|Not Your Gay Lifestyle|
|Articles - Commentary|
|Written by Nei|
|Sunday, 25 August 2013 23:56|
The Institute of Policy Studies, a think-tank within the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, conducted a survey with 4000 Singaporeans as part of Our Singapore Conversation. Contained within its questions were some on “gay lifestyles” and same-sex marriage. I’m writing this out of a deep sense of uneasiness at the questions asked, and of course, disappointment on several levels, both as a queer woman and as one of those Singaporeans the conversation is supposed to be for.
First, I want to say that language matters, and this is true everywhere, including and especially in a research survey. From the chart (reproduced below), “gay lifestyles” appears to be the term used to measure acceptance or rejection. But what were they accepting or rejecting? Us. LGBQ persons. By framing our sexuality as a “lifestyle”, were the researchers trying to set it up as a objective quantity, something that can be added and subtracted with ease? Because that’s what they might have been suggesting to the respondent.
“Gay lifestyle” implies choice and ease of change. No matter how important a role nature or nurture play in being gay, it's not something we just stop being. Being queer is an important part of who we are and is closely tied to crucial, positive human feelings such as love and affection as well as sex. Referring to it as a lifestyle implicitly rejects queer people, and if the survey said this, I’d like to know where the researchers were coming from in asking the question.
The words of IPS Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan Hoong, as reported in Today, reflect this bias. “Singaporeans are not upset as long as gays do not advocate making alternative lifestyles a part of the mainstream.” Translation: As long as we don’t expose the straight people to gay sexuality. There is an appalling slant towards an existing message in his choice of words.
The international media has long been aware of the importance of sensitivity. GLAAD’s media reference guide states:
Offensive: "gay lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle"
It’s also a term that pops up a lot on certain Christian sites that emphasise that gay people can change, that is, gay conversion therapy, which generally holds that being queer is a negative thing. I’m not sure anyone really knows what a gay lifestyle is, though. I seem to spend a lot of time hanging out with my parents and working... oh wait, that’s what straight people do, too. And I’m single, which still doesn’t make me any less gay.
In 2005, 68.6 percent of respondents expressed negative attitudes, 22.9 percent had positive attitudes and 8.5 percent were neutral. In 2010, 64.5 percent of those surveyed held negative attitudes towards homosexuals, while 25.3 percent expressed positive attitudes and 10.2 percent were neutral.
Similar to studies conducted elsewhere, the survey found that Singapore citizens and PRs who have a gay or lesbian family member or know someone who is homosexual are less likely to have negative attitudes and be more accepting.
I'll probably think of the IPS survey as a curiosity and an informal study of what people here think, until the researchers can show it was an actual scientific study of any rigour. In the meantime, we can take heart that society is changing, and keep on working towards that change in our own little ways.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 12:45|