defragment.me

Stop feeding the fear mongers

They are not worth our precious time and energy.

Perhaps I was naive to think that things will settle down after the AWARE EGM – it has opened a can of worms that probably most of us would wish that it had remained closed, the Singapore government included.

I grew increasingly disturbed and worried as I chanced upon comment after comment that reeked of homophobia and narrow-mindedness. The news of MOE (Ministry of Education) suspending the sex education program made me start to seriously wonder what is going to come next. A witch-hunt?

Just when we think that the media censorship laws have gradually relaxed and the society seemed to be progressing, now it just seems like we are almost back to square one.

Many thoughts went through my mind as I came up with retort after retort, full of logic and reasoning, why people should stop being so near-sighted and judgmental. I was prepared to write a long post, making a clear argument on why all this paranoia is just plain ridiculous.

'The other side'

Until I came across a few blog entries and comments from 'the other side' – the side that believes that homosexuals are just headed for hell and that raising kids with 'the right values' is the apparent right thing to do. There were other people like me, who tried to reason their way through by making comments, and looking at the written exchange, I came to a realisation.

There is no point reasoning or arguing out with people who are just not willing to listen in the first place. Reading most of the conversations between the pro-gay and the anti-gay are like trying to understand a conversation between a chicken and a duck. One party can make a perfect argument but if the other party is not willing to see beyond his/her own viewpoint, they can go on forever and nothing will be concluded.

Alienation

Being marginalized personally for most of my life, I was actually almost immune to it. However, the scale of the matter this time caught me by surprise and I could not help but worry about the homophobia surfacing into the mainstream society. It is like the AWARE issue has forced many to take a stand and have a say, especially when their precious kids are concerned.

Prior to the AWARE hijacking, everybody went about their own business, the very most, conservatives would sometimes stare and mutter words of disgust to themselves. Now, the publicity and scale are somehow making many of the 'traditional' family-oriented people jump on the anti-gay bandwagon.

Ironically being gay is the least of what I have been marginalized for. I was made to feel like an alien because of my academic success (or the lack of it), my career path, my choice of hairstyle, a whole long list actually, and more recently, my spiritual beliefs.

People give me strange looks all the time, and that includes my very own relatives. Like the uncle who snorted when I told him I was running my own business. Friends roll their eyes when I talk about astrological charts and reincarnation. Strangers stare because of my spiky short hair (yes, girls must keep their hair long and flowy).

All these made me stronger, but not without much pain and tears. I have grown to be proud of my individuality and identity. What I have learnt through all these experiences is, there is only so much you can do to change a person's mind.

There are people who will listen, these are the ones who are not judgmental in the first place. Those who judge, are typically people who do not have it in them to open their minds to another viewpoint. The third category, are people who believe very strongly in their own beliefs, so firmly that nothing will change their mind unless they personally experience otherwise.

I generally do not have a problem who stick to their own belief systems, the issue only comes when there is a lack of respect in the belief systems of others. The extreme end of this spectrum, are people who deliberately incite fear and hatred.

Playing into their hands

It suddenly dawned upon me, by reacting negatively to these fear-mongers, I am simply playing into their hands. Negative feelings drain our energy. These people get a kick out of seeing us getting upset. The best way to deal with them, is either react positively, or choose to not react at all. It is just like dealing with people who are (consciously) abusive. They continue their abuse because the fear shown by their victims gives them a sense of power. The only way to dis-empower them is to stop the fear.

Having not much of a sex education in school did not make me less or more gay. Having a rigid education system depressed me more than it made me 'equipped' for society. Facing nay-sayers all my life did not dilute my individuality.

