Dear Mr Syed Danial,
Earlier this week, I came across your article on Rilek1Corner, ‘No Muslim Should Join PinkDotSG’. I read about your vision, that one day a giant pro-family event for Muslims would be held on the eve of Ramadan, with picnics and speeches held in stadia all over the country – all kicked off by the Mufti’s announcement that he’s taking a strong official stance against LGBTs.
Needless to say, I don’t share your dream. In fact, I find it really heartbreaking that something as wholesome as a spiritual community picnic should be founded on such negativity and hatred.
Us gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* people are not anti-family. We also love our fathers and mothers and siblings, and some of us have children and life partners of our own. Many of us are practicing Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. We don’t want to destroy people’s faiths and cultures – we want to be included in them.
Still, I believe in freedom of speech. You’ve just as much a right to share your opinions online as I do. And strangely enough, I’ve found that what really, really bothers me about your article is that image of yourself with your daughter, paired with an icon saying, “Straight and Lovin’ It.”
I don’t doubt that you enjoy being straight. I’d probably enjoy being straight. Having a girlfriend and wife who makes my parents happy, looking forward to raising kids of my own with the support of the government and society – that’d be pretty cool.
As a gay man, I don’t get any of that. I have a boyfriend I love, but we can’t get government subsidies for a flat, adoption laws make it difficult for us to have kids. Current censorship laws make it illegal for us to be portrayed positively in the mainstream media, because that would count as “promoting homosexuality”. And of course, we have to face prejudice and ignorance, wearing us down every time we encounter them in the news and in person.
My point is, being straight is a privilege. And flaunting the joys of being a privileged person is a pretty obnoxious thing to do. Imagine a rich person saying to a poor person that he’s “Rich and lovin’ it.” Or a white American, saying to a group of Black and Latino Americans, saying that she’s “White and lovin’ it.” Or a physically abled person, telling a group of blind, deaf and wheelchair-bound people that he’s “Abled and lovin’ it.” That’s what you look like with your graphic.
It’s different when a disadvantaged person professes pride and joy in their lives. If a woman says she’s “Deaf and lovin’ it”, she’s reminding the world that her life still counts and is as rich as other people’s, in spite of all the barriers in front of her.
You might say that gay people are different – that we have a choice to live straight lives, as you do. But would you really want a closeted, sexually repressed gay man to marry your daughter? Do you really think he would be able to fulfill her emotional needs, as she deserves?
As a Chinese person in Singapore, I’m extremely privileged. Outdoors, I’m surrounded by people who speak my mother tongue. It’s easier for me to find a flat, to get employment, to escape racial profiling by the police. The government does not make decisions without considering my needs.
I recognize this isn’t fair – this is why, in 2012, I was active in getting SMRT to change its policy in only having its MRT announcements in English and Mandarin; that’s why earlier this year, I wrote about the injustice of not allowing musical instruments at Thaipusam. Being a sexual minority, I’m a little more sensitive to these issues of discrimination.
You don’t have to approve of the lives of LGBT people. I know that Islam, as it’s practised in Singapore today, makes it very difficult. But I believe that it’s possible for us to both recognise that we’re privileged and marginalized in different ways. One day, it might even be possible for us to be allies in activism, calling for laws that would make discrimination illegal, based on race, language, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
It would be wonderful if one day your pro-family Muslim event were held in Singapore, but in a way that emphasizes positivity and inclusion of families of many kinds. This is what gatherings and communities are for, after all. Not to divide, but to unite. Not to separate us, but to bring us together.
[spacer style=”1″ icon=”none”] http://rilek1corner.com/2014/03/09/of-lgbtq-lobby-and-liberal-islam-trends-in-the-muslim-community/