Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013
Guest essay by Vanessa Ho
Foreword by Yawning Bread: As in all LGBT communities around the world, there is a tension between those who would adopt the language and styles of the mainstream to advance the cause of gay equality, and those who argue that such “progress” is meaningless unless we also help protect those who are more disenfranchised and voiceless than us. This is often oversimplified into “mainstream gays versus radical gays” — a caricature that does the complex debate a disservice. Setting aside that oversimplification, I have always wanted to have a voice for radicalism on this site, and am pleased that Vanessa has taken up my offer.
Yet, as she concludes, what appears at first as radicalism may in fact be a lot more beneficial to a wider scope of people, including those who aren’t sexual minorities.
Singapore’s LGBT community should shift away from talk about marriage equality. I am not saying that we should *not* fight for marriage equality, but that there should be a much stronger emphasis on fighting for anti-discrimination legislation. Marriage equality is great for people who believe in monogamy, who believe in the significance of marriage, and who are in monogamous long term relationships. But this is not the case for everyone. Not to mention that some within our community may not have the good fortune to meet “Mr/Mrs Right” and thus do not get to enjoy the opportunity to get married. Continue reading ‘The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter’
The oldest (Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao) and youngest (Theo Chen) speakers at the protest held on 24 August against persecution of LGBT persons in Russia
Several people have pointed out by now how unprofessional it was to use the term “gay lifestyle” in a recent survey of public attitudes. The survey was conducted for the Singapore Conversation. For integrity, surveys must take great care to employ only clear and neutral vocabulary. “Gay lifestyle” fails both tests.
What this incident underscores is the extent to which conservative Christian influences have invaded our public bodies. Not only did the survey designers employ this loaded term, no one up and down the oversight chain stopped it. Either everyone thought it perfectly “normal” to use prejudicial language, or if anyone spoke up, he or she was a lonely voice and could not prevail. But it is only “normal” when one lives ensconced in prejudiced circles. Thus, the unthinking use of the term flags the degree by which members of these social circles have come to dominate government and their associated academic bodies.
Continue reading ‘Incompetent survey ends up with inconvenient ‘gay lifestyle’ result’
Russia may seem a distant place from Singapore. We have very little trade with it; the language and culture vastly different. But on Saturday, 24 August 2013, a protest demonstration will be held at Hong Lim Park aimed squarely at something that’s happening there.
We need to join many other countries in expressing our outrage at the rising homophobia in Russia. Encouraged by the Putin government, intolerant mobs have taken to lynching anyone suspected of being gay. Two men are known to have died, one of whom might not even have been gay. Continue reading ‘Slightly less homophobic Singapore to protest gay-murdering Russia’
Sometimes I wish all women with long hair would wear head scarves.
Friday night, close to 11 pm, and the metro was packed — though that in itself was not unusual. I was squeezed between two young women who seemed to have taken a lot of trouble to dress up for thank-god-it’s-friday socials rather than for work. Nothing wrong with that, except that I think the one at my left elbow had had too much to drink. With every jerk and sway of the train, she lost her balance. Between her and the one on my right who was speaking animatedly with her friends, swivelling her head ever so often, my face was repeatedly swept by hair.
Ewww. Continue reading ‘Less hair, more hope’
Published 3 August 2013
Sayoni’s Coming out, coming home campaign starts today. I wholeheartedly support it.
I’ve never really had a coming out myself, at least not in the form of any major event. Maybe because it’s been a series of tiny moments where I’ve chosen not to pretend to be someone else, each has been relatively easy. By the same token, none has been memorable. And with the passage of time, I find it hard to recall any.
I wonder sometimes if the idea of a wrenching or a “cry a bucket of tears” moment is culturally contingent. And that if one’s family or environment is of a different profile, the process whereby people learn that one is gay is a totally different one. Continue reading ‘Coming out in perspective’
Pink Dot — 2013’s will be tomorrow, 29 June — is a huge celebratory event, albeit with a serious purpose. Its steady growth over the last five years have testified to the increasing acceptance of LGBT people in Singapore socially. But on the legal and political front, there is nothing to celebrate. There has been no movement, just paralysis — like the proverbial deer frozen in the face of oncoming (pink) headlights. It’s all a rather depressing state of affairs.
As I will argue below, the policy paralysis we see is part of a larger pattern. The government is poor at coping with social changes, and easily alarmed at evolving values and attitudes, such as a rising skepticism of authority and greater questioning of the social and economic model imposed from above. They first try to pretend it’s not a substantial change or that it will go away by itself, but when changing attitudes and behaviours spread (e.g. the rise of non-mainstream media), they see it as threat and actively try to restore the status quo. Continue reading ‘Five Pink Dots on, government still paralysed’
Wednesday, 6 March 2013, was the day Tan Eng Hong’s challenge to the constitutionality of Section 377A was heard in closed court. Section 377A of the Penal Code is the law that criminalises “gross indecency” between two men.
This follows quite soon after the court date for another challenge to the same law, mounted by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee and reported in First of two 377A challenges heard in closed court.
In the Tan Eng Hong case, there are pages and pages of arguments, but my sense, on reading them, is that the issue is being distilled to a few crucial points. And these crucial points are not specific to the “gay issue”, but will prove important to any future constitutional challenge that is based on Article 12 (the equality provision) of our constitution. Continue reading ‘Second of two 377A challenges may have to wait a long time for a decision’
The first of two cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code was heard today in the High Court. Referred to here as Chee and Lim versus Attorney-General, the plaintiffs were Kenneth Chee Mun-leon and Lim Meng Suan. They were represented by Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi.
The court was not open to the public; it is not known who applied for the court to be closed. I only know that the plaintiffs did not.
I have not yet seen transcripts of the oral arguments, but can only rely on the written submissions. However, oral arguments tend to follow written submissions closely. The longish article below outlines the key arguments deployed. Continue reading ‘First of two 377A challenges heard in closed court’
Barely a week after Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong cited opposition in France to gay marriage as a reason not to do anything about Singapore’s anti-gay law, he was shown up for his piss-scared views by the government of President François Hollande. The French National Assembly approved a key part of Hollande’s Reform Bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. The French showed that controversy is no excuse for inaction.
With that, the bottom fell out of Lee’s argument.
Continue reading ‘Lee Hsien Loong’s French bottom falls out’
In Pastor ambushes Goh Chok Tong with demand to defend 377A, I said that Goh Chok Tong gave a wooden response. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong seems determined to outdo Goh in maladroit replies.
At a forum on Monday, 28 January 2013, he was faced with a question on section 377A of the Penal Code, asked by Braema Mathi, the president of human rights group Maruah. Today newspaper reported the question, although it did not report her name. Continue reading ‘The prime minister needs to meet real people at concerts’