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Govt will Protect S’poreans from Violence? Prove it.

I read with interest Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam’s statement – in light of the Orlando shooting at a gay club – when he said that, “violence against any group, in any form, is not acceptable. Here, the Government will act decisively if there is threat of violence against anyone or any group.”

He also said: “The Government’s duty is to protect everyone – their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, that’s not relevant.”

The Singapore Government’s Upholding of 377A Perpetuates Violence against LGBT and Does Not Protect Them – 377A has to be Abolished

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Photo: Signage placed on the grass at the Orlando Shooting Candlelight Vigil in Singapore 

Upfront, Mr Shanmugam said that,”The Government’s duty is to protect everyone,” and he said that, “their race, their religion, (and importantly, that) their sexual orientation, that’s not relevant”.

Now, according to the United Nations (UN), “States that criminalize consensual homosexual acts are in breach of international human rights law since these laws, by their mere existence, violate the rights to privacy and non-discrimination.

“Human rights mechanisms continue to emphasize links between criminalization and homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, police abuse, torture, family and community violence and stigmatization, … these laws may give a pretext to vigilante groups and other perpetrators of hatred for intimidating people and committing acts of violence.”

Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez, had earlier this year “pointed to the clear link between the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and the violence and stigma these groups face”.

However, Singapore continues to retain section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes consensual same-sex relations between men.

If Mr Shanmugam is sincere in his words, then the government has to abolish 377A, and to “act decisively against the threat of violence” that LGBT people face and “protect” them.

As Mr. Méndez said, “States are complicit in the violence women and LGBT groups face if they implement discriminatory laws that trap these people in a spiral of abuse.”

As such, the Singapore government has to act to stop such complicity.

The UN added that, “In some cases, these laws have been accompanied by bans on non-governmental organizations receiving funding from abroad, allegedly in order to curb the influence of “foreign agents”. Such measures put defenders at risk of arrest, violence and discrimination, and can threaten rights relating to, inter alia, health, education, cultural expression and information.

“In some States, (“pride”) events are denied police protection or permits, sometimes under guise of threats to public morals or safety, abrogating the State’s duty to uphold freedom of assembly and to protect LGBT persons from violence.”

With relevance, last week the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a statement, which said that: “The Ministry of Home Affairs will take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence such events held at the Speakers’ Corner (a small park which is the only allowed space for protests in Singapore).

“The Government’s general position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones. These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves.

“LGBT issues are one such example,” MHA said.

Clearly, such disguised curbs would place LGBT persons at risk of “violence” and Singapore’s continued insistence on this will not “protect” LGBT Singaporeans and the government would have reneged on its “duty”, which was what Mr Shanmugam claimed that the government would uphold.

The government’s implict empowerment of vigilante groups such as the ‘Wear White’ and ‘We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore‘ movements which harass and intimidate LGBT persons also legitimises the violence against LGBT persons and place LGBT persons at risk.

The outcome of the legitimisation of such victimisation and discrimination have led to the formation of groups such as ‘Say NO to Foreign Intervention in Singapore’s Politics‘ and their petition where they demand of the government to “Investigate and stop all foreign funding into events and set-ups of a political nature” and to “Warn/punish (these) foreign companies”.

MHA’s statement “on Foreign Sponsorships for Pink Dot 2016” was released after this petition came out.

The existence of such hate groups and the state’s implicit tolerance of them thus fuel the violence against LGBT persons.

Already, the violence has already taken a more sinister turn when a certain Bryan Lim had posted on Facebook: “I am a Singaporean citizen. I am a NSman (military serviceman). I am a father. And I swore to protect my nation. Give me the permission to open fire. I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes.” Police reports have been made against him and he is now under police investigation.

And just days ago, the Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA) also asked the musical Les Misérables – which is playing in Singapore – to remove a scene where two men kissed, due to complaints apparently from members of the public. The irony of it, it has been found, is that the kissing scene was actually an act of bullying enacted by one man against another.

One is reminded of Omar Mateen who had killed 49 people in the Orlando Shooting at the gay club Pulse four days ago, and who was said by his father, Seddique Mir Mateen, to have “got(ten) very angry” when he saw “two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid,” and which his father believed could have spurred his deadly actions.

The #TwoMenKissing hashtag which has spawned is therefore directly relevant to Singapore and the Singapore government’s state-sanctioned violence against LGBT.

The government’s continued allowance of itself to be pandered to by the interests of such hate groups and its insistence on retaining 377A will not only allow the Bryan Lims to continue to fester but is innately dangerous when one day, individuals in Singapore would “open” real “fire” at LGBT persons in Singapore, as has happened in Orlando.

On top of that, Omar Mateen is now known to could have been gay himself. It was found in a study conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara that people who are homophobic are more likely to be gay.

“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves,” Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study’s lead author, explained.

“In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward,” said co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

“Homophobia is not a laughing matter. It can sometimes have tragic consequences,” Professor Ryan also said. This has been exemplified by the Orlando Shooting – America’s worst mass shooting in recent times.

The study also concluded that, such internalised “(self-)homophobia is more pronounced in individuals … who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires”. As such, the rejection and discrimination that LGBT persons face and the internalisation of it can have dire consequences.

As the UN also stated, “States’ responsibility to protect individuals from discrimination extends to the family sphere, where rejection and discriminatory treatment of and violence against LGBT and intersex family members can have serious, negative consequences for the enjoyment of human rights.”

The Orlando Shooting is therefore a grave reminder of the discrimination and violence that LGBT persons in Singapore face and if Mr Shanmugam’s claim of protecting Singaporeans hold true, then the Singapore government has to take the immediate step of abolishing 377A, to protect LGBT persons, and the social fabric in Singapore.

The UN makes a lists of 11 recommendations that states should do to address discrimination. Notably, the first three of which are by:

  1. Revising criminal laws to remove offences relating to consensual same-sex conduct and other offences used to arrest and punish persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression; ordering an immediate moratorium on related prosecution; and expunging the criminal records of individuals convicted of such offences;
  2. Repealing so-called “anti-propaganda” and other laws that impose discriminatory restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly;
  3. Ensuring that anti-discrimination legislation includes sexual orientation and gender identity among prohibited grounds, and also protects intersex persons from discrimination.

The LGBT community in Singapore is watching the next moves by the Singapore government and whether Mr Shanmugam’s words will translate into real action or will they only be empty gestures.

Will the Government Protect Singaporeans from State Violence?

Teo Soh Lung Roy Ngerng

Photo: Teo Soh Lung (left) and Roy Ngerng (right)

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Collective violence is subdivided into social, political and economic violence.”

Also, “collective violence suggest possible motives for violence committed by larger groups of individuals or by states”.

WHO also states that, “People may fear actively debating such issues as social policy or campaigning on behalf of marginalized or vulnerable groups. This is likely to be even more the case under undemocratic political regimes and where state violence is being threatened against perceived opponents of the regime.”

Note: The Economist Intelligence puts Singapore as a “flawed democracy” in its Democracy Index 2015. Singapore is called an authoritarian regime by the Harvard Political Review and The Guardian.

In light of Mr Shanmugam’s proclamation that the government will protect everyone from violence against any group and in any form, it is worthwhile revisiting some issues in Singapore.

In 1963, the Singapore government arrested 100 innocent Singaporeans and accused them as being part of a Communist conspiracy. In 1987, the government repeated this and arrested more than 20 innocent Singaporeans and accused them of being part of a Marxist conspiracy to “subvert the existing system of government and to seize power in Singapore”. It has been proven that both charges were fabricated by the government. In between, hundreds and an estimated more than two thousand innocent Singaporeans were also arrested and all were imprisoned and detained without a fair trial.

The longest-serving political prisoner from the 1963 arrests is Dr Chia Thye Poh who was imprisoned for 32 years – even longer than Nelson Mandela, making Dr Chia possibly the longest-serving political prisoner in the world. Ms Teo Soh Lung was imprisoned for a total of more than 2 years – she was the longest-serving political prisoner from the 1987 arrests.

The government continues to deny that the detaining of those under the two fabricated conspiracies is wrongful.

Two weeks ago, Soh Lung and I were hauled to the police station on unfounded accusations. We were interrogated and the police raided our homes and took our things even though we have committed no crime or offence, nor did the police charge us and they had no search warrants.

I was also made to give the police access to my laptop and phone (which included the chat applications on it), as well as my Facebook, Gmail and WordPress. At all times, the police threatened Soh Lung and I by saying that we were being interrogated for an “arrestable offence” and that they could arrest anytime.

The police did threaten to arrest Soh Lung when she refused to give them her laptop and phone – the police eventually took them. Soh Lung’s friends could enter her home but the police refused to let activists enter my own home. They even wanted to enter my mom’s room to search her room, if not because she stopped them. The police harassed and intimidated us – I was held for 8 hours.

Video: My sharing of the police interrogation and raid of my house at the Singapore Democratic Party’s forum

But this was not my first brush with the government’s and police’s persecution. Two years ago, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister over an article that I had written which questioned the lack of transparency by the Singapore government on its management of Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension funds. I was then fired from my job and the government (and the hospital that I worked at) sent out press releases to support the firing whilst alluding to the defamation suit. When I joined a protest to advocate for greater transparency on the funds management, I was charged and fined S$1,900. For the defamation suit from the prime minister, I have been ordered to pay him S$180,000 until 2033 – for the next 17 years. All this while, the government used the mainstream and online media that it controlled to run a smear campaign against me.

