Just yesterday I had two wonderful and open straight friends ask me "why should I support gay rights anymore when it seems that you guys don't need my help?" and "please tell me why are lesbians so angry?" I haven't answered those questions in so long that I didn't give you a proper answer - and I feel I owe you one!
Activists from the LGBTQ community could never have achieved so much in Singapore, so much internationally, without many amazing friends and relatives in the straight majority - like both of you - friends who wanted to understand. Who are ready to listen and decide if it resonates with them that this movement speaks to fundamental fairness in society. That gender and sexual orientation are one important area where we may start breaking down stereotypes that lead to fear, hate, injustice, violence, and discrimination.
We have come a long way. I am proud and grateful that today I can walk down the street most places in Singapore without fearing to be harassed just because I am carrying a pink dot, a rainbow flag, or dressed as androgynously as I feel. I know that this is a victory already because I have met lesbians who have been raped and lesbians who have been harassed and beaten, and gays that have been raided by the police for homosexual activity. I haven’t as many close transgender friends or contacts, but I believe the stories are similarly shocking and true. We still have a long way to go - to allow gays not to fear prosecution when they want to express love and intimacy, to allow me to be able to care for my partner with the rights of a spouse, to celebrate our loving families instead of hiding them in shame, to allow young people to grow up without hating themselves and being rejected as aberrations (and all the unfortunate distortions that this can create in their behaviour for the rest of their lives). There may be fewer rapings and beatings today but many still carry this fear with them every day of their lives. We have generally accepted in the world that these are rights that should apply regardless of ethnicity, religion, nationality, ability or economic status. Is it so much to ask to add sexual orientation and gender identity to this list? It won’t stop hate crimes being perpetrated in the world with immediate effect. But it is a critical starting point.
I am still waiting for the day that I can see my own long-term relationship recognized in this country – and swap my commitment ring on my right hand to a wedding ring on my left hand that represents the recognition of equality in law and in society. In the 10 years that I have been involved in some form of community activism in Singapore, New York and Paris, I have seen the world changing. Yes really, changing. This gives me the courage to hope for better. To hope that this journey has a much longer horizon beyond the repeal of section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code and gay marriage in a handful of states in the USA. A lot has to be done by LGBTQ individuals themselves. And a lot more has to be done for LGBTQ individuals who are scarred by a life of prejudice and struggling to make sense of it all. So perhaps this explains a little why LGBTQ folks may seem to have a lot to be angry about and reasons to continue their activism. Why it is important for the UNOHCHR to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity. I cannot require or expect all my straight friends to support this cause. But I am hopeful that many of them are listening, and want to understand. Thank you for asking. :)