377A: Engagement or Withdrawal?

Bryan ChoongIn 2007, I was travelling on the Benjamin Sheares Bridge as I read the news about the unsuccessful repeal of Section 377A. To my left was the magnificent Singapore skyline. I thought to myself, what a beautiful country, and yet I felt like a second-class citizen. What was the point of me holding a pink identity card? I was on the verge of leaving the country. Eventually, I chose to stay on and did whatever I could.

As I was preparing for the affidavit in support of the constitutional challenge in January this year, I found this 2009 article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology. It’s titled “Balancing Dangers: GLBT Experience in a Time of Anti GLBT Legislation”. The article describes and explains clearly the feelings I had back in 2007. It must also be quite applicable for many of my friends right now, after hearing the High Court judgment on the evening of 9 April 2013.

The journal article was about a research study on how American LGBT individuals felt about initiatives that challenged LGBT rights. Two clusters of responses resonated with me most:

  • “Initiatives lead to constant painful reminders that I’m seen as less than human by our government and public laws”; and
  • “The irrationality of anti-GLBT initiatives and movements is baffling, painful, and scary; we are not who they say we are.”

The article ended with the participants talking about balancing between engagement and withdrawal. Participants described experiencing tension, because engagement to fight homophobic sentiments or movements could result in increased hurt, fear, and anger, but withdrawal could result in continued invisibility and discrimination.

It is important for us to embrace what we are feeling and understand how the latest development in Singapore affects us emotionally and psychologically. How this may translate into a fight or flight response from us. It is only natural for some to have passing thoughts of just wanting to pack up and leave the country, just like I had those same thoughts back in 2007. It is also understandable that many are worked up and angry.

What is more crucial is we recognise that this is a bump in the road, continue to do what we can and get ourselves better informed and organised. For those who do not have a chance to be directly involved, do not feel disempowered because there is plenty of work left to be done. You too can play a part.

pavementStart by telling your personal story to your closest straight allies and explain how you are affected by Section 377A.

Start by telling your clueless LGBT friends about Section 377A.

Start by reminding your angry LGBT friends not to give up.

In life, we do not always get to use the road we paved, but we can still do it for others.

*        *        *

The original version of this article was posted on Facebook by Bryan Choong, who is centre manager of Oogachaga Counselling and Support, a counselling and personal development organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender  and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals

To read more about Section 377A of the Penal Code in Singapore, here are some links:

Penal Code (Chapter 224), Section 377A: Outrages on decency

SgWiki article

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One Response to 377A: Engagement or Withdrawal?

  1. Peter Watson says:

    To fight for the simple truth of your human rights is important. To live a life that is free from hatred, prejudice and anxiety also important. Some can, some cannot. For me the great sadness is for all those who remain hidden and fearful. Our brothers and sisters living in constant fear of discovery.

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