September 2007


(copied from theonlinecitizen)

I am Otto Fong. I have been teaching Science in Raffles Institution for the last eight years.

Being a teacher has been the most rewarding part of my professional life thus far. My students continue to amaze me daily with their wit, maturity, independent thinking and leadership. It is very fulfilling that I am a part of an institution that moulds the future generation of Singapore’s leaders.

Leaders are people who can rise above the tide of popular opinion, people who are guided by the conviction of rightness and justice and in being so guided, lead others towards that right path.

Recent events leading to my action

Recent events have made me decide to write this open letter. In April this year, Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew – one of the school’s greatest alumni – called homosexuality a “genetic variation”, questioning the validity of criminalising gay sex. In July, MP Baey Yam Keng expressed support for the repeal of Section 377A of the penal code (which criminalises gay sex acts). In August, Malaysian columnist and ordained pastor Oyoung Wenfeng released his inspiring new Mandarin book “Tong Gen Sheng”, encouraging gay men and women to come out of the closet.

A few evenings later, I attended a forum organised by People Like Us on gay teachers and students. A few brave twenty-something guys asked, “Why has there been so little guidance available to me as a gay teenager?” It was a question that I had asked myself often, growing up.

When I became a teacher in 1999, I looked back on the good guidance my own teachers gave me as a template, and tried to be a better teacher to my students. Besides teaching them Science, I spent considerable effort in imparting good social values: give up your seats to the needy, save the handicapped parking lot for those in wheelchairs and their caretakers, respect people regardless of profession or social status.

How hate is perpetuated

Yet, in the eight years I have taught, I have done little for that small group of students who are gay. When the religious group Focus on the Family masqueraded as sex guidance counselors and gave a talk full of misinformation about homosexuality to our students, I was furious but kept my mouth shut.

When my niece returned from school saying, “Gays are disgusting!” I knew she learnt that hatred from a classmate, who had in turn absorbed that hatred from a parent. I knew that this hatred has been perpetrated for generations. But hatred grew out of fear, and hatred, as a line in a movie goes, “leads to the Dark Side.” This is the same environment of hatred I grew up in, as a gay teenager and student.

Until Section 377A* is repealed, there will be precious little the Ministry of Education can do to help these students. As a teacher, I am bound by my professional duty to follow the directives of my superiors.

While these events helped crystallize my decision to come out of the closet, my motivation remains deeply personal.

My family and I

As far back as primary six, I have been aware of my attraction towards classmates of the same sex. For those who argued about nurturing factors of the family, my brother and sister grew up under the same parents and remained heterosexuals despite growing up with me in close proximity.

As a teenager, I was very quick to sense society’s aversion towards the ’sissies’ in my classes. I worked hard to distance myself from them. While I was successful in modifying my outward behavior, my sexual orientation remained unchanged. My denial gnawed at me, and the suppression of my true self resulted in self-destructive behavior during my overseas university years.

Fortunately, my American fraternity mates were supportive. I began to see a counselor who helped me accept myself for who and what I am.

Returning to Singapore, I came out to my family. My father, mother, brother and sister, out of love for their son and brother, walked the long road to acceptance. It was not easy for them, but they loved me before I came out, and they love me after. When I finally settled down with my longtime companion (we have been together for more than nine years), my entire family made sure my nieces and nephews included us in their lives. I loved my family too much to keep them in the dark, to deny them the chance to really know me. And they loved me too much to let some old prejudice tear our family apart.

I kept my sexual orientation a secret at work, and only a handful of my colleagues knew about me.

I don’t want to be a bonsai tree

Not counting my childhood, I have spent more than twenty years in the professional closet. I am nearing my fourth decade on Earth. While I have had some successes in life, I am not content to be just average. As I have often told my students, “Why be average when you can be your best?”

Do you know what a bonsai tree is? A bonsai tree is an imitation of a real tree. It is kept in a small pot with limited nutrients, trimmed constantly to fit someone else’s whim. It looks like a real tree, except it can’t do many things a real tree can. It cannot provide shelter, it cannot find food on its own; its life and death are totally reliant on its owner. It is the plant version of the 3-inch Chinese bound foot for women: useless and painful.

Being in the closet, pretending to be straight, trimming our true selves to suit the whims and expectations of others, is just like being a human bonsai tree. By staying in the closet, we cannot even hope to be average, much less above and beyond average.