But our persecution is part of a string of persecutions conducted by the Singapore government against Singaporeans, for more than the past 60 years – even prior to Singapore’s independence. I was the first blogger and non-politician in Singapore to be sued by the prime minister. But before me, several opposition politicians – J.B. Jeyaretnam, Tang Liang Hong and Dr Chee Soon Juan – were sued by the Singapore prime ministers. Both Mr Jeyaretnam and Dr Chee were sued and made bankrupt. Dr Chee was sued by all three post-independence prime ministers.

Several international media – Far Eastern Economic Review and International Herald Tribune – were also sued. The New York Times Company was also threatened with a lawsuit. All these defamation suits ended with huge damages – running up to the millions – that those sued were ordered to pay.

Over the past few years, there have been more fervent crackdowns by the Singapore government against ordinary Singaporeans. Several bloggers and online commenters have been charged (or threatened to be charged) with defamation, sedition, contempt of court among others. The Australian-Japanese ex-editor of The Real Singapore – previously one of the top news site in Singapore and which was forced to shut down – was jailed for 10 months. She was three-months pregnant when she went into prison. Her Singaporean husband is still awaiting his sentencing.

Clearly, all of us have faced violence committed by the stated, simply for being “perceived opponents of the regime”.

The WHO also stated that “the larger societal factors that influence rates of violence” are such as “norms that support the use of excessive force by police against citizens”.

The latest harassment and intimidation that Soh Lung and I face therefore represent the continued violence and persecution enacted by the government – and this time, by the police – against us innocent Singaporeans.

Our rights were taken away and our homes were raided – which amounts to the trespassing of our homes.

Video: Soh Lung’s sharing of the police interrogation and raid of her home at the Singapore Democratic Party’s forum

As such, in view of the violence that we face from the state, would Mr Shanmugam protect us, as he said it is the government’s duty to do so? Or will we continue to face the government’s persecution?

Mr Shanmugam’s words can only be taken seriously when the government admits to its wrongdoings in the past and its wrongful arrests and actions, and to stop any form of state violence against innocent Singaporeans such as Soh Lung and I.

Soh Lung and I have been accused of breaking the law, for putting up posts on our Facebook and me on my blog, on the day before the recent Bukit Batok by-election. The exception in the law (known as the Cooling-Off Day) allows for individuals – like Soh Lung and I – to share our personal political views, on a non-commercial basis, on the Internet.

Only candidates who are running for elections are not allowed to campaign on this designated Cooling-Off Day. The government’s hypocrisy is exposed in its persecution against Soh Lung and I even though we are innocent, but where two of the ruling party’s politicians – Tin Pei Ling and Vivian Balakrishnan – who had clearly broken the law when they were running for their respective elections, no police reports were made against them and they were allowed to go scot-free.

Add to that, a Facebook page which is pro-the ruling party – Fabrications About the PAP (FPAP) – had also broken the law at this recent by-election and even with feedback made to the Election Department (who made the police report against Soh Lung and I) and police reports made against FPAP, no action has been taken against the contributors to the page.

Video: Two Singaporeans made a police report against FPAP but no action has been taken

Strangely, when the Election Department made a police report against Soh Lung and I, it released a press statement and described us as “two individuals (who) also regularly engage in the propagation, promotion and discussion of political issues,” as if trying to frame this as a crime.

And even as police investigations are still ongoing, the Election Department and the police also shockingly released a joint statement, and claimed that there were “what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches of the rules” even as the police said in the same statement that they were still “conducting their investigations”.

In the same statement, the Election Department and police instead shielded PAP politicians Tin Pei Ling and Vivian Balakrishnan from any wrongdoing by claiming that “the (past) breaches were found to be unintentional”.

It is the impunity of this current government and ruling party which has been in power for more than the past 50 years which has allowed it to blatantly showcase such a conflict of interest and which they have no qualms doing.

Will the Government Protect Singaporeans from Social and Economic Violence?

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Photo: Singapore flag planted on the grass at the Orlando Shooting Candlelight Vigil in Singapore 

WHO went on to continue to describe the “larger societal factors that influence rates of violence”.

WHO explained that “factors that create an acceptable climate for violence (and) those that reduce inhibitions against violence” are such as “Larger societal factors (that) also include the health, educational, economic and social policies that maintain high levels of economic or social inequality between groups in society”.

“Most of the victims (of ill-treatment) appeared to have been people suspected or convicted of criminal offences, and most of the torturers were police officers.

“In the absence of proper training and investigative mechanisms, police may resort to torture or ill-treatment to extract confessions quickly and obtain convictions.

Soh Lung and my case are case in point, in that we were held under duress by the police and where the police tried to use force to extract confessions from us.

In the interrogations, the police asked me a question as if to want me to self-incriminate myself. The police asked: “It is an offence at any time on polling day and eve of polling day to publish, or knowingly cause or permit to be published, any elections advertising in or among any electors in the electoral division.

“Why did you publish this post?” the police asked.

By the phrasing of the question, the expectation was that I should confess and admit to wrongdoing which I did not do.

Both Soh Lung and I maintain that we are innocent and that the police have overstepped their boundaries and violated our rights.

But more importantly, WHO stated that, “poverty and inequality are among the driving forces in violent conflict and that long periods of conflict may increase poverty – in turn creating the conditions that give rise to other forms of violence”.

“Research consistently suggests that people with the lowest socioeconomic status are at greatest risk.

WHO names the “lack of education” and “unemployment”, and “The rate at which people enter into poverty – losing resources that were previously available – and the differential way in which they experience poverty (that is, their relative deprivation within a particular setting rather than their absolute level of poverty) (that) are also important.”

Among the developed nations, Singapore today has the highest income inequality and poverty rate – estimated to be as high as 35 percent by economists and academics. However, instead of addressing the issue, the government has refused to define a poverty line and claimed that income inequality has stabilised when it is high. Worse, the government has fudged the income inequality statistics to make inequality look lower than it is.

Today, the Singapore government spends the least on healthcare, education and social protection among the developed nations. Instead, Singaporeans have to pay the highest out-of-pocket expenditure for health and pay for one of the most expensive childcare and university fees in the world. Singaporeans pay equivalent in tax and social security as the Nordic citizens but where they get back free healthcare and education, and adequate pension, Singaporeans have to pay double for what they should get back for free. Singaporeans also have one of the least adequate pension funds in the world.

As WHO also puts, “older people are viewed as targets for abuse and exploitation, their vulnerability being a result of poverty distinguished by a lack of pension support and job opportunities”.

This puts the Singapore’s government lowest expenditure on social protection among the developed nations, the inadequate pension funds and the resultant poverty a real threat to the violence that elderly Singaporeans and the larger population face.

In addition, the Singapore government’s lack of transparency and its usage of Singaporeans’ pension funds for investment whilst hiding it from Singaporeans therefore perpetuates the downstream violence against Singaporeans.

WHO also detailed how “laws intended to protect labour have been weakened or discarded, and a substantial decline in basic infrastructure and social services has occurred”, and these “changing social policies have all been linked with an increase in youth violence”.

Indeed, Singapore is today one of the very few countries in the world without minimum wage and unemployment benefits, and we have one of the least adequate employment legislation protection among the developed nations, leaving Singaporeans with scant labour protection – and therefore increased opportunities for violence.

According to the WHO, “At the most basic level, greater importance must be attached to primary prevention. This requires building a society in which older people are allowed to live out their lives in dignity, adequately provided with the necessities of life and with genuine opportunities for self-fulfilment.

“Among the policies needed to reduce the potential for violent conflicts in the world, of whatever type, are … Reducing poverty, both in absolute and relative terms, (and) Reducing inequality between groups in society.”

The WHO added that, “the fact that violence is linked with poverty may be an additional reason why policy-makers and government authorities have neglected public health approaches to violence – approaches that would mean a greater proportion of services and resources going to poor families and communities – in favour of policing and prisons. This neglect must be corrected if violence is to be prevented.”

Not only does Singapore have the highest income inequality among the developed nations, we also have the highest prisoner rate, after America. We also have one of the lowest social mobilities, which exacerbates poverty in Singapore (which has been growing over the past 20 years).

As such, it is useful to note that Mr Shanmugam has recognised that “violence … is not acceptable” and that the “the Government will act decisively if there is threat of violence against anyone or any group”.

But in view of the violence that Singaporeans face – due to poor social and economic policies which cause Singaporeans to languish into poverty and the possible descend into violence, there is an urgent need for the Singapore government to address these root causes of violence and enact policies to protect Singaporeans – as Mr Shanmugam had said is the duty of the government to do.

By policies to protect Singaporeans, this means to dramatically increase social protection expenditure to reduce the income inequality and poverty that plagues Singaporeans today, and as I had shown, there is a sustainable pool of resources to do so, without the need to increase taxes.

However, the Singapore government has shown itself to be resistant to do so. Strangely, it would rather accumulate large swaths of reserves to build the GIC and Temasek Holdings – the two government investments firms – to be the top 11 largest sovereign wealth funds in the world – all these on the back of Singaporeans’ pension funds while allowing Singaporeans to have the least adequate pension funds in the world. (The prime minister is the chairperson of GIC and his wife is the CEO of Temasek Holdings.)

