Swim against the current, run against the wind.


Stay strong, stay true.

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of series 6 of this UK television drama Waterloo Road, which centres around a school and it’s students and teachers.

One of the larger story arcs that has been taking place involved one of the teachers, Francesca, getting involved with a student, Jonah. Since it is not just taboo but illegal for a teacher to ‘take advantage’ of a student in this way, you can imagine there was a lot of sneaking around, being paranoid and alternating between ‘I/we can’t do this. It’s wrong. It’s too difficult, too risky. It’s not possible.” and “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I love you and all’s fine as long as we have each other.” All this cumulated in ep19 and 20 with (SPOILER ALERT!) them being found out, Francesca being suspended and charged along with pending imprisonment, and then the two of them running away to get married (before being arrested and brought back). Makes for great TV drama indeed!

The whole thing could easily parallel a closeted gay relationship; constantly watching your back and being afraid of being found out; the way you act around each other in public, a necessary facade; the lies that come with keeping a secret; and huge secrets, even from those closest to you; the conviction that you’ll be ostracised and worse if anyone knew; knowing that no one will understand; all that negativity, risk and adverse concequences being offset by the joy you feel when you’re together…

To be honest, most of the arc made me really dislike both characters, possibly precisely because I could see myself in a similar situation so easily. They were being retarded and brainless! Too careless and impulsive and immature! C’mon guys, it’s hard but not impossible! Can’t you sacrifice some short term pleasures for the long term happiness!?

At the very first signs of it, when Francesca was still trying to stop it from even starting, and then stop it from progressing… To me she didn’t try nearly hard enough. Later on, when they were well into it; Acting so suspicious, doing really stupid/risky things, not taking enough or proper precautions, and not planning or talking about things seriously… why couldn’t they have kept it a secret until Jonah graduated? Like I said, it’s difficult, (in the sense of being mentally and emotionally draining,) but not impossible, (like I cannot NOT speak to you during school hours.) I’ve been there! …or maybe I haven’t, since we didn’t share a working/schooling physical space and weren’t closeted with most mutual friends.

But these last two episodes really brought me over to their side. What was once blind, stupid impulsiveness has become an inspiration: If i were in a similar situation, with hostility and disapproval on all fronts with no sign of respite in sight, would I be so brave to continue to stand firm for what I believe in, and do what I think is right?

To lose your family, your friends, your job, your community, you life and still stand strong?

At least they can get married. Part of me thought. Even if gay people were to run off to some other country to get married, that piece of paper would have absolutely no power back home. We’d still have absolutely nothing. And in time, when the scandal has blown over, they will become just any other couple, blending in. They can rebuild. Gay will always be gay, and will always stand out. 

What would you do? What would I do? Would I be willing to give up my family, my home and friends if it came down to it, for the person I love? Would “giving up” your family, home and friends even be the ‘Right’ decision to make?

Here’s my stab at it:

You’re not ‘giving up’ anything. You’re merely standing by what you believe in, you’re merely staying true to yourself. And if, because of that, other people fall away, that’s hardly your doing, your choice, nor your fault. And if they should, in time, change their minds about accepting who you are, you’d more than welcome them back with open arms. The only ‘giving up’ would be if you gave up on your dreams, your beliefs, your values and yourself.

The only choice you should be making is to stand by what you believe in, and to stay true to yourself. Leave judging and rejecting of people to someone else, that’s not your choice to make.
—-

I guess this is the follow up to my Charles and Erik post that I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time, but hadn’t truly reached the conclusion in my mind and heart. I knew where it was heading all along; It just took me a while to get there. Am I there yet? Maybe I still have a little way to go… maybe we’ll always have a little way to go. You always have something to better, something to work towards. That’s life.

To recap my entry, I was envisioning Charles Xavier as someone holding a belief (presumably the Right one): that mutants should ultimately live in harmony with humans ie humans are friends, and Erick (Magneto) holding a differing belief (presumably the Wrong one): that mutants and humans can’t be in harmony ie humans are the enemy. And these differing beliefs, while not directly pitting them against each other, were different and serious enough to change them from friends to enemies. And I wondered where such a line would be drawn? What kind of differing beliefs would make turning against a friend justifiable, and inevitable?

Specifically, I was using this fictitious example to help me think about these these differing beliefs: homosexually is morally wrong / homosexuality is NOT morally wrong; religious beliefs in general.

