Friday, 22 May 2015

[Straits Times] Discrimination against LGBTs still exists

WHILE Ms Ho Lay Ping's argument that one's personal belief of not approving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lifestyle may not necessarily lead to the discrimination and stigmatisation of LGBTs in society can be a valid point, the rest of her letter confuses and puzzles me ("Not approving of gay lifestyle isn't stigmatisation"; Forum Online, Wednesday).
She used the example of how LGBTs who are engaged in high-risk sexual activities and lifestyles are not being denied medical treatment, as well as the presence of LGBT interest groups and Pink Dot, as examples of how LGBTs are not stigmatised and discriminated in Singapore.
The provision of medical treatment for LGBTs is clearly not an adequate marker to determine whether LGBTs are being discriminated.
Moreover, it is precisely that these interest groups exist that clearly shows LGBTs do face discrimination in their lives, because the main goal of these groups is to provide support for LGBTs who face stigmatisation.
Cases where families have disowned their children because they are homosexual still continue to exist.
Homophobic statements and rants by Singaporeans, both offline and online, such as on the Facebook group, "We are against Pinkdot in Singapore", still occur on a daily basis.
Moreover, Section 377A of our penal code does not legally allow consenting males to engage in sexual intercourse. While the Government has stated that it does not really enforce the law, the law nonetheless still exists.
Therefore, for Ms Ho to say that LGBTs do not face discrimination in Singapore is really shocking to me. Clearly, they still are.
In addition, Ms Ho, in her letter, has insinuated that LGBTs are deviants in society and that for the common good of society, more rights should not be given to them.
To label LGBTs as deviant - is that not an attempt to stigmatise them, given the negative connotation of the term "deviant"?
More importantly, credible research by academics has shown that societies that are more accepting of LGBTs have a lower suicide rate among their LGBT populations and this acceptance actually helps in reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Are these not situations that can be considered as beneficial for our society?
Lastly, while one may have his own set of personal beliefs and opinions that disapprove of LGBTs, once these are part of public discourse and attempt to shape public policies - as Ms Ho has done - they are open for public scrutiny and should be called out if these beliefs do, indeed, stigmatise and discriminate against LGBTs.
Han Ming Guang