Preserve “Asian Values”, please.


My friend started a blog focussing on LGBT issues especially in the context of Singapore. Cross-posting this there and here.

Preserve “Asian Values”, please..

From a letter to the Straits Times :

It is also a country known for its safety and conservative Asian values, which make it a good place to raise children to be upright and responsible citizens.

In our bid to be a top global city, we must be careful not to emulate wholesale the values and cultures of other global cities like London or New York. They have very different cultural and historical make-ups and societal identities.

It took our founding fathers years to craft our modern Asian identity, and this should not be lost.

Our traditional values of filial piety, humility and a focus on the family should be promoted, instead of Western values like absolute freedom of speech, sexual permissiveness or gender ambiguity.

For once, the comments are faith-restoring rather than faith-dashing.

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The (implied) argument that traditional values = good values, or Asian values = good values, or conservative values = good values is a pretty poor one. As the comments have pointed out, do you even know what you’re actually saying when you say ‘traditional values’ or ‘asian values’? Probably not. People just like to throw catch phrases about.

Traditional just means its the way it’s always been done, no implications on whether it’s something that’s always been done and should be continued, or should be changed. Asian just means… well, from huge and varied Asian and I’m sure you don’t need to think far to know some Asian values or traditions really should (and/or have) been done away with. And conservative… that’s just a comparative term, is it not? What is considered conservative today is different from what was conservative in the past, and the future.

And while it’s true that different countries and regions have different social cultures and histories, I’d like to hope that respect and good-will towards all people, without discrimination, should be universal values that everyone everywhere is striving towards.

My Gay Lifestyle (the Debunking of)


It is perhaps a shame that my reaction to anger, to provocation, is to turn away.

To tell myself to ignore it, to tell myself that I shouldn’t waste my energy getting worked up over other people’s ridiculous ideas.

It is also perhaps a shame that my reaction to scandals and things blown out of proportion is to shut up. Because I always feel that adding my own two cents to the already saturated pile of self-important opinions can’t possibly add any value to the discussion. Besides, anything I wanted to say has surely been put across more succinctly and in a more powerful manner by someone else with better writing skills, someone else who has lived though more reality than I have.

Yet there are some thing worth getting angry about.
There are some things worth shouting about.
There are some things worth repeating.

I “came out” on facebook today. Well, no, not exactly. I’d define coming out on facebook as posting a status or notes essentially saying just this, “Hi guys, I’m gay. kthanxbai.” While I’ve considered that before, the thought (after it’s initial flippancy) usually fills me with enough fear and apprehension for me to change my mind.

Perhaps a better description would be that I was “dragged out”, in the course of a ‘discussion’ with a friend.

I posted something, and she and another friend made some comments which I didn’t get involved with.

Then, she made this comment, “In any case, I’ve heard a lot about the LGBT lifestyle, and I don’t like what I’m hearing. They claim they are a peaceful group, but I don’t see that…”

That really got me mad. I couldn’t let it go. What the fuck is a LGBT lifestyle?

Last time I checked, I am a part of the LGBT community because I am female and I’m attracted to females. By definition, then I must lead this mysterious gay lifestyle. Well, this is my “lifestyle”, on average:

Wake up. wash up. go to work. Survive work. Head for home. Perhaps meet with friends for dinner. Surf the net/facebook. Read news articles, read science articles, read human rights articles, read funny articles. Watch some videos. Write some blog entries. Read a book. Pack my room. Time to sleep, good night.

Call it a monotonous lifestyle, call it boring, call it sedentary, call it antisocial, but please, highlight for me exactly which part of that can be considered as an “LGBT lifestyle”??

If you have a problem with, say, a clubbing lifestyle, then please fucking say so.
If you have a problem with, say, a promiscuous lifestyle, then please fucking say so.
If you have a problem with, say, a drugs and booze lifestyle, then please fucking say so.
If you have a problem with, say, a sex-obsessed lifestyle, then please fucking say so.

But none of those are synonymous, exclusive or inherently linked to LGBT. All of these can be found in any and all kinds of people across time, cultures, genders and sexualities.

