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.

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… 

Barrack Obama and Gay Marriage


I guess I pretty much have to blog about this, right?

When I first read the news, I suppose I must have not been in a particularly good mood, for my reaction was somewhere in between, “Okay… So what? How does this affect me? Is he actually going to do anything? Sounds more like messy, American politics than gay rights.” and “Sure took you a long enough time.”

But hey, haven’t I always thought that any and every voice speaking up for gay rights count? It counts more than being silent. And here we have the most well known public figure in the world officially announcing his support– his unambiguous support– for gay marriage. Even if I can’t help feeling cynical about it (it’s politics, all politics), it’s still a very, very major score.

If you like, you can write Obama a thank you note and show your support for him and this cause here. It will apparently be sent to the White House sometime this week.

I still think that the main thing this will accomplish is to polarize America even further, but I suppose putting gay issues into the spot light must be a good thing. At the very least, it forces people to think about the issues. On the other hand… polarizing is probably not a good thing. I mean, if people who were previously ambivalent about it start to feel pressured or persuaded by their peers/family/authority to take a stand against homosexuality…

On a related note, I watched this video yesterday

and it made me want to say something to friends (and my past self) who think that what we have now is enough… that shouldn’t I be grateful and happy that I’m not being actively discriminated against? That I’m not actively persecuted? That I can be out without fearing for my life or my safety, that most people will still treat me no different, that I can lead a relatively normal life?

No, it’s not enough. Not nearly enough. Not anywhere close to enough. Until it is no longer the socially accepted view that homosexuality is wrong or at least controversial… until I don’t have to look at friends and wonder if they think its an abomination… until I can have a proper marriage, with legal rights…until I have all the rights that YOU, lucky-to-be-born-straight person, have… it’s not enough.

Can you imagine if your partner, your wife, your husband… the person you’ve been living with for 5, 10, 20, 50 years… gets into an accident or is in the hospital. And you have no rights to their information or to make decisions on their behalf. You’re not next of kin. You’re absolutely nothing, just a random friend like any other random friend. Despite the fact that you’ve been living exactly like a married couple for the past 50 years. You’re nobody.

That’s why it’s not enough.

Prayers for Bobby


Touching story. Real people, real lives.

From the description, “The true story of a mother’s struggle to reconcile the tension between her deeply held religious beliefs and the suicide of her gay son. Mary Griffith came from a religious family and raised her four children to believe in God and live a Christian life. Their conservative Presbyterian church was the center of family life for every family member except Mary’s husband, Bob. When 17-year-old Bobby confided to older brother Ed that he was gay, the family’s life changed. Mary convinced Bobby to pray that God would cure him and to seek solace in church activities. Bobby did it all, but the church’s hatred of homosexuality and the obvious pain his gayness was causing his family led him increasingly to loathe himself. Excerpts from a diary he kept, family photos, and letters written by Mary to her dead son make the book intense reading for both high-school and public library patrons.”

Give it a watch if you have the time!

Will it take the death of someone close to you for you to consider that you may be wrong?

In an ideal world, it would be a non-issue


From Rachel Patrick’s post on LGBT-BJU over here.

But I never wanted to be one of the PRIDE kind of queers, the activists, the vocal ones, the ones with rainbow tattoos. I feel I am defined by so much more in my life than my sexual orientation. I feel like there is so much in my life that is actually more important than my sexual orientation. I love to read, hike, cook, write, snowboard, and garden. I like to get my nails done. I go to church. I am obsessed with Clemson football. I am just like everyone else. I am just like you.

am just like you, except for the fact that in twenty-nine states, my employer can fire me because I am gay. I am just like you, except in the nineteen states that still do not classify violence against LGBTQ individuals as hate crimes. When I want to adopt or foster a child, I am treated exactly like you… if I live in one of the ten states that allows GLBT people to adopt. And I am just like you, because when I fall in love, I want nothing more than to love and care for my partner with everything that I am, with all of my heart and all of my resources, for all of my life— I want to get married someday, except, I can’t.

Sexual orientation should be a non-issue. In an ideal world, no one cares. People love whom they love. God loves everybody. The end.

But we do not live in that world.

Obviously the ‘God’ bits don’t apply to me, and I don’t live in America but… everything else. This.

In an ideal world, to me too, it would really be a non-issue. Along with my gender identity and how I choose to present myself. The clothes I wear, the way I style my hair. But we don’t live in that world.

