Looking back, 24-year-old Sarah* wishes the Health Promotion Board (HPB) had made the move to address sexual health for the LGBT community when she was 13.
“It would have made growing up a lot less confusing,” she said..” I did not even realise that I was attracted to women until I turned 22 and that was after years of failed relationships and not understanding why I was not romantically attracted to any of the men I dated.”
HPB first published the “FAQs on Sexuality” online brochure in November last year. The brochure contains answers such as, “homosexuality and bisexuality are not mental illnesses” and “a person’s sense of sexual orientation is influenced by environmental, biological and sociological factors”.
It ruffled the feathers of the conservative majority in Singapore. An online petition ensued, calling the brochure’s content “questionable and objectionable”. It was written by a person known only as “Aaron”. Later, Mountbatten GRC MP Lim Biow Chuan expressed his disappointment with HPB and said its action went against government policy.
HPB has since removed the links to the non-profit organisations that provide support and counselling services for the LGBT community.
Sarah who works in a voluntary welfare organisation herself says she doubts the general public is aware of these services. She adds: “By removing the links, it will make it hard for any individual to search for a local doctor or for counselling services.
“I only knew about the existence of LGBT support groups like AWARE, PFLAG and Trevor Project (for LGBT youths who are suicidal) when I met my girlfriend who was passionate about these issues.”
Many others like Sarah are likely to learn about LGBT support groups only when they meet people who are in the know themselves, considering social pressure to remain mum about their orientation.
Sarah for one does not share her romantic preference with her family and remains very discreet with whom she shares this information. She says there is the worry about how it may affect her family dynamics and whether she would face discriminated at work.
Her fears are real — a recent survey by Singapore’s Institute of Policy Studies revealed that 78 per cent of Singaporeans find sexual relations between two adults of the same sex as “always wrong/almost always wrong”.
“What I would like is an inclusive society where no one cares about my orientation and where I can bring my girlfriend as my plus one to company dinners without it being a taboo.”
*Not her real name