My reply to someone who says gays do not face discrimination in Singapore –
As a gay person, there are certain things I can’t do in Singapore.
1. Get married.
I know what’s at stake now isn’t same-sex marriage. But 377A stands in the way. Marriage isn’t just about feeling good or showing commitment. It comes with real privileges like spousal benefits from employers, and in Singapore, my next point –
2. Buy a flat from HDB as a couple.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford private housing. But why should this privilege be denied to other gay people? We pay taxes like everyone.
3. Have a child (in my case, adopt one).
This is not a must for me. I’m just trying to help bring up a child whose parents were unable to. But if the authorities deem me unfit to be a parent, that’s not right, but it’s ok.
These are just three things that many Singaporeans aspire to. But I’m not given that choice. You may not think it’s a big deal for me, but that’s because you think of me as less deserving of these wonderful things in life. Less equal than my fellow Singaporeans.
Simply because I’m gay.
Btw, being homosexual is not my choice. If your sexual orientation weren’t your choice, why would you think that’s the case with me?
Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever been denied a job because I’m gay. But that’s because no one asks that question during a job interview – how is it relevant, right?
But once people at work know you’re gay, it’s a different story.
When I was a teacher, my principal sat me down in her office and asked for my assurance that I would not prey on my students. To my knowledge, she did not have that conversation with any other male teacher. Only me – the one who’s gay and out.
Some people have certain horrible ideas about who I am because they know I’m gay. That’s discrimination.
In my first year of teaching, I was given a D during appraisal and wasn’t informed about the bad grade, even though it’s mandatory that D-graders be counseled so that they may improve.
Year after year, even though I did well enough to get a performance bonus, I was, strangely, never promoted. When I asked my (new) principal why, she found out that I was given a D 3 years ago, and that’s why I could not be promoted.
I checked with my HOD, who said she never gave me a D. She checked with the (retired) principal, and he said he never gave me a D too. Till this day, I don’t know how I got that D. But I suspect it had to do with me being gay and out.
My vice-principal at that time (bless her soul), after she found out I was gay, delighted in starting her conversations with other staff like this – “Did you know that Mr Poh is gay?”, as if that information would ruin me.
I found out about this through my colleagues. That’s the thing about these haters – they would never say it to your face. But behind your back, they would cast aspersions and crack nasty jokes. But that’s ok – people could see for themselves what kind of teacher – and person – I was.
A colleague confessed that before he knew me, he had negative impressions about gay people. A student proclaimed in class, “Mr Poh, we know you’re gay but we still love you!” (I know right, why is there a ‘but’ in that sentence?)
I’m glad I was able to show my principal(s) and the people around me that gay people are far from what they thought we were.
But others were not so lucky. I have heard accounts of how teachers were sidelined, or had their careers cut short after they came out, like Otto Fong.
And so many gay people I’ve met are closeted, some at work, some with their families – ironically, the very people who should be giving them unconditional love.
Why do they hide? The fear of rejection is real. The shame, even though it’s totally unnecessary, is real. People have been cast out of families, bullied to the point of suicide, made to feel ashamed about who they are.
In fact, the first – and only – thing I learned in school about being gay, is that gay sex is illegal under Section 377A.
Online, the abuse rages, with people calling us perverts and ‘worse than animals’.
The hatred is real. But as I grow as a person, it ceases to bother me. Now, I almost feel sorry for those who harbour such hatred. Because the burden of hate is theirs, not mine. Hatred eats into the soul of the hater, even more than their hateful words can hurt.
You cannot fight hate with more hate. You kill darkness with light. When you look at others who are different, consciously remind yourself that you are more alike than different. Like you, we are just trying to live our lives the best we can. We all want to love and be loved, and be treated equally and with respect.