Someday, homophobes can change

Posted on June 12th, by Pink Dot Sg in Pink Dot 2012, Someday. 8 comments

by Liew Kai Khiun

At the dawn of the millennium, Church of the Saviour in Singapore ran a banner outside their Queenstown premises that read “Homosexuals can Change”. Highly visible to the public, the statement underpinned the change from the traditionally quiet disapproval of what is construed as unnatural sexual identities and relationships towards a more active drive to “rehabilitate” those belonging to the LGBT community back to what is considered as the heterosexual mainstream.

While generally agnostic, I used to share the general prejudices against sexual minorities in Singapore, and had probably agreed with the underlying messages of the banner of Church of the Saviour on homosexuality a decade ago. Growing up in a typically heterosexual mainstream family, I was probably internalized to the aversion of any other types of alternative social relationships or ways of life.

Brought up with masculinist notions of manliness, I was also part of those obnoxious bullies who found pleasure in teasing boys who were thought to be more effeminate-looking. In my teens, I had displayed ideological aversion for gays and remembered writing to the British-based Economist to protest against the journal’s support for same sex unions in the early 1990s. Thankfully, the letter was not published.

My attitude towards sexual minorities, however, began to change during the past decade rather radically – perhaps through my exposure to the more critical aspects of sociology and cultural studies in my postgraduate education or the interactions with people from more diverse backgrounds. I started to see LGBT people as being integral rather than being separate from society. As I became sensitized to their presence, I began to recognize the gay identities of pop idols like Pet Shop Boys and Leslie Cheung whose music accompanied me in my formative years in the 1980 and 1990s. To my friends and acquaintances who are not necessarily from heterosexual backgrounds, I started to show greater respect and acknowledgement. I also volunteered as a mediator in the family court, which made me ponder the ideas of normality in the face of dysfunctional and abusive “legitimate” families. After which, when I was studying in the United Kingdom, I actually felt happy for my landlady’s uncle who was getting married to his partner when civil unions became official.

In 2009, I made my boldest step by volunteering with the first Pink Dot at Hong Lim Park. I was quite amused that my fellow male organizers planned and coordinated details with jargons and vocabularies from probably what they learnt during their National Service – which made me realized only when we cease to label, classify and degrade can we see a more common humanity.

In 2012, we should raise the banner that “Someday, homophobes can change”.

Kai Khiun is an Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University. He is wedded to his wife of 5 years. He also writes occasionally for the Straits Times and plays an active role in human right issues, with the most recent one concerning the exhumation of graves at the Bukit Brown Cemetery.

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8 Responses to “Someday, homophobes can change”

  1. Johann says:

    What an amazing story of personal growth. Your story touched me – after years of being extremely jaded. Thank you :)

  2. Michelle says:

    the article is biased in the sense it is labeling the church people as homophobes and suggesting all Christians tease and bully homosexuals just because he encountered people doing so? i think the church bunners means to say homosexuals can change with the help of God and they must be willing to change. btw homosexuals can never change without God’s help, so it is pointless anw for us Christians to make non-convicted homosexuals try to change/ convince them their behaviour is wrong.

    as for homosexual marriage, that is an issue for the state to decide not Christian groups. But Christians have the right to disallow homosexual marriages within their churches since that is rooted in their religious belief.

  3. chazza says:

    hey! really good article KK.

  4. Queen says:

    Hi Michelle

    I believe the mention of the banner outside church was merely anecdotal and definitely did not come across as a sweeping generalization, hence I do not see the bias as u indicated.

    Ironically, for u to assume that homosexual behaviors are
    “wrong” and that when homosexuals do change it is through “God’s help” coupled with their own “willingness” seems to indicate your narrow interpretation of homosexuality border-lining homophobia. (begging the question of ‘why the need to change to begin with??!’)

    And why of coz, when gay couples do plan to marry, the blessings of the church and its congregation far supersede in importance than any other deeper paramount social, cultural, political and personal arenas that the couple treasure.

    Speck and plank… Speck and plank…

  5. Mike says:

    I was really touched by this article and your change of mindset. I encountered a lot of homophobic bullying, from supposedly well educated, worldly friends when I came out in university. Many of my best “friends” were “Christian” and they just stopped being friends. I know many straight Singaporeans are still fearful, bigoted and ignorant.

    Reading your essay, I regain hope in the ability of people to change and become enlightened. It’s touching that you volunteered at Pink Dot and it gives me hope for Singapore.

  6. Johann says:

    There is zero scientific evidence that homosexuality can be changed. Numerous studies have documented this. In fact, the state of California is considering restrictions on such programmes as they are ineffective and ideologically motivated. If you believe this, someone is lying to you – and I thought lying was a sin?

  7. wilson says:

    hi everyone, i am a christian and had years of church going and did bible study in school. Hence i know first hand how some protestant christians pick on GLBT, one pastor openly made videos of how sinful GLBT ppl are. Even overseas, some american baptists openly protest with insulting placards.Its sad that some protestants become like that cos Jesus main message was to promote God’s love for humans and urged his diciples to spread the gospel(God’s love).Funny thing is the church goer has many sins i am sure why the highlighting and beating the drums on how big the homosexual sin is?Did God give specific instructions to go after the Homo like that? I see some christians see the GLBT as good targets for some agenda maybe to show how holy they are?I really hate it when some christians use the bible to make GLBT feel guilty, where the love and inclusiveness that Jesus preaches. The bible for sure did not say go into the world seek out the GLBT publicly or privately shame them make them feel guilty condemn them judge them let the whole world know how big a sin they are.
    1JOHN 4:7 dear friends let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love…….If anyone says I love God yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” I think its just wrong to make GLBT feel that they are not worthy to be part of the God loving community.I know for a fact some christians actively or passively try to alienate the GLBT ppl.

  8. [...] older generation is generally more religious than the younger generation. Singapore churches emphasise to their members that they do not “condemn” homosexuality because homosexuals [...]

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