• by Alan Tan

Truth be told, I used to join in the safety of the crowd and scoff at the gay community in high school. Indeed, I was homophobic.

Looking back, it is not difficult to explain my fears. My phobia probably came from the worry of being ostracised by others. I did not want to be associated with gay people as they are constantly insulted, bullied, and are segregated in literally any society. As I was approaching senior year in high school, I was balloted to work with a gay man for a project. I was furious, dismayed, and felt like the most unfortunate heterosexual human being in the world who had just lost his honour and pride. My body language mirrored my feelings, and he got the message clearly. I hated him and his way of life.

Yet, as it turned out, our project achieved one of the highest marks in class. You see, it was a vocal presentation and great teamwork was needed to score – our write-ups were planned, organized and executed peacefully. Throughout the process, I realized he was a fun guy to work with, the same kind of satisfaction I get from playing a fast-paced basketball game with friends. More importantly, I noted that there is no difference in my gay colleague and any other male friends I have, with the exception of his slightly high-pitched voice, gestures, and attraction for males.

During my time in National Service, a friend of mine approached me and wanted to confess his sexuality. He was one of brave few who are not ashamed of their identities. What lies beyond their bravery is the simple but sad truth: Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) want to be accepted like normal people. I know of many army friends who, despite being homosexuals, decided not to disclose who they really are. They put on a persona that is deemed acceptable among friends, and in a larger context – the Singapore society. If employers thought they were heterosexuals, these friends will be treated almost equally compared to other job applicants. If employers discovered their physical attractions to the same sex, what are their chances of equal treatment? We would be lying if we said it is insignificant. It is not – stereotypes are formed and these people will be viewed in a negative light.

Nobody deserves being labelled and ostracised by the majority. Just like how we must eliminate discrimination against women who are fighting for equal rights, we should do the same for LGBTs. Likewise, you would want to have equal opportunities in your careers and for your loved ones too; you would not want to have a situation where your child has to experience discrimination when he or she born – as do gays, and so do we.

Alan is a current undergraduate in one of Singapore’s tertiary institutions. Having spent 4 years studying in Hong Kong during his high school days, the Singaporean has also helped raise funds for a local charity in Hong Kong reaching out to famine-affected areas.

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TV host and writer Anita Kapoor, shot to fame as the clear favourite winner of a Discovery travel host search and has not looked back since. Insatiably curious and possessing a natural wit, this former magazine editor has explored the world for Discovery TLC, AXN, Lonely Planet, Channel News Asia and OKTO, and Starwood Asia Pacific channels, forever on a quest to pioneer the non-conformist stories and locations, especially to connect with the provocateurs who move their worlds.

She is an ambassador for the Singapore chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and her advocacies include Willing Hearts which feeds Singapore’s marginalised, Magic Bus which empowers childrens’ lives in India through sports, and A Single Love which supports single parents. She has also spoken at TEDx Singapore Women 2012 on ‘Female to Female Misogyny in the First World’.

As a Pink Dot ambassador this year, Anita hopes to extend her voice on issues of equality as she firmly believes that everyone deserves equal rights, regardless of the hand they have been dealt in life.

“I see the rights of LGBT people as human rights, really. Everyone deserves to be treated equally – in society, in employment and in the eyes of the law. I believe that as fellow human beings, it’s important to stand together – to speak up for one another when we have the ability and opportunity to do so.”

Anita continues: “There’s a lot of work to be done, a lot of people we need to reach out to. Every one of us has the capacity to be a hero to someone else. I hope more Singaporeans will join us at this year’s Pink Dot. Because together, we can make this a more inclusive society for everyone.”