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MDA: Abnormalizing the normal?

by Joshua Chiang


"Homosexuality will eventually be accepted. It’s already accepted in China. It’s a matter of time before it’s accepted here.”

- Lee Kuan Yew, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going

The funny thing about our Government sometimes is how the more they try to put a lid on certain issues, the more publicity they give to those very issues. There was the episode with Alan Shadrake, in which the contempt of court charge against him made his book ‘Once A Jolly Hangman” an instant hit. Then the attempt to gazette The Online Citizen doubled its readership overnight. And now this unprecedented move to limit the screening of the movie “The Kids Are Alright” to just one print. To be honest, I haven’t even heard of the movie until I read the news this morning. (Yes I have been living under a rock for quite some time.) Now after this move by the MDA I am pretty sure people will be rushing to catch the movie. And the gay debate will no doubt be reignited again.

Alex Au summed it up very nicely why MDA’s latest move is so reprehensible. In his blog he wrote:

“Gay sex can be suggested in non-explicit ways in film, but gay people living ordinary, respectable lives, doing non-sexual things, (e.g. raising a family and looking after children) cannot. It really boils down to reinforcing a policy that has been in effect for a long time: Gay people can be depicted as deviants that come to tragic ends, but any positive portrayal must be cut out.”

Of course, the MDA can claim that its policies on gay-themed films are based on the fact that the majority are not ready to accept it. However as Kirsten Han pointed out in her blog:

‎”If Singaporeans are consistently taught in school that homosexuality is abnormal and that homosexual acts (between men, strangely not between women) are criminalised, and the tightly-controlled media constantly implies that homosexuality is a vice, isn’t it really a self-fulfilling prophecy to say that the government needs to take such a stance against homosexuality because the people aren’t ready for homosexuals?”

The point is, the Government cannot claim to be only doing what the ‘majority’ wants as if it had nothing to do with it, especially when evidence of how it’s misrepresentation of homosexuality is abound in its very rules and regulations.

According to the Board of Film Censors classification guidelines, “films should not promote or normalise a homosexual lifestyle”.

The first question that comes to my mind was, what’s abnormal about the ‘lifestyle‘ of a homosexual anyway? True, some people may consider gay sex to be abnormal and against nature. But a more troubling aspect isn’t the orientation or even the sexual act itself, but how the label of abnormality has been cast onto all aspects of the homosexual person –  his/her very life.

You see, it isn’t enough for a homosexual to have a different sexual orientation. He/she needs to have a lifestyle. Quite frankly, I have no idea what a homosexual lifestyle is. I put up a tongue-in-cheek post on The Online Citizen’s Facebook page in which I asked readers if they exhibit certain ‘lifestyle’ traits people often stereotype homosexuals with, for eg – going to the gym often and having more than one sex partner.

Quite a few responded that they had some of the traits, but they were straight. There were others who were deeply offended as they believed I was making a very tasteless joke. Unfortunately, it would be funny if it isn’t true that many people still hold such views of the homosexual person.

The point is, besides sexual orientation, how many homosexuals are truly different from just about anyone on the street? And yet it is much easier to close our eyes such normality, and choose inside to confine the entire homosexual community to the caricature of the effeminate gay, the ‘butch’ lesbian, the drug-taking casual-sex loving hedonist. But the caricature serves a very strong purpose. It gives validity why homosexuality should be discouraged and censured at all costs. It makes the very wrong action of discrimination seem right. God forbid that the homosexual is actually very normal. We can’t be seen to be discriminating against normal people who happen to swing another way. But we would be justified if they are doing anti-social stuff, like taking drugs, soliciting for sex in public toilets (have there been any official statistics on the number of people caught for public indecency and how many of them are actually homosexuals? And yet the gays get all the limelight in the papers) and partying like there’s no tomorrow.

That is not to say there are no homosexual who fit these descriptions. But the homosexual people I know generally don’t. (In fact I learnt to my dismay that a very straight-looking girl I was trying to date in the past is a lesbian) Their lifestyles include going to work, shopping, eating, going to the mall, reading, you know, boring stuff. I know of quite a few straight friends who have a much more interesting lifestyle.

So what exactly is MDA trying to prevent from being ‘normalized’? Was ‘The Kids Are Alright’ glamorizing homosexuality or was it merely showing the protagonists, a lesbian couple as being no different from ordinary folks like you and I?

It’s one thing to say a certain law exists because the majority of people do not accept the lifting of the law, and another that justifies its existence by artificially creating the need for its existence to begin with.

In his latest book, the Minister Mentor wrote: ”I take a practical view. I said this is happening and there’s nothing we can do about it. Life’s like that. People are born like that. It’s not new, it goes back to ancient times.”

Unfortunately, MDA’s latest move shows that as far as homosexuality is concerned, the Government is determined to keep it’s citizenry in the Victorian age while pretending that it is the people who wants it that way.

This article first appeared on The Offline Citizen. The writer is also the Chief Editor of The Online Citizen. When he is not busy writing for The Online Citizen, he moonlights as a blogger in which he posts stuff not related to TOC. Recently he’s been finding the lines increasingly blurred.