“Regardless of Sexuality” a missed opportunity for clarity.


Regardless of Sexuality – our mainstream media’s first attempt to unpack the hot-button topic of homosexuality in Singapore. This episode features 5 main segments of content:

  1. A small sample of 15 participants in a live polling exercise
  2. Spotlight on a gay man and a lesbian (plus her partner)
  3. Views from parents of LGBTQ individuals
  4. LGBTQ individuals (and 1 ex-lesbian) who also identify with an Abrahamic faith
  5. Views from religious leaders of Abrahamic faiths

Perhaps there was a meeting in some Mediacorp boardroom by well-meaning corporate executives to commission a documentary to tease out nuances and different perspectives and to encourage more thoughtful discourse.

What was eventually produced, however, was riddled with ambiguous terms, perpetuated misconceptions, and missed discussing the important dynamic between LGBTQ activism, ideologies and its impact on larger society entirely.

Ambiguous Terminology

Words have meaning. They shape how we view things and how we behave. Clarity is therefore of utmost importance when discussing an ideology which frequently equivocates to advance its cause.

Throughout the video, critical terms have been used loosely. Here are some of these ambiguous terminologies that we at… Regardless feel needed more clarity in the documentary to make the terms more meaningful and precise.

#1 – “Are you okay with…” / “I am okay with…”

Source: CNA Insider, Regardless of Sexuality

Okay: This term is used repeatedly in segment 1 of the documentary for the live polls.

Meaning 1Meaning 2Meaning 3
Tolerance despite strong disapproval and disagreementGeneral apathy; on the fence / no opinionAffirmative, supportive of the proposition

Without clarity, respondents tend to struggle in responding accurately to statements. It skews responses towards “agreeing with the statements” without allowing an accurate expression of true feelings and nuances.

This could also create a wrong impression that there is more support for the propositions when most people may be simply expressing a lack of opinion or tolerance despite personal disagreement.

#2 – “Acceptance” / “Accept”

Source: CNA Insider, Regardless of Sexuality

Acceptance: One of the most common yet ambiguous terms in this topic.

Meaning 1Meaning 2Meaning 3
Non-rejection of the individual + tolerance of ideas and behaviour in spite of personal disagreement with said ideas and behaviourLive and let live; general apathy. Accepting for the sake of accepting peopleAffirmative, supportive of behaviour, ideas and desires expressed

“Acceptance” is repeatedly used throughout the episode without explanation and clarification like the table above. This could have caused conflicting responses from participants.

Why do these distinctions matter? Let’s take for example: Seeking “acceptance” from parents.

Will there be a difference between hoping that a parent would:

Simply “not reject me as a person/child (meaning 1)”, as compared to “affirm my sexual desires and behaviour (meaning 3)”?

Surely it is more reasonable to seek acceptance in the former sense as compared to the latter.

This episode instead presented an unhelpful “all-or-nothing” concept of “acceptance” (meaning 3). Such a concept unfairly demands that parents must embrace behaviour they disagree with in order to be considered loving. It also missed a golden opportunity to tease out this nuance and common ground which would have actually helped families with children who identify as LGBTQ who have been caught in this unhelpful binary to find peace and reconciliation.

#3 – “Homophobic”

To the credit of the producers, “Homophobic” is used only once. A participant was trying to justify his disagreement with the statement “Singaporeans should be accepting of people of different sexualities”.

Meaning 1Meaning 2
Fear of gay/queer personsPrejudice against gay/queer persons

The participant’s use of the term “homophobic” leaves viewers wondering “What exactly is he describing as ‘homophobic’?”.

Or has he wrongly labelled “disagreement with LGBTQ ideas and behaviour” as “homophobic” because he has falsely equated them in his mind?

It is unfortunate that the documentary gave us no insight into this critical point. Understanding “homophobia” could help us all better address prejudice and irrational fears that we hear so much about but see so little of, while also recognising reasons why someone may disagree with certain LGBTQ ideas, desires and behaviour.

Instead, the programme neglected the opportunity to examine the truthfulness behind this much-heard term of slander.

#4 – “Support”

A recurring theme, (12 times to be precise) in this episode is the idea of “supporting someone who comes out as homosexual/queer”. What is understood by “support” also severely impacts the definition of “LGBTQ ally”, which we explore later in this article.

Meaning 1Meaning 2Meaning 3
Cares for well-being even while disagreeing with certain ideas and behaviour.
Eg. Opposing abusive behaviour towards LGBTQ-identifying persons.
Non-confrontational, generally compliant and adopting a “you do you” and “happy for you” approach; generally apathetic towards ideas and behaviour.Affirmative and encourages behaviour, ideas and embracing of homosexual desires. Also opposes abusive behaviour towards LGBTQ persons.

In LGBTQ activism, “support” is usually used to narrowly refer to the third meaning in the table above. It is an authoritarian, binarising, “my way or the highway” position that negates all goodwill and effort to care and provide for the individual even where disagreement over certain ideas and behaviours exists. Sadly, the documentary adopts this mono-dimensional frame for “support” 10 of 12 times.

