientation of a person in their application, he said.  Therefore, all rights, services and mechanisms available were accessible by both hetero- and homosexual people alike.

Hold on a minute. “Most” is not all. The full, official name of CEDAW itself speaks of the elimination of all forms of discrimination; therefore the government is effectively conceding that they are failing to implement the convention that they signed, and for which they had agreed to submit to international peer review.

Coming to systemic discrimination (highlighted in bold earlier), there are so many examples, one hardly knows where to begin. What is important to note is that while Section 377A of the Penal Code superficially targets only men, it is seen by all government departments as a bedrock legitimising anti-gay discrimination. Civil servants read from the existence of this law the notion that in doing their jobs, they are expected to discriminate against gay people, male and female.

Thus we have policies that impose more restrictive censorship on gay-related media content, for example. To tell the world that gay-related content is “subjected to the same review by a board of censors”, as the Halimah delegation did in New York, is plain untrue. Untrue. The truth is that there are different, stricter standards applied. And what is that if not discrimination?

We have laws and policies that deny marriage to same-sex couples, which in turn means that when a woman needs healthcare to be paid for, her partner cannot help her with her Medisave savings unlike heterosexually-married couples. This financial impediment can hurt some women’s access to healthcare. You would have noticed that when Silvia Pimental asked a question about healthcare, the government said no discrimination existed. Untrue.

The same laws that deny marriage to same-sex couples have a huge financial impact on access to public housing. Only “family units” are considered eligible by the Housing and Development Board to buy new HDB flats. Young heterosexual couples can form family units by marriage, but gay couples cannot. They are then forced to go the HDB resale market, which we know is one where flats cost 50 – 100 percent more than new flats. If that is not grievous discrimination, what is?

The Education Ministry relies on Section 377A to deny sexuality education relevant to gay teenagers. The Home Affairs Ministry relies on it to deny event permits and foreign speaker permits. The Health Ministry relies on it to excuse themselves from conducting HIV-education targetted at and relevant to the gay community.

And there are still no mechanisms in place to provide effective recourse to anyone who feels discriminated against because of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, as required by CEDAW. A wide-ranging anti-discrimination law would be a good start.

What is not required by Cedaw is a bury-head-in-the-sand,  dismissive attitude to real, systemic discrimination that gay people encounter every day of their lives.

51 Responses to “Hot in New York”


  1. 1 Tan Tai Wei 28 July 2011 at 08:25

    I wonder why Augustine Tan and other like “christians” don’t also condemn heterosexuals like themselves using all sorts of contraceptives to “plan their families”.

    For, also on superficial readings of Scriptures, God seems also to forbid it. Isn’t there an Old Testament story of someone who was struck dead for practising coitus interruptus, “spilling his seed on the ground”? Wasn’t mankind commanded to “be fruitful and multiply”?

    And yet they remain silent about that, themselves having indulged in family planning all their lives, very willingly using their minds to think beyond Biblical superficialities on that issue, and claiming rightly that sex serves important purposes besides procreation.

    Why not also think, when the issue is homosexuality?

    • 2 blue0skies@hotmail.com 30 July 2011 at 01:11

      Having long puzzled over this conundrum – the unremittingly vehement homophobia of some Christians despite the general relaxation of attitudes to other practices technically proscribed in the Bible – I’ve wondered if this might have a sociological explanation as follows (with the caveat that this probably only applies to societies that espouse, or claim to espouse, or are influenced by so-called ‘Western’ liberal ideals).

      The idea that all human beings are entitled to equal treatment is one that has been gaining traction at least since the mid 20th century. The oppression of various groups has slowly but steadily been rejected – at least in the public sphere – as incompatible with mainstream values. Slavery appears to be universally deemed unacceptable nowadays. Discrimination based on race, religion or gender is not considered politically correct any longer (even if particular individuals or groups privately remain prejudiced against certain people).

      (Note that I’m not claiming that actual discrimination or bias is on the wane; only that it is no longer considered polite or acceptable, in general, to openly hold a prejudicial view. This is why, for instance, the Singapore government is so anxious to rebut any claim that it has acted in a prejudicial manner even though it seems clear that it tacitly still considers certain biases valid.)

      This move away from public acceptance of intolerance means that people have fewer avenues now to exercise and express their chauvinistic impulses. With fewer grounds for asserting the superiority of one’s own tribe, it’s become more difficult to derive a cheap form of in-group validation.

