Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Singaporean Heartlanders and Their Attitude Towards Homosexuality

I first noticed this article on 4th Nov 2007 when someone in church mentioned it to me. Although I am drowning in my own assignments and deadlines, I felt there is a need to at least furnish a very brief rebuttal to Andy Ho's misleading and skewed article. As usual, Straits Times will not publish this letter, but here it is for those who are curious. Essentially, Andy Ho was attempting to push for his thesis that "heartlanders" in Singapore are accommodating towards homosexuals within their own families. I find this conclusion spurious and contrived at best.

Singaporean Heartlanders and their attitude towards Homosexuality

In “It's not a big deal for most Singaporeans,” (Straits Times Nov 3, 2007), Andy Ho suggested that “perhaps the practical way in which many heartlanders deal with homosexuality in the family” is a “don't ask, don't tell; don't reject but don't promote approach.” While it is true that the majority of heartlanders would not promote homosexuality within the family, it is quite dubious that they will not reject the notion of their own children having homosexual relations.

There must be a distinction made between the heartlanders’ acceptance of homosexuals within society and the acceptance of their own children’s homosexual relations within the home. Most Singaporeans would adopt a “live and let live” attitude towards homosexuals. But is it true that heartlanders in Singapore are not concerned with the possibility of their children leading a homosexual lifestyle? Further research ought to be done before jumping to such a conclusion.

The Straits Times article, “7 in 10 Frown on Homosexuality, NTU Survey Finds,” states that “68.6 per cent of respondents generally held negative attitudes” towards homosexuality. Such a survey should have included the heartlanders.

In his recent parliamentary speech (Why we should leave Section 377A alone: PM, Straits Times, Oct 24, 2007), PM Lee’s observation corroborates with the NTU survey. He said, “Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society. It has been so and by policy, we have reinforced this, and we want to keep it so. ... And I think the vast majority of Singaporeans want to keep it this way, want to keep our society like this, and so does the Government.”

Even as far back as 2003, SM Goh Chok Tong had stated in his interview with Times magazine that, “The heartlanders are still conservative.”

Andy Ho also attributed the “don't ask, don't tell; don't reject but don't promote approach” to “non-cosmopolitan Chinese” that are “suffused with Taoist and Buddhist values.” I will, however, be surprised if my Taoist, Buddhist, or Confucianist friends would adopt this “don’t reject” approach to homosexuality within their own families.

The Taoist tradition stresses the relationship between yin and yang energies. These are two contrasting forces which maintain harmony through balance. Taoists believe that the balance of these two energies is best obtained through heterosexual relations. Homosexual relations are therefore usually discouraged.

The Confucian moral code, on the other hand, promotes an individual's responsibility to society. Confucians are often encouraged to get married and have children. This is perceived as their responsibility to their ancestors and their country.

Although I have yet to encounter a consensus on homosexuality from the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama had stated his position in no uncertain terms. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun in 2004, the Dalai Lama was questioned about homosexuality to which he replied, "For a Buddhist, the same sex, that is sexual misconduct." In other words, homosexual acts are considered to be sexual misconduct according to Buddhism's five precepts. The Dalai Lama further elaborated that, "[homosexuals] use the mouth and the anus, this is sexual misconduct in Buddhism."

Therefore, with the absence of statistical evidence or relevant research in this area, it is premature to ascribe a specific view concerning homosexuality to the Singaporean heartlanders. One thing is for sure: colonialism alone cannot be blamed for the negative attitude towards homosexual relations.

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