Go with a smile!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Pink Dot vs Religious Conservatives Confrontation

It has been very interesting Pink Dot session. Earlier on I had written a piece about why I thought that LGBT groups were taking the wrong tack.

In the intervening years that followed, it seemed that a lot of water had flowed under the bridge. And it does seem that my earlier article had overestimated the extent to which the government was willing to remain neutral on this issue. There was a time when Goldman Sachs held a recruitment talk for LGBT and Chan Chun Sing criticized it for not respecting the “norms” of society. I can understand if people thought that something like that overstepped the line: it’s actually a little discriminatory, even though there are such things as outreach programs to selected minorities. But that was something that was very easy to whack: you had an MNC that was probably unpopular and reflected foreign values. But it said something that CCS chose to whack them. IT meant that it was still OK to whack gay people in Singapore.

And Obama made that famous statement around one year ago, that he approve of gay marriage. He wasn’t the first to say that – it was Joe Biden’s big mouth that forced his hand. But he also said that his thoughts on the issue were evolving. And Hillary Clinton has also affirmed that she was going to be proclaiming the issue of gay rights around the world as part of US foreign policy.

Not long after that, the backlash began. India had 377 repealed for a while, and then it got overturned by the Supreme court of India. Vladimir Putin unfolded a series of harsh laws against gays in Russia. LGBT people in many African countries faced the death penalty. (In certain cases this may be related to the prevalence of AIDS on the continent). And in Singapore, many people were starting to organize a big backlash. There was the big “Wear White” movement among the Muslims. Then the archbishop of Singapore made this big statement of “we’re not discriminatory against gays but we think it’s wrong” (yeah right). The internet was abuzz with quite a bit of chatter.

Gay Lifestyle
As before, I said that the message was wrong. You shouldn’t really talk that much about “the freedom to love”. IT’s the freedom to love that the conservatives fear the most. They already talk about the gay lifestyle. Instinctively they reject anything outside very strict norms: one man, one woman, bound to each other for life. Instinctively they feel that the gay lifestyle is a rejection of their values. When they think of gays, they can’t help but think of gay sex, promiscuity and disease.

They conservative Christian view of LGBT is that gays choose their own lifestyle. That it is against the natural order of things (or depending on the doctrine, it’s against God’s chosen path – the Judeo Christian values isn’t exactly that respectful of Mother Nature). That condoning gay couples is exactly the same thing as condoning wanton behavior, promiscuity and anti-family values. That although it’s important to “hate the sin”, it was important to “love the sinner”. I’m not a Christian although I cringe at the glibness of this statement.

And they equate the “Christian position” with the conservative position, conveniently forgetting that Jesus himself was a liberal. There is a small but important group of gay rights activists who are conservative.

The funny thing, though, is that I read what Christians say about the topic and have to think through their warped world view. They actually feel kinda hurt that other people are accusing them of being hateful and unjust. But they have to cling on to their views even if it kills them, because that’s what faith is, isn’t it? The ability to soldier on even though everybody tells you you’re wrong. The more people tell you you’re wrong, the more God is testing your faith. And they tell of suffering, of having doubts because they see all those people who are gays and they’re so normal and unremarkable. But what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. And they feel so brokenhearted when their children embrace progressive causes. I mean it’s hard not to feel bad for them when they say that but at the same time it makes me glad that I’m not party to all that insane nonsense!

And I’ve had a few run-ins with a lot of friends of mine from school. It’s very interesting to be on Facebook and finally meet up with your friends from school, and realize what their political opinions are. It’s just as well that we weren’t free to talk about our political opinions, and we never got to realize that certain people were on the opposite side of the political spectrum from us. I’m actually glad that I got to know them as human beings first instead of being overly focused on our political differences. But then again it’s also pretty disturbing to me that all these guys who are nice and look normal actually subscribe to so much nuttiness.

There was this time when I was having this serious duel with a guy I knew from way back. He was talking about “having a common platform” on which we could agree on. I’m not sure what he meant. Did he mean that we adopt the premises that he started off with? But if that were the case, we would simply converge upon the “right” conclusions. IT’s hardly a compromise at all. And the problem is that the conservatives would simply treat the plurality of viewpoints as a weakness in the argument, rather than a strength that an argument lends itself equally to people of all spectrums. He actually said something like “are we so directionless as a society that we can’t find that much to agree on?” Almost as though it were unthinkable that ordinary decent people would ever find something to disagree with him on.