      In this context, homosexuality is like the ‘final frontier’. Conservatives desperately cling to its condemnation because it’s one of the last few means for them to assert their perceived moral superiority. What better way to cement the loyalty and unity of one’s clan if not to cast some other clan as the enemy? If homosexuality were accepted, who/what would fire-and-brimstone demagogues be able to fulminate against?

      The time for Crusades, Inquisitions and pogroms is past; slavery has been abolished; women are no longer considered ‘unclean'; science has rendered many religious dictates mere superstition. Genuine moral proscriptions such as those against killing, theft and other crimes are universal and enshrined in law, so there is no moral capital to be gained in rehashing them.

      Homosexuality, on the other hand, is convenient for several reasons. Public acceptance of it is a more recent phenomenon, so holding the traditional view does not yet appear as glaringly anachronistic as holding certain other old-fashioned prejudices. Pseudo-biological rationalizations are near at hand (viz., it is anatomically ‘unnatural’, non-procreative, disease-prone, psychologically maladaptive for raising children, etc.), giving it a veneer of objectivity. And it is fed by other cultural insecurities, e.g. subversion of traditional gender roles and gender performance (itself a symptom of misogyny and the clinging to patriarchal authority), the myth of the gay man as sexual predator or pedophile, and so forth.

      Other (hetero)sexual practices (once) deemed ‘immoral’, such as non-procreative intercourse, oral sex, lying with a menstruating woman, premarital sex, or even adultery are less convenient to target because it is more difficult to pick out a constant, discrete group of people who exemplify the practice. Greater awareness of homosexuality and the gay rights movement has (ironically) reified the category of sexual orientation, putting it on par with other human traits considered defining (gender, ethnicity, religion). By contrast, groups like ‘adulterers’ or ‘oral sex practitioners’ are not considered defining.

      Indeed, the recognition that greater sexual permissiveness among heterosexuals is the new norm and that little can be done to reverse this trend probably fuels the homophobic hysteria among conservatives.

      Those who do not want to engage their innate human capacity for moral reasoning and instead want to rely on religious dogma just want a clean line in the sand—us versus them.

      • 3 Daniel L 31 July 2011 at 00:00

        Wow. This scratches so many itches all at once. Yes many Christians do seem to love cherry-picking from the Bible, hearing only what they want to hear.

        Why do they not target apostates, blasphemers (anyone who preaches Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, even yoga) and (especially relevant in the US where premarital and extramarital sex are commonplace) adulterers, but instead focus all their attention on the persecution of homosexuals? The need to vilify a group without alienating too many potential adherents and outraging the general public seems like a very good explanation.

  2. 4 The 28 July 2011 at 08:50

    The first picture – they look so alike………

  3. 5 Poker Player 28 July 2011 at 10:28

    “Mark my words! New York will burn for disobeying the word of god.”

    Someone at this level of intellect passed the interview with LKY?

    • 6 selene_pp 28 July 2011 at 11:57

      Judging by the views of current PAP MPs, they still pass the party’s selection criteria for “leadership”.

    • 7 Fox 28 July 2011 at 15:09

      Augustine Tan was actually a minister of state or something in the 70s, very much an up-and-up man on account of his Stanford PhD. Then he did something which led to his immediate return to NUS. It was rumoured to be his evangelizing to a trade delegation from a middle eastern country while he was in office.

  4. 8 melbyfool 28 July 2011 at 10:42

    I despise people like Tan.

    I don’t think his God, his omni-present and omni-loving God, would be proud of having him as a follower.

    He has already committed 2 of the 7 deadly sins – Wrath and Pride.

  5. 9 Loh 28 July 2011 at 11:22

    I’m shocked by Augustine Tan’s comments, that New York will burn for disobeying god. Good grief. All I can say is the guy is a damn fool.

  6. 10 Poker Player 28 July 2011 at 13:48

    Whatever you say about the LKY generation, you have to like their straight-talking, pithy, no-bullshit style.

    Today we get Pat Robertson wannabes, and MP and Ministers who speak like bureaucrats whose only mission in life is to keep their behinds safe.

  7. 11 Anonymous 28 July 2011 at 14:02

    The presence of a gene linked to homosexuality has showed that God has made them that way. And we are created in God’s image.

