Singapore LGBT letter: Even hurting, let’s win with love

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Legal challenges to Singapore’s law against gay sex have raised hopes for change, but also have led to a conservative backlash.

In response, a coalition of LGBTQ groups today issued a statement of encouragement and consolation to “Singapore’s LGBT Community and Friends.” It states:

While many of us are understandably hurt, even angered, by some insensitive comments that have been made, and there is fear that justice and equality may not prevail, it is important that we stay rational and keep calm.

There will be little to be gained from responding to vitriol with more vitriol. In the words of Gandhi, “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.” Let us not devolve into the very image of the angry and intolerant, whose hearts and minds we ought to win over through love and kindness. Misinformation is best countered rationally, with facts.

In the next two months, the Singapore High Court is scheduled to hear two cases  challenging the law, Section 377A of the Penal Code, which bans same-sex activity between men.

Attorney-General Steven Chong

Attorney-General Steven Chong

On Jan 22, the office of Attorney-General Steven Chong issued a statement warning the public to refrain from commenting on the cases. But on Jan. 28, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he wants to keep the law,  even though it is not enforced.

“Why is that law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it,” he said, according to the Singapore newspaper Today.

He referred to  comments he made in 2007 about the decision to keep the law but not enforce it. At that time, he called the decision a “practical arrangement that has evolved out of our historical circumstances” that “reflects the social norms and attitudes,” adding, “It’s better to accept the legal untidiness and the ambiguity. It works; don’t disturb it.”

On Jan. 13, megachurch founding pastor Lawrence Khong claimed, with former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in the audience, that the law against same-sex relations is a “basic building block and foundation of our society.” He said:

We see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society. It takes away the rights of parents over what their children are taught in schools, especially sex education. It attacks religious freedom and eventually denies free speech to those who, because of their moral convictions, uphold a different view from that championed by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists.

We love our nation. We sincerely pray for and look to the Government to provide moral leadership in preserving this basic building block and foundation of our society.

Goh’s office declined to comment on his position on Section 377A. It said that his attendance at the church meeting and a supportive comment he made to Khong was “a general remark that people are free to stand by their beliefs.”

Here is the full text of the coalition’s statement:

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

”To Singapore’s LGBT Community and Friends,

Recent events have caused much grief to many of us. Issues surrounding being LGBT are once again cast in the limelight and being discussed in the media. Hateful words have been used, disinformation has been spread as fact, and our leaders’ positions do not appear to be evolving. While many of us are understandably hurt, even angered, by some insensitive comments that have been made, and there is fear that justice and equality may not prevail, it is important that we stay rational and keep calm.

There will be little to be gained from responding to vitriol with more vitriol. In the words of Gandhi, “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.” Let us not devolve into the very image of the angry and intolerant, whose hearts and minds we ought to win over through love and kindness. Misinformation is best countered rationally, with facts.

At times like this, it is especially difficult for those of us who are not yet ‘out’ and feel like we are living with stigma on our own. The issue may be debated among our peers – at the workplace, in school or in National Service – or even with family members at home. It may be placing undue pressure on those of us who fear being ‘outed’ if we simply took a stand.

Remember, you are not alone. There is a strong community of people – straight and LGBT – who understand what you are going through. It is important that we lend support to one another at this difficult time. While the resources are few, they are available, thanks to the efforts of our own community. You can find links to some of them below.

Let us also keep reminding ourselves that the two constitutional challenges on Section 377a of the Penal Code are ultimately judicial processes. They are set to be heard in the Courts in a few weeks. We should allow Justice to run its course and respect the sanctity of the Judiciary. We urge the community to stay calm and await the court’s decision. May justice prevail.

Meanwhile let us continue to reach out in our own personal capacities to those around us, to demonstrate and affirm that who we love should not make us less equal as sons and daughters of Singapore. And when opportunities arise for us to come together, let us be sure to stand up and be counted.

Some useful links for those in need of support:

-  Oogachaga’s CARE Counselling Service for LGBT people
http://www.oogachaga.com/congregaytion/website/care

-  SAFE Singapore: Support for family and friends of LGBT people
http://safesingapore.blogspot.sg/

-  Young Out Here: LGBT Youth Support
http://young-out-here.blogspot.sg/

-  Sayoni’s resources for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women
http://www.sayoni.com/glbt-resources/coming-out

-  Pelangi Pride Centre: Singapore’s LGBT community and resource centre
http://www.pelangipridecentre.org/

-  Pink Dot SG website & YouTube channel
http://pinkdot.sg/
http://www.youtube.com/user/pinkdotsg

About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" blog. More profile information on Google+. Colin Stewart, un vétéran du journalisme de 40 ans, est éditeur et rédacteur en chef du blog "Erasing 76 Crimes." Plus d'informations de profil sur Google+.
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5 Responses to Singapore LGBT letter: Even hurting, let’s win with love

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