Obama’s comments have sparked a raging debate in the US and elsewhere. Singapore is no exception. One only has to look back at the 2007 parliamentary debate on Section 377a, that part of the Penal Code which makes gay sex a criminal offence. You had the ‘conservative’ camp lead by the former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), Professor Thio Li-Ann, who argued that homosexuality is contrary to ‘traditional’ values and therefore wrong. On the other side, you had people in the more “liberal” camp, such as Siew Kum Hong, himself also a former NMP, who argued that it was time to end discrimination against homosexuals.
Two-years later, you had the AWARE saga, which saw Professor Thio Su-Mien, Thio Li Ann’s mother, arguing that it was necessary to prevent a “gay” agenda taking over AWARE.
Amidst all this noise, nobody seemed interested in discussing one pertinent issue – how does one react when one’s child declares that he or she is homosexual or lesbian? There is a difference between discussing issues intellectually and dealing with them when they hit as close to home as one’s children.
For the record, I don’t have my own children. However, the lady I’m currently seeing has a daughter from a previous marriage and my previous girlfriend is a single mother of a 5-year old boy. I’m close enough to both children to talk about them as my “step-children.” When people want to discuss homosexuality with me, I ask myself howI would react if Thuy (my stepdaughter) or Yooga (my stepson) were to come up to me one day and tell me, “I am gay.”
Let’s be perfectly honest here, I wouldn’t like it, particularly in the case of the boy. I wouldn’t call myself ‘homophobic’ but I’m a red-blooded heterosexual male. I believe that a man should have a healthy sexual appetite and sexual pleasure with a woman is one of the finer pleasures a man can enjoy. I enjoy beautiful women as do the friends that I have. I think the love of women is one of the best things a father can pass on to a son.
I also find the concept of anal sex repulsive – I have no desire to penetrate or be penetrated by anyone in that region. I can’t imagine anyone deriving pleasure from that act. I cannot imagine my own son indulging in something so repulsive.
So, I know what my initial reaction would be if my children told me they were gay. I might even be as undiplomatic as to curse – “Oh s***!” It’s like this, you spend your life trying to make the kid into a mini-version of you and then one day he announces that he is everything that you’re not.
I’d like to think that this would be an initial reaction. Yes, I’d feel crushed if the boy ever announced that he was gay. However, I’ve spent enough years loving him to know that I can’t change track just like that. As much as I may want him to be me, to enjoy the things I do and the things I didn’t get to have, I accept the boy for who he is. Short of him wanting to be a mass murderer or a sadistic torturer, who am I on the scale of things to stop him from living his life the way he wants to live it?
I take the view that even if I don’t approve of his lifestyle or his sexual orientation, I don’t want him to be persecuted or be liable for being persecuted for it. Look, being gay is not like being a member of Al-Qaeda.
Would I ever want the boy to come to me with a gay partner? Well, I wouldn’t like it. Then again, I’d rather he be happy with someone I don’t approve of than he be miserable with someone I do.
Yes, I’ve always thought of marriage as being between a man and a woman. However, I don’t see how marriage between two men or two women would be a violation of social order. If my stepson or stepdaughter came to me telling me they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with a partner of the same sex, I’d support them – even if it goes against everything I’ve been brought up to believe in (though I’d insist on meeting their other halves and giving them a good grilling first).
I look at it this way: former US Vice-President Dick Cheney is as conservative as it gets. Yet, he accepts his openly gay daughter and appears in public with her. Her sexuality and his political position might be contrary to each other but he remains her father and behaves as a father should towards her. If a man who has been portrayed as a hard core member of the religious right can think like a father rather than an ideologue when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, why can’t more of us do the same?
President Obama feels that homosexuals are capable of having healthy, happy monogamous relationships. As a society, we expect homosexuals to make the same contributions that we do, like fight in wars, go to work and pay their taxes. So why can’t we allow them to live in legally recognised monogamous relationships as well?