Over coffee, T asked, “Aren’t you worried that signing the petition and open letter for the repeal 377A campaign, would get you into trouble? After all, your home address has to be written down so that your signature is validated’ and the government could easily trace you.”
I replied, “I did think of that when George Hwang approached me to hand-sign the petition’. For once, in the period of being totally out to my family members and friends, having no qualms discussing my sexual preferences, openly engaging in public display of affections with my partner, I actually found myself hesitating to disclose my sexuality on a dead piece of paper’. Holding the pen, wild and random thoughts raced through my mind: like, i am a teacher and i know that MOE runs on an archaic system of ‘values’ shaped predominantly by the homophobic population’. What if my career is jeopardized?? Would I be blacklisted in the government sector??”
“So why did you sign in the end?? if I were you , I would not have done that.”, said T.
“I thought for a while and realized that I really do not want to retreat back into the closet and cower in there’. After all, I am supporting a cause for equality and against oppression; i have not extended any tangible harm to anyone. It is time PLUs stand up and let our voices be heard across the country’. to inform and educate the public about us. That we are essentially just as human as they are. Beings who seek understanding, acceptance and space as well.’ I reasoned.
‘I think this whole repeal campaign is just a waste of time’ I knew right from the start that it won’t go through’ and the government is merely putting up a show for us to see that they care, but they actually have no intentions to repeal the law, even if logical and excellent arguments were made’ Besides, 377A doesn’t concern lesbians and those people are not bothering us, so why should we care so much?’ argues T.
I was appalled.
I exclaimed, “This whole repeal 377A campaign is not just directed at the gay men! It’s about battling blatant discrimination directed at minority groups and the tyranny of the majority! Their oppressive acts involving the forceful imposing of ‘values’ on people who are different! How can it not involve lesbians?! It involves the whole of our gay community! People tend to come down less harshly on lesbians, but that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer the brunt of their bigotry! I am sure those homophobes who are for keeping 377A, would not see lesbians in any better light and would want to see us penalized as well.’
T continues, ‘There are all kinds of discrimination and so many of them’ Don’t tell me you want to be so bothered by each and every one of them? You can never be free of discrimination in life’ let live’ besides, the government has not arrested anyone yet... Why get so worked up over a few statements on the bill which aren’t enforced? There are so many other things in life to be bothered about and concentrate on...’
“Does that mean we do nothing and passively resign ourselves to ‘the way of life’? Keeping silent is just going to make the homophobes think we are pushovers and worsen discrimination, since they think they can get away with murder…’, I asked.
‘I don’t suppose you considered signing the petition?’ I continued.
T replies, ‘I think there’s no point doing so. Whether or not 377A stays, my life still goes on as usual, and i would rather spend my time focusing on my work and my master’s studies than to think so much about the law that doesn’t affect me and my friends. There are other better things to worry and be concerned about... ‘
I felt that this whole conversation is really heading nowhere, and we are both obviously on fundamentally different wavelengths and views.
I changed the subject to her friends and fortunately, the rest of our evening conversation wasn’t fraught with any more of the earlier ‘clash’. But still, the effects of my heart sinking, lingered on for a while.
Because I couldn’t find an ally in my friend for the gay rights movement.
As I headed home, I thought to myself that some people, about whom policies concern, don’t seem bothered to stand up for their own rights. Yet those people (the homophobes) whom policies don’t concern, seem to be overly bothered.
This is evident from the stark contrast in number of signatures collected on each side of the camp. A few thousand over signatures from the repeal 377A camp, collected over a span of few months versus a whopping 15,000 over signatures from the “Keep 377A” camp, collected within a mere few days!
It is one thing that PLUs do not want to sign the petition for fear of jeopardizing their career in the event of outting themselves in a political climate that is so homophobic, but it is a totally different issue when PLUs themselves discredit the efforts contributed towards starting this whole unprecedented campaign which must have been fraught with arduous hurdles, and not giving two hoots about it simply because they think that it is a waste of time! How sad!
Each voice that speaks out, each signature signed on the petition, plays an important role in our united battle against oppression, as it is our way of telling the public that there is a significant number of us around, each gifted in his or her own area of talent that contributes to the precious pool of human resources for our country, that we contribute as much and are as concerned as our hetereosexual counterparts in the growth of the nation, that a good majority of us are socially responsible beings, but because of penal code clause 377A, many are considered criminals
It doesn’t matter how much we abide by the law or how much we have contributed to society, saving lives as doctors do, nurturing and educating the future pillars of the nation as teachers do, standing on the security frontline of the nation and ensuring that we are living in a safe environment as security personnels do, and the myriad of other ways that PLUs have contributed. We are still seen as criminals in the eyes of the law, not accorded recognition the way people who would have been proud of us would have liked.
It is very disheartening for us to be invalidated just because of our preference in partners. We are equally against child sex and definitely not the perverts preying on young children that we are made out to be. We too have roots here with our family, friends and loved ones. It is utterly cruel to make us feel less deserving of human rights in a place we would love to call home. Lesbians love their girlfriends the way wives love their husbands and gay men wanting to commit to their partners the way husbands do to their wives. We are as capable of loving and devoting ourselves to our partners as our straight counterparts, but we are denied the opportunity and recognition to celebrate our love for them, because of sheer bigotry and ignorance.
However, I do not think that it was really a battle lost in this whole repeal 377A campaign. It has indeed given the courage of voice for PLUs to speak up and share their views. I believe they would continue to do so and lead by example. More will follow suit. This is really not a one-off battle. We are here to stay to fight for our rights and an increasing number of us are coming out of the closet, loud and proud.
That the topic of homosexuality can reach the rounds of debate in the Parliamentary House, implies to a certain extent the hope of gradual destigmatisation of homosexuality, as parliament had to think through rationally the cons of keeping our mouths shut amidst the backlash of the homophobic ‘majority’ and to rein in long enough the unfavorable convictions held against gays, for the debate of homosexuality to operate full scale in Parliament.
Indeed, gone are the days when homosexuality was a taboo subject people preferred to sweep under the carpets. Though we may seem to have ‘lost’ this time round, we have gained ourselves allies in several Members of Parliament from what was originally assumed to be a monolithic party and straight people as well. We have educated the public about us, giving them opportunities that there never were before as a result of an incompetent print media, to ponder over the issue, come to a rational clarification and above all, to expose the extent of hypocrisy of those who urged the retention of Penal Code 377A.
If anal sex between two men, according to NMP Thio Li-Ann, carries with it such grave health costs as ‘anal cancer’, tearing of muscles, congregation of fecal waste, viruses and blood, then the appropriate thing to do would be to leave both section 377 and 377A untouched, for the good of the general population. Why extend this ‘disgusting act of shoving a straw up one’s nose’ to be perfectly fine only for hetereosexuals, but still a crime for gay men?
Are hetereosexuals born with special immune systems that we gays do not have, to protect them against the ‘ health hazards’ of anal sex?? We have indeed drawn up the curtains for all to see, the ignorant and bigoted individuals sitting in our cabinet.
Kudos to the activists who have fought relentlessly for our rights and NMP Siew Kum Hong who braved censures from the homophobic crowd to stand brave before intimidating opponents and speak up for us. Kudos too to the many spirited PLUs out there who conquered their inner fears to openly come out and stand for equality and justice.