I have to be very honest, and say that the last few days have presented the biggest challenge to my Christian faith.
These days, I find it so increasingly impossible to identify with a group that seeks to use the law — a tool that jails & oppresses — against homosexuals it claims to “love”. First it was FCBC Pastor Lawrence Khong’s FB posts (here & here) calling for homosexual men to be jailed. Then it was Cornerstone Community’s note calling Christians to battle LGBTs. The last straw was National Council of Churches of Singapore calling for homosexual women to be jailed as well.
Since I was young, the church has preached the importance of communal worship to me, but I honestly cannot worship with such people. You know, I respect & would even defend the church’s right to believe that homosexuality is sinful in the eyes of God.
But I cannot support the use of force and violence (Cornerstone Comm church calls Christians to battle against homosexuals). I dread to think that our church might be no different from countries that seek to pass a law that executes homosexuals, if our law had originally called for execution rather than a jail term.
What holds my faith together though, are stories of how Prophets and Jesus himself, stood against the religious leaders & organisations of their day, when they believed the religious organisations sinful. I remind myself that one can still remain in God’s grace and salvation even if one rejects or speaks against the teachings and actions of the earthly institution of God.
And so, yes, after everything, I still believe in God & Jesus Christ.
But the Jesus Christ I love & worship is one who’d rather drink from a Samaritan woman’s jar than the Pharisee’s cup; one who would rather stand with the non-religious Humanists who have unfailingly stood by the persecuted LGBT, than a church who claims to love but seeks to jail homosexual children of God.
I received a comment asking what I think LGBT groups would want in and out of a faith-LGBT dialogue.
Before I impose my own 2-cents worth on everybody, I’ll like to invite you, my readers, to give your views?
So to everybody out there : LGBT, straight, health-freaks, conservatives,liberals, Christians, Buddhists, (all other religions), humanists etc etc
May I invite you to generously share your views on all or some of these questions please:
1. What do you think should be the objective(s) of a constructive LGBT-Faith dialogue ?
(eg, To change the minds of the ‘other’ camp? To clear up factual misconceptions? To show that we’re all humans and can be friends? To negotiate positive terms of engagements?)
2. What are some specific items you’ll like to include in this dialogue?
(eg, medical perspectives of sexuality? the laws of different countries? history? doctrine? etc)
3. Who do you think should be present at the dialogue?
(eg. doctors? lawyers? children? christians? people of different faiths? etc?)
4. I respect your anonymity. However, perhaps you could share the perspective/angle you’re coming from, and tell us, What would you like people to know about you?
(eg. how you feel? struggles you had growing up? etc)
5. What would you like to learn through this dialogue? or learn ABOUT through this dialogue?
6. Would you participate in this dialogue? why/why not? In what capacity?
(eg. as a dialogue participant? as a facilitator? as a factual info provider? as an audience? etc)
7. What are the necessary preconditions needed for a successful, constructive dialogue?
(eg. What attitudes? What safeguards? etc)
8. Any other thoughts you’ll like to share, or hear from others, on LGBT-faith dialogues?
I’m really looking forward to hear your thoughts, ideas, opinions.
If anyone would like to organise anything, feel free to share too, I’ll be happy to be involved/help in anyway I can!
I’m going to put forth a provocative thought here :
I think that religious leaders need Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Why are interfaith dialogues all about polite rituals still? You know what people say about the kids doing It anyway, whether adults are acknowledging it? I say the same thing about interfaith dialogues. The masses and pastors are already talking about faith and sex. Isn’t it high time the Inter Religious Council sits down with the Pink Dot?
HIV prevalence amongst Batam Sex Workers : ~1 in 6
% Condom use amongst Sg men in Batam : ~ 3 in 10 (7 in 10 at risk!!!!)
% Condom use amongst Sg men abroad with sex workers in general : ~ 1 in 2
% Condom use amongst Sg men with local sex workers in general: ~8-9 in 10
HIV prevalence amongst Bangkok MSM : 1 in 3
% Condom use amongst S’porean MSM with casual partners : 4 in 5
2009 Fridae.com MSM survey, see the results there)
This ongoing Anonymous Asia Internet MSM Sex Survey will help improve our understanding of MSM behaviors
Please help. Please ask your friends to help
“The results will give us critical information in understanding why HIV and other sexually transmitted infection rates are rising so quickly in our community, and help us design better programs for you.”
