To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
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.
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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But I, stand to question this “love”. I do not deny it exists, I do not deny that people feel it, or that it can be real or true. I do not question that we can be extremely happy spending time with the people we love.

Love is, after all, no matter how much may be written about it, a chemical reaction, a firing of synapses, in our brains. Every emotion we feel is, for that matter. If our emotions are real, so is love.

Then what am I questioning? I am questioning, here, the power of love. I am questioning the axiom that love can overcome anything, is more important than anything, is the ultimate ideal we need to strive for. I am taking the bold step of slaughtering the sacred cow of Love, if not for anyone but myself.

As much as love makes people happy, it makes fools of us all, even the best of us. Love leads to irrationality, self-deception and bad decisions – do not tell me that none of you have never made a bad decision when in love. Love makes people stay in abusive relationships, endure bad treatment, try to keep failing relationships afloat, hang on when there is no hope in sight.

More importantly, I am questioning the assumption that love is necessary for a relationship, or to find your life-partner. It was an axiom I was questioning for a while, and my disbelief became complete, when ironically, I recently watched the season finale of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. Watching her make the same mistake twice, makes me realise that in the search for that perfect love, we overlook the search for our perfect mate. Not that I believe there is a “perfect mate” – there can be close approximations, but nothing more.

Love and relationship CAN exist without each other. You can love someone, but not be in a relationship with them, and you can be in a relationship with someone, but not be in love with them (to add another dimension to the situation, you can be not in love with them, but maybe still love them). The mistake that most of us make is that we assume that when love happens, the natural consequence is a relationship, and should be, and should be what we work towards. Sometimes it is just not possible to have a relationship with the person you love, whether it be reciprocal or not. The woman you love deeply could be an unstable, cheating drug-addict. Or maybe she is commitment-phobic. Or maybe she is a married woman with kids. Or maybe she is simply needy and clingy and impossible to live with. Maybe you have a fundamental personality mismatch. You get the idea – just because you love someone, does not mean you need to be with them.

But I hear the objections now: how is a relationship possible without love? The concept that love is absolutely necessary for a relationship is a rather modern, and somewhat western, concept – for thousands of years, our ancestors have been conducting marriage and relationships without the need for such a device. In some of these luckier arrangements, the parties eventually learn and love each other. Do not get me wrong: I am hardly advocating a return back to those days where you let your parents choose a mate – that would be ridiculous. However, my point is this: in doing all the choosing for yourself, and taking the extensive time to get to know the person beforehand, in this process, is being in love an absolutely necessary step? You can be really fond of that person, or simply love them, but is being “in love”, necessary? Ideally, you want to have both. Ideally, a strong love and a strong relationship go together, and that would be utopia. But I am sure all of us know that this is difficult, if not impossible to find.

Secondly, in my experience, stability and passion rarely go together. Oh sometimes it does, and I am most certainly jealous of those lucky ones. The mad crazy passionate love that we are all looking for, often does not come paired with a stable, loving relationship. Often, it is either/or, or somewhere along the spectrum. But of course, being human, we pick the passionate and crazy, not the stable and maybe-not-so-intense ones, because the first appeals more to our short-term sensory experience, hardly thinking of the long-term plan (like Tila did. Twice.).

In the end, I don’t believe in love. I believe in relationships. I don’t believe in finding the one true love – I believe in finding the one good relationship. I believe in finding someone whom you can have a good dynamic with, someone who makes you happy, someone who treats you well. I believe in finding personality fits, someone whom you can talk with even when the looks fade, and the sex ends. I believe in holding on to a good relationship, with or without “love” (as we understand it), and working to maintain it. Love CAN accompany such a find, but only sometimes. When years into the relationship, the love fades, only the strength of the relationship can keep itself afloat. Love is fickle, and like I’ve said before, a chemical reaction. A relationship is a lot more solid, a lot more real, and it is what will carry you through till “Death do us part”. And of course, I know that they can come together, being surrounded by real-life examples. But for every single one of those success stories, there are a lot more stories of heartbreak and pain.

I do realise this is a stand which can be easily misinterpreted for bitterness. It is after all, not fashionable to not believe in the power of love, and the ones who do not are clearly the “bitter singles”. But I do to an extent – I humbly recognise the power of love over our emotions and actions. I acknowledge that the next time I fall in love, I clearly will not be rational, just like any other person. But I hope to have learned from my past lessons and hold on to this single piece of clarifying belief.

I’m a Believer. But not in Love.

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