There has been much silliness in Singapore recently when it comes to LBGT rights, rather a lot of it from religious groups and individuals. In fact, there’s been so much silliness that it’s easy to forget what LBGT rights are actually about. In the face of epic bigotry in the name of “family values,” it’s easy to forget what LBGT rights are actually about, at the most basic and human level.
The “traditional family unit” is supposedly – in the worldview of those who would defend mysterious “attacks” on the traditional “family unit” – comprised of hetero men and women who make babies.
What about divorce?
Is it still a “traditional family unit” if it’s broken? What about extramarital affairs? Loveless marriages bound only by duty? How about domestic violence and marital rape? Do these things not threaten the apparently membrane-thin strength of the “traditional family unit”? I imagine that two homosexuals in a consensual, healthy, loving relationship do far less damage to the “traditional family unit” than you know, divorce – if they do any damage at all, and that is a big “if.” Strangely, one doesn’t see religious bigots coming out in force to protest divorce, marital rape, or extramarital affairs.
It is wholly ludicrous that “family values” are heralded as the model on which everyone must base their relationships. It is as ridiculous as telling me that I cannot love brown-eyed boys, but must only love and eventually marry blue-eyed boys, because you have extrapolated and massaged religious doctrine as proof that I cannot love brown-eyed boys, and because your idea of the “traditional family unit” demands that I only love men approved by your religious doctrine.
I hate to break it to those using the rallying cry of religion and moral panic to propagate intolerance, but it isn’t actually about you.
It’s not about attacks on one sexual orientation or another. Or about politicking and winning the pink vote for the next general election. It’s not about straight people who feel threatened by the fact that the LBGT community does not fit in a neat box labelled “heterosexual baby-makers/ traditional family unit/ insert appropriate tagline attempting to generate moral panic.” It’s about treating people with respect, with compassion, with a shred, just a shred, of empathy. This is what I learned in the Portaloo queue at Pink Dot on Saturday.
I happened to glance at the queue next to mine, when a young man in that queue (let’s call him Ted) grinned at me. It was the commiserative grin shared by those queuing up for a Portaloo apparently occupied by someone giving birth to an entire galaxy, and taking their time about it. I grinned back, shaking my head, and Ted trotted over to my queue and began chatting with me. I learned that he was gay and had been out for barely a year, and this was his first time attending Pink Dot. I told him that I was straight, and it was my second Pink Dot. He seemed pleasantly shocked by this revelation, and asked why I was there. I told him that if I woke tomorrow and the world had changed overnight to a place where girls loving boys was the exception to the norm, I would hope that society would be compassionate and tolerant enough to let me love who I wanted to love. Thus, I felt it was important to show support for LGBT rights, especially as a straight person. When Ted heard this, he hugged me (it was startling at first, as I am largely unused to strangers hugging me). But the joy on his face and the tears in his eyes made me realize that this is what LBGT rights are really about. They’re about treating people like human beings.
He told me that I had really made his day, and to hear me say what I’d said, as a straight person, was the highlight of Pink Dot for him. Now, I’m not the sort of person who gets emotional in public, as a rule, but this got me right in the heart. Ted hugged me again and dabbed at his eyes before insisting that I go first (the erstwhile planet-birthing occupant of the Portaloo was finally done). I am indescribably thankful for our short conversation, because I don’t think I fully comprehended before this, how vital it is for straight people to speak up if they do support LBGT rights.
It’s a lot easier to hate, to fear the unknown, the Other, the unfamiliar. It’s easier to label and draw lines in the sand than to step out of your comfort zone. Straight people, I don’t think any of us will ever understand what it is to grow up LBGT in Singapore. If your god or your god’s laws or men who wrote your god’s laws dictate that thou shalt not be LBGT, so be it. However, religious doctrine, “family values” or fear of the unfamiliar are not excuses for bigotry, hatred or discrimination. They are not. You can be better than this.
And as I learned in the Portaloo queue at Pink Dot, it really is as simple as showing some empathy to another human being in another long queue, who is after all, not so very different from you.