  8. 13 Kevin Poe 28 July 2011 at 18:09

    Seems like New York is the capital of gay people, now that they can get married there. On a top rated gay site I saw an invitation to go there and marry where many persons applied. This might be the next Vegas:)

  9. 14 Anonymous 28 July 2011 at 19:11

    Thank you for sharing the article on the NY Times. I teared up listening to the audio clips of the featured couples. The legalization of gay marriage in New York (the 6th and biggest state to do so) is incredible. It is the sign of the times, one where a new level of social justice is reach. That is exactly what it is, social justice.

    “Republican State Senator Stephen Saland was one of the last to support the same-sex marriage bill. A self-proclaimed traditionalist, he said he agonized over the decision: “I have defined doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes the definition of marriage, and I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing……While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience,” Saland, of Poughkeepsie, said in a statement to The Associated Press before the vote. “I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.”

    My heart weeps for people like Augustine Tan. A decision against social justice and equality does not reflect a traditional upbringing. It reflects a poor upbringing, traditional or otherwise. Blinded by their own self-indulgent “religious” views, they do not see that a decision against social justice and equality contradicts every moral value they try to “protect”. Indeed, what morals are you talking about? What sort of upbringing have you had, that you were taught to turn your back on equality and basic rights?

    I am disgusted and ashamed by the efforts of the Singapore Government to whitewash over the issues brought up during CEDAW. Singapore’s government hardly even gives the LGBT community any recognition, let alone equal rights. All this talk about becoming a first class city, how can we achieve that when our leaders and academics turn a blind eye towards equality. It really makes me sick.

    A traditionalist Republican as a source of inspiration regarding LGBT rights, is almost unheard of. The state of NY indeed has become a beacon for social justice, and i pray (let’s see if God agrees with me eh? Or tries to burn me to the ground. ahh I think we just found the reason for spontaneous human combustion.) and hope that more countries and states will follow in its footsteps.

  10. 15 evidence 28 July 2011 at 21:54

    An intriguing piece! I fully support the sentiment behind it, which is why I’d like to more clearly see the bases of your assertions. In particular, you said:

    “while Section 377A of the Penal Code superficially targets only men, it is seen by all government departments as a bedrock legitimising anti-gay discrimination. Civil servants read from the existence of this law the notion that in doing their jobs, they are expected to discriminate against gay people, male and female.”

    I wasn’t aware that actual evidence to support this assertion existed, or that anyone was even systematically trying to gather such evidence! If you do have such evidence, can I and the rest of the readers see it? It would be very useful to clarify the extent to which “all” civil servants really act this way, because I suspect there is a faction within the civil service that may be amenable to combating the systemic discrimination that exists. Of course, there are many obvious and valid reasons for not making such evidence public, and if it’s impossible to share it, I am willing to take you at your word on the strength of my own anecdotal observations.

    You also said:

    “we have policies that impose more restrictive censorship on gay-related media content”

    Which policy is this? If it is not an explicit policy, do we know for a fact that it is a systematic practice in the censors’ office?

    • 16 yawningbread 29 July 2011 at 11:31

      I said “all departments”, not “all civil servants”. Of course there are civil servants who disagree with the policies being implemented, but they find themselves working under policies they can’t change, because the political masters won’t.

      Many instances of discriminatory state action are not set out in text, but can be seen from a series of actions. To see them, one has to be involved in gay activism over a period of time, having to bash your head against officialdom. For example, licences for talks are not given, or withdrawn after they have been given. Even a gay men’s jog-athon is threatened with police action.

      Sexually education includes a mandatory component: to tell students that homosexuality is against the law; the whole subject has to be painted in negative terms. There you go — 377A again.

      The late Sadasivan Balaji when he was Minister of State for Health, told me point blank that I should not raise with him the question of Health Ministry launching a campaign to get gay men to use condoms. “It’s just not on,” he said. Now, Balaji was very gay-friendly, and personally believed that something had to be done about the HIV crisis, but even the Minister of State felt he couldn’t apply his discretion to do the right thing. And I know why he said it was not on. Because to promote condom-use among gay men meant that the state would find itself condoning penetrative sex, and with 377A in place, it just could not. It would rather let HIV numbers increase (and Singapore is one of the few places where the HIV trend has NEVER dipped year on year) than stand up to the Christian fundamentalists (including fundamentalists within cabinet ranks).