Soon after I wrote the post, a friend pointed this out to me: If i insist on alienating or cutting ties with people who think homosexuality is Wrong, I would have turned into Magneto. It’s not, as I was envisioning, Xavier vs Magneto representing pro-gay and anti-gay. But rather, mutants as homosexuals, humans as heterosexuals and Magneto the one who has turned evil, hating all humans for the evil deeds of a few. So the right answer, according to X-Men? Be Charles, and not lose hope. Be Charles, and reach out even to the ones kicking you down. Be Charles, for how else would humans be able to know that mutants aren’t all bad?

And I also realized: neither Charles nor Eric ever rejects each other? They never said, “You’re not with me? Then you’re against me. From this day forth you are my sworn enemy and I hate your guts and nothing will change that.” Wasn’t it more like, “Friend, join me. No? Well, I’m sorry, friend, I have to go. But the invitation stands.”? Being ‘enemies’ only as a technicality of finding themselves on opposite sides.

Well, I’m not an X-men fanboy or fanatic, so forgive me if I’m straying from canon and projecting my own ideas onto the characters.

But… the lesson never seems to change does it? Be a Gandhi. Be a Jesus (ok tbh I’m still feeling slightly sore about Jesus/christianity). Be a Charles.

That is… hold on to what you know is true. Stand up for what you know is right. And most of all, love and accept everyone. Leave the judging and rejecting to the one who has all the answers (or thinks he has all the answers, anyway.)

The Bible and Homosexuality; Amazing Presentation


All Christians need to watch this.

And all Christians who are struggling with the issue of homosexuality (regardless of their orientation) will be very glad to have watched this.

Matthew Vines, a 21-year-old gay Christian, took two years off from college to study the scriptures and find out what they really say about homosexuality. Earlier this this month, he gave a 1hr presentation on the material that he’s studied.

The article, The Bible and Homosexuality: Why I left College and Spent Two Years Finding Out What the Scriptures Really Say, here, and the full video of the presentation below

If you’ve read up on this issue before, many of his argument points won’t be too unfamiliar but still I think he makes the most compelling case I’ve heard thus far. He pulls everything together very well and presents everything in a systematic, objective yet powerful way. 

But well, I’m not Christian so maybe my reaction wouldn’t be representative of a Christian reaction. So don’t take my word for it, watch it and see for yourself!

Silence and Apathy


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

I really like this entry, Sword and Shield. Especially the first paragraph, which I identify with a lot.

“I was never one to worry. I was never one to be concerned. I didn’t even have goals, dreams or aspirations. I just went with the flow, happy to get by.”

That was me, too. I was carefree, pretty easy going (or you could say ‘apathetic’) about most things. Let bygones be bygones. There were Issues that I was concerned about and obvious ‘wrongs’ in the world that I wished would be righted, of course. But for most part I assumed the world would get on with it, that these wrongs would surely be righted in time, no excessive worrying needed on my part.

The one thing that riled me up was usually conservation issues, because as I learnt more from my classes, it became apparent how ignorant the majority of the population are to these issue, how completely blind they are to that fact that these things truly matter, that there weren’t lofty ideals but a life and death reality, of mankind, our planet and all living things.

It was very different for me for idealogical issues. Those I tended to shrug my shoulders and trot out the excuse of my ignorance.

Perhaps the worst were those issues I WAS sure about, but never thought to take a stand on. Because I assumed that the world and society would get along fine. That, however slowly, society was always marching in the direction of progress. You can’t rush these things, just wait.

Obviously as a gay person I have to know all about its taboo nature in society; I necessarily have to face, it if not everyday, then at least pretty often, right?

And yet somehow I still remained blind. I was frustrated by the inconveniences in my life, but not outraged by any injustice. I would happily go for the occasional LGBT-related event, but do little more then smile from the sidelines. I accepted it. I saw it as something that was merely social taboo, not the fault of any one or anything, but just convention. Just the way it’s always been. And a way that is changing, slowly but surely.

Most people my age have no problems at all with it, I thought. It mostly only the older generation who are more conservative, more set in their views and who have little contact of any kind with the LGBT world. All they know of them are the occasional stereotype falsehoods portrayed in the media. In other words, the problem will slowly but surely fade away as there is greater exposure and education regarding LGBT issues.

Recently, it has come as a great blow to me to realize– to really realize– that quite a few of my close friends do think it is an ‘abomination’, that I am an ‘abomination’. Not that I didn’t ‘know’ of their disapproval, I just never thought about it, and the full meaning of it never sunk in. To be honest, I just didn’t care.

