Baey Yam Keng, Parliament Secretary for Minister of Culture, Community, and Youth, was quoted to have said that today’s youth may be more open to LGBT rights but he believes one’s stance on homosexuality changes with age and having children.
This was in response to a question asked by a student on the government’s decision to ban the scene of same-sex kiss in Les Miserables and whether the move was considered to be inclusive.
Mr Baey was attending Heroes Seminar, a week-long conference organised by Ngee Ann Polytechnic for its students.
He said that there is an online article shared which highlighting the above statement. Therefore, he elaborates his views on his Facebook page, stating that he may not have been fully reported or understood.
“Views in the society on LGBT and various social issues are diverse, which is not necessarily a bad thing. What is important is our mind-set towards accepting differences,” he wrote.
He said that the government has to make policies based on public interest. Sometimes it is a position catering to the majority view, sometimes it is a judgement call. Policies can steer the public to a certain aspiration / desired outcome, or policies can be made based on what the society at large is comfortable is.
On LGBT, Prime Minister has said during the Section 377A parliamentary debate in 2007, “we live and let live”.
Comparing the lead up to the debate nine years ago and today, Mr Baey said that there have been similar opposing views expressed in public.
“When I referred to them as ‘extreme views’, I do not mean that they are ‘extremist’. They are on the two extreme ends of the whole spectrum of society. Hence, I am interested to know how the majority, who has been mostly silent, feel,” he said.
“There have been surveys and studies on people’s attitudes towards LGBT. I do not know if there is one which is definitive or conclusive. However, I believe that a snapshot of the Singapore society today, would tell us that younger Singaporeans are generally more open-minded compared to the older members who hold more traditional views,” he added.
He said that the point he said on “one’s stance on homosexuality changes with … having children”, he was responding specifically to the question asked on banning a same-sex kiss in the Singapore staging of Les Miserables, that a parent might feel uncomfortable explaining to a child when asked why two men were kissing.
“I know I can speak for fellow parents, that we are typically ill prepared to discuss matters of a sexual nature, even pertaining to mainstream lifestyles,” he said.
He said that one’s views would sometimes change too based on our life stage, which include notions of what is fun and danger, social norms, moral values and personal conviction.
“PM has said “it is better to let the situation evolve gradually”. I am sure that my children’s generation will be more accepting of different sexual orientations, just like my generation is more liberal minded compared to my parents’,” he added.
Commenting on Mr Baey’s facebook post, freelance journalist and activist, Kirsten Han wrote that Mr Baey’s comment is again passing the buck on to some amorphous silent majority without acknowledging the impact of government policy, and the unequal power dynamics at play.
She noted that the retention of S377A (even if not enforced) and the censorship policies relating to LGBT/LGBT-themed content (which *is* enforced) is not “live and let live”. It does steer the public towards a “certain aspiration/desired outcome” because it makes it harder for the wider public to understand and empathise with LGBT people and their struggles, and why it is important for them to have their rights respected.
Stating that in fact, it is the repeal of 377A and the removal of censorship that is “live and let live”; people who do not approve of LGBT people or their relationships will still be free to hold this opinion and even express their disapproval. 377A and censorship infringes the rights of LGBT people, whereas their removal infringes on no one’s rights. People do not have the right to demand for things to be censored or banned.
“Sure, parents might feel uncomfortable or find it difficult to explain to their kids why two men are kissing. But perhaps we should ask ourselves why that is so much more difficult to explain than any number of more intimate heterosexual acts?” she wrote. In Les Miserables, Fantine ends up abused and exploited as a sex worker after being thrown out of her job by a pervy manager who sexually harassed her.
She added, “I would argue that it’s again because of the policies we have that stigmatise LGBT people.”
“There are tons of awkward subjects that a parent will have to broach with their children. We can not ban them just because parents are ill-prepared to discuss them; we need to support parents in their preparation.”
Ms Han ended her post by noting that “there is no such thing as mainstream/alternative lifestyles.”.