      Finally, in the films guidelines, you see the rare example where discrimination is explicitly set out in text.(click to see the full image)

      You will see that gay-related films must be R21 at least, if not banned altogether, while depictions of heterosexual love enjoy laxer standards. Gay-affirmative characters and speech are not allowed. The effect is to filter out positive images of gay people and reinforce the common notion of gay = bad.

      For free-to-air television, NC16, M18 and R21 are banned. For subscription television, R21 are banned. But since most gay-related material (except the most innocuous) are R21, effectively, TV too is made into a platform that effectively invisibilises gay people and their concerns.

    • 17 evidence 29 July 2011 at 20:44

      Thanks for your reply below: I hadn’t known about the censorship guidelines. And I take it that most evidence of discrimination against homosexuals is currently anecdotal? Does anyone have a systematic collection of these instances? It would be very useful to make the case of systematic discrimination on the basis of a systematic collection.

      Unfortunately, as far as I know, the whole discussion of homosexuality in Singapore is mired by people simply not having any idea about the rate of discrimination against homosexuals (do LGBT NGOs have any idea of this?), or indeed even about what that discrimination entails (though this second problem is very likely confined to non-homosexuals).

      And would you agree that the problem here is not so much government intransigence, but how that government’s intransigence interlocks with wider social norms?

      Several methods have been accepted by courts in the US and the UK to establish that systematic discrimination had occurred against various minority groups (most effectively for revealing discrimination against racial minorities & women). Perhaps it would be useful to use those methods to build a clear body of evidence of discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore?

      Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions in such length – I have to admit though this issue fascinates me, I’m still very new to it.

      P.S. just reread 377A: it uses the term “gross indecency”. Is this term actually defined anywhere in the penal code? I mean, the very words “gross” and “indecency” only occur in 377A as far as I can tell. That seems to make the law so vague that it can be challenged in court.

  11. 18 Tan Tai Wei 29 July 2011 at 09:05

    Just a thought. Why is there the need for homosexual marriage? Conjugal rights, enforced by law, is important only for the protection of offspring. For example, the right of one partner to half the wealth of the other is to ensure dependents both have been responsible for are cared for on death of a partner or divorce.

    Of course, there are childless marriages, intentional or
    not. But, you can never tell for sure. Where there can be no family, why involve the state and its legalities? wouldn’t that spoil the privacy and romance of true love?

    Where thee can be no famil

    • 19 yawningbread 29 July 2011 at 10:51

      Going by your line of thought, we should amend laws thus: no two persons shall be married until they have first produced offspring. Any existing marriage with no children to care for, or with children who are all grown up (and not need to be cared for) shall be dissolved automatically. By the same token, since I am sure you believe in equality: any homosexual couple with children (and there are plenty) shall have equal access to marriage.

  12. 21 53891 29 July 2011 at 10:34

    The wedding is the happiest day of your life. After that, it just goes downhill all the way. Trust me, Alex, marriage is way overrated. Which is why more and more heterosexuals can’t be bothered with it. But I guess the grapes that you can’t eat are always the sweetest.

    • 22 Poker Player 29 July 2011 at 12:11

      Female sexuality suggests that lesbian couples may do better. With gay marriage getting more widespread, we may eventually get real statistics.

      Who knows what percentage of our unmarried womenfolk are lesbian? The attitudes of society at large are denying them happiness.

  13. 23 yawningbread 29 July 2011 at 11:37

    Actually, there were more sexual-orientation-related questions asked at the CEDAW session than recounted above. See:

    http://iglhrc.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/amazing-responses-by-cedaw-to-address-lgbt-discrimination-in-singapore/

  14. 24 Tan Tai Wei 29 July 2011 at 12:52

    O, I forgot the complication of children adoption. Well, there may be a case for prohibiting that based on same-sex-parenting’s being unnatural and undesirable for children’s nurture?

    • 25 yawningbread 29 July 2011 at 12:53

      There is no case for prohibiting that.

      1. Check your assumption. Some gay couples have children who are biologically related. Not all are adopted.
      2. “Unnatural and undesirable” is a subjective and baseless assertion. If you would bother to search the peer-reviewed scientific literature, you would find that virtually all studies demonstrate that children of same-sex couples grow up as well-adjusted as those of opposite-sex couples across a range of measures. The determinant, psychologists have found, is not the sex of the parents but the quality of parenting skills — as if that is not obvious?