I was ‘tolerant’ and ‘accepting’, I ‘respected’ other people’s beliefs. What they thought and believe is their business, as long as they’re not standing in my way. And despite my friends obviously breaking my stereotype of being ‘old, ignorant and uneducated’, I still viewed LGBT rights in the world as something inevitable that was coming soon, that there was nothing but out-dated thinking standing in the way, and mostly due to inertia.

When they tell me that…they’ve in fact never searched into this issue at all (despite holding their unwavering views about it), and despite having known me and my orientation for so many years… I feel like a failure. In all these years, I’ve never caused them to even wonder about or question their position.

I suppose that ends now. Silence and apathy can be as deadly as hate and ignorance. Social change only happens because people dare to ask for it. The least I can do is make sure that people in my circle have access and exposure to the other side of the coin, that I help to disseminate the voice of this social movement.

For the Bible Tells Me So


“For the Bible Tells Me So is a 2007 American documentary film directed by Daniel G. Karslake about homosexuality and its perceived conflict with religion, as well as various interpretations of what the Bible says about same-sex sexuality.

It includes lengthy interview segments with several sets of religious parents (including former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and his wife, Jane, and the parents of Bishop V. Gene Robinson) regarding their personal experiences raising homosexual children, and also interviews with those (adult) children.” (From Wikipedia)

Here’s the Trailer:

and you can watch the full movie on Veoh here.

It was good, but not as impactful as I was expecting, given the awards and great reviews it had. But still good. I suppose it depends on the audience– it’s strongest message is the usual about not rejecting, abusing or discriminating against gays, which is of course a great message.

But for me it doesn’t stress enough on the how (ie what is considered ‘not rejecting, exactly?) and the why. What I mean is, if its mainly the extreme negative views and reactions that are being shown, it’s easy for someone with moderate views to dissociate themselves from it, while still holding on to their essentially anti-gay position. It would be easy for them to counter what’s shown with something like, ‘Well of course I wouldn’t throw bricks/scrawl hate messages/send hate letters etc. that’s wrong. but so is homosexuality. I wouldn’t reject the person, but I reject the lifestyle.’ So for me, it doesn’t focus enough on why that sort of attitude is not enough. It doesn’t go deep enough, detailed enough into the journeys of the individuals, of how they came to reconcile their sexuality with christianity, why they didn’t stick with some moderate middle ground.

Frankly, I think that ‘middle ground’ is incoherent. I think that that annoying phrase of ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’ is not possible to truly put into practice in the case of homosexuality because homosexuality is usually experienced as a pretty integral part of one’s identity.

When you say you ‘hate the lies but love the liar’, the liar is not going to feel aggrieved or offended if he is a normal, average person who thinks lying is wrong. He’s likely to ‘hate’ lying as well. He probably doesn’t see it as either an intergral or instrinsic  part of himself. When he admits that he is a liar, he is admitting that he had lied; he is admitting to the action of lying. And if he hates lying, he’ll hate it when he lies.

When you try to do the same thing for homosexuality, it doesn’t work because homosexuals experience it as being part of their identity. Saying “I hate homosexuality but I love you” would be like saying to a man, “I hate men, but I love you.” or “I hate Chinese, but I still love you.” Which would be incoherent. (Unless you tweak the meaning to ‘Usually I hate men, but I find that I love you.’, which significantly deviates from the original mantra in meaning.) Furthermore, I am homosexual no matter what I do or don’t do, so from the individuals point of view, I really can’t afford to hate it. There’s no escape from it, unlike lying; I’d have to hate myself constantly if I hate homosexuality.

The phrase (and tone/body language of the people who utter it) seem to imply that denouncing homosexuality is merely idealogy– in practice, they are still going to treat you with all the rights and respect and love due to any other human being; they’re not condeming you as a person, just the concept of homosexuality.

That, to me is incoherent and untrue as well. As long as you hold the belief that homosexuality is morally wrong, you will inevitably be hurting me with your belief. It will hurt when I know you do not support or approve of my relationships. It will hurt when I know you would prefer it very much if I were straight. It will hurt me when you support causes that will deny me my rights to living a normal happy life in the eyes of society and the law and when you refuse to support causes that are helping to fight for those rights. And if you are a friend or family member, all this will hurt a million times more.

So honestly? No matter how awesome a person you are, how non-judgemnetal and accepting and warm… I am still finding hard to not be offended when you tell me you think homosexuality is an abomination. I do think it’s as deep a personal insult as it can get.

All Love Is Equal; Miley Cyrus


Imagine finding someone you love more than anything in the world, who you would risk your life for but couldn’t marry.”

via All Love Is Equal.

