Why Singapore is Correct on LGBT Rights
This may be my most controversial article yet (at least to some) - but precisely because it may be considered controversial is why I believe it is important to publish it. So, let's begin with a both baffling and bold statement:
LGBT supporters and their opponents are both right.
Impossible? Well, let me explain.
Let's Get Physical
Little over 100 years ago, in 1915, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity, explaining gravity and, consequently, the behavior of large objects. About a decade later Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg gave the world their interpretation of quantum mechanics, which serves to describe the physical behavior of subatomic particles.
Unfortunately, while both are immensely valuable they lack a common link - in other words, what works for large objects doesn't seem to work at a single subatomic particle level - and vice versa.
This paradox keeps springing to mind whenever I'm observing disputes that extend from the interests of an individual to the interests of the society - clashing with them violently - with people on both sides of the front exchanging arguments, completely missing the simple fact that they are speaking from entirely different perspectives.
And, interestingly, it may mean that much like the physical theories, they are both correct, while being in conflict with each other.
One such war is being fought over LGBT rights.
Individual Fights the Society
The differences in opinion boil down to a clash of an individualist against a communitarian view. The former - arguably more visible these days - suggests that individual freedom is of paramount importance and that people should have the liberty to do what they want even if it meets disapproval of the majority. Communitarianism preaches superiority of the common interest over individual rights.
Both of these views - much like the physical theories - can coexist but will clash if they stray outside of the area they make sense in.
On an individual level there is nothing wrong with anybody choosing to live with and loving any other person regardless of their gender (and as long as the relationship is consensual). There is really no reason to deny two consenting adults the ability to live (and sleep) with each other.
However, while that works for individuals it does not necessarily work for the society at large.
The value of a relationship to an individual is defined by the person's subjective interests and feelings. The value of relationships to the society is defined by their functional roles.
Since gay marriage does not serve a reproductive purpose it is therefore not equal to a heterosexual relationship (for the society), even though on an individual level they are both the same - i.e. are expressions of mutual love between two people.
Conversely, forcing the communitarian expectation of a heterosexual relationship on a homosexual person is pointless for the society and harmful for the individual. It is therefore preferable that individuals retain their liberty in choosing whom to spend their lives with.
Some people may argue that homosexual couples can have children via surrogacy or adoption but that's just trying to find a detour to reach a predetermined ideological goal, while ignoring broader implications, consequences of which we don't know yet - and this uncertainty warrants prudent behavior.
Asia doesn't have a habit of taking all Western ideas wholesale, evaluating each of them for its usefulness instead or observing how they play out elsewhere before making a decision.
The first issue is the true long term impact on the children - and not only by the parents but also the society, as social stigma can impede good upbringing, even if both parents are perfect in their roles. Prevailing social norms have to be accounted for when enacting laws that address issues of a small minority. And while there is little scientific evidence of directly adverse effects, the samples used in research supporting same-sex parenting are neither randomized nor big enough - and possibly impacted by ideological bias.
Secondly, setting any legal precedents in one case often acts as a gateway for promotion of other ideological goals, which are even more questionable. One of them visible in the West today is an attempt at normalization of transsexualism and the queer theory, supporting the idea of gender fluidity.
This has severely adverse effects in both formal and informal ways, with courts ruling that children as young as 3 or 4 years old can undergo gender transitioning, with parents finding it fashionable to have or raise a transgender child - including celebrities like Charlize Theron, who is transitioning her 7 year old son into a daughter. Or with informal initiatives which grow in popularity, like the "Drag Queen Story Hour", featuring men dressed up as women reading stories to children in schools and libraries around America and in a few cities abroad already as well.
Here's the summary from their website:
"Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like—drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real."
In other words, we're no longer talking about what two people do in their bedroom but what millions of children are being taught in schools at an especially important and fragile time in their approaching adolescence.
I don't think it falls under "love is love" slogans. Especially as at least two of the men have turned out to be past sex-offenders. This is tantamount to a bait and switch scheme, and certainly does not inspire trust about the entire community - nor about the consequences of supporting LGBTQ causes only to be duped into letting both terrible people and terrible ideas dictate the new standards.
Is this the promised progress? Color me skeptical.
Responsibility & Tolerance in Governance
I've often praised Singapore for its common sense and today is no different - even though it may sound counter-intuitive in this case. Section 377A, which (technically) criminalizes sexual relations between men is a remnant of colonial legislation, most of which was repealed in 2007. It is not applied in practice and the government has long declared it would not be enforced.
On the face of it, it would appear it is common sense to just get rid of it. But sometimes the most reasonable thing is to defend the status quo.
First of all, Section 377A serves as a political tool, appealing to largely conservative sentiments of the Singaporean society. Secondly - and crucially - it focuses attention of the pro-LGBT activists, who cannot progress beyond this obstacle with any other ideas.
As long as it exists, all protests will be revolving around its repeal. If it falls, one day, then it is safe to assume that Pink Dot will not dissolve - much like it never happened with activism in the West - but, instead, is going to turn to promoting other ideas, opening Pandora's box for the government.
Singaporean authorities face an unenviable task of balancing the interests of the country (both its society and well-being of its citizens, as well as its global brand as a modern, supremely developed city-state) with the need to retain support from individuals across various age groups and beliefs.
At the same time the dead law exposes hypocrisy of the advocates of its repeal, proving that the government's reluctance to remove it is not unfounded.
Activists don't care about the real conditions in which gay couples live in Singapore today - free from any persecution and arguably being the safest and most prosperous in the entire region.
These facts are irrelevant because political and ideological agendas are too valuable, leveraging this meaningless section as a symbol to rally support behind.
Ultimately, the whole 377A drama has little to do with love or ending discrimination - even if many people who join in may idealistically believe it does. It's about exerting ideological influence on the country and political one on the government that leads it. But the authorities cannot yield, in no small part because the pressure on them would only intensify to give protesters even more later.
There's always some cause in bad need of support, after all.
As a result, the best thing to do is not to enforce the law and yet leave it there to prevent more ambitious pursuits of even more dubious aims. All of that while waiting to see where these ideas lead in the Western countries, respecting the will of the majority while leaving the door open for a safe and comfortable life to the minorities.
And that's easily the most balanced, considerate and tolerant approach you'll witness anywhere in the world.