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Singapore Gay-Ready!

on . Posted in Commentary.

Let me refer to the article by Detenber et al (2007). The famous article used to support the retention of 377A.
Detenber, B. H., Genite, M., Ku, M. K. Y., Ong, C. P. L., Tong, H. Y., & Yeow, M. L. H. (2007). Singaporeans’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. Internal journal of public opinion, 19(3), 367-379.

The anti-repeal camp jumped upon this statement made in opening statement of the conclusion segment: “Overall, this study found that most Singaporeans hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, and are rather intolerant towards media portrayals of homosexuality.” (Page 373).

What the researchers did: they called up Singaporean citizens over a period of 5 days and conducted interviews. They found that 68.6% of the participants expressed negative attitudes.

Here’s the break-down of predictors for negative attitudes:
1. Religion: Specifically Christians and Muslims were found to be least tolerant among Buddhists and free-thinkers.
2. Age: Older people are less tolerant.
3. Educational level: More educated people are more tolerant.



Interestingly, the same researchers suggested that while older people are more likely to conform to existing social norms; younger and better-educated Singaporeans are moving away from these norms.
Why is this important in relation to the repeal of 377A? Because the repeal of 377A is to adapt to the direction in which society is moving. A snapshot in time does not capture the trend, which should be a major consideration for 377A’s repeal. [Because a policy is implemented over time.] The gradual shift towards increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians would show up in longitudinal study.

Is there evidence to suggest that society will shift towards greater acceptance?

In a study done by Newman (2007), attitudes were examined in 1985 and again in 2001, in college students for attitudes towards lesbians. College students reported greater acceptance of lesbians and more contact with lesbians. Parental attitudes were more positive in 2001 as compared to 1985. The factors found to associate with negative attitudes are: gender role attitudes and education about gays and lesbians. Hicks and Lee (2006) examined opinion polls on homosexuality. They traced the polls from 1977 to 2003 (United States). Public opinion has improved over time. In Chung’s (2004) article on tongzi (queers) in Hong Kong, public education over a ten-year period paid off with “improved atmosphere” for the local queer community. Other studies have also found increasing acceptance towards homosexual folks (e.g. Steffens, 2005; Sullivan, 2003).

Why shouldn’t we be indulging anti-gay attitudes?

It’s not anti-gay attitudes per se that we are dealing with.
Anti-gay attitudes are associated with other undesirable attitudes, and attitudes produce behavior. Poor attitudes… poor behavior. Aosved and Long (2006) found that anti-gay attitudes go hand in hand with racism, sexism, and greater acceptance of rape myth (the rape victim deserves to be raped) in a sample of college students. Anti-gay attitudes also go hand in hand with anti-women equality (Hicks & Lee, 2006; Wilkinson, 2006).

Given that a list of discriminatory attitudes go together, general underlying mechanisms are likely. Right-wing authoritarianism (Stone, 2006) and religious fundamentalism (Rowatt et al, 2006; Schwartz & Lindley, 2005; Hon et al, 2005; Wood & Bertkawski, 2004) were found to be predictors of anti-gay attitudes. Right-wing authoritarianism consists of conventionalism, authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission (Smith & Kalin, 2006). Studies linked right-wing authoritarianism with negative attitudes towards racial and religious minorities. According to Rokeach (1960), such people reject those of dissimilar beliefs because dissimilarity presents a threat. [In Detenber et al (2007), the authors suggest that older folks are less tolerant because they are more likely to conform to prevailing social norms. A similar case can be argued for religious folks whose religion are "anti" any minority group.] Son Hing, Bobocel and McBride (2007) found that followers with high right-wing authoritarianism were likely to make unethical decisions.

Secondly, negative consequences for the gay person (and gay children) are infamous! From depression, suicidal tendencies (Washburn, 2005) , to hate crimes (Aiden & Parker, 2005).

The remedies?

1. Known contact with homosexuals (probably to combat unfamiliarity)
2. Increase education level (direct mechanism still uncertain.)
Increase contact with homosexuals increases positive attitudes towards gays and lesbians (Newman, 2007; Cirakoglu, 2006; Wood, 2004). In fact, some authors suggested that any number of homosexual friends would make a difference in a sample with Asian participants (Span, 2003). [Perhaps it's time to come out, folks!]