      By the way, plenty of Singaporeans today, now adults, have also grown up in same-sex households; writer Christine Suchen Lim based a short story on that. And throughout history, children have been raised in same-sex households too. Nothing new in that.

    • 26 Poker Player 29 July 2011 at 13:35

      Penguins.

  15. 27 jean 29 July 2011 at 12:55

    Hi Alex

    Even IGLHRC did not quote all the questions. There were just too many. The silence of the govt became so loud that the CEDAW committee noticed.

  16. 28 Tan Tai Wei 29 July 2011 at 14:22

    The “adjustedness” has to be despite difficulties along the way of nurture. Standard psychology maintains there are differences between male and female that render them important complementary chatacteristics for children nurturing, inter lia.

    And consider such confusion as this. Write your father’s name on the line. “Which father?”, the poor child asks (classmates turn to stare, looking puzzled, some sniggering). Or, at some point, teacher teaches the concept of parenthood, and the poor child innocently announces “I have two mothers” (classmstes react likewise).

    • 29 yawningbread 29 July 2011 at 22:50

      If you want to get into psychology, bear in mind, no two pairs of parents are the same regardless of sex. For one child, his father is a military-type control freak, obsessed with physical fitness, and projecting the same priorities onto the child. For another, the father is a sensitive new-age type guy. For one child, the mother is a substance-abuser, unable to exercise self-control. For another, the mother is intuitive and a wonderful listener. Yes, there are SOME differences in the psychology of males and females, though the spread is wide, such that they overlap. But why focus only on difference between sexes when there are far greater differences between control-freak and other types of personalities? The very selection of the sex dimension as cause for banning, while ignoring other dimensions of differences, looks awfully like rationalisation to support a pre-conceived notion.

      As for your second point, I hope you can see yourself how trite it is.

      Consider this: Plenty of Muslim and Hindu kids, growing up in a tradition without “surnames” as the Chinese and Westerners know them, are faced with awkward forms that demand “Surnames” or “Family names”. Gee, do we ban Muslims and Hindus from having kids, because the kids might get puzzled?

      • 30 Tan Tai Wei 30 July 2011 at 08:51

        If your examples are of exceptions to a rule, then it might be replied that we shouldn’t rule on the basis of exceptions? Or if they are examples of differences that nonetheless exist despite major, overarching ones, then we should rule by the latter?

        As to the other point, might it not be said that there is no case for adding to a difficulty just because it already exists?

      • 31 Poker Player 30 July 2011 at 14:40

        @Tan Tai Wei

        Is there anything in your logic that cannot apply as well to adoption by mixed couples? Or to couples not in their first marriage? Or adoption by despised racial minorities?

      • 32 social norms 30 July 2011 at 22:49

        Re Tan Tai Wei,

        Though the scenario you describe is likely I don’t agree with your conclusion. In this case, it’s a matter of changing social norms rather than outlawing those who do not fit with the norms. Ultimately, the ideal situation would be, as 53891 describes, the novelty would be a source of pride rather than shame – or rather, it wouldn’t be regarded as a novelty at all. Kind of like a situation in which we can talk about our parents’ sexual orientation as if we were talking about our favourite colour.

    • 33 Poker Player 29 July 2011 at 22:51

      Mixed marriages. Race.

      Miscegenation.

      Different vocabulary. Different time Different place. Same bigotry.

    • 34 jem 29 July 2011 at 22:57

      I guess we should also ban single parents and orphans then. What if the child answers “But I don’t know my father’s name because I never saw him” or ” I have many mothers (guardians)” and classmates react likewise.

      Stop being a concern troll.

    • 35 53891 30 July 2011 at 10:10

      The child in your comment may not be a ‘poor child’ but a proud one. He may not be ‘innocent’ but understands perfectly why he has two fathers or two mothers. His classmates may not be puzzled. They may be indifferent, or think having two mothers is cool. Even if they were puzzled, that is not a bad thing. Kids should be puzzled, and they go to school to be enlightened. It’s called learning, you know? Of course you don’t! Even if they really stared and sniggered, the gay couple’s child should stand by what he believes in. But that is not something you would understand, because I bet you don’t dare do anything that makes people stare. As for the concept of parenthood taught by the teacher, it may not be how you would teach it. Even if it were, the kids may not accept it.

