“Act blur, live longer.”
That was the advice my cousin gave me when I started my tertiary education. When I repeated this to my classmates, they were awestruck by the simplicity and truth behind it.
So in many realms of life, I try not to poke my nose where it shouldn’t be, try not to stick my neck out. In an era where anything you say can be taken the wrong way, it’s often best to just shut up – live and let live.
In Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin’s A Space for Love and Anger speech back in 2016, she noted that there are two groups of young Singaporeans, a vocal minority and the silent majority.
The truth is, my generation (I’m in my mid-20s) is generally indifferent to what is happening at the national level. We just want to study hard, get into a good school, land a decent 9-5 job, pay our taxes and live quietly.
Act blur, live longer … Right?
Singapore Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam has recently expressed that public opinion will ultimately determine the direction Singapore will take with regards to the debate on Section 377A, the statute in the Penal Code that makes sex between men a criminal offence.
Following his statement, both camps took it as a signal that sheer numbers will influence the decision, and published competing petitions expressing their stand.
Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent market research company, also recently conducted a survey on 750 Singaporeans aged 15-65 to understand current social attitudes towards same-sex relationships.
The survey showed that 55% of the respondents supported keeping Section 377A, while 12% opposed it. Most will focus on those figures – but that leaves a sizeable 33% who did not take a definitive stand.
Asked whether people should be able to participate in same-sex relationships, 28% said yes and 38% said no. Once again, that leaves a third who do not have a take on this issue.
That’s … A lot.
I understand that love is not the easiest topic to broach, much less formulate a stand on. It is both a grey area and a minefield.
For example, is the question of whether to keep 377A a question of human rights or morality? Supporters will say that removing 377A is a step towards a progressive society; the other side says doing so is a step towards moral decay in society.
Another source of tension: Is the debate over 377A simply about decriminalising private, consensual gay sex, or is it impossible to make a decision without fully taking into account possible wider implications?
It’s a complex, contentious topic. So some are afraid to take a stand because of the sensitive, personal nature of the issue. Others just think it has nothing to do with them anyway.
For me, I know what my answer is, but then there’s the difficult part of asking: How do I formulate a defence for my stand? How do I convey it in such a manner that is still loving?
How do I convey the fact that I’m standing for something, not against something? Because so many times, differences in opinions get automatically branded as a personal attack – an unloving act against the other party.
But the difficult or messy nature of the issue doesn’t excuse us from doing the hard work of thinking things through and reaching a conclusion objectively. Because our decision today – whether for or against – will affect the state of things tomorrow. And each of us is entitled to have a say on how we’d like the future of Singapore to be.
Young people of today, you have a voice. And in time to come, your voice will be the loudest – even if you keep silent.
Silence isn’t a non-answer. It says a lot. It says what you’re not for, and it says what you’re not against. It says you don’t care enough to gain the understanding needed to make wise decisions.
Yes, “tomorrow” may not actually be tomorrow. And whether 377A stays or goes may not affect you directly, if the act it currently criminalises isn’t something you’re into, or if you don’t know anyone it involves. But it will definitely affect someone, someday.
Generations await your response; we are all and each responsible for the future trajectory of Singapore.
I’m not asking you to follow my stand, which is the way so much of this discourse is going in the public. All I’m asking is that you take the time and effort to objectively and rationally think through this issue. There are many arguments for and against – take the time to read through them, discuss the issue with trusted friends, search your heart, search the Scriptures if they apply to you, and come to a conclusion for yourself.
So that when the time comes, you can stand for … Something. Not nothing.