My take on the sex-ed program and 'concerned parents'

They can do whatever they want with the sex education program. I believe the targeted age group (12-18) will form their own judgments (or non-judgments) with or without a sex-ed program. The 'impressionable' ones, I am sorry to say, will still be impressionable by other sources even if the sex-ed program preaches all the 'right' values. Food for thought, would a 'concerned parent' be happier if their kid leads a double life in order to upkeep the 'right values'? It does not have to be an extreme case like a married man having a boyfriend on the side (though there are plenty of these around), there are plenty of people out there who are so internally conflicted that they cannot even bear to face themselves. Kids who live the 'right' way but end up extremely unhappy will make these parents happy and proud indeed (can't help the sarcasm, sorry).

Good will eventually prevail

I personally believe that whatever goes around comes around. I also believe in the good old fashioned 'good will prevail over evil'. Just as they would like to believe 'evil' gay people like us will be damned, I believe people who deny the minorities their rights and respect will have to bear the consequences one day. The government, for being overly conservative, will one day have to face repercussions (please stop complaining when there is a mass exodus of talent).

Nobody has the power to change my beliefs if I carry a strong conviction towards them, thus I understand that I do not have the power to change anybody else's.

However, I have the freedom and the right to express myself, that includes leading a fulfilling life and contributing to the causes I support. There will be people, however few, who will honestly question themselves, if I deserve to be in hell, simply by being in love with another girl.

Do not play in their hands any longer by feeling any ounce of anger, instead, focus on doing our own part (whether by setting a positive example or by positive advocacy, we just need to answer to ourselves.

I am not afraid to be judged if judgment day comes because I hold nothing but truth and love. On the contrary, am not so sure about the ones who incite fear and hatred. I therefore hope that one day love can open their eyes to God's unconditional and non-judgmental love.

Proud to be AWARE

Earlier today, I clapped until my fingers were bruised.

I have gone to cast my vote at the AWARE EGM straight after a night of work (I keep nocturnal hours), kept myself mentally alert alternating between coffee and sweets, ended up with my limbs trembling due to caffeine and lack of sleep, stayed till the very end even though I was on the verge of collapse.

But it was all worth it.

For today, I personally witnessed with my own eyes, felt with my own heart, processed with my own mind, the courage and pride of women fighting for their own rights and justice.

It was an experience that would not be justified with the mere description of words. I had honestly not expected this.

The diversity

For it was not only the outspoken feminists who turned up. It was an incredible mix of men and women, of all races, religions and ages.

There was the old who could barely walk but still made the effort to queue for hours to register. There were the male expats who took time out to volunteer for a cause they believed in but was not of much direct relation to them. There was this Caucasian woman, among many other Caucasian women who turned up to vote (presumably PR or PR-turned-citizens), who was giving away flowers out of a trolley to people in the queue, probably paid out of her own pocket. There were the educators who put their jobs on the line by speaking on the floor. There were housewives, mothers, husbands, staunch Christians, a Muslim father, who spoke for their support of a comprehensive sex education program for their children.

The ironic moment came when Josie Lau said that she was not against sex education, she simply wanted the kids to make 'informed' choices. I guess she needs to re-learn her definitions, because hers seem to point to the lack of information as being 'informed'.

There were plenty of people who were queuing up for their chance to speak, and when their turn came, they spoke with such conviction and passion that my hair stood and my heart moved. There was the girl who on the verge of tears, telling the new exco that it is already so difficult to grow up in Singapore, and how could they, how could they deny their right to love, their right to choose?

I could feel tears filling up my eyes upon hearing that. For I only know too well, how difficult it was.

And the speakers on the floor spoke for us. They questioned the new guard on their lack of sensitivity, lack of thought, lack of organization. Their mis-use of public funds (estimated to be 90k). Their lack of respect for the old guard. Their inability to answer questions. Their lack of experience in running a NGO. The list goes on and on.

The crumbling of the new exco

Personally, I am appalled. I am appalled as mentioned in my earlier posts on this subject, how can such educated women with high-flying careers, apart from having a very narrow mind, not think about the consequences of their actions prior to the act?