      Please don’t assume your bigoted values are universal.

  17. 36 Syle 29 July 2011 at 16:21

    We must hold their feet to the fire, even if it meant burning our hands beyond recognition.

    They walking away from this again should never be allowed; even if they eventually do they should be scarred.

    But then we will do these again, and again, and again…

  18. 37 wH 29 July 2011 at 18:00

    I was just wondering: does the HIV crisis have anything to do with gay men? I have never understood the relation between the two. Hence, I was thinking that perhaps the minister’s intentions had been misunderstood.

    Also, are there any reasons the government would like to block the gay movement? what would they gain?

  19. 38 wH 29 July 2011 at 18:06

    the gay movement has been tainted by many reports in the news lately. there was a case of the lady killing her roommate (if im not wrong), as well as the no-longer-urban-legends of gay rendezvous at golden mile complex.

    as for media wise i thought that brokeback mountain and i love you phillip morris was pretty decent.

  20. 39 wH 29 July 2011 at 18:10

    lastly, i would like to seek enlightenment on a military perspective on homosexuality. in the usa, there was a don’t ask don’t tell rule. in sg, there is a form you can sign to declare one’s homosexuality in the army. what is the point of this segregation? there definitely is segregation, but really, what for? would gays make lousier soldiers or influence their peers?

    • 40 Daniel Ling 31 July 2011 at 00:41

      For the military, it is very much an issue of pure discrimination; military service has traditionally been the highest expression of manliness. Gayness just does not fit into this picture (Army Daze: Recruit Pereria).

      However, there is a small rational basis to discrimination against gays in the military. It does not have to do with combat capability, rather, command ability.

      In the quest for equality in all fields of employment, females the world over have jostled for combat and command positions in the military. In recent decades, they have made significant progress. I think the RSM for last year’s NDP was a female warrant officer, and the US Army has female generals (or brigadiers at least). However there are issues. (I am assuming here that the female soldiers in question are at least as physically strong and able as their male peers)

      Rape in event of capture is almost a given. And menstrual cycles and mood swings affect combat performance. Even if pills can regulate or eliminate this, the field is a dirty place, and females have hygiene and sanitation issues, and are more prone to infections in unsanitary conditions.

      But these don’t affect gay men.

      One of the most significant arguments against a mixed army is, of course, hormones and romance. In the book, Co Ed Army, the author talks about how the interpersonal interactions and psychological states of soldiers with females in their platoons were affected by the presence of these females. He mentions how numerous studies showed that their mere presence made the soldiers react differently in combat, in large part due to the natural instinct to be protective of the fairer sex. Also, major problems develop when female officers get involved with their subordinates, and vice versa.

      The US army forbids romantic relationships between officers and enlisted personnel for that reason.

      Parallels can be drawn about homosexuals in the military. Romantic relationships, especially between officers and enlisted men, can be problematic in the field. The assumption here is that having an all-straight male combat force prevents romantic bias from affecting judgement.

      One can argue that even in the absence of romance, officers do play favourites. It’s just human nature. But I think that I would treat the girl I like very differently from other girls, even those I’m very good friends with. Similarly, a homosexual officer romantically involved with one of his men is likely to treat him very differently.This can affect command decisions in the field (which section to send on a suicide mission for example).

      Still, I think that homosexuality does not affect combat performance at all.

      As for command judgments, well, if the military is fine with female soldiers (and officers), I don’t see why they shouldn’t be ok with homosexuals as well. That’s just practicing double standards.

      Oh but there is this small issue with the communal showers in army camps though…. in all fairness i think I had a gay platoon mate but he never behaved inappropriately in the showers.

  21. 42 Tan Tai Wei 30 July 2011 at 11:00

    Just another thought. Unless you want also to allow for adoption of children, or, for lesbians, childbearing by donor, “gay marriage” really isn’t like marriage enough to be still called “marriage”?

    Just asking: How do a woman address her “wedded” partner? Surely not “wife” nor “husband”? And so also, with regard to male relationships?

    There is, however, something about allowing for gay marriage which Augustine Tan should approve. For he surely goes along with traditional morality that stipulates sex only within marriage. With gay marriage, I suppose,would co also the stricture of gay sex only within marriage?