– 2010 AIMSS
THis is a follow up from the previous article which gives more explanations . Please take a look.
See comments for Abstracts & Citations for the above info.
(I was doing some research as part of my routine work, and came across these figures. I nearly shit in my pants. It’s unethical to not tell. I just HAD to. Underestimation of risk perception is a huge reason why people still engage in risky sex —- they think it doesn’t happen to them. Condoms are 99% safe. Russian roulette is 5 in 6 safe….. )
It’s a real privilege for me to have the chance to give a talk, ‘How can we talk about the taboo and the illegal’, at this year’s IndigNation.
Some topics are more challenging than others to talk about in the classroom setting. Topics like,
1. Homosexuality – How do you de-stigmatise homosexuality, get homosexual students to practise safe sex, when you have the 377A law?
2. Under-aged sex – How do you get under-aged teens to practise safe sex, or seek medical treatment early, when their beloved partners might be jailed?
3. STI/HIV destigmatisation – How do you impress upon teens the severity of these illnesses without scare-mongering, and yet de-stigmatise these conditions at the same time?
4. Condom usage – How do you get teens to practise safe sex without over-stating the effectiveness of condoms, and without “preaching promiscuity”?
5. Trust and abuse — How do you get teens in a monogamous relationship to consistently use condoms, when love and trust are essential for a healthy relationship?
It’s a short 20min talk on this subject of Taboo and Illegal topics, followed by what I hope will be a lively discussion with the audience =)
( Disclaimer: I am giving this talk in my own personal capacity, and will NOT represent the views of any organization / faith. )
23 August Sunday
Triple bill: Kings and condoms 7 pm @ 72-13 (72-13 Md Sultan Road)
Michael Jackson and The Man In The Mirror: In the wake of Micheal Jackson’s passing, Otto Fong reflects on what he – a gay Asian who studied in America – learnt from African Americans before, during and after Jackson’s reign as the King of Pop.
The same ties that bind: A 20-minute video exploration of the various elements that determine a gay person’s acceptance within the family: family love, prejudice, religion, etc.
How can we talk about the taboo and the illegal: Mathia Lee in her talk discusses the challenges she faced as a Comprehensive Sexuality Education instructor, in bringing into the classroom topics like 1. Homosexuality 2. Underaged sex 3. STI/HIV destigmatisation 4. Condom usage 5. Trust and abuse.
In sum, this forum looks the process of acknowledging a gay person in our midst, and dealing with issues of self-acceptance, family acceptance and education.
Is prejudice, discrimination or even religious belief really groundless, baseless and without scientific support? What happens when prejudice stems from a scientific observation?
Homosexual-bashers often claim that “AIDS is a gay disease.”
People standing up against anti-gay discrimination, however, claim that the “AIDS is a gay disease” statement is a statement of prejudice, not fact.
‘Stick to scientific facts!’ Both sides claim in equally loud voices, each side dragging up their favourite scientific experiments. Reminds me of the way Charlotte Wong cited an Utah research paper showing how abstinence-only programmes were most beneficial.
The link between Homosexuality and AIDs was apparently made very early on, by scientists.
“Serum samples from 88 percent of patients with AIDS andfrom 79 percent of homosexual men with signs and symptoms that frequently precede AIDS, but from less than 1 percent of heterosexual subjects, have antibodies reactive against antigens of HTLV-III.”
(HTLV-III was a name of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, before scientists agreed to standardize the use of “HIV” as the name of the virus that causes AIDS, the diseases characterized by a particular group of signs and symptoms) (isolation_of_HIV_nobel_winner.pdf)
That sentence came from the Abstract of one of the earliest scientific studies that described the link between the causative virus and AIDS.
Today, we read that paper with the benefit of hindsight. I am reading it through colored lens after 25 years, of someone who campaigns against the discrimination of homosexuals and HIV affected persons.
Invitation to you, the Reader, to comment
I wish to invite you, my readers, to read this paper, and to comment. What did you think? How did you feel? About the authors? About HIV? About Science? Or anything else?
I don’t want to say too much and color your opinion. I want to hear your views.
When you comment, do say where you are coming from eg. What’s your area of expertise? What was your original position on HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, religion etc etc
The reason I’m asking you to state where you’re coming from is that, often, our background , knowledge and culture influences the way we interpret things that we read, and it will be very helpful to understand how your reading and your position influence each other.