Not yet. 
One can always hope.

Oranges are not the only fruit


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a three-part BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in an English Pentecostal community.

I plan to read the book, but in the meantime, I found the TV series on youtube, so I watched that first. It’s a great show, give it a watch if you have the time. On youtube it’s uploaded as 6 parts of about 7 minutes for each of the 3 episode. There’s a part missing though, so if you can access the video via other means, maybe you could try that too. For example, I’ve just realized that the esplanade library carries the video cassettes! …not sure how I would watch video cassettes though haha, maybe the esplanade has a multimedia room you can use. Nonetheless, the missing part didn’t make the show any less enjoyable to watch.

Some thoughts:

It made me think, once again, about how flexible the human mind is.
I mean, how easily we can twist words to mean what we want them to mean. How words can mean anything.  How easily we can delude ourselves, how easily we can truly believe what is not true. How easily we can think, with all our heart, that we’re doing the right thing.

Can you blame the mother in the show, as unpleasant as she is? Can you fault her for treating the main character, Jess, in that way? It may not be your idea of love (it may be, in fact, your idea of hate) but I do think she does love Jess, and every horrible thing she did, she thought it was for the best. No, she knew it was for the best.

This is how humans are. We can operate separate from the ‘truth’. It doesn’t matter so much what is out there as what we think is out there, how we perceive what is out there.

And that’s the problem I have with ‘faith’. Knowing how susceptible we are to such thinking, to being able to have unwavering belief in your own thoughts, positions and actions, shouldn’t we be guarding against such thinking rather than encouraging it? Guarding against ‘having faith’?

Because isn’t such type of thinking the essence of faith?

To have complete trust in something. To believe in god without evidence. To… just believe. Just have faith. With all your heart.

People are capable of being blind enough as it is. Don’t tie blindfolds over your eyes and tell me that’s a GOOD thing. The more blindfolds you tie, the more you trust without EVIDENCE or PROOF, the better and more PREFERABLE that is? Seriously?
—-
The show had me crying. Because the worst thing was… knowing that this isn’t merely fiction. Knowing that this isn’t merely history. Knowing that this isn’t merely abstract ideas, or something happening far away.

This is real. This is now. This is here. This is me, and those are my friends.

Please don’t pretend that the church’s position has ‘progressed’, that your position has progressed and is better and more reasonable than historical positions. Does it really matter what words you use? Whether you call it a ‘demon in you’ or an ‘illness’ or a  ‘disorder’ or a ‘result of the fallen world’ or an ‘abomination’ or even just simply a ‘sin’?

You change the words, but the final meaning is the same. The church’s idea of ‘progress’ is ‘accepting’ new evidence but without letting it change the bottom line. So you have to change your interpretation a little. That’s not a problem. As long as you keep the bottom line the same.

I don’t remember if I’ve said it out loud on this blog yet, but… my girlfriend of three years broke up with me–yes, you guessed it– for religious reasons. You could say this blog is born from that incident.

During that break-up period, she showed me two different cases from two different Christian books she was reading– about homosexuals having had demons successfully cast out of them.

…how do you think that makes me feel? To know that the person you love thinks that the only reason why you love her and why she loves you is because of a demon?

…so when we enjoyed each others’ company, simply sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze and talking; a demon at work?
…so when we celebrated anniversaries or valentine’s days, exchanging heartfelt gifts; a demon pulling the strings?
…when we went out for dinner; a demon ordering dessert?
…when we said ‘I love you’ countless times, cheered each other on through tests, exams and school work, listened to each others’ problems and worries… all through a demon’s mouth and ears?

I understand a little more now why people can be so cruel, why the mother in the show can behave so hard-heartedly towards her daughter. That’s not her daughter, it’s a demon. The devil’s limb, as she says.

How people could have burnt women at the stake: they’re not women, they’re witches. The cries you hear aren’t the cries of a women in pain, they are the cries of evil knowing it has lost the battle. When someone cries and screams while having a demon cast out, that’s the sound of the demon, in pain.

What does ‘demon’ even mean, anyway? The idea of ‘ALL GOOD’ and ‘ALL BAD’ is really an incoherent one to me. It can’t exist in more than the abstract. If this thing you call a ‘demon’ can feel pain, shouldn’t we have compassion for it too?

I can’t wait to read the book.