Saturday, December 3, 2011

Unpublished letter to newspaper about Elton John's orchids

A couple of weeks ago, Elton John visited Singapore. He was honored with an orchid named after him, to which he attended the ceremony with his partner David Furnish and their son Zachary. A certain Josephine Tay wrote an indignant letter, saying Elton does not deserve that honor because he is gay.

I wrote a letter to Straits Times, our main national newspaper. While the responses published are good (according to the editors, 19 letters supporting Elton's honor, and 3 supporting Ms Tay), I'll leave you to guess why mine wasn't included. My view is that if Indians are insulted, a letter from an  Indian would be appropriate. If gay people are insulted, why shouldn't openly-gay people's responses be included?

"I am a gay Singaporean who grew up in a homophobic environment. When Elton John sang "I'm Still Standing", I found some courage to not give up and just keep going. When Princess Diana passed away, I cried with the millions who had heard Elton's "Candle in the Wind". Elton has battled homophobia, survived fame, and raised millions more for charity. And he continues to help younger artists like Eminem find their place. In his concerts, he sang with humility and grace, usually performing well over 3 hours to the delight of millions.

His achievements are monumental. His voice is a gift that lifts hearts and souls. While some insist that gay people cannot form meaningful relationship, Elton - like many of us - has a happy, stable family. Yet, for all his talents and humanity, Ms Tay felt that Elton's sexuality alone should discount his eligiblity for an acknowledgement. Does Ms Tay also feel that gay Singaporeans like myself, or even her gay or lesbian colleagues should expect no acknowledgement from our peers and country, even when we do our part in careers, family and society?"

Nevertheless, it is a positive step in the right direction. ST Forum pointed out that 19 letters disagreed with Ms Josephine Tay, while 3 agreed with her. I can only hope that these steps will continue, as more and more people understand the real facts behind being LGBT.