To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
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Advocacy for LBTQ women's rights at CEDAW
Sayoni was at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2017 to bring Singapore LBTQ women's issues to the forefront. The CEDAW Committee heard our concerns and raised recommendations related to LBTQ women in their Concluding Observations for the Singapore government.
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Sayoni is a Singapore-based feminist, volunteer-run organisation that works to uphold human rights protections for queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics.

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  • 1

I attended a Sayoni forum last Saturday entitled “Are We There Yet?”*

The forum covered the many inequalities that queer women suffer in comparison to heterosexuals, with reference to the 2008 Sayoni Survey Report. The AWARE saga was mentioned fairly frequently and prompted many from the floor to speak up to buttress or disagree with the panellists’ ideas. There were words of encouragement, a discussion on what action we can and should take, the injunction to come out as gay; just to mention some issues that struck me most. The floor was very opinionated and passionate, with not a few male voices, including Alex Au’s.

At one juncture, there was a split between the pragmatic and the idealistic approach to gay activism (using the latter term in a broad sense). Someone opined that we need to teach teenagers how to differentiate real feelings of attraction from puppy love; that is, how to tell that her same-sex attraction is just a phase or not. Alex Au disagreed, saying that we should not need to discriminate in the first place, that there should be nothing wrong with experimentation. Another member of the floor argued that we need to be realistic about this.

After the forum, some of us got together. In the conversation that ensued, I had a strong sense of the difficulties that we face in our everyday lives. I think that each one of us, if we really go out and about, getting in touch with ground sentiment, are going to meet with a lot of resistance. That resistance is going to be hurtful. The environment we are in isn’t very kind or forgiving. (I believe that many will beg to differ on this point, and yes, it is relative.)

However, the impact others can have really depends on the individual’s tolerance level, and, secondarily, how we choose to react to an action. I’m not saying I need to be able to take abuse. The way sensitivity works, if we understand the root causes of an emotion and are able to step back sufficiently from our trapped, subjective selves and have an underlying source of security, I think we can achieve a certain amount of freedom from the worst of hurts.

I think we need to be clear of where we stand, that it is perfectly okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered: anything but heterosexual and cisgendered. Sure, the science is fuzzy, the religious texts are difficult, and most of the time, there is very little certainty. But that’s okay. We are not meant to understand life thoroughly and pin it down to basic principles. Science, too, cannot illuminate everything. We need to build rafts for ourselves and one another and create that connectedness and rationality.

Frankly, I may just be building bunkers against assaults or trying to erect a bridge in my head between the different approaches to advancement of the cause. In truth, different ways of regarding the topic are necessary and even fundamental to any kind of change, either top-down or bottom-up.

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