This friend is an incredibly nice person. Yet, even having known her general stand on the matter, her reply to my question shocked me– things about promiscuity, pedophilia; it being a choice and proven as unnatural; proven that it can be walked away from; violence, death threats, militant-like behaviour and arrogance from the LGBT camp…

You can honestly say those things about promiscuously and pedophilia to my face? And the rest– do we even live in the same reality? Another friend commented, wow, the amount of propaganda they receive…

The other friend who was also commenting started going on a comment posting rampage on Lawrence Khong’s facebook page— a Pastor of a mega church in Singapore (in)famous for his vocally anti-gay stands (2:36 -onwards). The most recent incident has to do with the Singapore’s Health Promotion Board’s surprisingly pro-gay FAQs on sexuality. LK started a petition for the FAQs to be removes– albeit anonymously under the name ‘Aaron’. Then, he evidently circulated a guide amongst his flock on how to make their voices heard without revealing their Christian identity.

I try to read his page but I can’t quite do it, and I can’t find any motivation to want to reply comments there. It’s not merely about being offended of depressed about comments which flat out contradict my beliefs and reality, it’s also all the typically ugly internet comments– why do people always stoop to personal insults and sarcasm? Why do adults sound like immature kids?

More than that, it’s that I can’t shake my own fatalistic feelings about such discussions– while I rationally acknowledge that they can help or that it’s better than nothing, I can’t stop feeling that it’s just pointless. No one is going to change their minds. The people I’m ‘arguing’ with are faceless and can walk away or ignore what I’m saying anytime. They’re not going to listen to me.

Replying my friend was different though– she’s real. She might not change her mind, but hopefully what I say, because I am more real to her too, will give her pause and thought.

I consider writing a piece of my own– just putting my opinion out there. But I don’t know where to start. There can be so much to say. What do I focus on, what should I assume of my readers? Opinions and backgrounds are too varied.

Replying to accusations thus makes it easier to focus your argument– there’s to much to say otherwise. Although at the same time, because I’m focussing on convincing this one person, what I say doesn’t necessarily reflect my personal views exactly. I’m trying to look at things from her perspective and using what I think will be the most comprehensible to her. I mean, no point in differentiating the nuances between gender expression, sexual orientation and physical sex or sexual orientations besides gay and bi or even the gay and trans and so on when I’m just trying to convince her that none of these are inherently immoral. And of course I wouldn’t mention that I think polygamous relationships could be permissible and healthy in certain situations– that would just cause her to stop listening to me entirely.

Throughout the discussion I have to wonder– is there a point?

It there a point in me writing all this stuff to her?
Is there a point in my friend’s commenting on LK’s facebook page?
Is there a point if I write a blog entry about my beliefs and send it out into the net?

Does it change anything?

When the discriminated discriminate


I just read this piece from Thought Catalogue, “The Queer Community has to Stop Being Transphobic” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of the author.

I used to be a transphobic gay man.
….
“I know I’m supposed to get it because I’m gay,” I said, “but I just don’t understand the whole trans* thing at all. It makes me feel so weird.”

That’s exactly how I felt. You would think that being gay would make it easier to understand what being trans is like, but on the contrary, I think it made it harder.

I would think to myself, yeah, I can totally understand not wanting to follow these stupid gender norms that society sticks by. I can understand being a girl and preferring to do guy things, preferring to wear guys clothes. I can even relate to the feeling of wanting to be a guy, or be more guy-like in appearance. Yet it’s because I could identify with all that so closely, I couldn’t understand why they needed to go one more step to actually become the other gender.

I mean, I would ideally prefer it too, if I were taller, more muscular, more masculine… but I can accept that this is how I was born, this is my body. I can learn to accept my body for its good points and ‘bad’ points, why can’t they? Don’t they realize that being a girl doesn’t mean you need to follow society’s stupid rules for girls? You can still wear pants, you can still do whatever you want to do. Why should the physical body matter so much? 

Why should it matter so much indeed.
To throw the question back at myself: why should clothes matter so much? Surely clothes matter even less than your body. Surely a colour would matter less. Surely… all these little stereotypically girl activities and accessories… what’s the big deal? Why can’t you just accept them? They are just things.

And yet I would feel so uncomfortable and out of place in a dress. Like a fish out of water. I wouldn’t feel like myself. Probably as uncomfortable as an average guy would be, if he were forced to wear a dress. Okay, admittedly slightly less since I’ve inevitably been ‘forced’ to wear dresses in my life time.

The other day I watched ‘These Ears Have Walls 2‘. It follows three separate story lines about lesbian couples, in different time periods, all set in the same house.

The first story was thoroughly depressing and the last story was positively uplifting and happifying (helllo Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone!). It’s really heartening to see just how far we’ve come and how different things are (in some places), from 1961 to 2001. But it was the second story, set in 1972, that was the most intriguing and thought provoking to me.

(spoilers!)

