Siew Kum Hong: The great tragedy of Section 377A (Oct 30)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The great tragedy of Section 377A

That is the title I wish ST had used, for my piece last Friday 26 October. They had asked me to write something for them, on "take-aways" from the entire debate. I agreed to do so, on a few conditions:

- that there be only grammatical/formatting edits to what I submit
- that I have final approval
- that it not become a "me vs her" thing between myself and Thio Li-Ann, and that they convey this to her

ST agreed to the above, and suggested a couple of topics:

"What united nation? In the light of the 377A debate, is consensus possible, and if not what do we do about it"


"The lessons on engagement I've learnt from this debate"

I wasn't really interested in spending 800 words to explore either topic, mainly because I did not want it to be a "me vs her" thing. I felt that the media had tried to play up that angle a bit too much. While we disagree (and I guess we disagree very strongly), I have no wish to let it become a personal thing -- the only people to benefit from that would be the media.

So I deliberately chose not to proceed along those lines, as it would invariably have involved criticising or rebutting Thio's speech. I did not want to do that, because to me, our speeches speak, and have to speak, for themselves. There was no need for me to extend it further outside Parliament. As it turns out, many others, such as Janadas Devan and innumerous bloggers, have taken it upon themselves to do so anyway.

In any case, my "take-aways" from the entire experience were not really about all this stuff about "consensus" and "engagement". We (i.e. those who supported repeal) engaged with society and with Parliament, and we did so according to the rules, in a manner that I felt was highly principled and civil.

That was enough for me. That was the mark of democracy at work. We took the high road, and we came through with our heads held high. We didn't succeed in repealing Section 377A, but I think we succeeded in many other aspects. As Alex Au so astutely explains, there is a lot for repeal supporters to celebrate.

So I did not want to play ST's game. Instead, my real "take-aways" were about understanding gay people better, about what Section 377A really meant to so many of them and their families, and about the humbling effect of so many people -- all strangers -- showing so much support for such a difficult cause. How ironic, that my stand purely on principle, without really having been exposed to these aspects directly, had led to this as well.

That's why I wrote this piece the way I did. It was easy to write, because I wrote from the heart. And just like my speech, it speaks for itself. The truth always does.