Lopsided priorities, isn’t it?

If Mr Shanmugam is to be taken seriously in his claim that the government will protect everyone from violence against any group, and in any form, then the minister and the government have to put their money where the mouth is.

The government has to introduce social and economic policies to uplift the lives of Singaporeans and abolish laws which unfairly persecutes against Singaporeans, and entrenches the violence.

And for a start, the government has to drop its investigations against Soh Lung and I and stop perpetuating the state violence against us. We are innocent.

Our community and all Singaporeans have to come together to call out the state violence and demand the Singapore government stop its violence against Singaporeans.

It is the duty of Singaporeans to protect ourselves, and to protect one another.

EVENT

Your Right to Due Process

Soh Lung and I were robbed of our rights, you have to learn how to protect yours. This Saturday, an event will be held to let you know about your rights and what you can do when faced with a situation that Soh Lung and I had to go through.

We were placed under interrogation and the police held me by force. They also raided our homes and took our belongings even though we have committed no crime. What the police did was wrong and cannot be allowed to happen again.

Go down to this event this Saturday, let your presence be known and stop the state from its impudent violence. Recent events have shown how Singaporeans have scant rights. We have to fight for our own protection. We have to fight for our own rights. 

  • Date: 18 June 2016 (Saturday)
  • Time: 5pm – 7pm
  • Venue: Speakers’ Corner (Hong Lim Park)

You can find out more at the Facebook event page here.

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It is No Longer Enough Just to Fight Our Own Causes

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Even when I cross-examined the Singapore prime minister in court, I felt no fear.

“You are so daring,” the guy who just found out about my case told me.

But it is not about being brave.

“It is because I saw the prime minister as an equal,” I told him.

“Even if he is a prime minister, I still saw him as ust another person like me.”

“And also, my conscience is clear,” I said.

When I was interrogated by the police a few weeks ago for yet another “offence” – one in a series of persecutions that I have been facing from the Singapore government for the past two years – I fought back.

But when they raided my home later to take my things away, I grew tired.

I stopped fighting.

Till today, I feel guilt. Why did I not fight back?

It was not guilt towards myself though. It was guilt that I did not protect the other people whom I had chatted with before via my social networking profiles and chat applications – the police had also taken my laptops and phone. But I have since changed my passwords and disabled the chat apps from the phone they took away.

After sharing my experience of the police violation and harassment at a forum last week, a participant came up to me.

“You are very kind and willing to share about what happened,” she said.

I was. I shared how I did the handle the situation with the police well and how I gave up fighting. (You can watch the video here.)

“I wanted to share my experience, so that others can learn from it as well,” I had told the audience.

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Photo credit: Yun You

“But I think you did not fight back because you are just someone who does not want to create trouble,” she added. “You just want to let things be easy for everyone.”

She understood me, and I was thankful.

How was I to tell people I did not push back because I was being nice? And not because I wanted to be nice to the police.

“You are right. I do not like confrontation,” I told her.

And the current Singapore ruling party – the People’s Action Party (PAP) which has been in power for more than 50 years (and has hijacked and repurposed government for itself, I would add) – they know this.

They know that I am nice, and this is why I am an easy target for them.

That was why among the many people whom they could wrongly accuse of committing an offence, they targeted me.

(My offence, by the way, was because I and another elderly lady Teo Soh Lung had posted our personal views on the day before a recent by-election, which the police say is an “arrestable offence”. We continue to affirm that we are innocent. Soh Lung was also politically imprisoned by the PAP government for more than two years in the 1980s on fabricated charges.)

“They picked on you because they know you are easy,” one activist told me. I knew that too.

Part me sympathised with why the police has been made used by the PAP to harass me – I said at the forum that it could be because I suffered from the Stockholm Syndrome (as another person suggested to me).

But there is a part of me which truly empathises with them. I have always believed that we can find amicable ways to make things work together – but that is in a fair and just environment, of course.

“I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble,” Professor X told Erik in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (I just watched the movie.).

That is how I feel too.

Professor X had said this in response to Erik’s question: “Doesn’t it ever wake you up in the middle of the night? The feeling that one day they’ll come for you, and your children?”

“It does indeed,” Professor X said.

Indeed it does.

But in the end, what is more important is that our conscience is clear.

Hate begets hate. Love begets hate. Why hate the people who do harm do you, if it makes you not like any other?

X-Men Apocalypse

Photo credit: Nerdist Talking X-Men: Apocalypse Secrets on the Set with Bryan Singer

These past few years, I have only acted according to what my heart tells me – and what I believe is right.

“You should change the way you write,” some people advised.

“You should not attack them so directly,” others opined, referring to the PAP.

“But if it is our money they took to use, then why must I hide the truth about what they did,” I ask referring to the government.

Naivety perhaps. Stupidity, to some – that I keep speaking up against the PAP so fervently.

But to me, I did what I know is right. I am honest and I think, at the end of the day, I can live up to my own conscience.

It means I am poor at playing politics. It means I expose myself to harm from the Singapore PAP government. But you have to live with some of these if you want to be genuine to yourself.

However, I am tired now – which this article really started as being about actually.

I realised that it is because I have lost faith in life.

I am just cruising along nowadays because it has become more of a routine to live inside this body.

I can still write and critique – it has become a part of me that has an inbuilt functionality to think and write.

But the passion that got me started to expose the wrongdoings in the system, and the fervour at which I had to fight for change, has seeped away.

In fact, the energy left me after the recent by-election where the PAP won yet again.

I expected the election result. Singaporeans are not ready for change. There is too much fear.

They are too delusional, as someone remarked to me today. They are “taught to blame themselves and think all is good,” he said.

I concur.

Which is why the irony of the government’s latest attack against me. I would have quietened down without their latest aggressions anyway but it is because of their counterattacks that got me up in arms and giving it back to them again.

To be clear, I would never stop writing or expressing myself out of the fear of persecution. I would only do so, if I no longer believe in the cause I fight for, as I have.

Which makes me an easy target – hit him at his lowest and wipe him out, they think.

But that makes it petty and despicable of them, don’t you think – to hit a man when he is at his lowest?

“Are you afraid of jail,” a woman asked me. “It is not a laughing matter, you know?”

But to that, I ask, “Would you rather live in an imprisoned mind or would you be jailed but where your mind is free?”

Even Erik – Magneto – set himself free in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ and stopped destroying the world.

“I betrayed them,” he admitted, referring to his comrades, and then set forth to put things right.

Would we have the honesty to face up to our thoughts and beliefs and work to make things better?

PinkDot 2016

Photo credit: Pink Dot SG Press Release: Heroes Send a United Message of Love and Understanding at Pink Dot 2016

Recent events – the Singapore government warning foreign companies not to participate in Singapore’s annual gay event PinkDot, the government asking an international musical Les Misérables to remove a kissing scene between two men, and how two men kissing could have also led to to the worst terror attacks in America since 911 – where a gunman killed more than 50 people inside a gay club in Orlando – and the Singapore government’s response to it reflects the continued denial by the Singapore government of the society that confronts them.

There is only a limit as to how far you can engineer a society to be socially conservative, as society moves ahead of you.

Clearly, the PAP wants to mould the thinking of Singaporeans into one that is conservatively-minded so that a populace which is made to think conservatively is more likely to vote for a self-styled conservative party.

The Singapore PAP government’s curbing of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals via preventing them from gaining further support and momentum, and the demonising of their lifestyles, while at the same time allowing conservative groups to have a louder voice not only empowers but legitimatises these hate groups, but which implicitly allows the PAP to make use of these conservative groups to further entrench their own political power.

The main reason why I stopped writing on this blog, My Right to Love, for the past few years was because I felt that there were larger social issues at hand that need more urgent hearing.

Singapore’s poverty rate is high – estimated by academics and economists to be as high as 35 percent. Singapore has one of the least adequate pension funds in the world – leading to elderly Singaporeans having to work until their deaths. And Singaporeans have to pay the highest out-of-pocket healthcare costs in the world and one of the highest childcare and university fees in the world, leading many to drop out of care or not be able to further their studies because they simply cannot afford it.

“Your government gives a lot of scholarships to foreigners,” a foreign friend who is studying in a local university remarked.

“More than 80 percent of my cohort of foreign students got scholarships,” he added.

“Yeah, but based on my calculations, only less than 6 percent of Singapore residents can get scholarships,” I told him.

He was shocked.

“The government treats Singaporeans and foreigners differently,” I told him. “It treats foreigners better because they do not yet understand the system.”

“It wants to attracts foreigners in but once you become a Singaporean, you are stuck here.”

“Do not convert to becoming a Singaporean,” I told him.

Foreigners can come to Singapore to work for a few years and then have a place to go back to – back home. “It is very good for foreigners,” I told him.

But Singaporeans have no where else to run to. When you are stuck here, the government just keeps taking money away from you.

This is a side that foreigners do not see in Singapore. Unfortunately, you need to become a Singaporean for several years before you realise the situation here. The ones who understand early have either gone back to their country or moved on to greener pastures in another truly developed country.

As such, I felt that it was urgent to write on the social issues in Singapore.

You see, once there is equality for all Singaporeans (and all people of the world), there will be equality for other groups of people.

Thus at this point, I am more concerned that the general population should have their social and economic livelihoods and rights taken care of.

I am proud that as a gay person, I have fought for issues on a broader level. Some people ask me why I am not advocating for gay issues as a gay person. There was a time I did but there are many people who are more up to the task than I am today.

