The story reads like one from a parallel universe. Over there, things happen in ways opposite to how they would happen here in Singapore.
Acclaimed actor Ian McKellen (right) does a round of speaking engagements in schools, telling kids what it is like to be gay. It’s a national tour for Stonewall, the UK’s gay advocacy group. In Singapore, schools are very unlikely to risk the government’s ire by doing likewise, though, I am glad to report, there are exceptions. (I don’t want to get the schools into trouble by naming them.)
Then when a Conservative Party council member in Bristol, Chris Windows, expressed objection to McKellen’s tour, the councillor was promptly suspended. The Conservative Party is currently the ruling party in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Do you think our People’s Action Party will slap down one of its office-holders for anti-gay remarks? Or will such remarks only propel our Education Ministry into conducting a witch hunt among schools for “backsliding” into non-discrimination?
Announcing the suspension, Conservative group leader and councillor Geoff Gollop said in a statement that Windows now realised his remarks were unacceptable and inappropriate. “Chris will use this time to better acquaint himself with the aims of Stonewall and the important work they are undertaking in tackling homophobic bullying in our schools.” (Source: BBC).
Can anyone imagine the People’s Action Party requiring its anti-gay members to spend time with People Like Us learning about homophobia?
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Then there’s this anecdote in Leona Lo’s blogpost: Stop using God to punish me! MOE’s moral dilemma. I quote from there:
An anecdote from an acquaintance who’s a teacher at a top Singapore Junior College sparked this post. She related an incident in class. As a GP (General Paper) tutor, her role is to challenge young minds with lively classroom presentations and discussions. She decided to introduce a “pink” video in class one day to open up the discussion about sexual orientation and sexual identity. Everything went well and various opinions were offered by a largely enthusiastic audience. However, she was hauled to the principal’s office the next day because a parent complained that the video promoted the homosexual “lifestyle”. The principal censured her but yet was unable to give her a clear response regarding the Ministry of Education’s stance on classroom discussion about sexual orientation issues. Typically, the principal responded that the Ministry’s position is that homosexual practices should not be encouraged. However, this did not address the teacher’s pointed question – how does encouraging open debate about sexual orientation issues constitute promoting a homosexual “lifestyle” (in the first place, homosexuality is not a lifestyle practice!)? It’s the same as saying that debating about terrorism in the classroom promotes terrorist acts.
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What happened in Bristol was this: At a City Council meeting, Chris Windows (left) said: “I am unhappy and a little disturbed at the involvement of Stonewall in our local schools and particularly the use of a certain leading actor as a potential role model for our impressionable young people,” referring quite obviously to McKellen.
McKellen’s/Stonewall’s tour springs from the same concern behind the It Gets Better campaign started in the United States a few months ago after eight teenage suicides were traced to homophobic bullying suffered by the victims. There was some urgency to intervene before more gay kids contemplate taking their own lives, by providing them with role models in order to give them hope, and to educate the heterosexual kids that sexuality differences are no grounds for discrimination, let alone bullying.
At the council meeting, Windows’ remarks were met with cries of “shame” and “disgraceful” by Labour and Lib Dem councillors. One Lib Dem councillor, Simon Rayner said: “Can I translate what he just said? He doesn’t think gay people should be allowed near children in schools.”
Added Alex Woodman (Lib Dem): “I wholeheartedly, unequivocally condemn the outrageous homophobic remarks by Chris Windows. He should be ashamed.”
Windows later tried to clarify his remarks by saying he was merely concerned that having a gay man speak to school kids would only make some “confused” kids think they are gay, thus exposing them to bullying. By saying that, he was twisting the sword that he had just plunged into his own guts. How so? Analyse that sentence. He effectively suggested that kids can be influenced to become gay, a falsehood that many studies have shown up. He also justified the bullying!
Yet, many members of parliament in Singapore have said even worse things and been applauded in the House.
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Homophobes continue to fan fears of kids turning gay. A Christian website then accused Stonewall of mounting a “homosexual campaign”, alluding exactly to this.
In its article, Christian Concern also blasted the Conservative Party for putting “the homosexual agenda at the forefront of its priorities” and supporting the “introduction of new policies advocating the normalisation of the homosexual lifestyle in Britain.” Anything that promotes non-discrimination is called the “homosexual agenda”.
It noted that party leader David Cameron (now Prime Minister) dropped a potential election candidate earlier this year for making offensive remarks about gay people. Christian Concern approvingly cited an Andrea Williams saying that Britain was “becoming an increasingly intolerant society” — by that she meant that Britain was becoming a place where hate speech and discrimination against gay people would not be tolerated anymore.
In this parallel universe, David Cameron does not squirm in his prime ministerial seat. Instead he does a video for Stonewall giving encouragement to gay kids and assuring them that the government will not stand for discrimination. It too is part of the It Gets Better campaign:
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I don’t want to end the essay here, leaving readers with the impression that the issue is always one of Gay vs Christian. It is not. There are homophobes who use the Christian religion as cover for their intolerance. But there are millions more Christians who understand the true meaning of Christian love, and the message that Jesus brought about standing up for the downtrodden.
Here are two more videos with the same It Gets Better theme. The first is from the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus, but look at the closing frames and the credit for the venue.
Yes, the Immanuel Presbyterian Church sponsored the space.
The second video features members of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale (an all-male choir) joining singers from over 30 religious institutions in the area and students from Southern Methodist University in a short excerpt of their performance titled, A Night For Peace. This event is part of the Partners In Harmony program, which affirms, as its own blurb says, “the religious organisations’ belief that every human being is created equal.”