The story focusses on Linda, a young student who shares the house with a few friends, all lesbians. They are also part of a feminist group, but are being kicked out as the group doesn’t want to be associated with or thought of by others as a ‘lesbian group’ and want to be taken seriously as feminist.

The interesting tension comes when the friends go to a dyke bar and are disappointed and disapproving of how the lesbians in the bar fulfill traditional butch and femme roles. Linda, however, is charmed by and falls for Amy, a butch in a shirt and tie who rides a motorbike. Despite Linda’s efforts to get her friends to be accepting and open, they continually make fun of Amy.

It feels so ironic to me when people turn into exactly what they are fighting against. Like anti-gay religious people claiming that they are all about love, acceptance, forgiveness. This case is worse than that though; you’re clearly part of the same outcasted group, and yet you still discriminated against each other?

It reminds of that that scene from the L Word when the main L Word characters make fun of Moria for being ‘butch’ and for categorizing lesbians into those traditional roles. As though that’s something backward and old fashioned, something to be laughed at. Shouldn’t being part of the same out-casted group be enough to make you realize that how you are treating them is exactly the way you don’t want others treating you?

Yet I can still see both sides of the story. The girls dislike Amy because they see her, and  butch lesbians, as part of the problem. Here they are fighting for equal rights for women, for girl power and the empowerment of all things feminine. And here there are these females who are, bizarrely and counter-productively apparently trying to be men. Why buy into the idea that a suit and tie and masculinity means power, means control? Why think that you have to be the ‘male’ in the relationship and buy the drinks and make the moves and buy the flowers? All that chauvinism is exactly what they’re fighting against and they don’t want people from their own ‘ranks’ undermining their position.

On the other hand, Amy is just like them– she knows who she is and she accepts herself and will not lie or back down about who she is, even if she knows that it will make life difficult for her. She stands up for her own truth, just as they stand up for theirs.

The ugliest moment was when the girls made fun of her to her face, tried to mess up her neatly gelled back hair, and forced her to put on a girly top. Trying to ‘free’ her from her ‘self imposed’ restrictive masculine persona when in fact what they were doing were forcing Amy into their own box.

In another scene from the L word, Max (formerly Moria) tells Jenny, “If you think men are the enemy, then you and I have a problem.” Yes, men, or masculinity, aren’t the enemy, even for feminist. The enemy is bigotry, the enemy is oppression. The enemy is forcing your truths down someone else’s throat, forcing other people into your boxes, because you are more comfortable with that.

The truth always looks slightly different from different angles.

For me, trans* is difficult to understand because, my biological sex doesn’t matter as much. It’s not a core part of my identity– I honestly think that I would feel as comfortable in a male body as I do in my female body. To me, the expression of my gender and the expression of my sexual orientation is much more important than my biological sex. I am all for blurring the gender lines and androgyny.

I dare say this wouldn’t be the case for most people– if you find the thought of having the body of a member of the opposite sex weird and disturbing, then I dare say you can understanding how a trans person feels even more than I do. And if I wanted to understand, I can easily translate their experience into something I can relate to.

As humans, we are so incredibly diverse and the way we experience things can be so different. It can be such a leap to try and understand something that is so foreign to you it have never even occurred to you and you don’t know how to even start thinking about it. Yet, underneath all that, I really believe that all of our fundamental experiences are exactly the same. We are all human. It just takes you to make the effort to listen with openness and translate someone else’s problem into something you can relate to.

We are all human.

Of pink boys, the man box and gayness in Hebrew


Maybe my expectations of society have gotten too high– after all, it was just in my father’s generation where left-handers like him were forced to write with their rights hands. But with the super rapid pace of change that’s happening these days, one can always hope that all the changes I wish to see will happen within my lifetime…

Three things to share today.

1. Pink Boys: Gender is not binary!

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? is an article from The New York Times. I really agree with what it says, and wish everyone would read it and broaden their perspectives a little. Some excerpts:

“…gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.

It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities, but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality.”

 

“In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century.”

 

“These days, flouting gender conventions extends even to baby naming: first names that were once unambiguously masculine are now given to girls. The shift, however, almost never goes the other way. That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity. “There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. “When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?””

2. The manbox and why men must and should be liberated from its walls.

Tony Porter: A Call to Men, at TEDwomen

You can find the transcript helpfully typed out here at Shakesville as well. Excerpts below:

“I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you, you were playing like a girl?” Now, I expected him to say something like, “I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry,” something like that. No, the boy said to me, the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.”

And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?””

 

Well, just watch the video, it’s only 12 minutes long. And it speaks The Truth, a truth that you need to know!