I felt that in order to reach my fullest potential as a useful human being, I must first fully accept myself, and face the world honestly. I have lived long enough to know that what I am is not a disease, an aberration or a mental illness.

Hate is not a religious value

Many people have cited many ‘reasons’ for hating homosexuals, just as many people tried to justify their views that the Earth was flat, that the darker skinned should always be inferior, and that women should subjugate their lives to men. The teachings of the world’s great religious traditions offer many words of wisdom, but the interpretations of their human followers are not infallible. As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount (yes, a personal Bible was given to me by a great lady and I honored her by reading the book), we must love our neighbors as ourselves. It is a simple teaching, but one that’s rarely followed by those who seek to oppress people different from themselves. The path to enlightenment always faces stubborn resistance. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you…”

There are some people who are using homosexuality to advance their personal ambitions vis a vis religion. They claim that the homosexual ‘agenda’ is to make the whole world gay and threaten the stability of the family. Yet, let us examine the evidence: Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the first countries to legalise gay marriage, are more stable than ever – their population has not been converted by gays and their heterosexual divorce rates have even decreased since gays have been afforded legal rights. (William N. Eskridge, Jr and Darren R. Spedale, Oxford University Press, 2006).

The only agenda gay people have is to be able to live with the same rights and dignity as our heterosexual brothers and sisters. Our very vocal opponents are the ones actively preying on innocent people, recruiting them to their cause by spreading fear and misinformation. I hope thinking people will quickly see that it is this small group of vocal objectionists who have a more dangerous agenda, that their fight with gay people has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong, but is merely a litmus test of their political influence. For peace and prosperity to continue, Singapore must always uphold secularism, where each different segment of the population respects the beliefs and rights of the others.

Can a country with no natural resources afford to drive away its own citizens?

There is a very pragmatic reason that you should support the rights and dignity of gay Singaporeans: in this globally-competitive era, Singapore needs her gay sons and daughters, just as we need our Singaporean Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, immigrants, men and women, old folks and young. Most importantly, we need those gay sons and daughters because those gay sons and daughters are Singaporean Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, immigrants, men and women, old folks and young. Can a country without natural resources continue to flourish when it starts to drive away its own children?

As I said before, leaders are people who are guided by the conviction of rightness and justice and in being so guided, lead others towards that right path.

I am still a teacher. My main purpose and joy is to teach our youngest citizens, the same ones who will be the leaders of our nation tomorrow. But, I feel I am shortchanging both society and myself by staying in the closet. I must be true to myself. If my colleagues and students, both gay and straight, see that being true to one’s own self has great value, perhaps we can produce a new generation who is truly courageous. A new generation of young people who are proud to be themselves, no matter what difference they have from their classmates. Then I will have succeeded in providing them a better education than I had the opportunity to receive during my years in school.

So here’s what I am, and I am a friend in need at the moment

So here it is: I, Otto Fong, have always been and always will be a gay man. When you ask about my spouse, I will say he is a man. I am as proud being gay as you are proud being straight. I am not, as some people like to label gays, a pedophile, a child molester, a pervert or sexual deviant. I did not choose to be gay, just like heterosexuals did not choose to be straight. I am not going to hell (not for being gay anyway).

I am not going back in the closet. When you ask me who I am, I will answer: I am a son, a brother, a long-time companion, an uncle, a teacher, a classmate, a colleague, a part of your community, a HDB dweller, a Singaporean. And I am also gay.

I would like to enjoy the respect that all other Singaporeans enjoy. I will not let the closet bind my feet, because I am made to sprint. I am not interested in being a bonsai tree, my DNA is programmed to climb higher. My heart aspires to reach my fullest potential as a human being.

I hope, dear friends and colleagues, that you look back and remember what I am, and see that I am not someone you fear. I am essentially the same person – flawed, imperfect, but brought up properly by two loving parents to lead a productive, beneficial and meaningful life. My friends and family love me for who I am, and I hope you can too. I come out to you with as much hope and trepidation as when I first come out to my mother and father. Your support and understanding are very important to me at this moment.

Thank you, may you prosper in health and soul.

