Thursday, May 7, 2009

A War Against Religious Extremism

The AWARE saga has finally been laid to rest but the hurt and upset feelings inside of me are still running on overdrive. I know we have won and it is a step in the right direction but it showed me how deeply I still feel about Singaporean gay (or rather anti-gay) issues despite my leaving the country for close to a year now.

When it comes to acceptance, there is no such thing as partial acceptance. It is one of those all-or-nothing words in the English language that we have to acknowledge no matter which side we are on. That is why I can never comprehend this oxymoronic phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”. At the end of the day, it is just a euphemism to camouflage discrimination and hatred (for serious cases) and ignorance (for most other cases). Strictly speaking, the “sin” in context is anal sex but does it also apply to monogamous love? If so, does it mean that the Bible preaches love as something wrong?

Over the years, I have heard so many arguments against homosexuality from the fundamentalist Christians ranging from the supposedly more rational pro-family rhetoric to the if-you-decriminalise-homosexuality-then-it-will-lead-to-the-legalisation-of-bestiality nonsense. You would think that I should get quite numb and nonchalant about all of this after so many years right? The answer is a definite no. You see, I am not only gay but am also someone who has a strong affinity to logic. Baseless and senseless drivel aggravates me and it does not even need to be anti-gay. I am an engineer and apply the engineering way of thinking to all issues in my life and it has served me very well. That just makes me wonder–are logic and religious faith two mutually exclusive principles? When one believes in something wholesale without concrete proof (or let pseudo-evidence skew their inclinations in a vicious cycle), doesn’t it make this person less credible as a human being? Imagine a fundamentalist Christian professor in paleontology giving a university lecture detailing how the world was created in seven days and how dinosaurs roamed the planet alongside men.

But day in day out, we are faced with such illogical people. If a weak sense of logical reasoning is the only thing that they have been inflicted with, we can all simply sympathise with them and move on with our lives. But no, despite being the minority in the world (and definitely so in Singapore), they are loud, vocal and pushy (a la Josie and the Pushycats–brilliant!) and that is the least of it. When it concerns trampling on my basic human rights then it hits close to home and becomes personal. I am not even asking them to follow the love-based teachings of the faith that they are so fanatic about. I am simply expecting them not to make lives difficult for other people, especially people who do not buy in to their faith. Why can’t they simply live and let live? No they cannot, and that is solely because they steadfastly believe that their religion has 100% monopoly over this concept known as absolute truth.

And here comes the root of all evil. Absolute truth? What constitutes to absolute truth? A book written so long ago over so many years by different people in a language so different from your own? I always thought that apathy is what I can fall back on when it comes to Singaporeans in instances of intense idealistic differences but these fundamentalists work on a different plane–they demand to be heard by brandishing their version of the absolute truth without having to earn any merit to begin with. Absolute truth? What about Muslims (there are many other religions but let’s make it simple here)? If you think that homosexuality is wrong just because a few verses of your “Christianity 101” guidebook said so (verses that have been quoted ad nauseam), what about a completely different faith and belief system altogether? You don’t see Christians fighting Muslims in peaceful Singapore with the same fervour as they do against homosexuality right? Because in a civil society directed by laws, even the slowest of people know that is forbidden. And laws are meant to protect the minority, not used against them. But the members of the good old Singapore government like the phrase “conservative majority” way too much to offer the minority any protection (they like it so much that they are willing to tattoo it on their foreheads and store the words right at the tip of their tongues ready to spit them out at any possible chance). What makes it a sadder picture is that the majority of the more influential members of the government are Christians despite Christianity being one of the minority religions. This surely gives the term “tyranny of the majority” a whole new ironic spin, doesn’t it? Every single day, homosexuals in Singapore are fighting against such odds in an uphill battle and I saw enough of this vilely unfair situation to decide to leave it behind.

Yet I am here on an autumn night at home beside my loving partner, one day after celebrating our second anniversary in one of the gayest part of the gayest city in Australia furiously typing my thoughts away hoping that somehow the words that show up on the screen can take away some of the hate that I have encountered all my life and not let events that happened 6,300 kilometres away affect me. One of my friends sent a link on Facebook asking for support for the suspension of AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education Programme (which paints homosexuality as something normal as well as teaches many other very factually-sound and useful things). She is a Christian mother. How can I as a mere friend compete with her religion and child? When you disagree with “homosexuality” being a neutral word, surely you must also not be able to accept your homosexual friends just the way they are right? And why should I still be bothered staying friends with these people? I made my objections known to her by leaving some comments on the Facebook link that she posted for I could not sit back and do nothing anymore (by the way MOE predictably caved in to the fundamentalists and suspended the Programme).

Despite all my attempts to purge negative feelings out of me, nothing could be done to help cool the boiling fluids inside my body and the hurt continues to gnaw at my insides. I should be able to get past such things by now. I am mature and strong and I have the support of my partner but still...

Perhaps the Pink Dot event (originally meant to be a mini pride parade) on 16th May (a day before the International Day Against Homophobia or IDAHO) at Hong Lim Park in Singapore could start the ball rolling in erasing the hate coming at homosexuals. I urge everyone who is gay or has gay friends, gay relatives or gay siblings to attend the event dressed to the occasion (please watch the attached Pink Dot promotional videos). The people residing on the red dot need to see this pink dot and hopefully allow their minds to open up as a result. It is very hard to walk a mile in the shoes of the discriminated when you have the rights of the majority. If only you can experience a fraction of what we have to go through every day–I know that will certainly turn your bigoted views (be it out of ignorance or dogma) around. There is no reason to discriminate and spread hate, not even a bad one but there is always time for love, which needs no reason. I know it sounds cliché but all we really need is love. We have no wish to fight a war against religious extremism at all.

I would like to use this opportunity to dedicate my song featured in an earlier post entitled “Out” to the Pink Dot event as well as to the brave and tireless organisers and every single event participant. If I were there, I would strip down to my pink undies and paint my whole body pink! Alas, I can only wish all of you the very best from Sydney. I truly am proud of you guys.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009