Why be part of a queer-straight alliance?
For me, it ultimately boils down to what you believe in. Your beliefs may lead to certain decisions you make that in turn may make someone else feel happier and safer.
Being part of a group not only shows that members feel the same way about the same thing, but it symbolises a sense of belonging to a common set of beliefs. In this case, we believe in a queer-straight alliance. Our beliefs manifest in us being friends, being part of a community, being part of an idea to make our society more accepting and safer for people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
I believe SinQSA exists not to directly and forcefully push for political or social change, but as a piece of diverse society, reminding us that there will always be a space for friendship regardless of differences. Friendship, to different persons, has different meanings.
I believe that friendship is colour-blind. For me, friendship is not shaded by physiology and ideology. Friends are not dictators of thought, and friends definitely do not make each other feel sad, guilty or unsafe.
A friend accepts another for who he or she is, because this acceptance is not hindered by self-righteous judgement. That probably explains why friends are those will always be there for you.
As we believe in friendship and make friends, we start to make the effort to improve our understanding of one another, as well as ourselves – our own person. Friendship is not bothered by prejudices, and friendship always prevails over misinformation and misconceptions.
That said, the fundamentals of any alliance reflect the basic characteristics of friendship.
In a country like Singapore, we are too preoccupied with issues of apathy, sympathy and empathy. In truth, we could be much better off with the embracing of the values of friendship. The simple reason why we have conflicts is because we are judgemental and unwillingly to listen. When we speak of resolving differences, we sometimes end up calling the other party ‘different’ and point out that they are the ones who need to be changing and adjusting for our comforts. Friends don’t do that.
In SinQSA, friendship is not only about the formalities of making friends or expanding one’s social circle. It is about the values that underpin these things, that we are primarily either accepting or positively ‘blind’ to differences in identity such as gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation and sexuality.
For me, a friend does not really care whether you identify as male, female, transgenderal, or whether you have specific preferences for specific sexes, physiologies, personalities. These differences are nothing compared to the fostering of trust and the creation of safe social spaces.
Everyone is an integral part of his/her queer-straight alliance when he/she stands up for friendship and safety, and stands up against psychological and physical harm. You do not really need to be part of formal organisation to promote peace and equality, when you are already doing it in your own capacity on a daily basis. This in turn inspires others to do the same.
I believe I have some explaining to do when it comes to the conceptualisation and definition of ‘queer’ and ‘straight’.
We have decided to use ‘queer’ as an umbrella term to refer everybody captured under the banner of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) and more. ‘Queer’ is basically any identity other than cis-sexual and cis-genderal. ‘Queer’ also includes those who are questioning.
We want to take back ‘queer’, away from its persecutional past and derogatory roots, and re-introduce it to Singaporeans. This is not to say we should discard its historical elements. I do not deny that it may be political, given that similar to the colour pink, derived from the Nazi pink triangle label used on sexual minorities, but now celebrated as a symbol for LGBT solidarity and rights movements, the word ‘queer’ cannot be divorced from its past as a insult word. It is a subversive reminder to all of us and our past prejudices, yet a positive one in the sense that it shows how we have improved and can keep improving.
‘Straight’ or ‘straight-ness’, on the other hand, is equally a queer word. To be scientific, ‘straight’ is cis-sexual and cis-genderal. A straight man will generally be a biological male, who is masculine, identifies as a man, and is (and will probably want to profess to be) unquestionably heterosexual.
Speaking as straight man, I believe straight prejudices stem from a combination of 1) straight privileges which have long been taken for granted; 2) perceived and mythologised emotional, moral, sexual threats to one’s ‘straight-ness’; 3) lack of contact, understanding and information about queer persons; 4) unwillingness to address point 3.
Prejudices are also not confined to straight people, as queer persons also harbour them. We cannot throw away our prejudices overnight, but I believe we can make the same piece of space in which we all live a safe place, just by saying ‘yes’ to friendship.
For a long time, we have grown too accustomed to saying ‘no’ to others, ‘no’ to their beliefs, and ‘no’ to their personhood. We have to show, as we search within ourselves, that we can say ‘yes’ for once.
A queer-straight alliance? Yes.
Queer and straight friends? Yes.
A Singapore safe for gender and sexual diversity? Yes.
For once, let us not obsess with double negatives, i.e. fight discrimination, battle hate, eradicate bigotry and so on. We should not occupy ourselves with ‘endings’ and ‘wars’, but focus on what we can start, what we can renew and what we can improve. A singular positive word, belief or action, already encompasses both the positive and the battles against hate, discrimination, harm and basically anything that is negative.
It is all a matter of beliefs. Beliefs are there to give us hope, not fuel anger and hatred, not to stoke tensions, spread ill will and incite violence. I believe in peace and safety, and my attitude and actions will always speak of them.
Ho Chi Sam
A member of SinQSA