Yours sincerely,

Otto Fong

8th Sept 2007

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I went clubbing for the 2nd time since the start of this year (well, the 1st time was NYE itself haha) last Friday and I must say that the smoking ban is fantastic! When the ban was announced sometime earlier this year, I was quite taken aback because even though I’m a non-smoker and none of my friends smoke, I did think that this is quite a harsh ban. Despite given all the negative consequences of the habit of smoking (there’s no good reason to smoke, really), I always feel that a person is free to smoke as long as he or she’s above the legal age. It IS a bad choice, but still I think everyone has a choice. So I was shocked when there’s a ban on smoking at all clubs, bus stops etc. When so many people has so many complaints about the government, I didn’t think that the government would impose one MORE ban.

 

But it is a good decision! I usually left the club feeling like a burnt-out ciggy myself haha, but this time round I still smell good! My hair still smells nice, my clothes don’t reek of that disgusting smell and I don’t stink the poor cabbie uncle on my way home! Moreover, I don’t increase my risk of getting lung cancer!

 

The funny thing is that usually we had all the smoke covering all other kinda smells in the club until we couldn’t really smell anything else, other than ciggy smoke. Now that that overwhelming smell is gone, we can smell all the sweat on the clubbers (esp the males -_-), and worse of all, the BO!!!! It was scary – I smelt BO on at least one guy who was dancing near me. I don’t understand why they can’t slap on deodorant besides their cologne. Deodorant is cheap what. Cologne just makes you smell good but once you perspire, it’s not going to help conceal your BO! Deodorant reduces your perspiration (seriously!), so your BO won’t have the chance to flourish, and you feel fresh all day long! Deodorant is a good choice. Please buy deodorant. (Man, really sounds like an advertisement)

 

Anyway it was a good friend’s birthday party at MoS and it was sooo interesting. I think I lead a pretty boring life as compared to hers haha. My friend has, well, a lot of friends haha. So there was quite a few interesting people. I met this Korean who, for some unknown reason, tried to take off my specs TWO times. Luckily (for him), he was quite cute in the eccentric kinda way so I didn’t smack him in the head. I asked him what he was trying to do and I think he said something about it being nice (but why must you take it off from me?) but I was quite drunk, so I can’t be sure if he did say the exact thing. Though I did tell him, thank you and that’s why I should be wearing it. And of course he didn’t manage to get his way. Who knows what he would have done with my specs if he did! -_-

 

And right at the beginning when we were all chilling out at 54 having some drinks, chit chatting, and getting introduced by my friend to some of her other friends, we’d fun checking out this very weird Indian guy dancing like nobody’s business on the dance floor. When it was still empty. Ok, I won’t say checking out – we were quite laughing at him haha. He was doing his thing like he was performing on the “Dance Floor” and kept checking out his own reflection in the mirrored wall! Very very absorbed in himself. I think he must be enjoying himself a lot and having a lot of fun, but Singaporeans don’t do it this way, man. And of course, being Singaporeans (we think the guy is from India), everyone else around the dance floor had to look, point fingers and laugh at him. -_-

 

It might have been retribution to jeer at that guy because soon after, when me, Hui and Ser were just standing there chatting, this weird guy came to us, stood between me and Hui, AND PUT HIS ARMS ON OUR BACKS. Eww. I’m quite embarrassed by my own reaction but I actually instinctively pulled myself TWO steps away. But hey, it was reflex response! By now, from my response, you should have realised that he was NOT cute haha.

 

He might have been very couragous to have done what he did and his pick-up line wasn’t that bad (he said something like, I saw you girls standing here and I thought you look pretty approachable) even though his assumption wasn’t very incorrect (because whether we are approachable depends on WHO’s approaching us haha). But we took the chance to push him away when he actually said he wanted to be introduced to the birthday girl after knowing why we were there. So we tapped YL on the shoulder, pushed him to her and suddenly decided that we wanted to explore MoS hahaha. And just made our sweet escape. =P

 

Later when we came back from our tour, he was gone and we joked what we would have said if he was cute. “Oh it’s my birthday today, that’s why we are here. You didn’t bring a present? Never mind, you can kiss me!” *lol*

 

And bad luck didn’t stop here. Later on the dance floor, another popped out of nowhere and started introducing himself. Who of course was treated the same way by us. I am no hot babe but that doesn’t mean I will just take any guy. And fortunately, bad luck didn’t come in threes as it usually does.

 

We grooved at Smoove and nothing rocks my world more than Hip-Hop and R&B, so ya of course I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Otherwise I won’t party until almost 6am the next morning. Of course, a cutie in the group always helps. 😉 I just wish that I could have been more outgoing. I should be. Hrmph.

