When our Prime Minister announced during this year’s National Day Rally that Section 377A of the Penal Code is to be repealed, the buzz that followed was inevitable. Naturally, even the kids, at least the older ones, heard about it.
My eldest asked, “Mum, why are so many people upset about the repeal of 377A? My cell group chat exploded about how it’s a mistake. What’s the big deal?”
Beliefs vs Truths
News of the repeal received such a huge reaction because it reflects a value, and one’s beliefs are always a trigger point in discussions. We maintain many deeply entrenched conclusions, and the automatic reflex is to reject alternative points of view if they clash with our ‘truths’.
For example, what if someone tells you that the sun does not rise from the east?
Modern-day folk understand that the earth revolves around the sun. So, while we ‘know’ that the sun rises in the east, the expanded, zoomed-out reality is that the earth’s revolution around the sun dictates day and night. Technically, both points of view are right, if we just take the time to consider the other perspective.
Many religious doctrines deem a man having sex with another man as unnatural. By decriminalising (private and consensual) gay sexual intercourse, it means the government no longer sees this as a legal offence.
Many are offended because they have drawn a divisive Us versus Them line. Widespread religious convictions consider homosexuality wrong, so any good, religious person should adopt the same position. Daring to adopt any alternative view is surely a reflection of one’s inferior spiritual standards.
(See also: “Will You Accept and Love Your Gay Child?”)
What Do You Think, Mum?
I think religion is good because the teachings impart moral values and guide us towards positive conduct. Yet, for me, the one value that takes precedence over all others is love. The practice of unconditional acceptance of another, despite our differences.
Unequivocal acceptance does not mean I engage in the same actions, rituals, or behaviour as the other person. It just means I am responsible for suspending my personal judgement of the person.
In the repeal of 377A, I see it as reflective of a progressive mindset that is accepting of current realities. The legal definition of marriage and family still comprises a male and female, who enjoy spousal rights, housing grants, and other national entitlements. Surely, a calculated step forward.
Repealing 377A is a step away from discrimination and towards inclusivity. Discrimination is a malignant tumour. That’s not just because it occurs in our mental paradigms, mostly undetected, but because sometimes, it is hidden from our own awareness! The way to change this bias we cannot see is to observe our own actions and choose a different response.
(See also: Want to build an Inclusive Society in Singapore? Start with Children)
Shifting Our Mindset
Once, I was on the bus when a Chinese lady behind me started talking on her phone loudly. I rolled my eyes, irritated at the rude interruption of my peaceful ride. I caught myself thinking: “These China Chinese are so inconsiderate; they always talk so loudly…” I suddenly realised in slight shock that I had a prejudice against an entire nationality!
Immediately, I took actions to consider her perspective and to understand her actions. Putting myself in her shoes, I could identify that if I had grown up in a culture that spoke loudly, her volume would be my normal. With this new insight, my annoyance dissipated. I inwardly congratulated myself on my internal mindset shift.
What I did next surprised even myself, as I turned around in my seat. With a smile and wink, I put my finger over my lips and gestured for her to lower her volume. Maybe it was my new sensitivity and gentle approach. She nodded, raised her hand to acknowledge an apology, and lowered her volume. At that moment, I felt connected with her. I knew she did too, because there was this reciprocal respect for each other, strangers as we were.
(See also: How to Teach your Children Respect)
So, if we hope to expand our comfort zones and truly accept another, then we need to work on ourselves. Shift our mindsets to embrace someone who is different — be it in skin colour, ethnic culture, or sexual preference.
Trusting Our Children
For parents, trust is one of our greatest life lessons. Can we let go and have faith that every circumstance our child experiences is an event they can learn from? Especially the difficult and painful ones. That is how they can hone resilience. That is how our children find their way. With us, walking patiently by their sides, not striding ahead to clear the path in front.
Too often, we forget that each of us has our own journey to travel. We cannot expect our children to blindly follow in our footsteps. The best thing a parent can do is to offer a safe space for their child to experiment and explore. Every individual has their own life lessons to learn. A child learning to stand up to a bully is an opportunity for them to build resilience, compassion, and wisdom.
When my daughter wanted to fast for a week because her Muslim friends were observing Ramadan, I applauded her. Because the more experiences we open ourselves up to, the less ignorant we become. When we genuinely appreciate diversity among us, we learn to recognise the divisive lines and can choose to erase them.
(See also: Ramadan Fasting during Pregnancy: How to Do It Safely)
If there was a God who took pleasure in creating the multifarious species of flora and fauna, maybe the lesson for us all to learn is to expand our limited minds and enlarge our prejudiced hearts. Repealing 377A is an entire society’s step in that direction. After all, isn’t love in action the most powerful magic of all?
Featured image: Pink Dot SG Instagram