There just aren’t that many people who would speak up about the broader social issues in Singapore and it felt like I should do something about it.

Roy Ngerng CPF Protest

Photo credit: Zimbio Singaporeans Protest Against Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme

“But why do you speak up on the CPF – Singaporeans’ pension funds – when you are not old,” some people ask.

But it is not about whether I am old and so pension funds would only be an issue when I become old.

“It is about justice, fairness and equality,” I would always say. “This is why we fight.”

“And when I grow old, I would need healthcare and pension too. If I do not fight for these now, I will be the one who suffers when I grow old,” I would always add as well.

But this is how the PAP has imbued short term thinking into Singaporeans (or perhaps it has become a learned myopia that people have due to the by-product of instant gratification that capitalism brings). We are taught to think that as a young person, what matters to the elderly does not matter to us. As a middle- or high-income earner, what matters to the low-income does not affect us.

But it does.

Inequality causes many social problems – lower social mobility, higher imprisonment rate and a more self-centred population – all these which research has shown have afflicted Singapore because Singapore has become the most unequal country among the developed nations.

Gay people have often been at the forefront of activism in today’s age, and not just for same-sex rights but about rights for others as well.

I have spoken up for the Malay and Indian populations in Singapore, who have increasingly become more and more marginalised in Singapore due to a Chinese hegemonic government and its policies. I understand that some people who are Muslim and Christian do not believe they should accept gay people but that it their choice. For me, I will still continue to speak up for their rights because rights are rights. You cannot deny people their rights simply because you disagree with them.

And as I have always said, if you believe in equality, you have to believe in equality and you have to believe in it for all.

Indeed, when Owen Jones took part in a TV discussion on Sky News about the Orlando shooting, when one of the presenters kept referring to terrorists as “lunatics” and “bad”, he told her not to “use these words”.

For me, people who are marginalised may eventually practice violent behaviour as a retaliation to the oppression that they are facing, which means that we have to have a greater empathy to their situation to alleviate the social inequalities that they face instead of labelling them as having mental disorders but without working to prevent these inequalities from happening, which if so means we are party to the violent behaviour that arises because of our inaction and lack of recognition of the discrimination they face and which we inadvertently perpetuate.

In a way, it does at least make me feel comforted that for the different groups of people who have looked at the fight I have taken on the CPF and who know I am gay, that they would realise that gay people do actually care for society and want to help improve society as a whole – and not just for gay people.

In recent days, LGBTQ people are seeing more and more affinity in their advocacy for same-sex rights and the social and economic difficulties that other Singaporeans are facing.

The same government which would not spend more to help the poor and to provide more social benefits for the unemployed, as well as for those who fall ill and the old, is also acting against LGBTQs more aggressively now.

If we are to understand the operating ideology of the PAP, the same conservative right-winged tendencies that would not increase social spending to protect Singaporeans will also deny the rights of other minority groups – LGBTQs being one of many.

As such, it is no longer enough for the different groups to stand aside from one another, with each advocating on a singular issue. The same resistance faced by animal groups, nature groups, LGBTQ groups, and other minority groups from the government follows a consistent thread.

And if we believe that our society should become more equal and that people should be protected, then it means we have to identify with the other person and the other causes, and to recognise that our collective rights and freedom, and equality, will only come to Singapore when we are able to work together and string together the common song of equality for all.

Change for the better and greater equality will only come to Singapore, when we finally understand what it really means – a people united for common good.

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Why Turn Gay People Straight? Changing Them To Feel Better

Recently, some commenters have shared their opinions of their perspectives of gay people on this blog. They happened to be Christian as well. In this article, I try to understand their perspectives.

First off, my belief is that all religions are the same and want to achieve the same thing – goodness. I respect the essence of all religions and believe in their goal to help people. This article isn’t a discussion about religion, but a trying to understand what the motivations behind the people who want gay people to ‘change’ might be.

Why Do People Want Gay People to ‘Turn Straight’

It always perplexes me why some people want me to change – to be straight. Do they want to because they truly believe that if I ‘turn straight’, that I will be saved and I will go to heaven? I mean, really, do they care so much about me that they want to see me in heaven with them? Do these people even know me? And if they do care that much about me, why do they get so angry when I tell them that I cannot ‘turn straight’? Why do they start hurling abuses or names at me? I thought you cared? If you do, why do you not care how I feel when you call me names?

Thus I don’t really think they care about me. It has to be something else. I’ve known people who care genuinely for me, and they do call me names. They do not judge me. They accept me for who I am. So I know when someone cares. If you are someone who has been trying to ‘turn gay people straight’, perhaps you can ask yourself – do you really care for gay people to ‘turn straight’, because you care about them, or is it something else? I mean, you are just reading this article. No one will know what you think, except God, of course. And you can be honest to Him.

The Bible and Sin: Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?

The reason that some people give when they describe being gay, or when two men have sex, as being ‘wrong’ is that it is a “sin”. On the other side, there’s the argument that many have tried to explain – if you choose to consider some acts in the Bible as sins, and some not – whatever might suit your practices, then isn’t that biased? The argument goes then that if you can consider being gay as being ‘wrong’, I can then similarly consider it as not being ‘wrong’, as many churches have also chosen to do. Then, which church would be right? But this will never end, for some people would then say – but my church is truer than yours. And this will go on and on, as we try to find ways and means to justify that our interpretation or “sin” and the Bible is truer than the other. So, this is not it. The Bible and the church cannot give us the answers to this debate.

It’s always curious why some people might say that when I have sex with a man, that it is a ‘sin’. They claim to think that just because two men have sex, the very act itself is a sin. Of course, we won’t even talk about the many men who have had sex with one another over history, the Christians who had been married in the Middle Ages or the many men who had been married in antiquity, or of the priests who have had sexual relations with one another as well since the dawn of Christianity. This is not it – historical facts cannot resolve this debate as well.

Empathetic Connections in Any Relationship

It is curious why even though they are not me, and that they cannot imagine the emotional truths and realness that I have when I bond with my partner intimately, and how this union is as true and loving as that, that they have with their partner of an opposite gender, that they believe that what I have is anything other than real. The same goes that I cannot imagine why anyone would want to have anything to do with a vagina, but I wouldn’t judge that someone chooses to have sex with someone of the opposite gender. You have what makes you feel comfortable and I have what makes me comfortable. You won’t need to justify to me why you want to have sex with someone of the opposite gender for as long as you do not make me do it your way, it’s really your life and how you want to lead it is up to you. I won’t call it a sin because as long as you feel the real connection with someone else, who am to say it’s not real?

Similarly, I would feel a strong connection with my partner – physically, emotionally and spiritually – and it’s real and touching for me. Every connection each individual has with another is unique and true to what they feel, so we are not quite in a position to tell another – “I don’t think what you have is real” – when we are not them and do not feel the connection that they do. I suppose for some of you reading this, you can understand, for as much as you would want another to understand and empathise with you, you know too to empathise with another. This is also what I’ve learnt.

Universal Truths and One Religion? Yours or Mine Yet Again?

But still, this might not be it. For some people would still insist that their worldview is the only truth and that I should ‘change’ because it’s what they say is right. But, what about what I think is right? But then, this isn’t a matter of what is right or wrong. For some people, it’s a matter of WHO is right or wrong. But then, if it’s about the ‘who’, why did we keep debating about “sin” as if it’s real, when what we are talking about is “your idea of sin” or “my idea of sin”. Of course, we can say but there is one universal sin, and one universal truth. But this still doesn’t resolve this – when there are two different ideas of truths, whose truth is right, or more right? So, no, this is not it. It’s not about what’s right or wrong. But perhaps, it’s about whether it’s you or I.

And so, there are hundreds and hundreds of religions in these world, and many thousands other beliefs and faiths. And within each one, there are many more. In Christianity alone, there is already so many different forms, where sometimes they debate as to which is the truer Christianity. Yet again, what is the truth? And who is right? If there is only one truth, why are there so many religions? If there is only one truth, why are there so many different forms of Christianity? If there so many gods, when we die, how many gods will we see in heaven? When I die, will all the gods line up to welcome me? Will I need to shake my hand for a year before I finally get to enter heaven? Yet, some people might say – my god is the real one, you will only see my god. Then again, who is right?

Accepting Ourselves Before We Can Accept Another

Eventually, it’s not about what our religious text says, is it – because all of us look at it differently and interpret it differently? Eventually, it’s not about what “sin” is, is it – since all of us would understand “sin” differently? Eventually, it’s not about what is the truth, is it – since we would want to debate about whether your truth or my truth is the more ‘right’ truth? For some of us, we would say – but it doesn’t matter, for your truth is as real as mine, as long as we feel it in our heart what is right and what is real. And just as I cannot be you, to live in your body and to live your life, and you cannot mine, we cannot understand what it’s like to be the other. And if we know this, we know that we would not be in a position to judge another or to think another ‘wrong’. We would learn to accept the life that another has to go through, just as we hope that others would learn to accept what we go through. But what of someone who cannot accept what he or she has to go through, and thus no matter whether another accepts of them, they wouldn’t of themselves?