Love is love is love is love!
…and everyone knows what it’s like to love, to want to love, to want to be loved. And if you know that, you are capable of putting yourself in ANYONE’S shoes, no matter how different you think they are from you.

They aren’t that different. We’re all the same.

also this Stars died so that we may live.

Well, it’s true. O_O

I am not a Miley Cyrus fan at all (I barely know what she looks like or what songs she’s sung, though I’m sure I can remember something if i think hard) but kudos to her for daring to stir up the waters to say what she thinks.

Nature vs Nurture: Does it matter?


The debate and controversy surrounding homosexuality almost always gravitates towards debate about its nature: whether people are born gay or not.

Knowing the nature of sexuality would of course be helpful and as a science student I definitely think we should never stop chasing for answers. But I don’t think these particular answers are as central to the debate as people think they are.

In other words, even if we were to untangle all the gazillion factors that goes into making someone who they are in terms of their their sexuality and gender identity, the debate (or mudslinging and discrimination) would still continue, because that’s not what people are actually arguing about.

A disclaimer: Here I use the word ‘gay’ (or ‘homosexuality’) as an umbrella term for all of LGBT. I personally prefer the word gay to any other word because it sounds simple and happy. 8D

It’s Nature! …So What?

People on the pro-gay side of the argument tend to lean heavily towards ‘nature’ as the answer: Gay people are born this way. It’s natural. It’s like being born with red hair: not a choice and can’t be changed. Discriminating against gays is like discriminating against redheads.

But being born that way might not offer as much immunity from discrimination as you might think. Why? Because being born that way does not imply that it cannot be changed (it just can’t changed by your will alone), nor does it necessarily imply that it should not be changed.

People can be born with deformities or diseases. That’s natural, and there’s no choice involved. But if medically something can be done to reverse the effects, to cure the disease or fix the deformity, it will be done.

If nature means encoded in genes, then gays are safe for now, since science isn’t that far advanced yet to be able to  mess with the genetic code to get exactly what they want, especially since no ‘gay gene’ has been or is likely to be identified. Besides, most would consider it unethical to ‘play god’ and make ‘designer babies’ with customizable genes.

Genes are only the first step in the story though, not the only step. we may not be able to tweak the genes themselves, but we can certainly moderate and modify their effects or results, as when people with hormone deficiencies take supplements, or babies born with cleft lips undergo surgery, or a person with severe epilepsy undergoes brain surgery.

A gay gene hasn’t bee found, but plenty of research has highlighted the importance of hormones, mostly hormones in the womb and during early development. If abnormal amounts of hormones are found to be the main biological cause for gayness, wouldn’t that, ironically, be a blow for gay supporters since it implies a hiccup in the natural development that can and should be fixed? Being born gay would become less like having brown hair and more like having a hormone imbalance which can be treated.

What’s the difference between treating a disease and “treating”, for example, having red hair? Someone with a disease is likely to want to be treated, someone with brown hair may or may not want to change their hair colour. Treating someone with a disease should undoubtedly improve their quality of life, changing the colour of your hair, not so much.

Regardless of which you think homosexuality resembles more, it’s clear that what differs is not how someone came to have that condition but whether or not the condition should be treated, that is, whether or not it is something intrinsically undesirable.

It’s Nurture! … So What?

On the other side, detractors say homosexuality is a choice. It’s due to your upbringing, the effect your parents had on you. It’s insidious influences from society/internet/television. It’s a misguided choice,  a bad habit, a flawed perspective.

But even if ‘nurture’ played a more significant role, it doesn’t necessarily imply choice, or even the ability to change.

Language is certainly more cultural and ‘nurture’ than inborn or ‘nature’. Yet cases of feral or confined children who never heard speech during all important formative years ended up being unable to speak later in life, or at least had a much harder time picking it up than you’d expect, showing that a cultural factor (exposure to language) does not imply ability to change.

I like the colours blue and purple. Probably this isn’t 100% genetically coded. Probably it’s much more ‘nurture’ than ‘nature’. I mean, when I was younger my favourite colour was once orange. and light green. and red. and silver. and black. and… you get the point. It probably has a lot more to do with what I was exposed to when growing up; the subtle meanings and moods society gives to these colours; my mother’s favourite colour (also blue); the different things, memories, concepts I subconsciously associated with these colours to give me a positive experience when viewing them.

But… could I choose to discard these as my favourites? and choose pink instead, a colour I’ve disliked all my life? Could I choose, similarly, to like the music that I don’t like? could I choose not to like durian, or choose to like eating liver?

