Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Degrees of hate.

Char Siew Pau here was ambivalent to see news of American teen, Tyler Clementi's suicide appearing in the local Straits Times last week. It wasn't clear to this male unfeminist, badly drawn pig what exactly it meant for him that the papers prioritised the article on the third page of the main papers, because he was still reeling from a couple of events that broke with the news of Clementi's death.

Such as learning that one of the two guys recently caught having sex together in a local mall toilet is being charged under Section 377A [ed: please read People Like Us's statement in full!], i.e. the anti-male homosexual act law that our parliament said it won't repeal for symbolic appeal. Then there were debates amuck on the veracity of saying that homophobia was the key ingredient in driving Clementi off the bridge.

From the latter thread, one such detractor was the very rational and evidence-based--let's call him--Mr Mensch, asserting--and I paraphrase, "Until I see evidence of homophobia, I'm inclined to believe it has nothing to do with Clementi's death. Charlotte’s Interwebz encourages people to distribute exposés all over. It's free-market sexcapade galore for straight people, for gay people, for all!"

Why, what a wonderfully insightful libertarian mensch! I would have totally gotten my Pork Trotters twisted in the excitement of such sound revelation if not for fact that, hey, my stupid gay, asian Lup Cheong self looked around and saw that he remains in the shadow of a vigilant heteronormative state. A state in which the assumed default and premium is in being heterosexual (or at least discreetly straight-acting), failing which you are a frowned-upon deviant. It precedes that when straight people, who aren't presidents, hotelier heiresses or pop stars, are caught in the hanky panky on film, there's practically no uproar about their sexual orientation, only mixed reactions of privacy invaded.

Never fear, you could be a random breeder snogging in China, Alaska, South Africa or Greenland but still find that nowhere will you so pervasively come against some bigots calling for your demise, accusing you of bearing some hidden agenda that seeks to devalue the family, desecrating one's holy ground, insulting one's gods, or going against nature's ways. If you are caught on film making out with the opposite sex, no one in any part of the world has the image of you in mind when zie plans for the never-going-to-exist ex-straight conversion camp that will fix you of your widely-popular choice of lifestyle. If you were caught on film doing the heterosexual hoochie coochie, some people may be happy to reenact the scenario on a R-21 screen without the fear that censors will snip you out because we don't want to promote deviant lifestyles--and they don't mean being caught on camera.

No, the sensationalism here never rode on the fact that Clementi kissed someone--few 18 year-olds warrant any attention with their snogfests, but that he had "asked for the room till midnight" (oh, he must be hiding something!), and later caught "making out with a dude"! GAY! TRYING TO HIDE!? GAY BUSTED! - to the whole fucking world, both friends and foes. The thrill of it comes in irrevocably exposing Clementi of his furtive engagement in something still denounced in many circles, inviting the floodwalls to collapse for all to see, celebrate, wank to, but also jeer, hiss, laugh, mock, cuss and pitchfork.

And the gates will open to the nefarious, especially since a person already doesn't even need to be caught doing anything (homo-sex-ual) except exist to cause a stir in others, then finding hirself at the brute end of all forms of physical, mental and emotional attacks from others of all walks of life--family, friends and absolute strangers—and for no reason than that they *think* zie's quee, which somehow justifies abusive behaviour. Even if one's truly queer, making no excuse for living as a proud and openly queer person, coming out as such is to continually navigate through a minefield. Because despite hir feeling secured in hir own skin--a feat not to be belittled ever, there are always unsafe spaces to come out in, and forever the unsafe people to come out to.

In Clementi's unfortunate case, such a person was Dharun Ravi, the sneaky little asshole who not only recorded but also broadcasted Clementi's make-out session. Ravi may seem like such an equal-opportunistic mercenary to the likes of Mr Mensch, but really his tactics are but a leaf out of the books of anti-gay witch-hunters, exploiting nothing but the dangers, fears and anxieties associated with an out gay person, and the sickening, self-righteous thrill of those who seek to uncover and tabloid the secrets of bones and people in closets for effect beside the well-being of the outed. (Newsflash: if you care about a queer person, do not out hir in any manner, or demand to know if zie's queer.)

So guess what? Just because thick-skulled Ravi is, presumably, unable to recognise the cause and effect of a hate crime does not mean he operated by anything less than that--imagine what the world would be like if members of the Ku Klux Klan actually knew they were being assholes! And just because Mr Mensch proves himself equally obtuse to the undercurrents of context, it proves nothing but that there're people who continue not to grasp the extant of homophobia and the real-life cruel aftermath it has on a whole lot of people.

That said, what really chaps this Suckling Pig's hide is that despite how much we protest this grave injustice, and even come to the point of publishing news of deaths brought on by homophobic pressures, this sunny-but-not-so-happy island of Singapore remains guilty of similar exploits all the way up the ranks. It makes it nearly impossible to take home any lesson on tolerance and acceptance of queer people that can be taken from this reportage when anti-sodomy laws are kept for what seems to be the express purpose of making it central to any sex-related crime between two consenting men.

Seriously, just what the fuck was the egregious crime here that Tan Eng Hong and his partner are caught for? Having sex in a public location, or having homosexual sex in a public location? A similar case involving a straight couple might have been charged under Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act--like how the nude couple in Holland Village were--instead of S377A, noting that not only is there no equivalent in “gross indecency” in heterosexual terms following the repeal of anti-straight oral/anal sex in 2007, but also that, technically speaking, "gross indecency" between two men may occur in and out of the private sphere. This is imprecise a charge, and frankly a disappointingly unfair one, given what was envisaged by PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2007.

This only leads my Braised Pig-head to conclude that, just as how the problem wasn't about Clementi kissing someone but about him "kissing a dude", this is now not about displays of sexual acts but displays of male homosexual acts between two men.

Even with the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in so many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, China, Japan and Taiwan, it is still an uphill battle for queer people to get even an ounce of respect and acceptance. A not-so-symbolic anti-gay law in our legislature, so arbitrarily reapplied despite claims of non-pursuance, empowers people to continue doing and talking shit about gay people without the slightest hint of contrition (read: Rony Tan). Because always it's what the government believes in, and now even it's the greater crime prosecutable. Abusers will always be on the right side of the law, and by the government's suggestion, they’re bedfellows to a wider, bigger majority that is all right with the active discrimination and abuse of gay people.

If you think Clementi's case is free of homophobia, if you think it's okay to throw S377A at Tan et al, then you are part of this----in a clever play of language to make them sound so marginalised—(mythical)silent majority that the government seeks to valiantly protect.

Don't be mistaken though, I hear and feel every sub-decibel of contempt your silence holds to my piggish ears even if you think you know otherwise.

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