But I’ve learnt to accept myself, so it doesn’t matter what others think of me, even if they cannot accept me. I’ve learnt to feel the truth within me, embrace my truth and live my life as true to myself as I can. Some people who have also learnt to embrace their own truths, even if they might not be gay, will understand how I’m doing and will accept me as well. But what of someone who does not see my truth? But I don’t need them to see it, but as long as I’ve already seen mine, I can live my life well.

Why Do People Want Gay People to Live Their ‘Truths’?

Indeed, if I already have a life I believe is real and am living it, why does someone else hope to come and pry this life away from me and ask of me to live their lives? Why do you think that your life is still better than mine, even as I feel that the way I’m living is as true as can be for me? Perhaps it’s not me that they care about – they want me to live their truths. But yet why? Is it because that if they can convince me to live their truths, that it would make them feel that their truth is more real? Does it make them feel more assured to know that if I can ‘change’, that they can feel safe to know that their truth is safer? Is it not about me, then? Is it not because someone cares about me, but because they actually worry for themselves?

What If I Don’t Believe in Hell or My Hell Looks Prettier Than Yours?

Is it that the more people they are able to convince, the more support they feel they get and the more they trust their religion more? Because since I’m not Christian and have my own beliefs, and since I do not believe in a Christian hell, if I die, I won’t see fire and the Devil, right? In fact, in my hell, I might see roses, and beds and beds of roses. And I might see unicorns and dolphins swimming all around me. And this would be my hell. And this would do for me. Would this do for you?

But perhaps you still believe in your hell, and believe that if I don’t believe in your idea of sin and stop doing what you consider to be sin, that I might go to your hell and burn in your hell. But I’m not Christian! If I don’t believe in your hell, I can’t burn in your hell! You can, because that’s what you believe in and are afraid of! And that’s why because you are so afraid, you want me to ‘change’, so that I won’t go to that scary hell. Or perhaps, that if I don’t believe in the fiery hell, but believe in the hell with roses, unicorns and dolphins, that you might be scared because if that’s the hell that you would be going to, and this is the hell I would go to, you might be jealous. It’s unfair!

Maybe It Isn’t Gay People Who Have To Change

Well, then you have a choice. You can change.

Not that I’m forcing you, of course. It’s all entirely up to you, as long as you can accept yourself and live up to the life you want to live. It’s all up to you.

So, is this it? Is it because you are scared of what you have to go through alone, and so you keep asking me to ‘change’, so that I can go through it with you? Or that if I don’t change, that you don’t want to go through it, because if I don’t have to, why should you?

If this is the case, it’s not really about me, is it? It’s about you. And your religion. I’m very happy with myself. And I’m very comfortable with myself. If my happiness makes you uncomfortable, then it says more about you than it does about me, doesn’t it?

But I’m not you and I do not follow your religion, so I cannot say what it is that you are unhappy with. Perhaps you feel stifled? Perhaps you feel pressured that your religion says that you cannot “sin” and you know that you are “sinning” everyday and it makes you feel terribly guilty? Perhaps you feel that this makes your religion too overpowering for you? Yet, is it because you feel that you have to stay within your religion and so you feel trapped? Does your religion make you fear so much that because you “sin”, that you might go to “hell”, that it scares you so much that you have learnt to put fear on other people as well?

I don’t know. I am not you and I do not follow your religion. But I won’t judge. I will let you have your way and pace of learning, and I will have mine.

Going On Our Own Journey and Respecting the Journeys of Others

What I’ve learnt is that we all have our own unique journeys. No two journeys are the same. No two lives are the same. No two learning is the same. So it goes, that no two truths are the same, or two rights, or two wrongs, and perhaps there’s a universal truth but until we die, we won’t know what it is for until we reach the ends of the universe will we be able to touch it. But till then, we could learn to understand the life that another go through, and respect the life that another has to go through. For if we do not live the life of another or understand the truth of that life, the least we could do is respect it and accept that the individual has his or her learning to go through. For that’s what we would want of others to do to us as well.

Though as long as we are able to accept ourselves for who we are and stay true to ourselves, we would be able to live our lives as honestly as we can. And if we don’t, we might think that we are not good enough, and we might hope that if there are others like us, that perhaps we won’t feel so lonely in our journeys. Yet, if we have learnt to accept ourselves, we would be able to journey on our own and still feel joy and happiness.

But if we accept ourselves and stay true to ourselves.🙂

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Sexuality Discrimination in Singapore’s Education: Part 2

Yesterday, I had wrote about a General Paper (GP) notes of a junior college in Singapore which had discussed issues on discrimination. The topic on homosexuality was highlighted in the discussion. This was captured in a photograph by an individual who was privy to the notes. The photograph has seen been removed by the individual.

You can read Part 1 of this article here.

I had written to the individual to ask about why the photograph was removed. This was the respond that I had received:

“hi, I’ve removed the photo. I felt it was inappropriate as my intention was never to let others flame my school, just to let others see how discrimination can occur in schools thanks to MOE’s institutional policies. At any rate, (the) teacher has clarified that it was an example of discrimination (albeit outdated) and the sch did not endorse it.”

I informed the individual that I am also a former student of the school and had written to the school to understand the situation better, and to share my perspectives.

The school had not responded to me, but I believe that the school might have conducted an internal investigation. I did not want the school to look at the incident adversely, and had decided to write another email to the school, to explain my intentions.

*****

Please see below the follow-up email to the school:

“Dear Principal <Name>,

I am sending this email to follow up on my previous email. I understand that the author of the photograph had removed the photograph and had clarified that the teacher in question had used the illustrations of discrimination towards same-sex rights as an “example of discrimination”, and that it was perhaps not intended to be deterministic in its interpretation. 

I would like to thank you for looking into this matter. 

Please do allow me to elaborate further about my initial intentions in this email. When I had emailed the school, I had hoped that this would lead to a more elaborate discussion on same-sex rights, so that this would provide the students with a more intellectually thorough and critical appreciation of the issue.

My intention wasn’t to rebuke the teacher or the school for the discussion on the issue. Rather, I believe that the school has the intellectual strength and integrity to provide the students with an opportunity to discuss an issue that might have been avoided by some, and would cause a dearth of knowledge acquisition for the students. Indeed, as a General Paper (GP) subject, students who are well-equipped to deal with issues of civil rights, such as on gender, ethnicity and indeed, sexual orientation, would be looked upon by the CambridgeUniversity in a more favourable light. The students’ ability to own a conviction on an issue such as this would showcase their youthful maturity and this would not only bode well for their grades, but for their character. 

I believe that this is an opportunity for the school to continue to provide a space for the students to discuss rights-based issues in a more comprehensive and broad manner. In the discussion on homosexuality, it would be encompassing if the school could educate the students on alternate viewpoints towards the acceptance of homosexuality, and allow the students to formulate their own critical analysis of the issue, this being what the essence of what GP is about. What are the biological, sociological, cultural, religious and scientific interpretations to this issue? Why is homosexuality seen as ‘unnatural’ by some religious groups but not others? Why do gay individuals continue to champion for their civil rights, and how can this be seen in the broader context of civil rights in history? How can we explore the psychological dimension to discriminatory behaviour, which according to some theories, is rooted in an individual’s inner insecurities and vulnerabilities, which they project onto others? A good starting point for educational resources would be the LGBTQ advocacy group, Stonewall, which lists on its website comprehensive educational materials for schools to manage discussion on homosexuality. You can see the link here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/default.asp

Personally, I take a neutral stance on this issue. I might be gay but the imposition of my beliefs on another is irresponsible. Do I want acceptance from others? Yes, I do, but the manner to achieve understanding shouldn’t be from imposing our viewpoints on others. Rather, this is a matter of personal introspection that individuals should be allowed to undergo to come to their own informed opinion of the issue. 

It is in this light that I applaud the school for grounding itself in strong knowledge and intellectual foundations. Teachers should be empowered to provide a competitive education to our students. Students should be given the opportunity to explore diverse opinions in such settings. Similarly, the public alike should also play their role to strengthen the intellectual depth of our educational institutions.

I hope that the school will continue to allow the teachers and students to pursue an expansive education in issues such as this, especially in the current civil rights issue of same-sex rights of our generation. As a former student, I would be very proud of my school if it were to provide an education to my fellow students which would strengthen their intellectual capabilities. 

And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the school for its leadership and guidance to me and to our fellow students in this. It is important that our leadership takes the lead to provide a framework of openness and intellectual depth to allow for a thoroughness in thinking that would pervade itself in the lives of our students. 

I would be open to working further with the school on this matter, or linking the school up to other organisations in Singapore which work on similar issues.”

*****

I hope that the school would respond to the subsequent email and that we could explore opportunities to develop a broad-based curriculum on the discussion on discrimination and homosexuality, as a GP subject.

Hopefully, the school would look to this discussion as an opportunity to further allow for intensive intellectual debate on this issue, so that the students would be more equipped and prepared for the topic as a GP subject, and more importantly, in adopting holistic perspectives towards understanding this issue.

I also welcome diverse groups, such as other religious groups and ‘conservative’ groups, to add to the discussion, so that we provide a deepening of viewpoints, with which our students and youths in Singapore would be able to benefit from.

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Sexuality Discrimination In Singapore’s Education

Last week, I had chanced upon a photograph of a Singapore junior college’s General Paper (GP) notes, which discusses issues of discrimination. In this particular section, the issue of homosexuality was discussed. I would not publish the photograph here as the author of the photograph had decided to remove the photograph, and I would like to respect the author’s right to do so.

