Something big which happened in Singapore, which I think is worth mentioning is the coming out of a secondary school teacher in a well known school, Raffles Institution. He posted his coming out on his blog on the Saturday evening two weeks ago. On Monday, he was asked by the Ministry of Education to remove it.
I think I speak for all when I say that what he did was very brave and it was the right thing to do.
In fact, many of his students and parents of the students supported his move and his desire to be true to himself so that he could contribute more meaningfully to society.
Even though the article has been removed, this is the internet age we are talking about and it can still be found here.
What one student said:
I adorn a man with my respect when he shows me courage, and Otto Fong deserves it. I have never had the privilege of being taught by him but I know he’s a great man, and it will earn him nothing but veneration in my eyes to, so aptly put, come out of the closet.
The world would have been a more beautiful place, beseiged by less lies and less deceit. If people were more comfortable with being themselves. Proud of themselves. Less pain and less ignorance. Less hate.
There are more positive responses than negatives, from the comments I read from this site.
Yet, in today's newspaper The Straits Times, a front page read "7 in 10 frown on homosexuality, NTU survey finds".
The above survey also measured how religious a person was and how far he or she conformed to social norms.
No surprises in the conclusion arrived at: "intrinsic religiosity" - viewing religion as the primary driving force of life - was the strongest predictor of anti-gay sentiment. So did those who conformed to social norms.
Anyway, back to Otto Fong, the teacher who came out. He said
"I, Otto Fong, have always been and always will be a gay man. When you ask about my spouse, I will say he is a man. I am as proud being gay as you are proud being straight. I am not, as some people like to label gays, a pedophile, a child molester, a pervert or sexual deviant. I did not choose to be gay, just like heterosexuals did not choose to be straight. I am not going to hell (not for being gay anyway).
I am not going back in the closet. When you ask me who I am, I will answer: I am a son, a brother, a long-time companion, an uncle, a teacher, a classmate, a colleague, a part of your community, a HDB dweller, a Singaporean. And I am also gay."
Strong words, and how very true.
"Do you know what a bonsai tree is? A bonsai tree is an imitation of a real tree. It is kept in a small pot with limited nutrients, trimmed constantly to fit someone else’s whim. It looks like a real tree, except it can’t do many things a real tree can. It cannot provide shelter, it cannot find food on its own; its life and death are totally reliant on its owner. It is the plant version of the 3-inch Chinese bound foot for women: useless and painful.
Being in the closet, pretending to be straight, trimming our true selves to suit the whims and expectations of others, is just like being a human bonsai tree. By staying in the closet, we cannot even hope to be average, much less above and beyond average.
I felt that in order to reach my fullest potential as a useful human being, I must first fully accept myself, and face the world honestly."
Bravo, Mr Fong. Your bravery will definitely leave a mark in the society of Singapore and students of your school. Your courage is an inspiration to those who are still struggling with their identities, especially the teenagers.