Captain Astro

22nd January 2011, Saturday

I am trying to make sense of what has happened to me since last week, and where my life is heading henceforth. Last Saturday, I came out to my parents. I told them I am gay. Why? Because they confronted me with what passes today for “prophetic truth”, i.e. what the latest Indian astrologer had predicted in my ஜாதகம் (astrology, in Tamil). Of all the ways of my parents finding out about my sexuality, this one is the least expected. I still find it hard to believe. I had long since been suspicious of the dubious art, even before I turned to atheistic thoughts. Anyway this is what the astrologer predicted, according to my parents’ account last Saturday.

1) I am having this “weakness” in marriage.

2) Astrologer did not really know how to describe this “weakness”.

3) When my father asked, “Is it between man and woman?”, he said no. “Man to man?”. The astrologer at this point nodded his head or tapped the table with both index fingers in agreement (probably both).

4) Captain Astro (I shall refer to the astrologer in this way henceforth) then assured my mum that this is a “passing weakness” and can be cured through prayer.

5) For the next few months till October, I would experience “சனி தோஷம்” (bad / unlucky period, in Tamil).

6) I would not get married till 37 years of age, when I would meet a “strong woman who will be an asset to me”.

I had a long hard talk with them about how I had felt different, and attracted to men since Primary Two. I had the sense to conceal from them certain habits of mine, including going to spas. Even my brother had prudently concealed his own sexual exploits before telling my parents about his girlfriend. My parents belong to a different era altogether, one in which pre-marital sex of any kind was a big NO-NO. Mum took the news of her “golden boy’s” sexuality very hard. She could not understand how a Primary 2 kid could even have such thoughts. She thinks a kid at that age could not possibly “know” anything, so assuming I was gay at age, 8, is just preposterous. There’s the good, old “You know nothing, so shut up, 1980’s died-in-the-wool MOE teacher” resurfacing. Even now, she thinks her 30 year old son has insufficient experience to “decide or know” if he is gay or straight. She will never understand that it is not a choice for me, though I have pointed out to her that could never “choose” for myself a “lifestyle” that I knew would bring pain and suffering and no uncertain amount of shame to myself and my family. Logical arguments do not work with her.
She made me place my hands on Guruvayurappa’s (a Hindu god) feet – in the picture – and started sobbing uncontrollably, pleading with him to cure her son, crying, “I do not want a gay son” repeatedly. I have never seen her cry so pitiably in my life, and I doubt my brother had done anything to make her this upset in the past, – all the more my sense of guilt and shame to cause this much pain. At that point, between my mother’s tears on my back, I stared, and stared, and stared at Guruvayurappa’s face and one emotion prevailed in me. Anger. Anger at an impotent, non-existent god in whom my mother placed so much faith – faith that was not rewarded. Anger at myself for being born and causing her to cry like this. Anger at a family culture of rewarding “toeing-the-line” while punishing any sign of untowardness or deviance. Anger at Indian “traditional culture” that valued கெளரவம் (Tamil for honesty/honour) above love and respect for the individual.
Mum wanted me to promise I would never associate with gays again. To this, I gave no reply. I knew I could not keep such a promise for long. In this at least, I am certain. I cannot allow my parents, or stars, or complete strangers who look at the stars expecting life-altering answers – instead of over-strained irises and lenses – to dictate my life. As long as I live under their roof however, I still need to abide by their rules and that means at least pretending to pray (both in the prayer room and yes, at the temple – they actually want me to start going to temple every Saturday. I have reasoned with them, this is not going to help me or change me in the slightest, but they do not want to entertain the opinions of an atheist (and therefore ignorant) son.

I invited my brother over for dinner on Friday and came out to him as well. His immediate reaction was a painful grimace. He seemed to think I could change by mixing more with girls. Then he contradicted himself by mentioning his lack of shock at my revelations. He suspected I was gay all these long years, yet explained this away as my own tendency to “do what I like, only, and therefore stick to the same kind of people only”. If that were the case, I could definitely have straightened out since I only started to befriend people who I knew to be gay in NS! Since sexuality is most often determined before the age of 7-8, how could I possibly have been attracted to men all those years before NS, without having contact with a single gay? Will further explanations and counter-arguments help these people understand? No. They are oblivious to logic. I am considering showing them “Prayers for Bobby”, since movies have a way of conveying emotional messages more to my mum. My only fear is they will be so scared I will commit suicide after watching it.

