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. 🙂

Advertisements
Standard

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.

Standard

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.

Standard