Does Singapore Need a Bobby Griffith?

Sometimes, I think we do need our own Bobby Griffith to shake us out of our intellectual torpor, ignore the rhetoric and focus on why gay marriage is important and necessary. Because nothing forces us to scrutinise our actions and policies more, than staring at the cold, pitiless face of death. Even more painful, is the tragedy of a young suicidee. As I scanned through the comments on TOC on a Straits Times article about how gay marriage somehow undermines the “trademark” value of marriage, I became incensed as I observed how willing some people were to blatantly ignore the facts, skew a very simple issue of rights with vague notions of “morality and ethics” and suppress the rights of a minority simply because they are a minority and therefore undeserving. (see: http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/05/open-letter-to-sts-andy-ho/)

One commenter in particular raised my hackles and prompted my lengthy post, which I repeat here.

@BlueDot: you claim your concern is ” that marriage has a historical/traditional /cultural dimension that we should not dismiss so easily without first considering if society is ready for it.” This is exactly the kind of disingenuous pseudo social-intellectual argument that slavery proponents used in America to prop up their slavery traditions. They would have us think slavery has “strong, deep roots” in our culture – the undermining of which would tear society down. What they really were defending was their own systematic, cruel oppression and enslavement of a people they could barely come to see as human beings with feelings and basic rights as equal as their own. If slavery abolitionists and blacks had politely waited for society to be “ready for change”, I’m prepared to bet there would have been no civil rights movement, no Martin Luther King, nothing.
 
The very same “cultural” arguments were used by white supremacists centuries later to openly ban interracial marriage in America. They claimed marrying a black would spoil the white gene pool, lead to social chaos, destruction of American family values etc. Today, there is still some prejudice against interracial marriage, but noone can say that the level of anti-interracial union rhetoric has increased. The fact is, that it has decreased plenty, thanks in large part to abolition of the anti-interracial marriage laws. It is common now to find interracial couples in pop culture and white-black couples are so many, you’d be hard-pressed to find any raised eye-brows. Without this crucial piece of legislation flying in the face of a “conservative majority”, there is no way that Americans would have come to accept interracial marriage as legitimate and fruitful and moved on.
 
When you claim you are so concerned if “society” is ready for legalising gay marriage, aren’t you really saying that you yourself are not ready for it? You seek comfort in the existence of a supposed majority who are not ready for gay marriage. I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a gay Singaporean who happens to have a loving monogamous partner. Of course, you will be a minority – but does that mean you are any less entitled to marry the love of your life, when in fact you have satisified all requirements for a loving long-term relationship – the very foundation of strong family values – the very same values the majority loves to trumpet in their cause? Would you patiently wait for society to evolve, or would you do everything in your power to change it, no matter how little? If you think the majority – if it exists – has every right to deny the right of marriage to a minority, then aren’t you allying yourself with the values promoted by the pro-slavery, pro-white supremacist movements? Are you that bigoted?
 
I honestly don’t think you are. The problem is, your words and actions are discriminating and hurting people – people who may be your beloved friends and family. Has anyone ever come out of the closet to you? Just because they have not done so, or you have not suspected any “queerness”, does not mean none of your loved ones are gay. The reality might surprise you. I challenge you to ask yourself, if your son / daughter / any loved one comes out to you, what would you say to them? Words of comfort, to wait for Singapore to evolve, to get out of the country, or to fight for your rights?
 
Or in another case, assuming that you are happily married in heterosexual bliss, and a friend/family comes out to you. It looks like their homosexual relationship is serious and monogamous. Can you honestly look at your own wedding ring in the same way again? Or to go even further, let’s say you are going to get married to your girlfriend. Now your best buddy comes out of the closet and introduces his boyfriend of 5 years going strong. You know very well they can never marry in Singapore. Would you still marry your girl knowing fully well your buddy deserves the right just as much as you? Or would you just tell them, “Yeah it sucks to be you”, and laugh it off like the trivial matter it is?
 
Even better – would you give them one of your platitudes, like, “If it can be done without formenting anarchy, i see no reason why gay couples cannot be accorded the same rights as straight couples.”? If you still do, I grant, you may have their safety at heart and don’t want them to get hurt in a gay bashing. Still, aren’t you telling them to just give up, and let others do the fighting just because “society is not ready for it”? If every person thought like you, would society even function, let alone progress? Is your love for them really conditional on their conforming to your vision of a heterosexual normative Singapore transitioning peacefully towards gay acceptance at an intolerably glacial pace? Just because you have been handed the privelege to marry on a silver platter, through no special effort of yours, does not mean you get to withold that right to others. Neither does it mean you get to patronisingly tell gays to “calmly wait their turn” without inducing provocation – that’s just a delaying tactic in political parlance – and the worst kind of insult to our intelligence.
 

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