However, I would like to point out two sentences which I was uncomfortable with:

  • “To protect the rights of children, it may be necessary to restrict the rights of homosexuals.”
  • “A government might also justify discriminatory policies on ground(s) of social order and stability.”

Please note that as you do not have access to the notes, there can be a possibility of taking these statements out of context. Though I would say that, for whatever purposes the notes were created for, even as they could even be meant as a starting point for discussion, I do not believe that it is appropriate to frame the discussion from such a deterministic angle, first because of the lack of intellectual quality, especially since the context should be for a broad-based GP critical discussion, but more importantly, on the effects that it would on students who were exposed to such discriminatory language used in the notes, which ironically, aims to discuss the issue of discrimination.

I am a former student on this school. As a former student, I believed that I needed to speak up on the situation, to protect the current and future students, and to also encourage the school to create a more conducive environment for a more critical appreciation of the issue, no less because the students’ ability to understand the issue will determine the grades they would receive at their ‘A’ Levels.

*****

I had sent the following email to the school (Please see the text below):

Email to School on GP Notes

Dear Principal <Name>,

“My name is Roy Ngerng. I am a former student of the <School>.
I had recently chanced upon a discussion on the General Paper Notes for JC1 students on the topic of prejudice and discrimination – please see attached the photograph of the notes in question. 
 
I am uncertain as to the origin of the notes. If the notes are verified to be unrelated to the <School>, please ignore this email. 
 
However, if the notes are verified to be related to the school, I hope that you would allow me, as a fellow former student, to share in some of my viewpoints – please see attached in this email my letter. 
 
I hope that you would look into this matter. I would also be following up with subsequent email(s) to render any assistance that I can offer in this matter, 
 
Thank you.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Roy”
*****

I had attached the following letter in the email (Please see the text below):

Letter to School - Regarding JC1 GP Notes on Prejudice and Discriminaton@Without School Name-page-001

Letter to School - Regarding JC1 GP Notes on Prejudice and Discriminaton@Without School Name-page-002

“Dear Mdm <Name>, 

My name is Ngerng Yi Ling, Roy. I am a former student at the <School>.

I had recently chanced upon a photograph of the <School> JC1 General Paper (GP) Notes on the topic of prejudice and discrimination, where there was a discussion on homosexuality. Please see at the end of this letter the photograph.

I had studied at the <School> in 1998 and 1999. In my year, I was the only Arts Faculty student who had taken 4 ‘A’ Levels subjects, as it was known then. In the JC1 Promotional Examinations, I was awarded the top prize in both Geography and Art. I entered the National University of Singapore in 2002, where I was placed on the Dean’s List in the second semester of my study, making it to the top 5% of the cohort of that semester.

I am also gay.

I was dismayed when I read in the JC1 GP Notes the discussion on homosexuality. The notes had made the following statements on homosexuality:

“To protect the rights of children, it may be necessary to restrict the rights of homosexuals.”

A government might also justify discriminatory policies on ground(s) of social order and stability.”

At <School>, I had two exemplary teachers, Mrs <Name> and the late Miss <Name>, whom I had no doubt knew about my sexual orientation but continued to entrust me with many responsibilities and provided equal care and guidance to me. Yet, I cannot be certain that the same level and amount of care and respect is being accorded to my fellow students at the <School>at this current point in time.

I understand that the Ministry of Education would prefer to take a neutral stance in this matter, or a stance that is aligned to the current legal circumstance, but consider the following.

As a GP subject, it would be practical and paramount to discuss the issue of homosexuality and 377A from a more complex and dynamic perspective, rather than to take on an essentialist view. The law that criminalises sex between two men, 377A, is borne out of the power dynamics in the religious and political strife in Europe in the Middle Ages. 377A was introduced into Singapore, by way of imperialism, in the 1930s and is a relic of Singapore’s colonial status. Even so, in 1967, England had decriminalised gay sex and is now in the midst of legalising gay marriage. Yet, Singapore continues to be the only advanced economy in the world which still retains 377A, even as Hong Kong and India have repealed the law, and Thailand and Vietnam are now considering legalising gay marriage and/or civil unions.

The Singapore government had in 2007 refused to repeal 377A and had said that they would not proactively enforce the law. However, in 2010, the law was actively enforced again. This year, there were two constitutional challenges to 377A in the courts. The first of two of the judgments was passed earlier this month where the court had believed that it was not in a position to repeal 377A and had relegated this responsibility back to parliament.

Consider too that the ‘A’ Levels are administered by the Cambridge University, which had also recently been ranked the best university in Great Britain to provide a gay-friendly workplace environment in the 2013 Workplace Equality Index, and 11th among the companies ranked. The University of Cambridge and Great Britain have a much longer, stronger and vibrant movement on civil rights and it is without a doubt that they would adopt a much more discerning perspective than what the <School> JC1 GP Notes had catered for. Certainly, their sophisticated understanding of the issue would severely undermine what our students are being expounded on.

There are broader ramifications in the discussion on issues pertaining to sexual orientation that a responsible education needs to cater for. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youths who grow up in an environment which routinely espouses a thinking without critically appreciating all facets of the matter can only constrain the intellectual and psychosocial development of our youths. Research has shown that many LGBTQ youths who face discrimination in such circumstances, grow up developing long-term mental health problems, such as lower self esteem, lower self acceptance and even depression. In turn, they would be more susceptible to risky behaviours, such as unprotected sex, because they would lack the confidence and negotiation skills to adequately protect themselves.

Discrimination towards LGBTQ individuals also reflect the larger societal mores of a people – what does it say about our lack of awareness and understanding towards matters of diversity and how we would treat other ‘minority’ populations, in terms of gender, race, age and class? The LGBTQ civil rights movement needs to be understood as part of a larger movement towards the recognition of rights and differences. It wasn’t too long ago that women and peoples of different colours regained their rights and dignity as equal human beings.

I am a by-product of an education system which had not catered adequately for my development and growth. At <School>, I would have been considered one of the most intelligent and well-performing students. Yet, it was many more years before I could reach a psychological development which could be said to be on an equal footing.

I write this email to you because first, I believe that a well-thought through GP essay on rights and discrimination needs to be more thorough and encompassing in its perspectives. This email would be more highly-received than what the notes would have. Second, I believe that in the interest of the overall health and well-being, as well as intellectual growth of our youths, we do need to provide an environment that allows them to learn in more empathetic and critically-thinking ways. What is the use of producing academically-qualified students who have compromised self-actualisation beliefs?

In the past one year, I have set up two blogs on LGBTQ and socio-political issues in Singapore. I have also had the opportunity to meet with students from the NationalTechnologicalUniversity, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and the Raffles Institution to share with them about LGBTQ issues. I have also met with students from the LiverpoolUniversity and an international news agency to discuss about the socio-political ongoings in Singapore.

I hope that the school will relook its teaching materials to provide our students with a more balanced and intellectually more adequate appreciation and inquiry towards the matter. This will not only put them on good stead for the ‘A’ Levels examinations, but also provide them with greater insights towards formulating their thoughts on discrimination and civil rights issues. I would also welcome the opportunity to provide further assistance to my alma mater to raise awareness and understanding on this matter.

Thank you.

Your sincerely,

Roy Ngerng”

*****

I will update on this blog the outcomes, if any. If any case, I would continue to pursue the matter with subsequent emails to the school.

Update: I had not received a response from the school and had sent a subsequent email to the school. You can read the email if Part 2 of the article here.

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Soul Love

Love wasn’t meant to be confined anyway
But yet only when one truly loves oneself

I just want a simple life
I’m a simple man
Not a boy, but a man?
But they are only labels

For we are all souls
Confined within the human body
Learning the human impulses
And learning to tame them
Even as we want to draw on them

But souls die?
No, souls don’t die
When the human body bids its time
The soul goes on

But the soul is love
It’s not confined by human principles
Not whether you are gay or straight
Or whether it’s wrong or right
Whether you are good or bad
For love is

And indeed if you know how to love
The self you will love
For love, it knows no name
Nor creed nor judgement in deeds
It knows only the heart
And the self
And the truth
That no man says
But you alone knows
For you,
You are born in love, to love
And you, no matter who they say is not, you are.
And is love

But if you live your life in fear
And dare not embrace who you are
For you know that if you did
You know not what you would do
For you will then be set free
For I know
I’ve seen
That we surround ourselves with those who we think do not
Or will not make us venture beyond
For once we did
Know not now what it’s like…

The truth
The beauty
That will set us free
Alight
To roam the universe
At once, in peace

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Gay Love In Singapore: How To Find Love

I’ve often heard this from people – gay relationships are not possible, I don’t believe in gay relationships, I don’t think I will be able to find true love as a gay person.

But then, the problem isn’t with who we love, but how we find love.

I feel a need to write this article because when gay people keep feeling this way, we will continue to believe in this and inadvertently influence others to believe in the same way. Down the road, what future are we giving to ourselves and our younger gay people?

Finding love as a gay person is possible. If we understand what we are doing and how we are going about finding love, we will be able to find long lasting and fulfilling relationships which can last for the rest of our lives.

Jumping Into A Relationship Without Getting To Know Our Partner

The key reason why our relationships don’t last is because we tend to “jump” into a relationship. When we get to know someone, we might find him good looking and so, we might want to be with him. But have we really gotten to know him as a person? Do we know what his character is like or whether his character and values are similar to ours? We don’t. And after one or a few dates, we decide to become “boyfriends”.

