Antara Dasgupta is one of Breaking the Glass Ceiling’s regular contributors.
Five years ago, if you had asked me about how I felt about the word “gay”, I would picture a very effeminate, immaculately dressed and overly theatrical man – imagine Mitch and Cam from Modern Family, unnecessarily flamboyant, loquacious to the point where it’s slightly obnoxious and a penchant for pastels and musical theatre. I viewed them as over-the-top TV characters who were added for hilarity. After all, their inclusion interlinked with the TV show’s name; A modern family (expecting/accepting?) blemishes. A family willing to take in abnormalities for some bizarre reason.
What I failed to see was how symbolic Lily, Mitch and Cam’s adopted daughter of Vietnamese descent, was. She was the embodiment of the fact that a child doesn’t need a man and a woman as parents to flourish, but two loving parents, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Mitch and Cam defied the odds and unmerited societal norms to become loving parents to a little girl – a little girl who probably didn’t have a lot to look forward to in an impoverished Vietnamese orphanage; a little girl who now has boundless opportunities because of her new daddies.
It was moments like these that gave me an insight into how I was forced to believe that romantic love had to be between a man and a woman. Society had throttled us to believe that being gay, lesbian or bisexual was unholy – this was craftily implemented by neither logic nor fact. As always, there were the inane believers who preached from the skies about the queer community being unnatural – since when was love branded as being unnatural?
My journey to coming to terms with and accepting the queer community was long winded and awkward. I am heavily embarrassed to admit that it took me time to realise that assuming a gay person was automatically a boisterous lover of West side story was a negative and offensive stereotype. In addition, automatically believing that a gay man is effeminate is not only boxing in people into certain, unnecessary categories, but, it’s as equally insulting to women as stereotypically, an effeminate man is considered weak.
I also garnered deep and genuine respect for the LGBTQ+ community – think about the herculean mental strength needed to come to terms with the idea that parts of society deems you as unnatural and in some cases, immoral. Imagine the determination needed to live your life authentically as opposed to living an easier, closeted life, without judgement or fear.
Singapore, my home, has been a paragon of multiracial harmony and an example of how a group of incredibly different yet determined people are able transform practically nothing into an urban metropolis. What astounds me is the juxtaposition of the archaic, bigoted and homophobic laws against the backdrop of the Central Business District, teeming with acres of glass pieced together by gigantic, lustrous pieces of steel. It seems misguided to place monuments emblematic to progress, while being devoid of workplace anti-discrimination laws that protect the LGBT community.
Singapore’s arbitrary and rather ambiguous stance on the gay and lesbian community is troubling and contradictory of the core Singaporean value system – a value system that staunchly believes in accepting anyone and everyone, regardless of their gender, ethnicity and religion. Adding sexual orientation to the list will not stain, but reinforce Singaporean values.
My emphasis and pride on Singapore’s legacy as a country that provides opportunities to everyone stems from the fact that Singapore loves to celebrate diversity. This is evident from lurid green and gold decor atop the buildings near Katong, ushering eid-ul-fitr. Or the delicate pink plum blossoms trickling down from the glass ceiling of Paragon Shopping centre, symbolising the upcoming Chinese New Year sales. Or the countless Mehendi and diya stalls at Campbell lane, preparing us for Diwali. Or the glinting fairy lights and teal Tiffany & Co boxes with the pearly white ribbons hanging on the monstrously large ION Orchard Christmas tree. I could go on, but the point it, Singapore likes to commemorate diversity. It’s ironic that we recognise so many different festivals yet we don’t acknowledge same-sex couples.
There are many people in the Singaporean community that are for advancing the rights for the LGBTQ+ community and one example of this is the Pink Dot festival, an annual festival held in July to support the cause. This year, Pink Dot SG 2017 had more than 20,000 Singaporean citizens and permanent residents. 120 Singaporean companies donated to the event – just to point out, the government had banned foreigners and foreign companies from participating and these numbers prove that our little red dot has a lot of support within the Singaporean community.
One of the most fascinating and fantastic things about the Singaporean legislative branch is how quickly legislation is passed. The government should be listening to the millennial voices screaming for the repeal of Section 377A and for the recognition of the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore.
Singapore’s neighbours such as Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand has passed legislation to make gay rights human rights. Singapore should do the same.