“On May 4, 1984, Dr. Robert Gallo, currently the director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and his collaborators published a series of four remarkable papers in the journal Science, which demonstrated convincingly that a retrovirus they and others had isolated, called HTLV-III, was the cause if a new and deadly epidemic that was just beginning to sweep across the nation and the world : acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDs…. The four original papers of Gallo and his colleagues have been reprinted in this special Science booklet commemorating the 25th anniversary of their landmark discovery”
- E. Albert Reece, “From Cause to Care – Commemorating 25 Years of HIV/AIDS Research”
- (HTLV-III was a name of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, before scientists agreed to standardize the use of “HIV” as the name of the virus that causes AIDS, the diseases characterized by a particular group of signs and symptoms)
If you don’t have access to Science, but wish to read these articles, feel free to email me for them.
I’m only putting up the 4th one because that’s the one which mentions homosexuality. The other 3 are quite technical (HIV_homosexuality.pdf)
Robert Gallo was one of those who were considered, but not awarded, the Nobel prize for the discovery of HIV
The paper that won the Nobel prize is here: (isolation_of_HIV_nobel_winner.pdf)
The results are presented in Table 1. Of
49 clinically diagnosed AIDS patients, 43
(88 percent) showed serum reactivity in
this assay. Two of the subjects whose
serum reacted positively with the HTLV
preparation had developed AIDS after
receiving blood transfusions, one in Haiti
and the other in Aruba. Of 14 homosexual
men with pre-AIDS, 11 (79 percent)
were positive. Of 17 homosexual
men with no clinical symptoms of AIDS,
seven were positive. At least one of
these was known to be a long-time sexual
partner of a patient with clinically
diagnosed AIDS. Another had persistent
fatigue and possibly other early symptoms
of AIDS. Because these 17 men
had been seeking medical assistance,
they are not a representative sample of
the homosexual population, and the high
incidence of HTLV-III-specific antibodies
in their sera may not reflect the true
incidence in the homosexual population.
One of the three intravenous drug abusers
that were positive for serum antibodies
to HTLV-III was also a homosexual.
Serum samples from only one’of 186
control subjects reacted positively in this
test. These control subjects included
three with hepatitis B virus infection,
one with rheumatoid arthritis, six with
systemic lupus erythematosus, four with
acute mononucleosis, and eight with various
forms of lymphatic leukemias and
lymphomas, some of whom were positive
for HTLV-I. The rest were normal
donors of unknown sexual preference
including laboratory workers ranging in
age from 22 to 50
Among the antibody-positive
cases reported here a few are of particular
importance with respect to the transmission
of the disease. For example, the
mother of the baby with AIDS was positive
for HTLV-III as was a long-term
sexual partner of a homosexual with
AIDS. Recipients of blood products originating
from individuals at risk for AIDS
were also positive for HTLV-III and, as
described in an accompanying report
(31), the virus has been isolated from
several children with AIDS as well as
from their mothers. The data presented
here and in the accompanying reports
(30-32) suggest that HTLV-III is the
primary cause of AIDS.
To what extent should religious values be reflected in secular public policy? I’m not making a stand here, but wondering out loud.
”If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual — because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes — you can’t help it. So why should we criminalize it?” MM Lee’s own words in 2007.
The conservative family values has often been cited as the reason why.
Yet we see an inconsistency.
Abortion is immoral under most Christian interpretations, as well as Muslim / Jewish interpretations.
I’m not as familiar with other religious, but I suspect religious which promote vegetarianism, mercy, not taking the lives of even animals, would not exactly be supportive of abortion.
Yet we have one of the most lax abortion policies here — something I applaud, because banning abortions has always led to the dangerous practice of clandestine abortions.
Human embryonic stem cell research is also deemed immoral by some Christian interpretations — yet we actively pursue such research in Singapore.
Gambling and casinos are frowned upon by most “conservative value” champions, but we’re building 2.
So what is the justification for criminalizing homosexuality? And only MALE homosexuality, but not female homosexuality???
Is is justified to base such policy on the “majority’s views”?
If it were, the genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany would be justified.
In a local context, the anti-racism laws were put in place at a time where there was a lot of racial tension here, and many people held racist views. The government response was not to say
“Our society will not reach consensus on this issue for a very long time to come. The way for ABC-race to have space in our society is to accept the informal limits which reflect the point of balance that our society can accept, and not to assert themselves stridently as ABC-race groups do in the West.”