Can you imagine if our gal friends tell us that they had just met a guy today and decide to go into a relationship with him? We can’t, because then we will ask her, “Don’t you want to get to know him better before you go into a relationship? What if he’s not the kind of guy you like?” Isn’t it funny that we will ask questions like this for our gal friends but not of ourselves?

There are Social Norms On How Gay People Should Form Relationships

Here is what it is – among the heterosexual community, there are social norms which you are expected to abide by. Men and women should date first before deciding whether the two of them are compatible. Before having sex with each other, they should at least believe that this relationship is something that they want to invest in. As much as social norms can entrap people into rigid ways of working, sometimes there are good reasons why these norms had formed.

In this case, these norms of dating and waiting allow you to assess for yourself whether this is someone you want to be with and whether you want to make a commitment with someone. Within the gay community, we aren’t measured by norms such as this. And thus when we meet someone, we don’t wait and we decide to have a relationship and sex, sometimes on the first date.

What is happening is that instead of getting to know someone before going into a relationship, we have combined the two processes, so that we get to know someone while in the ‘relationship’. What this means is that we don’t really know if this person is compatible with us but we enter into a ‘relationship’ anyway.

But Why Do We Want A Relationship? For Love or To Feel Complete?

Then, the question is, do we want a relationship for the sake of having one, or do we truly love that person and that’s why we want to have a relationship with him? It’s more likely the former. Then, the question is, why?

As a young gay person, for some of us, we might not know any other gay person. We feel that we are on our own. So, we might want to get to know another gay person whom we can identify with, so that we feel less alone, as a gay person. This is because, growing up as a gay person, you also want to know that there are other people like you, whom you can get support from. And when we get to meet someone, we might conflate our feelings of gratitude to find someone like us, as love. We might then want to form a relationship with him, and to ‘love’ him, even as we don’t really understand our feelings at that point. On the other hand, if someone ‘loves’ us, it also makes us feel more ‘complete’. Perhaps we have not been able to love ourselves enough yet, since we are still learning to understand ourselves, and so, we hope that if someone else can love us, it can compensate for our not fully loving ourselves yet.

Why can’t we wait then? Why can’t we take time to know someone before we decide to enter into a relationship? You see, when we are young, we are impatient and we want to be with someone now, instead of having to wait to properly get to know someone. When we are looking for someone to make us feel complete, the idea isn’t to look for someone who is ‘The One’, but someone who can satisfy our inner need to feel complete, at this moment. So, the idea isn’t to get to know someone. The idea is simply to find someone and get together, almost immediately, to fulfil that inner need as soon as we can.

As such, if that’s what we want – to look for immediate fulfilment for our inner need – what would be the most immediate characteristic that we look at when we meet someone? – whether he is good looking, because physical traits are the most identifiable traits, as compared to getting to know someone’s character or values, which will take more time to find out. And thus when someone is good looking, we decide to be attracted to them, and based on this, decide to get attached.

Do Relationships Not Work Out Because Of Incompatibility or Our Own Flaws?

Now, as mentioned, when we go into a relationship almost immediately, while we are in a relationship, we are also getting to know someone while in a relationship, and thus we’ve conflated the two processes when one should have come after the other. So, when the relationship eventually doesn’t work out, what do we think?

Many times, we believe that the relationship didn’t work out because he didn’t know how to love me, he’s not faithful, I don’t know how to love, and eventually, gay love isn’t possible. And if we go into several relationships like this, we eventually believe that gay relationships are truly not possible.

But what’s the real reason for the relationship not working out? The real reason is because we simply don’t know our partner well enough before we decide to get together. If we had gotten to know him first before going into a relationship, we would then have decided that we might not be compatible, because of our different characters or values. And if we decide not to be together, we won’t attribute this to the idea that he or we are flawed, or that gay relationships aren’t possible, but just that we are not compatible.

But if we combine the getting to know him process with being with him in a relationship, when things don’t work out, we might say, he didn’t know how to love me. But why? He might not have known how to, because if the two of you think about things differently or have values which are different, you might not be able to agree with the same future or same lives and thus gradually, feel that you don’t actually want to be with each other. So, you see, while you are in a relationship, you’ve decided that you are not compatible. Yet, because you are in a relationship, you think that you have to make it work. And so you shoulder on for another few months or perhaps years, until you decide enough is enough, it’s not working out. And by the time you decide to call off the relationship, you’ve conflated others reasons that crop up within the relationship and blame either him or yourself for not being able to be a good partner. And then, you attribute it to being gay that’s the issue.

But what’s the real issue? You guys weren’t compatible in the first place, but because you had fast tracked the process of getting to know each other by being in a relationship, you didn’t realise that and you keep making something that wasn’t supposed to work in the first place, work. And thus many issues were conflated together.

How Can We Have Fulfilling Relationships?

What then should we do? Very obviously, we need to first understand why we want a relationship with someone. Is it because we want to find ‘the feeling of love’ because of an inner need? If so, then we need to learn to deal with the inner need by ourselves first, to learn to love ourselves. When they say, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else, this is what it means.

Second, when we get to know someone, instead of “rushing” into a relationship, we could spend about a month, or two, or three, depending on how long we might take, to get to know a person first, and finding out if this is the person we want to be with, before we decide to go into a relationship with him. This way, we do not conflate the two processes together.

Third, if we still decide to go into a relationship with someone even if we do not know him enough, then we need to know that eventually, if we realise that the two of us are not compatible, we need to have the awareness to let the relationship go and acknowledge that the issue is with compatibility and not because of our flaws, or his flaws, and least because we are gay. Of course, sometimes a relationship might not work out because of our issues, such as communication or a willingness to commit. But this is another issue altogether.

Conclusion: Having Awareness and Loving Ourselves

To sum up, the issue is that we need to understand why we want to love, so that we are able to bring that awareness into our relationships. We should spend some time to get to know someone, to decide if this is someone we want to be with for the long haul. And finally, if things don’t work out, we need to have an awareness to understand why this is so, and not attribute blame to ourselves or our partner unnecessarily, and most importantly not to attribute blame to thinking that it’s because we are gay.

Whether you are gay or not, love is possible and a beautiful journey that you can take with your partner. The key is to be aware of how you conduct yourself and how you have a constant awareness of yourself, your partner and the relationship so that at every step of the way, you will know what needs to be done, and how you can continue to make it more fulfilling for yourself and your partner, without attributing problems to the wrong causes.

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PM Lee and Acceptance of Same-Sex Relations in Singapore

At the Singapore Perspectives 2013 conference, “PM Lee was asked by a participant how the fact that the Republic is a secular country reconciles with “an old and archaic law that nearly discriminates against a whole (group) of people”.”

Mr Lee had also said that, “These are not issues that we can settle one way or the other, and it’s really best for us just to leave them be, and just agree to disagree. I think that’s the way Singapore will be for a long time.” He added that the “conservative roots” in society do not want to see the social landscape change.”

Let us to track the progress of the acceptance of gay rights in Singapore.

If you look at this article, there are about 35% to 40% of Singaporeans who are economically-conservative. There are also about 35% to 40% of Singaporeans who are not economically-conservative.

If you look at the trend of gay rights in America, you can see that since 2011, the majority of Americans believe that there same-sex marriages should be made valid (chart below). You can see that over the years, more and more Americans have become more favourable towards the acceptance of same-sex rights.

Support for Same-Sex Marriage in America

In America, the support for same-sex marriage along political lines is as follows:

Support for Same-Sex Marriage in America by Political Subgroup

Now, the political divisions in Singapore are actually very similar to that of America. If we extrapolate the statistics, below is what you will get:

Group % Representation % Support % Not Support
Aligned to PAP (‘Conservative’)

37.5%

22%

74%

Not aligned to PAP (‘Dynamic’)

37.5%

65%

34%

Others

25%

57%

40%

According to the proportionate representation and their corresponding expected support for same-sex rights, the support for same-sex rights in Singapore would be 46.88% and those who do not support stand at 50.5%.

According to a study conducted in 2010 by NTU which was published in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology last month, where they stated that, “with regard to acceptance of homosexuals, 44.9% of respondents found them unacceptable, 14.7% were neutral, and 40.4% were accepting.” According to the study, “there is no majority view on acceptance of homosexuals. Nearly as many people say they can accept as say they cannot, and a sizable portion (nearly 15%) say they are neutral on the issue.”

The study also indicated that, “the results indicate that, overall, the attitudes of Singaporeans was less negative in 2010 than five years previously.” From 2005 to 2010, there was a decrease in negative attitudes by 4%.

If you also extrapolate this upon the extrapolation on the accepting attitudes of Singaporeans based on the Gallup survey, there will be 50.88% of Singaporeans who will support same-sex rights, and 46.5% who will not, which means in the near term future, a majority of Singaporeans will be accepting of same-sex rights.

If you extrapolate this upon the NTU survey, you can chart the accepting attitudes towards same-sex rights in the chart below:

Acceptance of Same-Sex Relations in Singapore

When the survey is conducted again in 2015, you can expect that a majority of Singaporeans will be accepting towards same-sex relations. In fact, if you take the point where 2013, you will already see that a majority of Singaporeans should already be in fact, accepting of same-sex rights.

I will leave this at here for now, while you make your own decision.