3. Pretty girls, thorny religious plus gender plus lgbt themes all wrapped up in an exotic foreign language (everything sounds sexier in a foreign language, no?). What’s there not to like? 8D

The Secrets

The 20th Israel Film Festival (IFF) in Singapore is happening from 5th – 11th of September this year and Cathay will be screening this film. I definitely plan to catch it!

Synopsis: Two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women. Naomi’s quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past, they begin a risky journey into forbidden realm, opening up overwhelming new horizons. The girls soon find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.

Accolades
9 Nominations including:
Best Supporting Actress and Actor, Ophir Awards 2007
Best Feature, 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival

Pink dot updates!


I’m back from Sydney! We went sand boarding and whale watching and all was awesomeawesome. It would be nice if I can upload photos and do a proper entry for my quick holiday, but I’m not sure if I will have the time to. :(

Anyway, being in Sydney was the reason I missed this years Pink Dot, so I’ve been combing through the videos and pictures from the event and it looks BEYOND AWESOME. Simply watching the videos makes me grin so widely and feel like crying. If I had been there in the swaying crowd singing along to ‘True Colours’, I would probably have been bawling.

When I went last year, the sense of community and belonging was already so strong. You look around you and it’s so… strange and refreshing. Positively heartwarming. You get this surprising sense of… oh wow, I’m not alone after all. There are people just like me! A surprising sense of feeling comfortable and at home. Surprising because you’re so accustomed to the norm that you don’t realize those out-of-place feelings are constantly there until you have this to contrast it with.

To think it was just last year when I attended with my ex; I wore my platforms plus borrowed a pink shirt from her. She was fully decked out in a pink yukata.

Well, I won’t say too much since I wasn’t even there this year. Shall leave you with some links to articles and pictures and sharings of the event. :) Can’t wait to be a part of this next year! It’ll be even bigger and better! <3

Shout out from Jason Mraz! Aw, I like him even more now. <3

Singapore shines at Pink Dot 2012!

Featured on inSing!

On the Wall Street Journal: Pink Dot in Singapore Highlights Gay-Rights Debate
A straight person’s (very moving!) perspective: Elyssa on facebook
Msn news: Pink Dot Breaks Record with 15,000 Attendees 

Gay activist Alex Au wins Singapore Humanist of the Year award


Life has been slightly hectic for me recently and while I’ve had ideas and inspirations for posts, I haven’t had time to sit down and write them. Hopefully things will ease up next week and I can be more active here again.

In the meantime, I have to share this speech by Alex Au aka Yawning Bread, a well-known Singaporean blogger and activist. He was recently awarded the Humanist of the Year Award by the Humanist Society (Singapore). You can read more about that here (Fridae).

“It strikes many people as somewhat strange that I, like many other gay men, foreground my gayness as one of the key defining characteristics as a person. Well, there’s a simple reason for it. Those who are heterosexual live in a world where heterosexuality is normative: social conventions, expectations, law and institutions are built upon assumptions of heterosexuality. It’s as comfortable as wearing a right glove on your right hand. After a while, you’d hardly notice you have one on. But gay people have to go through life wearing the left glove on our right hand. There is no moment when we are not conscious of the misfit.”

I personally would give his speech a standing ovation.

Definitely do read the rest of his speech at his blog at here at yanwingbread.wordpress.com.

Pink Dot Plushie!


I hate the colour pink. I don’t know why exactly, but I always have. Somehow, 5 year-old-me already treated pink as the ultimate representation of everything I didn’t like, or didn’t identify with. In fact, I never knew people actually liked pink– I thought it was the colour you were just supposed to dislike. The only people who liked pink were little girls who had been brainwashed into liking it by their mothers who dressed them in pink from head to toe. (I may have gotten this idea from my mother. Oh, the irony.)

Okay, so I’m no longer that ignorant– as unbelievable as it may seem to me, people do actually sincerely like pink. And many times little girls and not-so-little girls deck themselves out, head to toe, in pink because they do like it. And I guess now that my eyes have been opened, I’ve softened my position somewhat– I suppose I can see how certain shades of pink might be pretty. Oh, and pink flowers. Pink on flowers can be absolutely lovely!

…It’s still my least favourite colour though. And I don’t own any pink clothes and wouldn’t buy any pink accessories of any kind if I can help it. Last year, when I had to beg/borrow/steal something pink to wear to pinkdot, I was very… “WHY, pinkdot organizers, WHY? WHY PINK? Why not… rainbow! I can do rainbow dot. I like rainbows!  Why not… purple dot! I thought purple was a ‘gay colour’? I can do purple. I like purple!”

