National University of Singapore (NUS) associate professor Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied recently published a Facebook post on his views towards lesbianism. His original post called it a “cancer”, a “social disease” and urged parents and schoolteachers to guide “misled youths” to “what’s right with knowledge and wisdom”.
NUS provost later sent a circular saying that Dr Khairudin had been counselled for the use of “provocative, inappropriate and offensive language”. The institution’s spokesperson reiterated NUS’ policy of a culture of respect regardless of sexual orientation. The two NUS students and one alumnus who reported Dr Khairudin’s Facebook post said that he had removed a second Facebook post after the one in contention, with the title “When Liberals Become Oppressive”.
Tania De Rozario, co-founder and curator at Etiquette SG, went on Facebook to share her thoughts. Republished with permission and edited for grammar and hyperlinks.
Late last year, some anonymous coward grabbed a photo of a family member of mine, taken at a queer event, and put it up on his page. He made public her face, name, work address and professional history. He cc-ed her place of employment in an effort to get her into trouble.
More recently, one of my friends saw an article she had written about her experiences as a young queer, purposefully re-appropriated with a new title, different images, and posted on a website that effectively fucked up her relationship with her family, exposed her to homophobic backlash and brought her employment status into question.
What do these two incidents have in common besides the fact that they were perpetrated by assholes and without reason? The fact that two people I care about were made to go through – and are still going through – emotional trauma because their sexual orientation was seen as material that had the potential for blackmail, scandal and/or dismissal.
The worst part about that? The fact that being a sexual minority does have potential for blackmail, scandal and/or dismissal. Because if it didn’t, this sort of passive-aggressive harassment wouldn’t be such a common tactic for people looking to shame and/or silence queer voices/experiences in the first place.
Most recently, a local professor posted a public status update that paralleled lesbianism with “cancer”, saying that it must be “stopped in its tracks” because “all diseases must end at home”. While one might be entitled to one’s own point of view, there is no excuse for language that perpetuates fear and hate about a community that is already marginalised. When a fellow academic requested that he take the post down, he was labeled an “oppressive liberal”.
Rightttt. Cos you know, we “oppressive liberals” are the ones going around making sure that people not of our sexual orientation or gender identity, are criminalised under state law, right? We are the ones using words like “battle-cry” when we do so, right? We are the ones recommending reparative therapy that has, time and again, been proven to do psychological damage, right? We are the ones discriminating against people who do not fit into narrow ideas of what constitutes “family”, right? We are making sure that couples not of our sexual orientation, are discriminated against in terms of housing, insurance and security right? We are the ones trying to eradicate an entire community’s experiences/narratives from local education, healthcare, history, art, culture and media, right? We are the ones who use derogatory language on people with whom we share public space, simply because of who they are holding hands with, right? We are the ones making fun of others whose gender expressions do not fit into our systems of belief or frameworks of understanding, right? We are the ones trying to ensure someone else might be lawfully denied the legal right to be by their partner’s deathbed by virtue of not being “family”, right? Righttttt.
I mean, seriously, you poor sweetheart. You are feeling “oppressed” because someone called you out on paralleling a minority community to a “cancer” that needs to be “cleansed”? Well, welcome to the queer experience – glad you could join us! “Oppressive liberals” think your post should not exist the same way people like you think LGBTQ people should not exist. The backlash you received from that one post is the backlash we live with on a daily basis, just for being who we are. Except that despite your painfully obvious delusions of grandeur, your post is eventually going to fade into oblivion while we will continue to experience discrimination, violence and familial loss due to people, like you, who think we are some sort of dangerous “disease”.
Let it be known: I am sick and tired of people telling queers, queer activists/allies and any human being with a moral conscience, to stop “making noise” about discrimination that “doesn’t exist”, when this sort of bullshit happens so often. And I am sick and tired of people backing that statement up with the government’s claim that Section 377A is only there for “symbolic” purposes and will “not be enforced”.
Because guess what? The “symbolism” embodied by 377A is being enforced every fucking day.
Oh sorry, do I need to extend the laundry list?
Recently, in between all the above-mentioned incidents, photography project “People of Singapore” uncovered the story of a young woman who has faced everything from homelessness to rape threats because of her sexual orientation; a former student from Dunman High wrote an open letter about the consistent harassment she received from teachers throughout her secondary school education because of her sexual orientation; an activist friend casually recalled threats of assault she’s received because of the work that she does.
And in the meantime, the media is regulated by guidelines that lump queer people with terrorists, certain commercial establishments still think it’s OK to deny entry to transgender patrons, and egomaniacs hiding under the cloak of “religious belief” spread misinformation about how everyone’s families are “under attack” because gay people are being accorded access to information regarding their health.
Yes. The “families are under attack” argument. Again. Because you know, as queers, we don’t have families and as babies, we were dropped off by cyborg storks who equipped us with some sort of missile technology aimed at the nearest group of people who look vaguely related or live together as a household. Yes. Queers have so much time, energy and weaponry, that they’re looking to attack everyone else’s families. Even though theirs have been invalidated, discriminated against and rendered invisible for years. Even though every single person I know who has been beaten up or thrown out of their house because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has experienced this misfortune at the hands of people who wield “Family Values” in one hand and violence in the other.
Really? We are oppressing you? If any of you out there really believe that, then please, by all means, go cry in a corner and bring your pity parade with you. In fact, let me “victimise” all of you further by relating an uncomfortable truth that lacks concern for your poor, poor, hurt feelings:
If you are one of the people who signed a petition to deny queer people access to information regarding healthcare, you are participating in a culture that is responsible for all of abovementioned discrimination/violence against LGBTQ people in Singapore. If you are one of the people applauding individuals who pull bigotry out of their arses the same way they pull rabbits out of hats, you are participating in a culture that is responsible for all of abovementioned discrimination/violence against LGBTQ people in Singapore. If you are one of those people who snickers every time you see a positive representation of a queer person in the media, who spouts a derogatory word when you see two people of the same sex holding hands, who purposefully and spitefully refuses to address transgender individuals by the correct pronouns, you are participating in a culture that is responsible for all of abovementioned discrimination/violence against LGBTQ people in Singapore.
Get it? You are complicit. Do whatever you want to make yourself feel better. It does not matter. Deny the allegation with “But I have gay friends”, justify your stand using ideological beliefs, shirk responsibility by chanting “silent majority”, use “Asian Values” as a suit of armour, quote scientific articles you’ve not actually read, remind yourselves that being righteous hurts, relinquish your guilt to a higher power, find comfort in knowing that that last queer kid who killed themselves was not your child, not your sibling, not your friend, not your spouse.
Seriously, do whatever makes you feel better. Because it doesn’t matter. Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, you are responsible for this violence. So instead of imagining oppression where it is not, why not start owning your actions and taking responsibility for the harm that they cause.
Seriously, over the past month, looking at the state of our social landscape, I have almost started believing the government when it says that it will not enforce 377A.
After all, why would it have to when its citizens do it so well?