They have splurged our money, underestimated our intelligence, insulted many of us personally, shifting the responsibility of answering sensitive questions to their legal counsel (who was fair and did not help them much), and the icing on the cake was:

The majority of the audience was clearly not in support of them, they have lost all credibility and respect, and when the vote of no-confidence was passed, they actually have the audacity to say that the vote did not stand legally.

They have lost the popular vote and they want to exploit a legal loophole to hang on. I was starting to wonder if they have lost their sanity in the proceedings. Or modesty.

To top it all off (yes still more icing incredulously), they were implored by the old guard to step down graciously which they refused, accepted the opportunity given by the old guard to hold a meeting for 5 minutes to give proper consideration to their resignation, disappeared for half an hour with no notification of whereabouts, with their legal counsel not being able to contact them.

The motion of their removal was passed after ample time was given to them. Which thereafter, they appeared and insisted on giving a highly formulaic statement on stepping down graciously and wishing the best for AWARE.

Sorry, I personally feel that they have lost the right to step down graciously after repeatedly refusing even after the vote of no-confidence was passed, trying to pull off a stunt to say the vote was not legal-binding, and then disappearing for an indefinite amount of time. They did not have the decency to let us know that they will be extending their 5 minute meeting to 30 minutes.

Throughout the whole drama, the old guard was gracious enough to give them chance after chance to step down, and they even got us to give a round of applause to the new guard if they were ever going to re-appear.

The press has been kind to them (they were barred from the EGM by the new guard). I have just gone over the latest news reports, they did not report the new guard's unbelievable display of denial – the official statement seemed to be that they chose to be gracious and stepped down.

Reflecting

I am sure that some – even if they are the minority – of the new guard's support will be reflecting upon today's events. I do not think many of them are actually aware of the full situation, the deceit by their leadership, and the full scale of the hurt caused by them.

For me, I am actually grateful, in spite that I was feeling extremely insulted, because if not for the whole drama staged by the new guard, I would not be able to experience such a wonderful display of unity and strength. The array of individual talent and wit by the floor speakers was incredible, it was definitely a pleasant awakening for me. My previous mindset that we do not have enough brilliant individuals with their own minds was wrong.

And they were in full splendor today.

It was electrifying, the energy from the hall emitted by people from different walks of life who had united for a common cause. If you were there to see the display of passion of the people's faces for what they believe in, the eruption of pure joy when the vote was announced, you would not want to miss it, I assure you, for almost anything else in the world.

I am proud, of myself who stood up to be heard despite my personal dislike for being around people in general (too sensitive to people's energies), despite my fatigue at work, despite feeling as if I am about to break apart anytime, despite my lack of guts to speak on the floor or anywhere else actually, I was there.

I am equally proud, of my partner who stood up for the cause we both believed in, despite her being cynical of mankind in general, despite her being repeatedly let down by situations and people she once gave her trust to, despite having personally faced an uphill battle for the causes she supports, she was there.

And I am very proud, of all of you who made it, despite all that was in your way.

For once, I am proud to be a woman and a Singaporean.

p.s. I ponder about the people wondering why are we making such a big fuss about this when they are sitting in comfort because of the rights AWARE has fought for them in the past 25 years. Equal rights are not to be taken for granted, they have to be fought for and protected.

Reasons for feeling insulted, disturbed & hurt by the new AWARE leadership

I have avoided writing about the anti-gay sentiments put out by the new AWARE executive committee (exco) because I feel that being in support of the old guard has nothing got to do about anti-gay vs pro-gay, but about women's rights in general. Till I got increasingly disturbed by their anti-gay statements, which I cannot put in words exactly how disturbed I feel to be reading the comments made by them.

They say we are very often abused by our fathers

This was one of the most disturbing ones:

"On a personal front, I've given ministered, I've counselled them. So you need to understand I'm not talking about... They are in pain. And very often...where you have abusive fathers, they do things with their daughters and the daughters revolt, rebel against society. We understand this is what it's all about." – Dr Thio Su Mien

Excuse me?! My father is one of the nicest men you will ever meet and he will feel very personally insulted and hurt to read this. I seriously do not think this self-proclaimed 'feminist mentor' should be even allowed to speak in public with all the insulting rubbish she is spouting.