Well. Despite my innate resistance to the colour pink, look what I have hanging on my bag now:

:D :D :D A pink dot plushie/keychain! I think the pink contrasts very nicely with my black bag (I can’t believe I’m saying this).

This is the smallest size they have. There are two larger sizes. You can buy them online from here, or go down to any one of three physical shops in Singapore. My friends and I went down to VERY Wooonderland in B3 of Ion and the two of them spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to choose the roundest, cutest ones while I kept trying my best to convince them that ALL THE PINK DOTS LOOK THE SAME C’MON AREN’T YOU DONE YET.

I feel like buying extras to give out to people, but I don’t know who I could give them out to…

(If you don’t know what Pink Dot is, check out my previous post for a short explanation and this years campaign video!)

Rambling thoughts on the insufficiency of God’s love


You don’t care*. No, don’t deny it, it’s true; but I understand. Humans have a limited capacity to care, limited time and attention to give. You have yourself and your family and so many other closer friends to care about first- there’s not much space left for a once a year friend except maybe once a year.

Humans have a limited capacity to care- limited time and attention. That’s one reason they invented god (or the modern concept of god, anyway). God, who has unlimited capacity to love all and everyone, and does it better then any human ever could. Because that’s what most people want most in life- to love and be loved. To feel cared for. To feel like they matter.

And yet some people would take that away from others– forbid them to love and be loved. (I’m referring to homophobic sentiments, of course.)  Why do you and how can you deny people such a fundamental need of their emotional well-being?

And this god– supposedly his love is all you need, his perfec love. The love that quenches your thirst eternally while every other leaves you wanting. And yet people who feel his love, who bask in his love are not satisfied– god is not enough (what blasphemy!) and they still need the love and support if their community, the love and support of their family, the love and support of their friends, and the love and support of a significant other. Why can’t you subsist on god’s love alone?

All men have a god shaped hole in their hearts, they say. Yet even when you’ve filled that hole with god, there’s still some hole left. How can it be that god’s not enough?

One of the favourite ‘trump cards’: the fall. We live in a fallen world. Our relationship with god now on earth is not as it’s supposed to be. It’s been tainted with sin, restricted by sin.
But even in paradise, even before sin and the fall, god wasn’t enough. Man was made to worship god, but worshipping god didn’t fulfill man enough, didn’t make man satisfied. God wasn’t enough, and god said so himself: it is not good that man should be alone. But he wasn’t alone, he was in PARADISE, with god, in his intended, untainted state, with all the incredible wonders of creation at his beck and call. And… It still wasn’t enough.

How can it get better than that? As Adam, the first man, in paradise, knowing god? Isn’t that what Christians claim is god’s original, intended plan? Trump card ‘the fall’ is out of commission; it hasn’t happened yet. Isn’t that the thing that is separating us from god, and isn’t separation the thing that is keeping us dissatisfied? Apparently not. Adam had it all, and still it was ‘not good’.

Apparently you still need AT LEAST a mate (in addition to all of paradise and being on one-on-one speaking terms with god) to be satisfied and fulfilled.

As little sense as this makes, it makes even less sense to believe all that and still deny some people the right to love another**. God himself said that even with everything else absolutely perfect, it’s still ‘not good’ to be alone.

*Is there a difference between actively not caring and not actively caring? If there is, I mean thelatter.
**I guess this refers specifically to people who admit that homosexuality natural and beyond an individuals control but insist that they should abstain from being an ‘active’ homosexual. 

Pink Dot 2012: Someday


Pink Dot is a non-profit movement started in Singapore in 2009 that supports the freedom to love for LGBT people. Every year, participants gather to form a giant pink dot to show their support for the cause.

Last year was my first time attending, and a record of over 10, 000 people turned up. It’s a very simple event– you just show up for a couple of hours and there’s some entertainment and performances as well as some booths. Then we gather as a photographer from a vantage point somewhere captures the moment. Nothing more. But such a simple thing can be so powerful; it was so heartwarming just to wander around and see so many LGBT and pro-LGBT people being open, being themselves and supporting the cause. It gives me hope.

The video above is this year’s campaign video, and watching it made me cry.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this year’s Pink Dot (30th June), so if you’re Singaporean or are in Singapore at that time please do go down on my behalf! Bring your friends, family, pets… and share the video!

Find out more about pinkdot from their website, the wikipedia entry, their facebook page or watch last year’s campaign video as well as videos of the event itself on their youtube channel.

Someday…