I have nothing to do at work today, so I’ve been spending my time preparing one of my very FIRST in my life.

My first hen / bachelorette night.

The first to get married and definitely won’t be the last, yes, Miss Ong has been Mrs Tan for months since her ROM held on Valentine’s Day 2007 but they’ll be having their her wedding dinner this late November. Strictly speaking, according to Singapore laws, she no longer qualifies as a bachelorette. But according to Chinese customs, I think a couple is not considered married until key customs such as groom fetching the bride from her parents’ home, tea ceremony etc are performed.

So well, we should celebrate before it’s all official according to Chinese customs. This is afterall a very valid excuse to stay out all night, drink like a fish and spend money like we don’t care!

Are we going to get a male stripper? This seems like a presumption that all hen nights must involve a young, good-looking, muscular male form stripping down to barely nothing or lap dancing or doing teasing of some sorts. Not that I would mind, I think, but I don’t think I can scream in frevour or cheer him on. I might just hide behind a couch for protection while keeping my eyes on him or whatever he’s doing, and make a run for it should he come nearer. So it might constitute an embarrassing situation where nobody is going to scream in excitement or frevour while he does his thing. If anyone’s going to scream, I think my friends are going to scream for H-E-L-P.

Yes, we are a bunch of shy, conservative young ladies no matter what you say. And we are not hiring strippers.

So what are we going to do exactly?

Shh..it’s a secret. 不能说的秘密。I’ve some preliminary plans up, which I need to discuss with the rest of the gang first.

Counting down to the Big Day itself! (though not my big day, I’m nevertheless pretty excited)

The first time I heard of this a little-understood phenomenon was on the news in April 2007, where it was reported that Taiwan has lost over 10 million of their honey bees, reasons unclear. This was unheard of for me, especially because there’s no bee-keeping industry in Singapore. Nevertheless, it sparks a curiosity in me – Why do all the bees disappear all of a sudden and where have they all gone? It’s a bit like CSI, honeybee-style.

This phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive colony abruptly disappear is known as the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Originally found only in Western honeybee colonies in North America, CCD has also been observed in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Hawaii, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain etc. However, in the recent couple of years, the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances. It’s troubling that it’s so widespread, and even more troubling that the cause(s) of the syndrome is not yet well understood. Of course, there have been many theories – environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens, mites, pesticides, radiation from cellular phones or other man-made devices, and GM crops with pest control characteristics.

You may think, these are just bees, what’s the big fuss.

But bees ARE important. In many countries, such as US, honeybees are the predominant pollinators of many crops (e.g. almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, watermelons, strawberries and cucumbers). Sure, many but not all of these plants can be (and often are) pollinated by other insects in small holdings in the US, including other kinds of bees, but typically not on a commercial scale. There is also a presumption that when honeybees are absent from a region, native pollinators may reclaim the niche, typically being better adapted to serve those plants (assuming that the plants normally occur in that specific area).

However, even though on a per-individual basis, many other species are actually more efficient at pollinating, most native pollinators cannot be mass utilized as easily or as effectively as honeybees. In many instances, they will not visit the plants at all. On the other hand, beehives can be moved from crop to crop as needed, and the bees will visit many plants in large numbers, compensating via sheer numbers what they lack in efficiency. The commercial viability of these crops is therefore strongly tied to the bee-keeping industry.

Hence if the bees keep disappearing, the crop harvest is going to drop and the prices of all these fruits and vegetables are going to increase! I don’t want a day to come when I can’t even afford to eat an apple because it costs as much as a McDonald’s meal.

Interestingly though, a quote that has appeared in many of the news features about CCD is, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Apocalypse?

Due to unforeseen and undesired circumstances, I’ve TWO locations in my work building which I call my office. Why do I sound unhappy even though it seems like a great situation while others have one office, I’ve two bloody ones? Because I would be satisfied enough to be seated in Office Above where I’m supposed to be located initially, where I’ve my own cubicle with my own PC and all my stuff. But unfortunately, Office Above has uncivilized political wars and where there’s wars, there must be innocent victims. Hoorays, you are looking at one.

So now, I have to seek refuge at Office Below as and when my Office Above cubicle is invaded, which is fine because the citizens there are fun. Even though I’ve no internet access there (cavemen’s era) but it’s still good. Every morning they have breakfast together for an hour. It is good life there. Everyone just slack openly. Of course, there’s still some small problems there – it seems inevitable for all offices, but well, at least you don’t risk getting fired. Office Below is like Singapore compared to Iraq.

