The following is an email sent to the Health Minister, Gan Kim Yong.
Dear Minister Gan Kim Yong,
Warm wishes for this Lunar New Year! We hope you have had an enjoyable festive celebration with your family and friends this season.
Like Singaporeans everywhere, the LGBT community celebrated the Lunar New Year with their families too. It was a time for many to reunite with family members and relatives not seen for a long time, a phenomenon not uncommon in Singapore. Yet for many LGBT men and women, there has always been an underlying dread when well-meaning relatives begin probing on the usual “why don’t you have a girlfriend / boyfriend?” track. Hence for many LGBT Singaporeans, Chinese New Year is unfortunately a season where white lies have to be told.
As a gay Singaporean, I viewed the FAQ on Sexuality addressed towards not just gay men and women, but their families and loved ones too, published by the Health Promotion Board with pleasant surprise and the glimmerings of hope. Hope that my Government has taken a small yet crucial step towards acknowledging LGBT citizens not as social deviants, outcasts or with reference to Section 377A, ‘criminals’ yet to be brought up on charges.
Hope that my Government realises that its gay men and women simply wish to live their lives like any other normal citizen, free to pursue their aspirations, fall in love with the person of their dreams and work towards building the future they want in Singapore. As part of the whole “new year, new beginnings” vibe, the FAQ On Sexuality displayed a subtle yet positive and objective affirmation of the LGBT community. It was on the whole, very heartening.
However the recent events by the lesser informed has diminished those glimmerings of hope, not just for me but for many other LGBT men and women. For many of us, the petition for the removal of the FAQ conjures up the spectre of the persecutor who seems determined to deny gay men and women the right to live normal, fulfilling lives. In essence, such efforts calls to mind the taunting school yard bully, who emboldened by an enabling authority, takes it upon his own to ensure that anyone different is cast in the light of shame and inequity. By amending various portions of the FAQ, the Government seems to lend credence to his claims that gay men and women should not be recognised as normal citizens of Singapore.
Perhaps it is time to share a little more about myself. For the past fifty-one weeks, I administer a local-based ‘confessions’ page on Facebook. It is a platform for gay men and women to submit their thoughts, fears and worries. Thoughts that are often unspoken and repressed for fear of prejudice and rejection by those around them. Minister Sir, I am sure you are aware of the “closet” stigma many gay men and women are trapped in, but until you have read over 9,000 (and counting!) ‘confessions’ of the same strain, you may be surprised at how many of us live our daily lives in dread and sadness.
Many of us are forced to lead lives of pretence, unsure of how to even begin broaching the subject of their sexuality to family and friends. No thanks to the lack of available information, some have fell prey to unsavoury habits and have to face consequences they regret for the rest of their lives.
Aside from posting such confessions, I engage readers on a one-to-one basis via the private messaging tool. Often it is youths and young adults who are desperate, not to “get laid” but for proper information on identifying and coping with their developing sexuality. As an amateur, I struggle with the lack of credible resources to provide and arm them with such information for them to make proper decisions. Thankfully, there are efforts such as those by Action for Aids that take it upon themselves to publish and make available such information. Still, these efforts are often faced with apprehension and personal worries as they are “independent”, seem to lack credulity and certainly not endorsed by the Government.
The FAQ on Sexuality is therefore a crucial piece of information that should, nay needs to be disseminated to youths, concerned parents and even counsellors and medical practitioners everywhere. Untrue to many misinformed claims, credible information about LGBT sexuality, like the one published by HPB, does NOT convert heterosexuals into homosexuals, or vice versa. Such invaluable information instead clarifies and lays to rest the mental stresses of uncertainty, self loathing and fear.
With such a critical resource, more gay men and women would be able to take proper measures and precautions, hopefully reducing sexual transmission of diseases. Such efforts are already afforded to heterosexuals in Singapore; I am at a loss to fathom why anyone wishes to deny similar resources to the LGBT community.
I am in a committed relationship of three and a half years. Like many of my peers, heterosexual or otherwise, our relationship is based on the tenets of love, commitment, trust, honesty, fidelity and all the other aspects that contribute towards a long-lasting relationship. Like any couple, we work hard during the week and go out on the weekends to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life and each other’s company.
Unlike many of my gay peers however, my family is accepting and non-questioning of my sexuality, similar to my workplace. Our relationship is not celebrated nor viewed “differently” from any other, it is simply acknowledged as any other loving couple. It is that kind of affirmation many gay men and women hope for, no more no less. it is the kind of joyful existence I sincerely wish more of my gay peers could experience. Sadly, stories like mine are few and far in between in the local LGBT community.
In conclusion Minister Sir, the LGBT community is not requesting for an overnight sea of change. While we look (sometime enviously) towards efforts sweeping the world when it comes to LGBT equality, we merely request humbly to no longer lead our lives in the shadows. Neither do we demand that the Government validate our existence with special ratifications. We merely wish to not be discriminated in our workplace, schools and even at home.
At this point, I would also like to thank the CEO of Health Promotion Board, Mr Zee Yoong Kang and his team for their objectivity in publishing the FAQ on Sexuality and hope that the misguided pressure to edit or alter its contents would abate and reinstate the links to crucial LGBT related resources. I hope your support for such a noble endeavour could be counted on.
Thank you for your attention and I wish you and your family, the very best of health.
Nicholas Lim aka “GC”, Administrator of Gay SG Confessions
Supported by Doreen, Administrator of Lesbian Sg Confessions