Dear Pastor Lawrence Khong,
When I read the statement that you had made at the Faith Community Baptist Church, where ESM Goh Chok Tong was your guest, I have to admit that I was initially upset, and even infuriated.
But then, I read through your statement carefully and I heard what you had wanted to say. I just want to let you know that we think the same.
You had said that:
- One, we believe that the building of Singapore is an exciting enterprise.
- Two, we feel passionately that Singapore is a place worth fighting for!
- Three, we want to create a Singapore we are all proud of.
I think many Singaporeans will agree with that, whether we are straight or gay, Christian or not, etc. Like you:
- I believe in creating a Singapore which is equal, where our poor and elderly are able to have better livelihoods. Like you, I believe in building a Singapore together, where we can bring Singapore into the next stage.
- Like you, I feel passionately about Singapore and I want to do my part to fight for Singapore, and Singaporeans.
- Like you, I want to create a Singapore that we can all be proud of.
You see, we are very similar, Pastor Khong.
You had also said that, “Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led 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. We love our nation. We sincerely pray for and look to the Government to provide moral leadership in preserving this basic building block and foundation of our society. And with that, to robustly protect our constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty; so as to ensure that social cohesion and religious harmony are maintained in Singapore.”
Dear Pastor Khong, I would just like to highlight some phrases that you had made in the paragraph:
- 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.
- We sincerely pray for and look to the Government to provide moral leadership in preserving this basic building block and foundation of our society.
- And with that, to robustly protect our constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty; so as to ensure that social cohesion and religious harmony are maintained in Singapore.
Again, we have the same views on these issues, or rather, we have the same motivations.
- You see, like you, I am also worried that we take away the rights of parents over what their children should be taught in school. I am also worried that the rights of our children will be taken away. There has been research that has shown that if we educate children on sexuality issues when they are young, and even before puberty, the likelihood of them engaging in premarital sex is lower and the likelihood of them delaying their age of sexual debut is higher. So, you see, we think the same. Also, if we educate them openly on sexuality issues, they will be more informed about what sexuality is and will make a choice that they will learn to respect of themselves.
- Like you, I am also worried that my freedom of speech will be denied, because of the views I hold about who I am, which is different from what others think about me. Like you, I only want to live my life and be able to have myself heard, so that I can continue to live a life that I can respect and continue to journey in. Our wants are not that different, and are in fact, the same.
- Like you, I constantly hope that the government will be bold, and do what is right – to protect the rights of all people in Singapore, and to ensure that everyone is free from discrimination. Like you, I believe we need to preserve the basic building block of our society – to protect the individual, and give him or her the space and freedom to grow and nurture as a healthy, happy individual.
- Like you, I believe that we need to “robustly protect our constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty”, and precisely “to ensure that social cohesion and religious harmony”. And what I have learnt is this – when we engage in intellectual and thorough discussions about issues, such as this, that matter, we will be able to have a clearer and more empathetic understanding towards one another. We will learn to show compassion and love towards another, and embrace their being, regardless of who they are.
Dear Pastor Khong, we have very similar ideals and motivations. In fact, many Singaporeans do. I respect and admire that you are driven by such motivations, because you want to do good and achieve goodness in Singapore and this is truly and indeed admirable.
Pastor Khong, I’ve also learnt to understand this:
- All of us have different understandings and ideas about what life should be. To you, being gay might not be appropriate, and I understand why you would think so, for you are not gay. But I am gay, and to me, I live my life as a gay person everyday. In fact, being gay is just a small part of me. I continue to want to do things that can help improve the rights of others, and I continue to speak up for what I believe in. And like you, I want to take a stand in what I believe passionately and am committed to fight and protect for. We might come from different vantage points in life, but who is to say that either one of us is right or wrong? For, how can I say that you are wrong, when I have not lived the life you have and understood the learning that you experience. And how would you be able to say that I am wrong, if you have not had the chance to live my life, or even understand the struggles that I had to go through to become the stronger and happier person that I am now. We do not understand each other, or have an appreciation of each other’s life – not yet, at least. So, I understand why you would find it challenging to understand the life that I live and go through.
- I understand when you say you want to be free because that is essentially what everyone wants – to live a life as true as they can, to believe in themselves and live a life that they are meant to lead, and to serve god. I think the same. I might not call him god in the same way that you call him, but isn’t living our lives a calling that all of us believe in and aspire to do our best in? I believe in freeing people and I believe in helping them see the truth. I know this is what you want as well. How I do this is by sharing with others more about my life, about what I go through and I reach out to others to raise the awareness among them of the lives of gay individuals, like me. I hope that by doing so, that they will learn to understand what I go through, to empathise with me, and eventually to accept me for who I am.
- But I have learnt that even if people choose not to accept me, it’s fine, because it’s a journey towards understanding that all of us go through. Does it matter that people accept? It doesn’t, because just as it would take time to understand the lives of someone who has cancer, or someone who has to live in a small hut in a place of poverty, I cannot expect someone to imagine how it is like for me to be gay, not having lived the past 31 years of my life, and the discrimination, hurt and struggles that I had to go through, and how I had to eventually learnt to love myself, and be stronger, so that I can continue living a life that I can be proud of. Like you, Pastor Khong, I just want to live a life that I can be proud of, for myself.
- Sometimes, it still saddens me to know that there are others who wish that I should not be allowed a right to live my life. And like I say, I understand why. I’ve learnt too that when people take issues against me, it’s because they haven’t had a chance to get to know me and to interact with me. They haven’t had a chance to realise that other than being gay – and I have stopped allowing myself to be defined by my being gay – I am really someone just like anyone else, who wants to do good, contribute to society, share what I have with others, help others learn, raise awareness and someone who wants to continue to learn and to grow, and to fulfil my potential as a human person. That’s all I want, and I really hope that people can see that.
Dear Pastor Khong, I guess eventually, everyone of us comes from different vantage points. We live different lives but sometimes we share similar experiences. What is it that splits us, but all the same, what is it that bind us? As much as we might be uncomfortable, it might or might not god’s plan that there is diversity in this world and we live in a world where there are straight and gay people, where there are people with different physical and intellectual functionalities and where we look, think, believe and behave different. But yet we are all different and all the same at the same time. People can choose to look at the differences and choose to draw us apart, or we can choose to see the similarities that we have and learn to embrace one another. I can see the similarities that you and I have, and so can many of us.
Let’s not let the fears that we have used to guide us and to protect us prevent us from truly seeing beyond these fears, to see the possibilities that bind us. I will be willing to learn from you, and to know more about your perspectives, if you would as well allow me to enter into your life and share in the opportunity to learn more about one another. I envision and endeavour a day when we will be able to embrace each other’s differences, acknowledge the beauty and diversity of them and live in the harmony that we both envision and desire.