One of the issues raised by some communities regarding Pink Dot SG is that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) relationships go against traditional family values. Do they, really? Founder Tan Lili speaks to a few people for their takes on this hot topic.
It’s two days to Pink Dot SG 2014, an annual event that promotes inclusiveness and the freedom to love. Dishearteningly (though not surprisingly), this movement isn’t welcomed with open arms by one and all. In a bid to protest against the event, an Islamic religious teacher launched a Wear White campaign, which urges Muslims to wear white on June 28 (the day of Pink Dot SG 2014). Since then, a few religious communities have voiced their support for the campaign. While certainly not representative of all religious groups in Singapore, the ones who have jumped into the fray claim the Wear White movement protects traditional family values as they believe the LGBT community compromises the very definition of family unit.
To better understand what a family unit means in a multicultural context, we spoke to a few people of diverse backgrounds for their views:
“I think LGBT individuals love, respect and treasure their families as much as any straight person. And, as with all human beings, they, too, need and want to be loved. As a mother, I cannot imagine loving my children any less for wanting to be with someone of the same sex, or for being born into the wrong gender. Unfortunately, social stigma and ignorance have torn families apart. I believe Pink Dot can help start that conversation, to heal the rift, and bring families back together.” – Janice Koh, Nominated Member of Parliament, Pink Dot SG 2014 ambassador
“I think we should strive to be more inclusive on what a family unit means. It shouldn’t only be based on a nuclear husband-wife-child model. Single-parent households (by choice or otherwise), childless couples, and even same-sex couples with children are on the rise. The alternative family unit is not a western invention; it’s a natural human phenomenon and we need to embrace that. I get the argument for preserving a nuclear family unit as means for procreation. But statistically, the homosexual population is pitted as 2 percent to 10 percent. Now, how can a minority group overthrow the entire human civilisation and curb procreation? What real threat is there?
I came out to my whole family – in stages – from a very young age. I was out to my close friends when I was 14; my siblings, around 18; and my mum, at 19. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. My mum is a religious person, so when I first came out to her, she was quite ambivalent about it. She had prior conceptions of what being gay meant, and she was worried that I wouldn’t be able to live my life without being ostracised. It was trying at first because I had to be patient in sharing what homosexuality is about and to clear the air regarding any untrue stereotypes. She’s much more accepting and open-minded today.
People who aren’t open to LGBTs won’t immediately be okay with it from day one; it takes constant engagement, sharing, mutual respect and exchange of views to get somewhere as with my mum. At the end of the day, it’s fine to disagree with something. It is also possible to embrace diverse views and accommodate all of them in an inclusive manner. What I hope for is to be loved and an acceptance that some people are just born differently. This isn’t merely a lifestyle choice. I mean, you don’t choose to be straight, right?” – Matthew Fam, Material World contributor
“All LGBT members are a part of our society. An inclusive, pro-family society must welcome families with LGBT members. To protect families and our values of inclusivity and equality, we must respect and support all individuals – regardless of their sexual orientation – to have a happy family life and to live free of discrimination and harassment. Any definition of family that excludes LGBT persons is anti-family.” – Corinna Lim, executive director of AWARE
“The right to stable and secure familial lives should be universal, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation. Particularly in a society where the family unit is constructed as central to one’s wellbeing, this is the moral and ethical position to take. Just as straight-identified are born into and forge families, so do LGBT individuals. We are not talking about mere ‘lifestyle’ choices here – these are people’s everyday lives, people’s livelihoods, people’s need for dignity forged in real social relations. Families have always existed and will continue to exist in diverse forms. That is an empirical fact. It also remains an empirical reality, unfortunately, that LGBT members of our society suffer disproportionate stigma, discrimination, harassment and cruelty – and that this often happens precisely because they are deemed to be anti-family. We have shared responsibilities to work towards a society where these bullying behaviours are no longer tolerated and where everyone’s right to family is respected and protected.” – Teo You Yenn, sociologist, author of Neoliberal Morality in Singapore: How family policies make state and society, and board member at AWARE
“I personally don’t think the LGBT community runs in conflict with the family unit. Some of the primary causes of family breakdown are unreasonable behaviour, domestic violence and infidelity. Individuals and groups interested in protecting the ‘sanctity of the family’ would do better to address those issues instead of confronting the LGBT community. A single mother struggling to raise a child should be cause for concern more so than whom a person chooses to love. How do LGBT couples affect the family unit exactly? Heterosexual couples still exist in great numbers and have children, to the extent that we are actually facing a global problem of overpopulation. Recent campaigns in Singapore come off more as an excuse for homophobia rather than the protection of any family values.” – Seelan Palay, artist and activist
“What I can say is that a healthy and complete family unit in these days should no longer be based on how it is represented by the dictates of a narrow and repressive model of roles and expectations. Rather, it should be how it is experienced by its members. But first, these members have to be recognised as unique and dignified individuals in order for them to make more meaningful contributions to what they understand as their families. While its mood may be celebratory, it is not in the intentions of Pink Dot to break up the conventional institutions of the family unit. In contrast, it wants to work towards greater inclusivity and belonging with a broader umbrella that can shelter more families of different backgrounds.” – Dr Liew Kai Khiun, an academic doing research on Cultural Studies
“In the first place, sexual orientation should not have any bearing on what a family should be. In some respect, other social stereotypes that are seen as ‘abnormal’ – single parents, racial differences, arranged marriages, etc. – should not have any bearing on the definition of family. A family is a group of people who accept one another for who they are, regardless of all the above conditions. I think something like LGBT is still a sensitive issue that needs to be discussed in a more constructive manner – that’s the first step for a conservative society like Singapore. No one is given the right to dictate how one chooses to live and, therefore, love. I understand how and why the stigma exists in this conservative society, but Singapore is a country that prides itself on being cutting-edge in many aspects, and is home to some of the region’s – if not the world’s – most respected think-tanks, so why can’t we discuss this in a civil, respectable and logical manner?
It’s going to be an uphill climb, in terms of how the LGBT community shapes how we define the family nucleus, but with the right attitudes and the right leaders who don’t feel the need to subject to downright bullying and discrimination, Singapore has the potential to be on its way to the equality we recite so proudly in our National Pledge. One more thing: I’d like to point out that LGBT relationships should never be seen as a ‘threat’ to the family or society. It would be sad for a mother to shun her child just because of whom and how he/she decides to live and love. Again, family is about accepting your loved ones for who they are.” – Andrea Azureene, creative copywriter
Pink Dot SG 2014 will be taking place this Saturday, June 28, 5pm, at Hong Lim Park.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.