The government took a strong stand at that point in time to condemn racism , and put into the pledge “regardless of race, language or religion”
The homophobic / anti-discrimination groups are divided according to the same divides Singapore had during the race riots. Why should the response be any different?
The only difference, to me, was that the race riots were significantly more violent — does society change only in response to violence? That would be very sad indeed, because I want to believe that dialogue, not violence, is the way to go to assert your fundamental rights.
“Questionable takeover but crucial service” says the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Singapore “An alarm has been sounded on the promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”
Sounds like the Bishop is saying that questionable methods can be justified based on their ends. And that speaking up against prejudice & discrimination is a “promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”.
I’m glad my God — in the person of Jesus Christ — made a career out of speaking against the religious leaders of his day. He never flinched from being their public enemy No. 1, even until death.
I’m glad that JC preferred hanging out with the unfairly marginalised — those terminally ill with infectious diseases ( equivalent of the HIV affected), the Samaritans ( equivalent of the marginalised/discriminated ethnic groups), the prostitutes & thieves ( which incidentally is the group that the RIGHTEOUS people of society have put homosexuals in)
I’m glad that my God never made in a requirement for his faithful to agree with the religious leaders.
By the way, just some words that JC had for the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees were the name of such a group):
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt 23: 4)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
(Matt 23 : 13 – 15, 23 – 28)
“How would you have answered if a, say, 13 year old girl asked you whether the homosexual feelings she was experiencing towards her classmate were normal, and how she was supposed to cope with such feelings?”
That was a question posed to me in one of the comments (Thanks Marcus) that I feel is very valid, and very important to address , so I’ve decided to post it up on it’s own.
My response to Marcus’s comment was:
Our advice for ANY personal problems that a particular student might bring up, whether with regards to homosexuality or anything else, is this —- Please talk to someone who can give you good advice. We usually suggest the school counsellor, or else a hotline like SOS or AWARE’s hotline where they can refer the girl to a private counsellor as they deem fit.
It is actually very dangerous to dish out personal advice.
General advice given out to the whole class is one thing — it’s like the general nutritional advice you give people : eat more vegetables, fibre prevents constipation.
Specific, personal advice is completely different. If someone came up to you and said, “I have constipation, what should I do? Eat more vegetables? ”
It would be very dangerous and irresponsible to actually advise this person to simply “eat more vegetables”
Because, on a personal level, his constipation may be due to so many reasons, and the lack of vegetables may have nothing to with it — he might have some serious medical condition!
The only responsible advice to give to this person is “Please go see a doctor soon”
In the same way, when a 13-year old girl comes up to you with a simple question like what you are posing, it is very dangerous to dish out simplistic advice because you have NO idea what’s the history and context. It is very important for a qualified counsellor to address her concerns in detail, and with absolute confidentiality. As a trainer, who cannot go into such detailed counselling because we’re not supposed to, and have no time to, the only advice is “Go talk to a trusted counsellor (not just your friends) as soon as possible”
And I hope that everyone reading this will also bear this is mind when a friend or a child or teen approaches you with such questions — whether it’s because you are a teacher, a religious leader, or even a parent. I know it causes some discomfort when I include parents in this list. But the fact is, children often want to meet up to parental expectations, and in this desire to, they will hide the key and most important facts from parents, in order to retain their approval. I would suggest parents bear this in mind, and allow their children to speak with a professional, trusted counsellor, in private.
Marcus, thanks for raising this. In fact, because it is very common and very important, I am putting this up as a post by itself.
This is my next step.
You know what they say about first listening to what the other party has to say, and understanding where they’re coming from before being judgemental?
I’ve always held on to that principle when working with students, and have always tried to hold on to that principle working with adults etc (tried, being the keyword, where adults are concerned ; ) )
I think it’s only fair that I apply the same principle with Thio Su Mien et al. I’ve been unfair to her. All I know about her is what the media portrays ……. and we’ve all talked about media bias before.
So, in the spirit of listening and understanding before judging, in the spirit of being open-minded and open to learning, in the spirit of giving other’s a chance to prove their case and worth, this is my next step:
I’m going to enrol for CHOICES
I’m not going to go in trying to prove/disprove something, or going in with an intention to judge and evaluate. That would defeat the purpose and waste my time — i’ve had so much of that kind of experience with people who sit through discussions with me just looking for loophole rather than listening to me.
I’m actually going in with an objective to learn, understand, and participate fully.
And share my experience here.
I hope they accept me.