I would like to write my thoughts about the NLB controversy that has been taking place recently in Singapore. The NLB is the National Library Board in Singapore, and it had drawn flaks from pro-LGBT and humanist circles for its removal of 3 children books featuring homosexual themes from its libraries. Just last weekend or so, pro-LGBT activists staged a protests outside the National Library by bringing the books removed and reading them there together with their children. Then there was the boycott movement by pro-LGBT writers to host their events under the premises of NLB. On the social conservative front, petitions numbering to about 26,000 or more were garnered to present support for the NLB decision. There has been many letters written in from both camps criticizing and supporting the NLB decision.
I suppose this NLB issue and controversy is simply a facet in a much larger cultural tussle that is happening within Singapore about the homosexuality issue. I just hope to be able to put some perspective on the issue by articulating the possible sentiments held by both sides, and proposing a way in which the issue can be dealt with in a more amicable manner.
Foremost, I think that the homosexuality issue is one that is not easily resolved, and is going to last for a long long time, perhaps even past the lifetime of people within this generation or the next few generations or so. Different people would have different sentiments of homosexuality and ideals on how it should be treated in society. A person with pro-LGBT sentiments probably sees homosexuality as an innate characteristic of a person, as much as is a person’s personality or preference. They thus view a person’s homosexual desires as something to be sympathetic about, and even condoned as a normal and acceptable aspect of human nature. A conservative on the other hand probably sees homosexuality as a deviant sexual orientation, as much as pedophilia or bestiality are considered deviant amongst the majority of society at this contemporary point of time. Even if a social conservative were to be sympathetic to the innate desires for same-sex relationships of a homosexual, such desires would still be considered as deviant and unacceptable for him or her.
I suppose the way in which conservatives and liberals view homosexuals is in part responsible for the vastly diverging approach in which they treat homosexuality. Conservatives view homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle choice, as much as how some people would choose to lead a promiscuous or sexually licentious lifestyle. For conservatives, the ideal sexual relationship is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Liberals probably see sexual relationships as something that is acceptable as long as it between any consenting individuals. And with regards to homosexual relationships, a liberal probably wishes to allow for such desires to be expressed without being disapproved as morally unacceptable. More moderate individuals will probably differ about their opinions on the matter depending on whether they identify more with the arguments sympathizing a person’s homosexual orientation, or those professing a monogamous heterosexual relationship as the ideal of a family structure.
With such vastly differing view on homosexuality, I believe that the best way that society can deal with it is to first of all acknowledge and respect the existence of the opposite view, instead of simply belittling the other view as unintellectual or bigoted. I believe those with liberal sentiments struggle with the need to be sympathetic to the plights of those with homosexual orientation. On the other hand, conservatives probably acknowledge such sympathies, but still feel strongly that there is an appropriate cultural norm to which society should preserve or aspire to. It is ultimately a difference of ideals of what society should be like.
I think that as far as possible, a society affirming libertarian values of allowing individuals to lead life the way they wish to as long as it does not harm other individuals is the best and most peaceful approach to which people of differing views and sentiments can live amicably with one another. Homosexuals should be allowed to conduct their personal relational lives without fear of prosecution by the state, while conservatives should be free to express their disapproval of homosexuality without fear of being censured for hate speech by the state. And as far as possible, the proselytizing of views from either camps should be kept out of public institutions, such as our education system or our media. The matter is controversial enough such that should either a liberal view normalizing homosexuality or a conservative view condemning it is advanced in such public institutions where people of different faiths exists, it is bound to offend or incur the ire of another individual. So why not let’s agree to keep our moral views to ourselves, and speak of them only in appropriate occasions where people are agreeable to discuss and debate the issue. As much as one does not like it if someone from another camp forces his or her views down upon him or her, he or she should likewise not force his or her view on another person.
My view for the NLB matter is thus that libraries should be keeping away books professing either moral positions from either camps away from the children bookshelves. If there is anything that is really discomforting to people from either moral ideological camp, it is that their children are exposed to and being indoctrinated with views from the opposing camp without their knowledge or supervision. Perhaps books pertaining to such controversial issues may be included in the adults section where readers are of more discerning characters. But when it comes to children, let’s keep our public sphere neutral to the controversy by agreeing to not allow books aimed at a children audience and espousing a certain position on the moral issue away from the children bookshelf. I think that if liberals or conservatives can affirm on a value to preserve this middle ground in our public institution, and take their cultural war away from the public’s sphere, especially where children are the subjects caught in the crossfire, it would make for a slightly more comfortable co-existence between members of the two camps in society.