- What does it mean to be “neutral” in regards to signing the Keep/Repeal 377A petition?
- While I don’t expect my friends to sign the Repeal petition, I can’t help but think of what it means to refuse to sign the Repeal petition.
- A well-meaning friend pointed out the fact that he didn’t think it was fair for him to sign the Repeal petition because he had not dealt with the 377A issue to an extent that made the act of signing a meaningful one. Fair enough, I thought. The act of signing a petition is not an apolitical one, and one should indeed think thoroughly about the petitions they sign.
- It made me wonder, however, how people are able to stay neutral in clear-cut instances that the very people to whom a certain issue actually matters have taken great pains to explain why it matters to them. Less obliquely put, how are people able to say they’re neutral about the existence of 377A, when LGBTQ+ people have expended the emotional and intellectual labour required to show why it matters that this law still exists—a law that technically only criminalizes sex between men but has more far-reaching implications than that.
- By saying you’re neutral about 377A, does it mean that you don’t care about the fact that there exists a law that has severe repercussions on the personhoods of people like myself? Sure, I turned out to be a wonderful, well-adjusted human being whose 377A-related trauma is no more than a shadow that merely inspires the academic and intellectual questions that I’m interested in. But the same can’t be said for everyone.
- By saying you’re neutral about 377A because you have not thought enough about it yet, in spite of the endless work that other queer folk have done to educate everyone else, does it mean that you’re wilfully turning your head the other way? I get it, we all have a limited amount of time and energy to engage in various issues. But this shouldn’t be an excuse to remain a bystander when the occasion calls for action.
- What does it mean to be “objective”?
- We often put the notion of objectivity on a pedestal because it seems common-sensical that we prioritize rational thoughts over those which are potentially clouded by emotions, which, we are told, are flawed.
- With something as intangible as sexual orientation, though, how useful is objectivity? LGBTQ+ activists often invoke scientific studies to show that being gay is perfectly natural. Appealing to nature is easier. But what do we make of the fact that ontological conceptions such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and even heterosexual are new ones that did not exist prior to the 20th century? (In other words, before people understood themselves as “gay” people, they simply had sex with people of the same sex, without creating an identity category around it.) What do we make of the fact that a gay gene has yet to be found? Why do we obsess over finding comfort in finding truth in cold hard facts when we could be focusing on how to make the current world that exists a better one?
- I’ve tried constantly to avoid reifying the Christian-LGBT binary when talking about the discourse surrounding 377A, but here it is imperative that I do: when someone talks about being objective and listening to “both” sides of the argument, what they’re doing, consciously or not, is portray the two sides as equal ones—sides for whom 377A has equal stakes.
- When you say “let’s be objective and listen to both sides,” that’s okay. We should, indeed, listen to all sides of an argument.
- When you say “let’s be objective and listen to both sides equally,” you’re ignoring the fact that 377A has very different implications for Christians and for gay people.
- For Christians, 377A is a “hot topic”.
- Or a contemporary issue in the earthly world that we have to deal with because we are a part of it.
- Or, to be more cynical, a vestige of British colonialism, the very reason why Christianity exists in Singapore.
- Or, to be less cynical but cynical nevertheless, a law that the institution of Christianity is gripping onto because it signifies moral power that the religious body thinks it has over the state; they lost the ban over the casinos, they can’t lose 377A now. A law that helps the religious institution have a foot in the door of turning Singapore into the Antioch of Asia.
- Or, a common enemy around which churches have rallied themselves, in order to create the illusion that Christians are being victimized in post-modernity, or to consolidate its power amidst falling congregation numbers and general decline in the West.
- But for queer folks, 377A has material and psychological implications that we grew up with.
- You’re right. Objectively speaking, 377A only criminalizes men having sex with men. Or, to put it in terms that have become fashionable among “woke Christians” who think of alternative models such as “same-sex attracted” that do not reify the gay ontology, 377A only criminalizes gay men who “act on their desires,” not being gay in itself.
- Tell that to my thirteen-year old self who first learnt that 377A existed, and took this to mean that it would be impossible for me to be in a loving relationship in Singapore, rather than simply thinking of it as being unable to just have gay sex. Because for the young queer, compartmentalization is a maneuver that we develop over time. A maneuver that we develop, not simply to rebut arguments by queer people, but for our own survival, mental wellness, and personhood.
- For you, the recent discussion on 377A is a hot topic. For us, it is something so deeply personal to us that has affected the way we perceive ourselves growing up, finally being put on the table for discussion, only to find people who are antagonistic to our views claiming to feel oppressed and stifled by every small move we make of pointing out flaws in their opinions.
- For you, objectivity is a smokescreen, a ruse behind which you can air opinions that are insidiously damaging to us. For us, objectivity is a lie that takes the spotlight away from our lived experiences and onto some hollow stage you call the “middle ground,” while you, in the shadows, craft the next big curveball that you’re going to throw onto queer people in the name of objectivity.
The Ready for Repeal petition closes on Thursday, 27 September 2018, at 9am. At this point I don’t think additional signatures matter that much in the larger picture, but please think about what you really mean, the next time you put on the cloak of neutrality or objectivity in the name of absolving your own unwillingness to listen. Here’s an FAQ if you have questions; if there are questions that remain unanswered, feel free to drop me a message.
I’m taking a minute to appreciate my Christian friends who have been supportive in their own way, whether it be through actively advocating for us, or through dealing with their own personal contradictions themselves or by means of conversations with us, rather than performing a ruse of objectivity as a massive smokescreen for insidiously damaging opinions. I get that it’s hard to be told one thing by the church that comes at odds with your opinions, and I appreciate that you interrogate it instead of taking it at face value. Thank you.