A call for compassion, dialogue and mutual understanding on LGBTQ issues

By Tiffany Gwee

A number of organisations and individuals have come together to back a statement that called for “compassion, dialogue and mutual understanding on LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning) issues”.

The statement, released on 22 June, currently has 11 organisations and 248 individuals backing it. It was written in response to the Wear White campaign that was organised by members of the Muslim community to protest the celebration of Pink Dot.

Pink Dot, an event organised by the LGBT community in support of the “freedom to love”, will be held this Saturday at Hong Lim Park.

Organisations that have backed this statement include groups like AWARE, Free Community Church and Women and Law in Islam (WALI) Working Group. Individuals that have backed this statement include renowned writers, actresses/actors and local activists. The full statement is available online.

The statement noted “with regret that (the) recent controversy is a sign of a ‘culture war’ that has taken root in Singapore”. It stated that this will “pose a significant challenge” in the building of a “harmonious society that thrives on diversity”.

It also affirmed the principles recited in the Singapore pledge – “to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

Taking a stand against discrimination

Signatories also affirmed their belief that no individual or group in a democracy should “impinge on others in an unjust manner”. This would mean that their freedom to completely express themselves must come with the “reciprocal responsibility to accord the same freedom to other people” – even when the others have beliefs totally different from their own.

According to the statement, no one should be “condemned” or “subjected to harassment or abuse” simply for supporting, participating or identifying with various LGBTQ issues.

It indicated support for equality, and that all forms of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation are “incompatible with the progressive value of equality this nation rests upon”.

“A just and harmonious society can only be achieved when the majority does not infringe upon and discriminate against any minority, including sexual minorities.”

The statement expressed concern over the continuous “dehumanizing portrayals of members of the LGBTQ community”.

It also referred to “extreme views”, such as a trend on social media that called for gays and lesbians to be targeted for public shaming and harassment. Homosexuality has also been deemed a “disease to be cured or exterminated”.

“There is a need, therefore, to increase public awareness on the plight of the LGBTQ community and their lived realities, as well as greater public education on issues pertaining to homosexuality.”

False Dichotomy between Religion and LGBTQ issues?

LGBTQ issues have often been said to be a conflict between “religious” and “secular” values. However, the statement notes this to be untrue. They mentioned that many religious leaders and organisations around the world have expressed support for LGBTQ equality.

“Religion is equally capable of upholding and supporting universal values such as democracy, justice and equality. In fact, these values form the ethical structure of many religions, including that of the major religions in Singapore.”

The statement encouraged the values to serve as “a bridge” when discussing issues on homosexuality across “the religious and non-religious spectrum”. It also ask for “enlightened religious leaders to make a stand in upholding these values in public discourse”.

Achieving Greater Understanding and Tolerance

The statement called for “greater dialogues across all spectrums of views”, with the similar aim of achieving “greater understanding and tolerance”.

The dialogues should be based on “compassion and knowledge”, rather than “ignorance, hatred and prejudice”.

Signatories indicated that it is only through such discussions that society can “overcome bigotry and ignorance” to “forge a harmonious society that respects and upholds the dignity of every human being”.