There was this story that might shed some light on how Christians might think. Jesus was tempted on his crucifixion by the devil, and vision appeared of him, and it was the work of Satan trying to tempt him into turning away. In that vision Jesus was just living the ordinary, happy life of a man raising his family and kids, trying to get by. Now if something like that can be transformed into the work of a devil, you have to think about – like they don’t trust their own personal feelings about matters. They don’t trust their intuition at all. They just need to get told about what is right and what’s wrong.

A lot of them talk about the consequences of having a policy that goes against what conservatives believe in. But that’s the problem with them: they put down a principle, and they don’t understand what happens when that principle is used against them. What is the consequences of having a policy (377A) which goes against what liberals believe in? Then that argument would fail! I’m starting to believe that there must be some inherent evolutionary advantage in being conservative. Because there has to be something that makes up for their lack of brains.

I’m very wary of having an argument with conservatives over this. Because I know that I’m pretty firm in my stand about LGBT, and I know that they’re also pretty firm, and the net result is that we’re going to be screaming past each other and nothing ever gets achieved. I would be open to talking to centrists about this, to try and reason with them to side with me and not the conservatives. With the conservatives, it’s just more important to just be mindful of maintaining relationships and not engage in a mode of behavior that can only lead to harm.

It’s a more useful thing to try and tear down their arguments which can be proven to be – if not totally bogus, then pretty dodgy.

1. The acceptance of gays is a reflection of the westernization of society.
False. Why? Because 377 was a colonial legacy left behind by the British and by the way the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth 2 does not think there is anything wrong with being gay. So the rejection of “excessive westernization” is highly selective and not valid.

2. The acceptance of gays is a reflection of the modernization of society.
False. People since antiquity have been gay.

3. Gays cannot serve in the military.
False. Alexander the Great, one of the best generals of all time, was gay.

4. Gayness is acquired, and people have a choice in this matter.
My belief is that same sex attraction is not voluntary, mostly. My opposite sex attraction is not voluntary and I don’t see why it’s different for gays. They’ve done a lot of studies and they’ve found that it’s possibly due to womb chemistry or something. Or maybe somebody’s found a gay gene.

Christian values are acquired and people do have a choice whether or not they’re Christian. And I don’t see people complaining about that.

5. Acceptance of gays is down to an extremely small minority.
That’s what gay marches are for. It’s a chance for this myth to be dispelled. And people hope that many who voice their support for gay rights would trigger sympathisers who would otherwise have remained silent to lend their voices.

6. Gays are against family values.
Gay people are perfectly capable of raising kids as well as straight couples. Meaning they are no better or worse. There are a lot of people who have been raised by gay couples and they can testify that there’s nothing wrong with gay couples. But the problem is that as with straight parents, there are also problematic gay parents, and these black sheep are just going to provide you with a stick to beat them with.

Conversely I wanted to speak out against the way that people put up pictures with their family in the name of “promoting family values” and speaking up against the gay scourge. That really took the cake. Leave your kids out of this. Using pictures of your kids to promote hate speech is just deeply offensive.

7. Gays are the equivalent of pedophilia.
Although I can personally fight for gay rights, there’s no way I’m going to condone pedophilia. Yes, some of the arguments are the same. Pedophiles have an inborn predisposition towards sexual feelings for children. It’s probably a big struggle to overcome it. Also pedophilia is not rape unless you act on it. But that’s where the similarities end. The crucial difference between pedophiles and gays is that a long lasting union between gay people is possible, and the same with a pedophile and a child is not. What happens when the child grows up and is no longer desired by the pedophile? If the child has sex with the pedophile, even though it’s with consent, does he have the maturity to make this decision?

8. The acceptance of gays is a symbol of moral laxity
It’s easy to assume, once you have decided that being gay is a sin, that people accept homosexuality because they’re lowering their moral standards. Gay rights advocates do not think that way. They don’t think “well it’s sorda a sin but we should be more forgiving towards them”. Instead it’s more like “being gay is not a sin. But being homophobic is a sin”. Which means that protecting the rights of gays is more of a moral imperative. In other words, when we are decrying the prejudice against gay people, we are also decrying sin. Your sin.