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Dear Pastor Khong: Your Homosexual Agenda

Dear Pastor Khong,

Actually, I don’t know what my ‘homosexual agenda’ is. In fact, none of us gay people know what the ‘homosexual agenda’ is.

It’s the first time we have ever heard about the ‘homosexual agenda’. Because we’ve never lived by this. We don’t have an agenda. We just want to live our lives.

This term, the ‘homosexual agenda’ isn’t created by gay people. It’s created by you. Now, the question is, why did you (and those who align) create the idea, the ‘homosexual agenda’?

Why did you and some people create the ‘agenda’, become fearful of the ‘agenda’, go against the ‘agenda’ and fight against the ‘agenda’, when all the time, this ‘agenda’ was created by you, you live within an ‘agenda’ that you’ve created and make it real, and fight against it – you are essentially fighting against yourself – You.

And no other gay person are involved in this cycle that you create and perpetuate.

We are really confused when you say we have a ‘homosexual agenda’. This ‘homosexual agenda’ was created by you, out of our own fear, which you then transpose on us, and want us to live by it.

But we do not want to live by any agenda. We only want to live our lives, just like you are living yours.

The question you need to ask is, if the ‘homosexual agenda’ wasn’t created by gay people, but by people who are not gay and fear the gay people, then what are you fearing?

What do you fear about the ‘homosexual person’ which you say you are not against, but fear? And why do you fear?

Why not reach out to understand? Because I’m willing to reach out.

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Pastor Khong: I Only Want to Be Able to Live My Life

Dear Pastor Khong,

I had chanced upon your latest status update and was pleasantly surprised when you had said that, “To anyone out there with homosexual orientations, I want to say: God loves you. The Bible (God’s Word) unequivocally calls me and my fellow Christians to love you unconditionally.” However, you continued to say that, “While we reject sin, we love and accept the sinner.” Though you showed honesty in saying how according to the Bible, “sexual sins, therefore, include heterosexual promiscuity, homosexuality, polygamy, paedophilia, beastiality and necrophilia,” and that you agreed that, “In God’s view, I suspect we are all sexual deviants.”

Previously, you had said that you were worried that the legal acknowledgment of homosexuals would lead to, “negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society. It takes away the rights of parents over what their children are taught in schools, especially sex education. It attacks religious freedom and eventually denies free speech to those who, because of their moral convictions, uphold a different view from that championed by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists.”

In your latest status update, you apologised for thinking so and said that, “I repent of rejecting, alienating, and condemning you because of my own fears or ignorance of or indifference to your struggle. On behalf of the Christian community, I ask you to forgive us for where we have consciously or unconsciously rejected you or condemned you. I commit myself and my church to do our best to come alongside you in your sexual struggle—while not condoning sexual sin, be it yours or mine.”

Thank you for your apology. I forgive you.

*****

You go on to say that, “Having said all the above with genuine sincerity, please understand that, as concerned citizens of Singapore and as Christians, we are NOT against the homosexual person, but we are unapologetically against the homosexual agenda. And that makes a world of difference.”

According to you, “the homosexual agenda is a political movement. It is well-funded internationally”, and that it is a “well-thought out plan (which)… comes in five steps.”

Honestly, when you spoke about the “homosexual agenda”, I had sincerely wanted to find out more, because if there was indeed an homosexual agenda which I did not know of, which would be unfair to others, I will be the first one to speak out against in and to prevent this agenda from being practiced.

I read on about the five steps of the “homosexual agenda” that you speak of:
1. Decriminalization of homosexual acts or sodomy.
2. Equalization of age of consent for heterosexual sex and homosex.
3. Anti-discrimination laws e.g. pushing for equality in sex education to cover heterosexual sex and homosex
4. Same sex marriage or civil union
5. Homosexual parenthood and adoption rights

*****

When I read the five steps you purport, I was slightly bemused and didn’t know how to react to it.

You see, Pastor Khong, I am gay. What you say is a ‘homosexual agenda’ is something that I live through everyday. One day when I find the person I love, I want to be able to marry the person, and live in a committed, healthy and supportive relationship with him. Pastor Khong, I do not have an agenda nor am I interested in imposing my life on others. I am also not interested in imposing my beliefs on others. You see, Pastor Khong, being gay is not a belief or a choice that I have decided to live with. I live with it because just like you are heterosexual and live your life along the way you know yourself, so do I live a life the way I know mine.

The truth is, I’ve always felt that for the heterosexual community, you have it much easier. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through the life I did. I had to grow up, facing discrimination in school and I had to learn to day in, day out, deal with it. Can you imagine how it had felt whenever I went on stage and I got booed down the stage? Can you imagine, how it had felt, for a teenager, who was only starting to learn what it was like growing up, having to be jeered at and ostracized, simply because he was gay? I know, because I had to grow up living with it. For me, it was very real.

Did I have a ‘homosexual agenda’? No, I don’t, Pastor Khong. I don’t. Because all this while, throughout my whole life, I just simply want to live my life, and I want to help the other gay people I know be able to live theirs, so that they are able to life their heads up and accept themselves for who they are. It isn’t easy living a life as a gay person, and why would anyone choose that? I do not want another person to go through what I had to go through. It’s painful.

*****

When you speak about the ‘homosexual agenda’, you spoke about how society would then enact anti-discrimination laws and ensure that there is equality in sexuality education.

Pastor Khong, but this is precisely what we did – not because I am gay. There are many people who continue to be discriminated in society – women, people of other races, the elderly, migrants etc. We need anti-discrimination laws to protect our people and our workers from being discriminated, because there are others who do not believe in their way of life or their rights and have thus chosen to discriminate against them. I have friends of other races who are discriminated. What do I tell them when there are no laws to protect them from discrimination? I was discriminated as a child – what would you have told me when I was young when there were people who had discriminated against me? That I should accept it?

It was painful growing up, having to learn to cope with the pain and discrimination. For many teenagers, if they had been taught how to deal with the discrimination and hurt, they would learn to become stronger individuals. But like me, there were, and still are, many gay youths who learn to blame themselves for being gay – for something that is essentially who we are, just like being straight is who you are – and we learn not to accept ourselves and look down on ourselves. If we were taught in school how we needed to learn to respect ourselves and to accept ourselves, we will be able to walk with our heads high. I developed low self esteem which lasted me through all the way until my mid-20s. It was only in the past 4 to 5 years did I finally learnt how to regain belief of myself, and learnt to find the strength to go on living my life, and learning to live a life that I can be proud of.

You see, Pastor Khong, I understand that you have your fears, and I understand that you might not understand the life that I had to go through. And I understand, because you do not live my life, or perhaps understand the inner struggles that gay people have to go through.

Pastor Khong, I do not have an agenda. All I want to be able to do is to simply live my life, achieve happiness in my life and be able to live with the one I love, in happiness and commitment. That’s all I ask for, Pastor Khong. You have the love and marriage that you are able to fulfill with the one you love, similarly, I wish that I am able to do that too.

For a long time, I have been discriminated and learnt to deal with it even as I felt hurt from being marginalized. As I’m growing up and now that I’m an adult, I hope that I am able to settle down peacefully with someone whom I can call home with. However, I’m still being discriminated for living my life. I’m still told that I do not have a right to be recognized for the love that I wish I can grow old with. Pastor Khong, this means that I should continue to feel alone, and stay silent in my own loneliness. I look at the marriage that you have and I admire the joy that passion that others can grow within their marriage. Yet, I know it cannot be mine as I am told to accept the state of my life and be contended, because the rights that are yours shouldn’t be mine, because perhaps I’m not good enough for it.

It hurts, Pastor Khong. It hurts when I continue to reach out to others to help them but when I extend a hand for help, my hand is pushed away. It hurts when I see families go out together in gatherings, when they laugh and enjoy their time together as a whole family and I continue to be on my own, single and silent, wishing that I can have the joy that they can but knowing that I should not want it.

It hurts, Pastor Khong. And it’s painful. I’ve lived with this for a huge part of my life. Should I go on living the rest of my life in pain and anguish? I don’t have an agenda, Pastor Khong. I only want to live a peaceful life with someone that I can be committed in love with.

Which is why it hurts and sadden me when you say that I should, “rise above (my) own personal need and do not be party to this insidious conspiracy.” Pastor Khong, to me, this is not a conspiracy. This is real to me. I am gay and as much as you see it differently, this is my life. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s my life, a life that I’m trying to make do with, because this is what has been given to me, just like yours has been given to yours.

You had said that, “Singapore society has given you space to live your lives, earn a living, and contribute to society—without discrimination or harassment.” Pastor Khong, I’ve lived with discrimination for a large part of my life. This is real. I’ve been hurt and harassed. I’ve been called names. I’ve been booed and jeered off stage and I had to learn the pieces up many times in my life. Pastor Khong, the discrimination is real. The hurt is real. There is discrimination. I’m not asking you to be nice to me. All I’m asking is to allow me to live my life, to be able to hold up my head high with respect and not to have to walk in fear and in sadness, because of how battered I have to feel when my dignity is taken away from me.

You say that, “we will not let LGBTs set the tone for society.” Who will then speak up for me? Who will then allow me to live my life? Where do I belong in this society then, if I do not find a way to let others, like you, know that all I’m hoping for is to live my life, to be my own person and to be someone that I can be proud of, like you are of yourself. That is all, Pastor Khong.

I want to be able to live my life.

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