I can choose to wear a pink shirt (for Pink Dot, for example). I can choose to listens to trance music at a friend’s insistence. I can choose not to eat durian (because I have a sore throat) or to eat liver (because my mum asked me to). We can choose our actions, not our inclinations.

Well, you can choose to engage in behaviour that might alter your inclinations: you could go for anger management therapy to learn to control your temper even if you can’t choose whether to being angry or not like an on-off switch. And maybe wearing pink, listening to trance, and eating liver often enough would make me, slowly, change more opinion in time.  Maybe.

It certainly seems silly to think it’s impossible to change my favourite colour to pink. Yet… I have no idea how I would begin to approach such a task. Surround myself with pink things? Repeat daily “I love pink!” until i believe it? Deal out punishments when I choose colours other than pink, and rewards when I choose pink? Pinkify all my favourite celebrities, bands, people, items? Sounds dangerously like mental torture or brainwashing. Actually… wait a minute. Before we get to ‘how’, more importantly, why should I want to do this at all?

Again, even if we know with certainty whether sexuality is a result of our upbringing or a even a conscious choice, it still wouldn’t stop the debates. For clearly negative things like anger problems or difficulty integrating into society, no matter how difficult the process, therapy for a change would still be recommended. But for a neutral thing, like colour preference, the mere idea becomes ridiculous. Even if homosexuality can be changed… should it?

The Real Debate

Thinking that
Nature = natural = cannot be changed = should not be changed
Nurture = unnatural = a choice, can be changed = should not be changed
is too simplistic, and not really true.

If science proves that it’s genetic, or hormonal, or not a choice, it’s not going to stop anti-gay people rejecting it: people can and will still label it as an abnormality to be ‘cured’, a flaw to be ‘managed’, much like how my choice in feeling pain or getting angry is limited, but I still have to learn to control it.

If science proves that it’s mostly upbringing and can be changed with proper and careful counseling or prevented with proper upbringing, it’s not going to make gay people want to change their orientation: people will argue that it’s their right to live their life the way they want it, the way they’re most comfortable with, that the gay lifestyle doesn’t hurt anyone, that it’s a loving relationship between two consenting parties.

The real issue is not whether it’s nurture or nature, its whether sexuality is more like a genetic disease or hair colour. More like a psychological problem or colour preference.
The debate is about whether or not homosexuality is intrinsically undesirable, whether or not it is wrong.

Anti-gay people don’t think it’s Wrong because they think it’s a choice; they think it’s a choice because they think it’s Wrong. If you think something is Wrong, regardless of it’s causes or origins or nature you would want to resist it. If you think something is Right, you would want to promote and defend it, again regardless of other factors.

So the real debate is one of morality: why homosexuality is or is not Wrong.
And I personally believe that there is a much stronger case to be made for why homosexuality in itself is as morally neutral as heterosexuality, colour preference or hair colour, even from within a religious point of view.

The delightful hot-potato that is Gayness


Just reading this article, One Town’s War on Gay Teens, makes me feel so madder-than-mad at humanity in general and certain groups of humanity in particular.

Recently a friend passed me a book she bought from her church, entitled “Born Gay?” by Dr John Tay. It aims to “examine the scientific evidence for homosexuality”, as stated on the cover. What it does is gives individual summaries (which are slightly too brief, in my opinion) for a relatively large number of scientific papers on the topic and draws an overall conclusion from them: genes don’t fully account for homosexuality (and environmental factors play a bigger role) and therefore homosexuality is a choice.

Well, I’ve so far only scanned through the book, so I hope to give it a thorough reading and a fair hearing in time. I will also hopefully be able to check out those articles he features myself, and find others as well, but in the meantime, here’s my humble two cents on the nature of sexuality:

I think, like so many aspects of human experience, it is incredibly personal and incredibly variable. I think it is definitely a huge dash of nature, and another dash of nurture, and I think even the ratio of nature to nurture differs from person to person. I think sexuality is a continuous spectrum, or rather, two spectrum: gender identity (how much of a man/woman you identify as) and sexual orientation (how attracted you are to men/women/both/none). And I think how fluid a person’s sexuality is (how movable they are on that spectrum over time) is itself another spectrum.

But that’s just one person’s opinion; for it to have any weight you’d need to talk to others, read more, have some evidence to substantial and make sure that your theory actually does match reality and isn’t just some abstract idea that sounds nice on paper. So, still exploring. :)