25 Sep 2011

Joy & Tragedy

No I'm not talking about the F1 race happening now along with the exams dreadfully near(just 2 days for me!). Rather it's something that's kinda more serious. No doubt this race tonight could potentially secure the win of Vettel, and the promotional exam aren't something to take lightly considering it would determine whether I'll have to deal with another year of the same syllabus. Still this following issue is pretty important, and in some ways may be sort of a taboo in certain cultures.

In Singapore we usually don't like to confront this topic of loving somebody of the same gender, which is understandable since the government has been continuously encouraging the public to engage in heterosexual relationships and boost population growth, to avoid the problems associated with an ageing white-haired society. This isn't to say that the Singapore government is entirely against homosexuality; as far as I know most of the members haven't condemned members of the LGBT society yet. Even former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew would accept his grandchildren still if one of them were gay.

In the USA this topic of homosexuality is more openly discussed, both in good and bad ways. Although there are movements to abolish anti-gay laws and demystify the rumours of "gayness" being an illness or the work of the devil, there are more aggressive attacks and acts of bullying against LGBTs, more so for homosexual males. It has become extreme to the fact that unnecessary(and often premature) deaths occur, either through suicide or even murder. Recently, two events occurring within days of each other have highlighted this ongoing struggle to eliminate hatred and discrimination against LGBTs.

Since December 21 1993, there had been an official US policy named "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which concerned those serving the military. While the "Don't Ask" part protected the homo/bisexuals in that others aren't allowed to investigate the sexual orientation of a person(without witnessing any evidence of unacceptable behaviour), or discriminate against them in any other way, "Don't Tell" prevented the gays, lesbians and bisexuals from opening declaring their sexuality to others while serving the army. The assumption was that by doing so they may affect the morale and unit cohesion of the other military personnel... which now a good proportion of us would consider to be a really unfair assumption!

Seeing how this mindset of perceiving homosexuals and bisexuals as an impediment to quality of military service is outdated, many have gradually spoken up to support the repeal of DADT; even Lady Gaga has even gotten into it! Not surprising since she's already been a strong supporter of the LGBT community. Finally after many many years, Barack Obama sent a Certification to Congress in July this year, which allowed the DADT policy to end on September 20 2011. Yes, that means right now DADT is already history! Needless to say many military personnel have finally gained the confidence to take the bold step of coming out of the closet, some even getting married to their same-sex partners within a few days!

The above event has shown that USA is taking another step towards acceptance of the LGBT community. However another event that occurred a few days before shows quite the opposite: a disturbing example of the consequence of discrimination against LGBTs, even when young.

Jamey Rodemeyer was a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville(the one in New York). There wasn't anything really strange about him; the only "distinguishing feature" was that he's openly gay. He has his own Youtube channel on which he uploaded videos of himself. At first he discussed about his confusion over his sexual orientation, but later encouraged others like him to come out of the closet, as part of the "It Gets Better" movement to lend support to such LGBT youth and motivate them. This was his "It Gets Better" video, which unfortunately became a poignant reminder of the irony of what was to happen later...

Ever since he openly declared his homosexuality, Jamey became the victim of severe abuse, both in school and online, constantly hurled at with anti-gay insults. It seemed that after a while Jamey just brushed off these insults aside and put on a brave face, which effectively deceived those around him, including his parents. However, it appeared that he could no longer tolerate the abuse and pressure, and shockingly committed suicide on 18 September 2011. His body was discovered the day after.

The news of his death and the circumstances leading to it sent shockwaves throughout the local community, evoking feelings of sympathy towards the grieving parents, as well as anger towards all those who went all the way to insult Jamey and even convince him to commit suicide. On the day of the funeral many strangers not part of the family attended, consoling the parents. There were even a few vans(trucks?) with children that passed by the funeral, holding signs encouraging the public to appreciate rather than hate the LGBTs.

Once again Lady Gaga comes into the picture. She is partly the reason why Jamey was initially proud to live as an openly gay person, seeing how his idol was advocating the idea of acceptance and pride of being "born this way". When news of his death got to her, she not only swore to strive for a law to stop such LGBT treatment, but also performed "Hair" during a live act in tribute of him. That to me is a really suitable song since it also brings across the concept of being proud of one's uniqueness.

So in just a short period, two crucial events occurred in the USA, one to mark the celebration of the progress made in accepting the LGBT community, the other to emphasise the consequences of discriminatory acts against LGBT that still happen today. And this will not be completely irrelevant to Singapore, which also has a strong LGBT community too, albeit of a smaller size. There haven't been any recorded instances of deaths due to anti-LGBT treatment/harassment, but still there's the same negative mindset that cannot be ignored. A significant number of Singaporeans still like to crack gay/lesbian jokes and loosely use "gay" and "fag" in insults. With strong Asian concepts of family and heterosexual love, it's probably going to be a really arduous journey towards LGBT acceptance too. The Pink Dot movement has shown promising signs seeing a spike in number of participants this year, but the anti-LGBT mindsets will take quite a long time to change.

We've already succeeded in inter-racial acceptance and engagement, so why not the same for members of the LGBT community?