One’s level of education has direct linkages to acceptance (Lambert et al, 2006; Hon et al, 2005), although the exact mechanism is still uncertain. In Lambert’s et al (2006) study, merely a couple of years more in college made a difference (juniors and seniors were more accepting than freshmen and sophomores). Medical students made up the sample for Hon’s et al (2005) study. Detenber et al (2007) suggested a difference in media consumption as reason for more educated people’s increased tolerance.


Putting research together, it appears that anti-gay attitudes are fueled by a lack of familiarity/exposure, a general tendency to hold on to the status quo (e.g. anti-women’s equality and pro-patriarchy) and right-wing authoritarianism (predisposition to conform to authorities such as religious authorities, even to the point of being unethical, and a general discomfort or dislike for an out-group e.g. racism). As such, anti-gay attitudes is an likely indicator of hindrance to wider social progress. Recognition of this has led to positive world-wide movement and Singaporeans are also in the process of moving towards greater tolerance and acceptance of the queer community.

References (Click to read more):

Aiden, H. L., & Parker, K. F. (2005). Gender role ideology, homophobia and hate crime: linking attitudes to marco-level anti-gay and lesbian hate crimes. Deviant behavior, 26(4), 321-343.
Aosved, A. C., & Long, P. J. (2006). Co-occurrence of rape myth acceptance, sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance. Sex roles, 55(7-8), 481-492.

Chung, T. (2004). Towards equality through legal reform: empowerment and mobilization of the Tongzhi (LGBT) community in Hong Kong. Journal of gay and lesbian social services: issues in practice, policy & research, 16(1), 65-74.

Cirakoglu, O. C. (2006). Perception of homosexuality among Turkish university students: the role of labels, gender, and prior contact. Journal of social psychology, 146(3), 293-305.
Hicks, G. R., & Lee, T. (2006). Public attitudes towards gays and lesbians: trends and predictors. Journal of homosexuality, 51(2), 57-77.

Hon, K. E., Leung, T., Yau, A. P., Wu, S., Wan, M., Chan, H., Yip, W., & Fok, T. (2005). A survey of attitudes towards homosexuality in Hong Kong Chinese medical students. Teaching and learning in medicine, 17(4), 344-348.
Newman, B. S. (2007). College students’ attitudes about lesbians: what differences does 16 years make? Journal of homosexuality, 52(3-4), 249-265.

Rowatt, W. C., Tsang, J., Kelly, J., LaMartina, B., Mccullers, M., & McKinley, A. (2006). Associations between religious personality dimensions and implicit homosexual prejudice. Journal for scientific study of religion, 45(3), 397-406.

Schwartz, J. P., & Lindley, L. D. (2005). Religious fundamentalism and attachment: prediction of homophobia. International journal for the psychology of religion, 15(2), 145-157.

Span, S. A., & Vidal, L. A. (2003). Cross-cultural differences in female university students’ attitudes toward homosexuals: a preliminary study. Psychological reports, 92(2), 565-572.
Smith, S. M., & kalin, R. (2006). Right-wing authoritarianism as a moderator of the similarity-attraction effect. Canadian journal of behavioral science, 38(1), 63-71.

Son Hing, L. S., Bobocel, D. R., & Zanna, M. P., & McBride, M. V. (2007). Authoritarian dynamics and unethical decision-making: high social dominance orientation leaders and high right-wing authoritarianism followers. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(1), 67-81.

Steffens, M. C. (2005). Implicit and explicit attitudes towards lesbians and gay men. Journal of homosexuality, 49(2), 39-66.
Stones, C. R. (2006). Anti-gay attitudes among heterosexual males: right wing authoritarianism as a stronger predictor than social-dominance orientation and heterosexual identity. Social behavior and personality, 34(9), 1137-1150.
Sullivan, M. K. (2003). Homophobia, history and homosexuality: trends for sexual minorities. Journal of human behavior in the social environment, 8(2-3), 1-13.

Rokeach, M. (1960). The open and closed mind. New York: Basic books.

Washburn, K. (2005). How homophobia hurts children-nurturing diversity at home, at school, and in the community. Culture, health & sexuality, 7(2), 173-175.
Wilkinson, W. W. (2006). Exploring heterosexual women’s anti-lesbian attitudes. Journal of homosexuality, 51(2), 139-155.

Wood, P. B. (2004). Attribution style and public policy attitudes toward gay rights. Social science quarterly, 85(1), 58-74.

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Tags: singapore Section 377A survey


# Natalia 2010-02-02 19:42
Natalia said,

October 28, 2008 at 7:56 pm

This is great info to know.

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