Another option is really appealing to me now. Find a job overseas and leave this country and my bigoted family. The only problem is of course, getting the job first. Even if my family does accept me, what hope is there of setting up a “gay family” in Singapore? What is the point of living with a loving man if I cannot express that love in public, indeed in a society that does not even endorse consensual sex between 2 males? A more temporary solution is to find some friends and rent a place here. At the very least, it would assert my independence. But is all this worth sacrificing the many comforts and conveniences of living here with my parents? Money is also a key issue. Do I have enough to support myself? I cannot believe all this is happening just because of the incredibly lucky and intuitive guess of Captain Astro.

If You’re Happy and You Know It, Join The Crusade!!!

Singapore is a multi-religious and multi-racial society. Its citizens cram themselves daily onto the public transport system, and HDB flats – the preferred public housing – ensure they live in close proximity to each other. Most public schools have a good mix of races. You would have thought that living day-to-day in close contact with members of other religions in the 21st century would be enough to force one to observe and question his/her own beliefs on faith. And in doing so, gain a measure of understanding – that we are not so different after all. Yet despite the best efforts of the administration, fundamentalism and bigotry raise their ugly heads all too often for anyone’s liking. We have so far been spared the likes of Pat Robertson and Westboro Baptist Church, but events in recent years indicate an undeniable streak of hard-line religious thought. The most vocal, repellent and worryingly active culprits are evangelical Christians (no surprises there), but this does not mean Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus can rest on their laurels. The latest episode of Christian bigotry occurred at the National University of Singapore, where I studied years back. Even back then, I knew the type of Christians affiliated with the now notorious Campus Crusade for Christ. I would have been heartily embarrassed if any of my friends were one of them. Take a look at this piece of mawkish propaganda that appeared on their notice board on campus.

http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphot…81250121_n.jpg

and more of the same here:

http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/eat-drink-man-woman-16/%5Bgpgt%5D-nus-group-campus-crusade-christ-insults-thai-buddhists-turkey-3608986.html

Sadly in the furore that followed, all the CCC could offer in way of apology was this highly dubious piece of sycophantic, insincere official-speak:

“I am a NUS CCC representative from NUS. With reference to the closed thread:

[GPGT] NUS group “Campus Crusade for Christ” insults Thai Buddhists and Turkey – http://www.hardwarezone.com.sg

We would like to post an online apology as follows:

Dear Netizens,

We humbly apologize for the distress we have caused you through the poster of ours that has gone viral online. We recognize that our choice of words used should have been more sensitive and tactful. We acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and it is definitely not our intention to force anyone to believe in what we do. We have since removed our posters and websites, and will be watchful of future actions. Thank you for your understanding and our deepest apologies again for the distress that this incident has caused you.

With sincere apologies,

On behalf of NUS Campus Crusade

We seek your permission to post this up personally.”

The apology only made things worse as it had dismissed the central issues of religious bigotry, and passed them off as mere semantics, a matter of “choice of words”. When several people condemned the farcical apology, some went so far as condemn the condemnation, accusing people of “not forgiving”, “fanning the flames” and “causing unrest”. This was what really rankled me and prompted my posting the following reply on The Online Citizen.

http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/02/nus-campus-crusade-for-christ-removes-insensitive-and-disrespectful-posters/comment-page-2/#comments

@Joanne: you say that, “it’s even more disheartening looking at the comments on this page. shame on your guys. do you know what starts an unrest? NO FORGIVENESS.. by condemning the students from NUS.. you guys are just flaming the fire.”

I find it more disheartening that you have completely missed the point of most of the comments made on this page. The fact is that the apology from the CCC revealed their complete ignorance of why people were offended by the posts in the first place. The apology skirted the central issues and came off as insincere, sycophantic and frankly demeaning. 
It was not an issue of “choice of words used should have been more sensitive and tactful”. The obvious intention of the poster was, to convince fellow xtians, that there is an urgent and desperate need to convert people in these “heathen lands”. The fact that the poster linked Buddhism to a lack of true joy in Thailand, i.e. Buddhism makes Thais unhappy- not only demonstrates poor logic and bad judgment, but also a malicious intent to spread lies and deceit about everything under the sun, so long as Christianity prevails. You can sugar-coat the message and be as sensitive as you like, but with such a twisted, outdated and fundamentalist outlook, all the best PR agencies in the world will not be able to help you.

As for forgiveness, would you forgive someone who not only apologises insincerely, but for the wrong reasons? The CCC clearly has not acknowledged the error of its ways, and it is the duty of others to ensure the flames do not die down until a more convincing apology is issued at the least. Accepting the current apology and “moving on”, might sound like the decent thing to do, but it is in fact irresponsible. You suggest that “NO FORGIVENESS” starts an unrest? I argue that allowing unresolved issues to fester under layers of convenient forgiveness, leads to more unrest and hatred in the long run.”