The other two times, “support” was used in reference to support groups.

It is unclear why the producers were quite so careless in framing such a sensitive concept since this very failure would only serve to further distress rifts between society’s two camps. Already, the narrative foisted by LGBTQ activists is that individuals either “support” their cause or be branded as bigots and homophobes – a travesty of social manipulation.

The CNA documentary does little to remedy this malaise, instead furthering the impression that to be a good, compassionate person one has to adopt meaning 3 – That which is most commonly used by activists.

Yet, featured religious leaders who explicitly explained that homosexual desire and behaviour are not compatible with the faith can be said to be “supportive” (meaning 1). These were the only times that the idea of being supportive but not affirming was shown.

And so, once again, people who care deeply and hold space for LGBTQ persons, but are not affirmative of the LGBT ideology are ignored from the conversation – That’s a majority of well-balanced kind-hearted Singaporeans who are excluded from representation in the service of this narrow definition of what it means to “support” a person.

#5 – “Ally” (following the third meaning of “support”)

Source: CNA Insider, Regardless of Sexuality
Meaning 1Meaning 2Meaning 3
Someone who agrees with and promotes LGBTQ ideology/ideas; a champion in LGBTQ activism/ for LGBTQ causesSomeone who is compliant, not opposing LGBTQ activismSomeone who supports LGBTQ (recall different meanings of “support”)

The definition in this episode (meaning 3) seems to defy conventional use of the term (meaning 1).

The conventional use of the term perpetuates an “us-versus-them” rhetoric. Central to this term is the idea that “an ally is aligned with the causes and ideas LGBTQ activists fight for”.

From this angle, the term also demonises “non-allies”; people who care and serve LGBTQ persons / people without affirming their LGBTQ ideas and desires (meaning 1 for “support”).

Already, we have seen such attempts locally to demonise religious leaders, organisations and movements as “anti-LGBTQ”. All these despite their repeated emphasis on caring for the well-being of LGBTQ persons and a strong stance against any form of bullying or abuse.

Such accusations have caused distress to individuals and organisations. Some of them have decided to speak up.

Misconceptions and Inconvenient Realities

The documentary allowed to be propagated the idea that “people are born gay” and “sexual orientation is immutable” without contextualisation or clarification. These are fundamental beliefs held within the LGBTQ movement, but are controversial and unsupported by science despite decades of attempts to make the science say what activists want.

Source: CNA Insider, Regardless of Sexuality

Segment four featured a conversation between a gay man and his father. The father claims to have known that his son is gay since he was a baby. He had however mixed up a highly stereotypical gender expression with sexual orientation – a point that the documentary could have clarified with a disclaimer or clarification box.

Source: CNA Insider, Regardless of Sexuality

Karen Lee, an ex-lesbian was also briefly featured in the documentary. Interestingly, her ex-lesbian identity was assigned inverted commas while queer identification by others were not. Why is it so difficult to accept (meaning 1) the fact that some people simply have experienced a change in their thinking, feelings and behaviour?

Perhaps it’s due to another ambiguous term such as “gay/lesbian” where there is a conflation of feelings, behaviour and self-identification.

#6 – “Gay/Lesbian”

Meaning 1Meaning 2Meaning 3
Someone who is attracted to the same-sex.   (attraction only)Someone who is attracted to the same-sex and self-identifies that way.   (attraction + self-identification)Someone who is attracted to the same-sex, self-identifies that way and is pursuing same-sex desires.   (attraction/orientation + self-identification + behaving a certain way)

When the term “gay/lesbian” is understood solely in the first sense, it can be difficult for people to imagine a change (though sexual fluidity exists).

The concept of “ex-gay/lesbian” is most often applied with the second or third sense of the terms “gay/lesbian”. Such persons could still be experiencing same-sex attraction but no longer self-identify as “gay/lesbian” as they do not see a need to and do not desire to pursue those desires.

Their reasons for leaving those life choices vary. Listening to their stories first hand instead of assuming internalised “homophobia” (meaning 1 and 2) is a wiser choice.

Missed Dynamic: LGBTQ Activism and People who Disagree

For a documentary which claimed to examine “The LGBT Divide in Singapore,” this one only focused on the personal experiences of LGBTQ persons and their family members. There are indeed pain points and blatant homophobia (meaning 1 and 2) which could be addressed in society.

However, it failed to shed any light on the demands of LGBTQ activism and why people strongly disagree with them.

Failure to do so creates a tunnel vision on the entire topic. Such vision disregards the larger implications of accepting LGBTQ ideology and the demands of LGBTQ activists upon the rest of society.

Hopefully, future iterations of such conversations can include this area.

Clarity Needed in the Path Ahead

Regardless of our personal views on the topic of LGBTQ, it is critical that we have clarity on the topic and its terminologies.

Ambiguity creates confusion. Misleading language creates misconceptions.

Clearly as a society, Singapore has a long way to go in understanding this topic and developing sufficient capacities to discuss the topic in an objective manner. Clarity is important. We can and must do better than this in our attempt to build a better Singapore for all.

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