Before I dive into the societal tidal wave of same-sex marriage, I feel obliged to mention that Singapore has made slight progress — yet still not enough — when it comes to the openness and representation of LGBTQ+ folks.
Gay inclusivity for the sake of it is clearly not the result most of us are hoping for. No one appreciates gay tokenism. If the literature on LGBTQ+ related issues continues to be scarce, will we ever see the normalisation of same-sex marriage in the next ten years? For perspective on how far that road is, just take note of Pink Dot, an annual event that represents the LGBT community which can only be celebrated within a confined space at Hong Lim Park.
As June marks the official start to Pride and our annual Pink Dot movement, I’m all for making this conversation as visible support of LGBTQ+ people — partially because it hits my family personally.
Turning your attention to a country that has successfully championed LGBTQ+ equality, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage on May 17 2019. While it may look like change is afoot in neighbouring Asia countries, progress (and more tolerant attitudes) towards LGBT groups are woefully absent in Singapore.
With Singapore’s lawmaker’s stance on same-sex marriage, being LGBTQ+ means that they are not granted the same luxuries as the law treats their version of “equal members of society”: no anti-discrimination policies exist for LGBTQ+ employees, adoption of children by same-sex couples continues to be illegal, same-sex consensual sexual activity (males) can carry a penalty of up to two years in jail.
While Singaporeans continue to have restricted freedom to express their LGBTQ rights, a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows that 45% agree that Asia-Pacific will eventually embrace marriage equality.
In a nutshell, there was an increase of people advocating for more LGBT diversity and inclusion. With an influx of acceptance over the past few years, the attitude surrounding gay rights have positively sparked a message of inclusivity and respect — supporting the possibility of legalisation of same-sex marriages in more Asian countries. Currently, within the Asia-Pacific region, only Australia and New Zealand — and now Taiwan — have passed gay marriage laws.
Listening to gay members of my family and friends, they would simply settle for normalcy; an image of themselves that they wouldn’t have to assert so that it conformed to the convenience of the majority.
PINK DOT SINGAPORE
The Pink Dot movement stands for acceptance and openness of the LGBT community, and being respectful towards someone’s identity. The 11th edition of Pink Dot happens on June 29, 2019, at Hong Lim Park.
To illustrate some of the work that still needs to be done, we handed the mic to a few LGBTQ+ millennials and Gen Z’s with some simple questions on their perspective on same-sex marriage — and what they wish for the future of Singapore.
What are Singaporeans’ views on their own country not legalising same-sex marriage?
“As Singapore is in between two Muslim countries Malaysia and Indonesia which are quite conservative, it may affect the relationship of the two countries if Singapore accepts gay marriage. The water supply from Malaysia might be cut. Trade might be affected too.”— Ms Chilli, 27
“I think Singapore is just too focused on keeping those that disapprove happy and that’s why they [Singapore Lawmakers] are not open to gay marriage. They are all too closed minded and only listen to what the older generation has laid out for them. Lame.”— Dash, 25
“I believe the Singapore government has its reasons for not legalising gay marriage. And if I were to assume the reasons, it’ll be linked to racial harmony. We are a multi-racial country with vast religions. If they were to legalise it, it could spark a riot with certain religions that are more staunch in their beliefs. Another factor: birth rate. Singapore’s only resources are their people, they need their citizens to get married and have kids; that’s the only way Singapore can sustain the population.”— J.K, 29
“I feel like Singapore isn’t progressing as a society to be inclusive towards the LGBTQIA+ and there is very much still a stigma towards us. I feel that people in the LGBTQIA+ community should be given a right to celebrate their love through marriage as heterosexual couples do. I feel that if gay marriage were to be legalised in Singapore, the older generation will not be happy and that might potentially create problems for the younger generation.”— Stephanie, 21
“Even though there is an increasing number of (younger) Singaporeans who are more accepting of gay sex, marriage and adoption, the country is still very much a conservative society. In my experience, unless someone has a first-hand connection to an LGBT individual, their exposure is very limited and shaped very much by what little access they have on related issues in Singapore. Only when we have 377A out of the way, then pride events like Pink Dot can do what they are designed to do; celebrate different identities, create positivity in the face of discrimination and promote acceptance within the wider society. From there, we can begin conversations around the legalisation of gay marriage.”— Jeffrey, 29
“Disappointed but not surprised. I’ve never felt that Singapore was ever keen on trying to legalise same-sex marriage, as it doesn’t even recognise same-sex unions or provide protection for its LGBT members. I feel that overall, there is not much protection for LGBT+ individuals in Singapore, or even promise for LGBT individuals’ safety in the country. The anti-discrimination law is sporadically implemented every now and then. It’s still upsetting that such a law, in such a globalised country, still exists.”— Ron, 22
“It’s confusing. We are pretty forward-thinking in terms of political issues and being so culturally diverse, but we can’t pass a law that allows age-appropriate consenting adults to get married to the same-sex.”— Raihan, 34
“I cannot fathom how the marriage between two gay individuals affects other people so much, enough for them to be against it. Legalising gay marriage is not promoting any homosexual agenda. It is just extending the same basic rights that married heterosexual couples had for centuries, to gay couples.”— Kat, 20
Based on Taiwan’s recent victory, are Singaporeans optimistic that Singapore will legalise same-sex marriage?