I cannot decide whether I am petrified or amused that such narrow and un-evolved minds exist in women who had been highly educated and possess high-flying careers. These are the very same women who now want to fight for gender equality.

So, according to the new exco, led by 'feminist mentor' Thio Su Mien, me and my peace-loving, society-contributing gay community are criminals, abnormal, wicked, anti-family – basically in their eyes we do not seem to warrant a place in society, supposed to be abused and in pain.

The consequences & implications

Speaking from the bottom of my heart, I really wonder if they have considered all the implications and consequences before making such statements and having such beliefs? Is there even an absolute truth in anything? Did they even consider the feelings of people like us, or even the youth who are confused about their sexuality? To be marginalised and criminalised in this manner, to be made to feel as though as we do not belong anywhere, have they even stopped to think for a second if they may be causing a lot of hurt?

Supposing if they win the EOGM, and the possibility that the new sex education material is made to reflect homosexuality as a negative word, would there be a possibility that young, talented, confused minds will be driven to depression, or even suicide? What about influencing young minds into being homophobic individuals, subjecting their 'abnormal' peers to gay-bashing and discrimination?

Brainwash people to be gay?

I did not have an abusive father, sorry to disappoint Dr Thio, I do not remember having sex education in my school days, and homosexuality in my era was largely a taboo subject. There were no gay films, no gay propaganda, no media reporting on homosexuality, almost zilch.

Having no gay 'influence' when I was young did not stop me from falling in love with another girl. For me personally, for many of my gay friends, being gay has nothing much to do with preference for bedding the same sex. It is as simple as falling in love with another person. We just don't feel the same for the opposite sex, does that make us less of a human?

Why can't the new exco and paranoid parents simply realise that presenting homosexuality in a neutral perspective does not brainwash your precious kid into being gay? If your kid is gay, even if the poor kid is blocked off the entire media will do nothing much to change how he/she feels. You can probably threaten to disown the kid, make her/him marry someone, have kids, but do you even know how much more pain and suffering that causes for the person and the people involved? What about the marriage partner who was deceived into believing that their partner loves him/her?

The reverse is also true, if your kid is not gay, no amount of external influence can change that as well. I have plenty of straight friends who loves going to gay parties, watch gay films, hang out with gay people, but they would still rather be with the opposite sex. There is a healthy mutual respect, a mutual respect which would be in danger for the youth if the new exco manages to have their way.

Personally

I am proud to be who I am. I am in a committed relationship with a partner who loves me more than anything in this world, despite and in spite of my flaws; and I feel the same way for her. We are both doing our best for the causes we believe in – animal welfare and environmentalism. We like to give our time to stray animals whenever possible, she recycles everything that can possibly be recycled. We are not well off, but we are contented with what we have and are both working very hard to pursue our individual dreams. She has been my pillar of support, I would not be where I am today if not for her. Yet, according to Dr Thio, the new exco and their church, we should both seek cures (read an example of their supposed cure program). We have done nothing wrong except to love each other with our hearts, yet in the eyes of the new exco, we are dysfunctional and really need to repent.

I am lucky. My parents accept me for the person I am, we go out all together for family outings and occasions. My mom asks about my partner if she could not be present for some reason. I am out to everyone who knows me personally. I never had a friend who ended our friendship upon knowing I am gay. In fact, I never really had someone dear to me shake their heads in sadness and look at me with pity or distaste, but the harsh reality is, there are plenty of people who are subject to such discriminatory and hurting behavior.

Being in the minority has allowed me to be sensitive to other minorities. From my very own spiritual perspective, I see it as a blessing. I feel the pain and hurt when people exhibit discriminative behavior towards other minorities, be it the foreign workers, other races, etc. In fact, in many parts of the world, Asians are being discriminated upon as well. I do not feel it is fair to discriminate anybody if you do not want to be discriminated upon as well.