9. The acceptance of gays is synonymous of the over-sexualisation of society
To be fair, a lot of gay pride people bring upon themselves problems. Gay sex, no matter how you paint it, is about fucking somebody in the ass. And it is, will always be, associated with a certain aesthetic that some people will find objectionable. And numbering amongst the gay rights activists will always be a few people who not only advocate for gay sex, but also advocate the gay lifestyle. Which is not only about acceptance of gay people, but also about a promiscuous lifestyle. Personally I’m agnostic about that. But what is clear to me is that this makes it much more difficult for people to swallow or accept gay rights. And they’re really going to lose a lot of friends if they were to go down that route of “free love”. This really has nothing to do with gay sex or whatever. Straight people are perfectly capable of misbehaving. This actually has more to do with drawing tribal lines and rubbing peoples’ faces into the dirt than anything constructive.

Also, I want to bring attention to a guy whose views have been quoted at length by the anti-gay brigade. This guy is a tool. Luckily he's not in charge of the LGBT movement. He doesn't have a strategy. He only wants to say provocative things that offend conservatives without considering how they're going to get alarmed and fight back.

He charges the organisers of Pink Dot with not allowing condoms to be distributed at the event. To me this is a very sensible thing. You want to be controlling the messaging, and the messaging you want is to dissociate people from thinking that LGBT is all about casual sex. He charges them with organizing security. Well of course you want to have security measures. Last thing you need is for there to be a riot at Pink Dot and all permissions for rallies at Hong Lim Park get cancelled. And he complains about how Pink Dot doesn’t allow for a plurality of views, and I’m like, why don’t you organize your own fucking gay march?

You want your messaging to appeal to average Singaporeans. Make it nice, warm, fuzzy, not threatening to family values, cute. That is the approach that has the best chance of succeeding. The colour pink is not an accident. It is a mixture of red and white – the colours of the Singapore flag, even as it is the traditional colour of the gay rights movement. Notice that they did not put up the rainbow. Cosmopolitanism is not such an in thing these days. Singaporeans still prefer their old national identity. The glittering dot reminds your of those old National Day parades. It’s something warm and familiar. It has to be contextualized as something that Singaporeans can identify with – a happy day out with your friends. It has to be a Singapore friendly image. Is that too much to ask?

People instinctively think that you have to discuss things, and that differences have to be resolved. Perhaps. But these things are only useful when people are willing to listen. Where it is useful is when people know they can make compromises and learn not to step on each other’s toes. But there are some fundamental irreconcilable differences.

If there is anything that the past few months have shown us, it's that the battle for civil rights is a constant one. One year has passed since Obama's statement on gay marriage, and already the backlash has started. Putin has passed more stringent anti-gay laws. There is death for gay people in East Africa.

Everything can slide back, especially when it comes to progressive causes. Put in universal suffrage in the Civil Rights Act, and somebody will come up with a new way of disenfranchising black people. Set up a union and somebody will come up with a way to clamp down on it. Start a war on poverty and somebody will find a way to screw it up and close it down.

Progressing forward is only one half of the story. The other half is how are you going to reconcile with and meet halfway the political adversaries? They are going to be around for a long time. How do you come up with a solution that is satisfactory for all parties concerned? How are you going to convince a bunch of nutcases that repealing 377A doesn't mean that everybody is going to take their trousers off and start screwing each other?

When you look at the other people across the barricades, you can see that they aren't half bad people a lot of the time. They stand up for what they think is right. They are often but not always kind to their friends and family. There is so much I have in common with them - I think that life has to have a purpose, I believe in family and friends, although probably to a smaller extent than they do. But when you read all the crazy shit they're writing on the internet, you know that they live in a different moral universe than yours. You know that you have views that they would find crazy, and they have views that you would find crazy. It would be easy if we could progress to a point where the critical mass of people agree that gay sex is perfectly OK, and they found themselves in an outmoded minority, just like the KKK and racism. But I don't know if we'll get to that point.


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