Our Reality (LGBT Youths in Singapore)

By cryptonitr

Why is this our new normal? Why does Singapore, a country I love so dearly, feel so backward? As a fellow gay Singaporean and JC student, this whole TMJC saga is legitimately outrageous.

For last few years, as I discovered my sexuality, each news story, every conversation about the LGBT community, becomes this huge deal. The TMJC boys being vilified in the Hardware Zone Forums just shows the worst of Singaporean culture.

The reality is, we sit in our classrooms, studying the same standardized tests as everyone else, wondering why some of our teachers do not have open conversations about LGBT issues in General Paper (just as an example). Or should we be trained to see a “right” and “socially accepted” peachy view of the world?

The reality is, even if our friends are LGBT-friendly, we do not have the tools, the capabilities to open up conversations with them. For fear of being outcast. And if we do, we soften our voices, for we are afraid of being too needy. Too attention-seeking. Too “gay-centric”.

The reality is, that if our parents find a photo circulating online, where a partner shows a display of innocent affection, a simple peck on the cheek, we have to wonder whether they would back us up when the backlash ensues. When the online trolls burst onto forums, holding up this picture as if it was Simba from the Lion King, we have to wonder what our families would think. It’s a feeling of paranoia you would never shake off.

We need to face the hard truths of our generation. LGBT people feel disenfranchised. Left out.

At this point, some self-proclaimed “common sense logician” will stop me to say that this is all emotional jargon. That I am making a sob story out of this whole post. And so? Does an appeal to emotions not mean an appeal to the fundamentals of being human? Sentient beings who have the unique ability to feel, understand and connect like no other species. And yet, we chose to be divisive. Brilliant haha.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that there is no discrimination against the LGBT community “at work, housing (and) education” here in Singapore (TODAYOnline, 2018).

I hold great respect for the Minister, but I am puzzled by his statement on this.

For purposes of relevant discussion, I shall only talk about the TMJC photo. I do not wish to speculate, but if the story that a police report was threatened to filed against the TMJC boys, it is a clear act of fearmongering. To uphold a certain “moral value set”. It is doubtful that there would be any clarity on this matter for transparency is not the strongest suit of the system, but the mere accusation speaks volumes.

If and when a student decides to show support for the LGBT community, there are hurdles to surmount. We have to cleanse content to attain a “school-friendly” rating or risk some form of reprimand. I understand that profanity may be problematic for the school’s reputation. But a post on PinkDot's social media pages? Or sharing photos taken of a gay couple engaging in public display of affection? Is that really so “uncomfortable” or "intolerable"?

Does the statement where Goh Chok Tong mentioned that the civil service encouraged gays to join up in 2003 (mind you, I was 3 years old) still hold up (TIME, 2003)? Or do the beneficiaries of civil service, in particular students studying in MOE-approved and supported schools, not have that same freedom of expression?

We are exhausted from the constant mixed signals. Growing up gay in Singapore is extremely confusing. I only knew Kumar when I was growing up and I thought that was the epitome of “gay people”. Turns out I was completely off the mark. I was taught also that having a certain stance indicated “THE BIG GAY”. Again, wrong.

It’s a well-known fact that LGBT youths are more likely to succumb to mental health issues as well. Youth belonging to the minority as far as sexual orientation is concerned are 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers (CNA/Reuters, 2018). This is no coincidence. It is systemic pressure coercing folks to conform to societal "norms".

And I’m worried. For the TMJC peers of mine, whether they would have necessary access to school counsellors who may or may not disclose private information to the school administration if they need assistance. Is there confidentiality? Over the years, there have been many personal stories in my own JC where students (for a wide variety of issues) have felt unsatisfied and even betrayed by mental health assistance in schools. Eventually, a whole range of teachers would be informed. With no consent.

It seems to the ordinary person reading this that I am but one of the “vocal minority”. However, I do understand why it takes time to implement changes or move forward on LGBT rights in Singapore. We are a nation rooted in the basis of (generally) civil discourse and discussion. Yet, I feel it has becoming increasingly hostile in the midst of the LGBT debate.

On both sides, there has been too much vitriol. My own community has been increasingly pointed in language and rhetoric to those that do not agree. Comments dismissing others as “just homophobes” or “Low SES uneducated scum” are disgusting. These don’t value add to the discussion. You are shutting others out, when instead we should seek a dialogue.

We are all Singaporeans. That is the baseline. And we cannot allow ourselves to descend into an individualistic culture (I’m looking at you, America) where it is all he-said-she-said. It must be calculated and careful on both sides. As a society, we may not be perfect, but we have shown over the years that the majority can live harmoniously. What is stopping us from doing so now? (:

Furthermore, we all value love. And affection. Regardless of who we are. We value family, filial piety and hard work amongst all else. These are the same things any Singaporean, straight or a lil’ queer can identify with. I remember when the landmark decision – which granted two gay fathers in Singapore to adopt their surrogate son – came out (haha) in the papers, I cried. Because that’s my own dream. To have a family. To feel like being part of a country I love. To feel valued and respected.

Love doesn’t win if we cannot learn to love and respect the people we meet. For if we are so bent upon achieving equality and justice, we must do so we compassion. With dignity and pride in doing the right thing.

My final thoughts? I hope that one day, these trivial matters like an Instagram post aren’t means for baseless and unproductive argument. And that Singaporeans can finally see that LGBT people are just like anyone else.

For now, this is our reality. And I guess, tomorrow, I’ll still be standing at the Parade Square, proudly singing my national anthem and reciting the Pledge with my schoolmates. But silently, I hope one day, I’ll be the patriot who can fully believe in his country. In the rights that he can be afforded.

For now, this is our discontented reality.

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