Mis-informed judgement

I deliberated for a very long time whether I should write this post. Like I mentioned previously, I am out to everyone who knows me personally, but I have never mentioned anything about my sexuality on my own websites, because the possibility of being judged by business associates and clients. I do not think that it is fair to be judged if people do not have the chance to get to know me personally first. That is the precise point I am trying to make. It is not fair to make a sweeping statement representative of gay people if you have not personally experienced their personal lives and relationships.

Yet I eventually decided to write this post, just like how I decided to out myself to everyone I know when I was in my youth, because I believe people will accept me for the person I am and not base it on my sexuality. People who make pre-judgments would not really appreciate me for me anyway.

Lack of empathy

I do not think the new AWARE exco has once stopped to put themselves in the shoes of gay people, or in the shoes of those parents who have gay children. They simply do not understand or empathise and is only concerned on their own selfish agenda of doing things THEIR right way.

Think about those teens who are already confused about their sexuality prior to this whole AWARE saga and take a moment to imagine how they would feel now. Take their adolescent sensitivity into consideration, their pain of not being accepted by society and the people they love, and being labelled as abnormal, disgusting, and other tons of negative words the new exco and their church have used.

Standing up for AWARE

I do not have the literary gifts of Adrianna nor am I remotely close to the impressive outspoken Pat Law, but I write from my heart, truly and earnestly. My readership for this blog is nowhere near their numbers as well, but it does not matter. Every effort counts, and even if I fail to bring awareness to a single soul from this blog post, it does not matter. This is still my heartfelt attempt to find my voice for the women in Singapore.

They have both made theirs:

I have never been active in local politics or activism, and I doubt that I will ever be. However, I still made sure I cast my vote carefully during the General Elections. When the news first broke out that AWARE was under a coup, I read it with detached interest. Only when a friend sent a Facebook message asking her contacts to join a newly setup Facebook group in support of the 'old guard', did I actually even start to comprehend the gravity of the matter.

The above articles have already provided a good overview of what is happening. The Facebook group is an excellent resource and chronicle for the series of events leading up till now. Supporters of the old executive committee has also set up a new website advocating their stand.

Personally, it is really not about pro-gay vs anti-gay. It was how the new leadership had handled the whole takeover, in suspicious manner and circumstances. If they are aboveboard, why is it that their behavior and response have been evasive, to say the very least? Take away the supposed anti-gay agenda, I find it difficult to trust that these women will fight for our equal rights when they go to a church that preaches 'the wife is in subjection to the husband'. I believe that God will not discriminate against the minorities – women or homosexuals included. And I have faith that most of the church-goers I know have the same belief as well. It is precisely extremist views like this that gives religion a bad name.

I am tempted to remain in silence, tempted to believe that some women will definitely fight for the right causes, I am extremely public-shy after all. After a few mere seconds of deliberation, I knew in my heart I would not be able to answer to myself if I did not make an effort. If I do not make this effort, what right do I have to ask someone else to make the effort? If everyone shifts this responsibility, it is of no wonder why this even happened in the first place.

I will not hide anymore. I signed up at AWARE over the last weekend, and made sure I did my part on Facebook and Twitter. I was hoping that prominent bloggers like Adrianna and Pat will make a clear stand, and felt very comforted that they did, so did local celeb Irene Ang. It can be a sensitive situation for public figures like Irene, but she has eventually decided to turn up. On the other spectrum, being nobodies can mislead us into thinking that our voices do not matter – they do. In times like this, every voice counts,  and when the vote is being counted your status/job/etc does not matter. This is what equality is about.

I implore you to turn up and be heard. You do not even have to be in support of any side, but the point is to be aware of what is going on. AWARE has done a lot for us women in Singapore in the past, a huge factor why we women in Singapore live in comfort and security knowing we are protected. This is the time for you to do something for AWARE.