  22. 43 Amovielover 31 July 2011 at 03:50

    The BFC censored the gay sex scene in Philip Morris. The German teen flick Summer Storm also had its love scene edited. Even Black Swan’s pivotal scene between the two female characters was badly butchered. Surprisingly though, the kissing scene in Jennifer’s Body and The Roommate was left intact. I think it had to to with the context of those particular scenes and how it ended for those particular characters (not well, that much I can say). Although I remember a particular film “Imagine Me and You”, which dealt with a girl falling for another girl despite being engaged to guy being passed with no cuts at R21. Yes, the content in that movie was rather tame (it was rated 12 in the UK) but the ending in the movie was a happy and romantic one regarding the two girls. I found that slightly strange since as discussed in YB’s article, only films where “tragic endings” for the gay characters are only allowed over here.. “Brokeback Mountain” and “Wilde” being such examples. Also a thai film “Love of Siam” apparently had a happy ending for the gay characters and that was passed uncut as well at M18. I was pretty surprised when they were so harsh on “The kids are Alright” although I guess the potrayal of a stable lesbian family unit was thing that got to the BFC the most..

  23. 44 Yujuan 1 August 2011 at 00:15

    I would not say God will punish New York by burning down the city, but I vehemently object to same sex marriages. It’s a disgusting thought.
    People could practice their sexual way of life, be it lesbianism or homosexuality, but to culminate into a matrimony is against Christian beliefs.
    Sorry, I am a Christian from a mainstream Church, and believe that only a man and a woman could marry to form a family.

    • 45 Tan Tai Wei 1 August 2011 at 10:14

      Why the “vehemence” and “disgust” when you concede that people “could practise…”? After all, it’s like normal marriage in that they publicly declare their love for one another, and are prepared to have their vows of fidelity, etc., sealed in law, etc.?

    • 46 yawningbread 1 August 2011 at 12:06

      You wrote: “to culminate into a matrimony is against Christian beliefs.”

      A noted scholar of religion, the late John Boswell, in book Same-sex unions in Premodern Europe, described how the early church had liturgies that blessed the union of same-sex couples in ways similar to liturgies for opposite-sex unions. Likewise, same-sex couples were buried together by the church in ways similar to husband-wife tombs.

      One of the most striking features of “conservatism” is the typical failure to see how recent some ideas are. Conservatives tend to believe that what they believe in is somehow permanent, universal and unchanging (thus the idea that they “conserve”), when in fact, it is nothing more than the projection of the present (or recent past) onto the broader sweep of history. It seldom takes much effort for intellectuals to point out the fallacy of such historical claims, and then the next striking feature of conservatism appears – an anti-intellectualism.

      • 47 Gard 1 August 2011 at 15:31

        The reading of Boswell’s book should be treated with open mind:

        “Why would the Byzantine church be blessing homosexual marriages at a time when Church laws imposed two to three years’ penance for homosexual activity?”
        Ref: http://www.traditioninaction.org/bkreviews/A_002br_SameSex.htm

        On a different thought, what would a mainstream Church Christian say about polygamy? Does another person having multiple spouses reduce one’s satisfaction at monogamy?

  24. 48 wikigam 4 August 2011 at 10:03

    To : Tan Tai Wei

    If Christianity are so good as perfect regilion. Why so many Middle-East Muslim were killed by them ?

    • 49 Tan Tai Wei 4 August 2011 at 13:11

      Wikigam, how is your point addressed to me relevant to what I posted above? I might as well say the same to the others who replied to me. I have been raising issues for considering, rather than arguing towards “conclusions”. Notice I was very careful to qualify all I said with question-marks. I assure all that they were sincere questionings. Pressed to conclude, I would indeed remember all the pertinent points you raised in reply, thank you.

  25. 50 wikigam 4 August 2011 at 15:25

    To : Yujuan

    So what as “Christian from a mainstream Church” ?. Is it true that christian just form a 14% singapore population ?

  26. 51 blacktryst 9 August 2011 at 01:11

    I applaud New York’s move to legalize same sex marriage. And the law came into effect not rom the courts itself but by the New York senate or government, whatever it is. As for the outburst from Prof Tan, not surprising. Christians alike all over the world have been brainwashed into such strict adherence to the bible by scores and scores of pastors and priests. The thing to remember and to remind everyone inclusing all academics, divide religion from state.


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