“No. There is still a lot of work to be done as there are a lot of conservatives in Singapore, especially the older generation. The younger ones are more open.”— Ms Chilli, 27
“Maybe not in the next five years. However, sooner or later I believe the country will approve it once the rest of the world follows suit. Singapore is so kiasu they definitely don’t want to lose out. ”— Dash, 25
“No, I don’t think it will be legalised in even the next ten years. The petition to remove section 377A is not even successful. We are far from being ready to legalise gay marriage.”— J.K, 29
“Maybe in ten years, there might be a possibility. From what I’ve seen Singapore is still a really conservative country. Even with challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A, nothing has happened. The government wants to remain neutral and appease everybody by leaving the law in place but not actively enforcing it. If the government won’t even remove a law that bans gay sex why would they even consider the possibility of the legislation of gay marriage?”— Stephanie, 21
“While it would be amazing to think that legalised gay marriage could happen in the next five years, a more realistic timeline of this happening would be within the next decade or two. Especially when today’s generation take on key roles in society; from government to non profit organisations and in the private sector, they will be able to have a chance at shifting mindsets and perceptions on LGBT-related topics for the better.”— Jeffrey, 29
“Honestly, no. I don’t feel optimistic that same-sex marriage will be approved by Singapore within the next five years. From what I’ve observed, the youth are the people who are more open and willing to embrace the LGBT+ movement in Singapore. Until the youth is able to become a part of the decision-making process in Singapore, I don’t feel that Singapore will approve same-sex marriage any time soon. Singapore still has its anti-gay law. Until that law is removed or repealed, I really can’t remain optimistic about it, despite Taiwan’s recent ruling. However, I do hope that because of Taiwan’s recent legalisation, it does spark more mature and understanding discourse within the community.”— Ron, 22
“No. This is a basic human right. I have been with my partner for nine years and we can’t even apply for housing as we can’t legally wed. Our relationship in the eyes of Singapore is not, and won’t be legal in Singapore for at least the next ten years or so. My straight friends have told me to just buy a condominium; a decision they can easily state because they aren’t stifled by this law.”— Raihan, 34
“I truly hope for it, but I don’t believe it could be attained so quickly. In the West and Asian countries where gay marriage is legal, there are gay characters in movies and TV, and other pop culture mediums. Even if it is not mainstream content, they are there. This gets the public to see gay individuals, as just people with a different sexual preference, period, it is not that deep.”— Kat, 20
What is your opinion on the Tosh Zhang x Pink Dot controversy?
“He should have stayed and continued to be an ambassador as this year’s Pink Dot theme is against discrimination. He did apologise and the past is the past; people say and do stupid things especially when they are younger. So if he stayed and deliver a message on Pink Dot it would have had a greater impact.”— Ms Chilli, 27
“He [Tosh Zhang] is a good example of how people’s views will change eventually and not everyone will be happy. I’m not really bothered who’s the face of Pink Dot. I don’t need the world to approve of my own happiness. Anyways, marriage is just a status, with or without it should not affect the relationship.” — Dash, 25
“Everyone has a past. People should cut him some slack. He may not be accepting of LGBTQ in the past doesn’t mean his opinion can’t change as he matures.”— J.K, 29
“I personally think that everyone makes mistakes and have said things that they’ve regretted, but since Tosh has a huge following, it’s easier for people to dig up his skeletons and put him on blast. That doesn’t mean I think what he tweeted in the past isn’t wrong. As long as he apologises and has grown from it, I don’t see a reason not to give him a second chance.”— Stephanie, 21
“Yes, he tweeted some really misguided and insensitive material, but the way he handled how it resurfaced could have been much better. Moreover, he has a relatively young fan base, and he could have used this situation to show how his perceptions and views on certain issues have changed and now he’s an ambassador for the country’s only pride event. He had the chance to address and educate an entire generation on LGBT-related issues and it’s a moment that he will never get back.”— Jeffrey, 29
“Not good. While I do understand how those tweets existing in the first place are a problem (those tweets were hurtful), but I also feel that there is a problem with digging up old tweets that may not reflect how a person thinks anymore. Another problem would be if he still believes in those tweets and still thinks like that. He stepped down and apologised right away, which I think was a mature move on his behalf.”— Ron, 22
“I find it humorous that Pink Dot didn’t properly research the face of their campaigns. The fact that this fella didn’t even take this chance to educate or address the issues and just silently bowed his head out with a simple apology… well, then that just sums up his character: coward”— Raihan, 34
“I believe it was blown out of proportion due to the toxic ‘cancel culture’ that exists on social media now. Although Tosh could’ve handled his response better, I think he is a great candidate to be an ambassador for Pink Dot. He might have had a slight homophobic past due to his own personal reasons but he is a changed man who is an ally to the LGBT community now. With that image, it truly reflects the change Pink Dot is trying to make.”— Kat, 20
For more information on Pink Dot, visit this link.
If you’re seeking counselling on LGBTQ+ related issues or local resources, visit Oogachaga.com