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Inter-causal

June is Pride Month in New York, and in Singapore, Pink Dot, an annual picnic-turned-rally for LGBTQ equality. After having come out as a gay man for years, more and more I find June to be a time not just for celebration but also for reflection, on what the LGBTQ movement has achieved and how far it has to go. This June, a Facebook post by a young Malay-Muslim gay man from Singapore made me think harder about the goals of the movement. I share his post with his permission.

“Someone asked me this morning whether I tuned in for Pink Dot, and my reply is always the same. I have a complicated relationship with PD and Singapore’s LGBT movement in general, because my entry into gay spaces at 18 just made me even more aware of my alterity. It was not a moment of self-acceptance and solidarity commonly imagined in popular coming-of-age narratives. The gay community in Singapore was often a brutal and racially abusive space for me. In many ways it amplifies the worst strain of Singapore’s Chinese national culture, hypermasculine and patriarchal.

I couldn’t fathom how queers at Pink Dot could talk a big deal about liberation and ‘freedom’ when so many of them were active racists. Will they stand with us tomorrow when we see yet another ugly racist attack?

But I’ve learnt to manage that troubled relationship better over the years. I’ve come to meet and know a more diverse, fun and critical queer community beyond the vulgarity of assimilationist, mainstream gay culture. I’ve also realised that yelling at racist Chinese gays still ends up making it about them, that there is no point in reformative work that will not be received in the spirit that it is given.

I’m glad that Pink Dot has grown more intersectional over the years and even openly acknowledged racism within the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore this year. It’s a crawl, but we’re moving. A couple of years ago I wrote an angry post about how removing 377A probably won’t change things for many queer Malay people, who still have to deal with social conservatism and Islamic fundamentalism within our own community even if the secular State concedes. Chinese racism and the PAP regime are just some of the broad apparatuses of power that we have to deal with.

This prevents many of us from taking up space in the movement, and challenging the race problem in the community effectively. The backlash from our own communities is typically vicious: ask Munah and Hirzi. But I don’t know what’s the way ahead. Many gay Muslims I’ve met are comfortable in the closet, and to them this feels like the most ethical thing to do: especially when coming out to family can cause irreparable grief and hurt.

Malay parents and their queer children have their own strategies of dealing with unspoken truths, of maintaining fictions. There’s something about Western modernity that wants to shine a light on everything and expose truths wherever possible. But we make room for shadows. We know some secrets must be kept.

I don’t know what queer organisation amongst brown Singaporeans should look like. I’m wary of culture-specific mobilisation: I’m not interested in debating homosexuality in Islamic theology or if we can find some obscure juridical allowance to validate our queerness. Whether or not Islam ‘permits’ gender diversity shouldn’t devalue the rights of queer people to just and equal treatment.

I also don’t actually care for finding ‘historical’ evidence about homosexuality in Malay society – we already know there was (and probably way more than was recorded), but history isn’t there to advance some kind of argument for or against social patterns or identities that exist today. Whether or not the Bugis had five genders shouldn’t devalue the rights of queer Southeast Asians today.

Maybe activism should try to be as inter-causal as possible? To recognise that climate activism, queer advocacy and anti-racism are challenging structures of oppression that are ultimately enmeshed? But we can’t expect everyone to cover all bases, since activists spontaneously generate a division of labour amongst themselves. I don’t have any ideas.”

If you are anything like me, your first reaction to this piece may be to call for the writer to come out publicly. The trope of the closet has so dominated LGBTQ narratives that it has acquired the force of an ethical imperative. However, the identity-based trope can blind us to the more necessary work of challenging the interlocking structures of oppression, such as racism, sexism, capitalism, imperialism, and religious fundamentalism of all stripes. To see, as the writer does, that activism has to be “inter-causal” is an advance on the current notion of “intersectional.” The latter exposes overlapping problems. The former notion—inter-causal—diagnoses the overlapping sources of our problems. Such a way of seeing the complicated situation does not necessarily give way to despair. Instead, it gives us the great hope that tackling one such source will have myriad and cascading benefits on all areas of life. If we reduce economic inequality, for instance, we may also lessen the grip of religious fundamentalisms.

Happy Pride to all our LGBTQ friends!

 

Jee Leong Koh

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

6 Responses to “Inter-causal”

  • xoxo:

    Was PINKY there?
    He loves PINK.

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  • Readability: difficult:

    Very hard to understand. A second opinion from a computer:
    https://readabilityformulas.com/freetests/six-readability-formulas.php

    Flesch Reading Ease score: 48.3 (text scale)
    Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: difficult to read.

    Linsear Write Formula : 13
    Grade level: College.
    Need a very level of education to understand.

    In contrast, Mr TKL’s score is
    https://www.tremeritus.net/2021/07/01/address-the-concern-about-vaccination-of-young-people/
    Flesch Reading Ease score: 62.6 (text scale)
    Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: standard / average.

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  • #08-193 Huang Ba Dan:

    “I couldn’t fathom how queers at Pink Dot could talk a big deal about liberation and ‘freedom’ when so many of them were active racists. Will they stand with us tomorrow when we see yet another ugly racist attack?”

    All the pondans are so superficial. You must be handsome, have great body, big sausage. Then they want you.

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  • #06-191 Bang your head and die:

    I heard some talk about Action for Aids volunteers pick up guys during their counselling sessions. I it true? Don’t mix work with business.

    I have a straight fren last time, he likes aquas. You know, those guys who dress up as women at Desker/Johor Road. He likes to remove the dress and find a penis underneath there. He say very shiok.

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  • Pink Dot Sluts:

    “The gay community in Singapore was often a brutal and racially abusive space for me. In many ways it amplifies the worst strain of Singapore’s Chinese national culture, hypermasculine and patriarchal.”

    Yup. Many are just typical Sporean rude toads. If you are not interested, no need to be rude, give people disgusted looks and act like some classy uppity . Oh and cry discrimination if the same happpens to them.

    You be so surprised that some gay clubs price their entrance fees based on age. And this is the most glaringly obvious display of discriminaation. Yet this is kind of accepted within the LGBT community. There were some unhappiness that older guys have to pay and the younger ones can enter for free. A little like those sexist ladies nite where the women get free drinks or that they ask guys to buy them drinks. Cheapos.

    Oh and ugly toads can act like they only deserve the best. Talk about being unrealistic.

    Those homos need to see what their a$$e looks like before they do pink dot. Want others to accept them but they themselves can’t accept people who don’t look like magazine covers.

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  • East or Gay:

    People, make your choice: Accept LGBTQ in schools or face the powerful wrath of the West.

    1) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted a picture of the rainbow pride flag raised outside the State Department in Washington, writing that the commemoration of two major LGBT events “reminds us how far we’ve come – and how much more we need to achieve, at home and worldwide.” The key word here is “worldwide.”

    2) Hungary recently passed a law that banned the promotion of LGBT lifestyles to children. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, argues that he has previously been a strong promoter of gay rights, and this law is intended to protect children and parents from sexual material. As the EU deems this to be an issue of universal values, any nuanced discussion was skipped and it instead moved straight on to talking about punishment.

    Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, stated: “My goal is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue” and called for expelling Hungary from the EU. The French president argued that Brussels should show “no weakness” in facing down Hungary.

    What’s your choice?

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