This week, my invader who is kind actually since he doesn’t invade on purpose (in Office Above, we are all under the mercy of the big boss aka the Dark Lord) is letting me use our supposedly “shared” workspace (but try sharing a barely 2m-wide desk with a big fellow). Having spent 2 weeks at Office Below where we chat, joke, laugh, eat and do practically nothing (except for me, I do work), I’ve quite forgotten about the mental torture I’m subjected to at Office Above every single day for the past 10 months.

You see, Office Above has a spy. THE Spy since she’s the only one. That’s what everyone else calls her anyway. I thought it’s too nice a nickname for her since I call her Ji Pu Sai (meaning a pile of shit in Hokkien). At the civilian level, we are all nice, diligent and honest. She’s the only exception – she’s a crude, loud, jealous, back-stabbing, bad-mouthing bitch. Socially, she is the outcast in our Office. But sadly, with the Dark Lord also being a back-stabbing, bad-mouthing bitch (her aim is to kill all Light Lords aka the good bosses in the Office who stand in her way or whom she thinks are out to throw her off the throne), of course they are allies, a team. This means that while our rice bowls are at the risk of being crushed every single moment, hers is ironically unbreakable despite her work ethics and personal attitude.

She earns her role as a lackey by being a spy – spying on us, the civilians, and also the poor Light Lords. Trust me, she’s formidable. Together with her spying tactics and superior ability to make up far-fetched and dubious tales from innocent remarks heard, she and the Dark Lord have vanquished TWO Light Lords and driven many more to seek refuge.  

And every single day she attempts to drive the rest mad by talking loudly on the phone almost every other minute, torturing us with her lousy command of both languages, bad-mouthing everyone else around to people on the phone incessantly. Yes, she’ll bad-mouth you even if you are just sitting behind her and it actually doesn’t matter where you are cause the whole office can hear her. And when her mouth’s not working, her ears are – she’ll be performing her superhuman eavesdropping skills and trying to hear anything that she can swiftly transform into some scam that others are trying to pull. She also has 千里眼 which she uses to spy on what others are doing. In fact, she’s like 十兄弟 all combined into this lump of fats.

In her small, pathetic, lifeless eyes, everyone else is lazy, dishonest and totally incapable of doing their work well, except for her. This person has some serious delusion problem! Because I’ve worked with her briefly on a project before and this person is STUPID. And inefficient. And rude to clients. She was planning to pass that project on to me, but after 2 weeks of attachment, she found that I was a threat to her job as I’ve actually found her most difficult project a breeze to do (which anyone with a normal IQ will find so too). She asked me not to follow her on this project anymore and then told my co-boss (who’s her direct boss) that I didn’t want to do it. B-I-T-C-H

She should go to IMH. I think the rest wouldn’t mind pooling money to book a place for her there. If we don’t have enough money, we can even hold a flag day to raise funds.

“Please donate for a great cause.” (Getting that bitch out of our hair IS a great cause)

(adapted from AskMen.com) 

Yes, women are UNPREDICTABLE. I should know.

Every woman has her own level of unpredictability. Especially in terms of mood. She can be sweet this moment and morphs into a raging lunatic less than fraction of a second later. It might be easier to strike 4D than to predict a woman’s mood at a particular instant accurately.

We call this mood swings. While most men swing between 2 states of mood – dejected (favourite soccer team lost / girlfriend doesn’t want to have sex with him / hungry etc) and happy (the opposite of everything that can make him dejected), and may I say that the swing frequency is no way as high, women can swing through a spectrum of moods more than the colours in a rainbow, like Tarzan swinging from tree to tree while high on coacine.

And you can’t always blame it on PMS, though you SHOULD expect mood swings during that particular period every month. Almost every single other thing in life can cause sudden mental shifts in a woman, other than just hormones. Ever try having a bad hair day? But if you are a man, then you most likely don’t understand. It can also be missing the shuttle bus, tripping on the steps, missing a possesion, chipping a nail – to big matters like a bad day at work, a fight with a friend or family discord.

Men won’t understand women not because men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It’s because I don’t fully understand women too. But I’m sure most men can recognise the complications of mood swings and the terrible consequences of inappropriate handling. It’s like a landmine – if you don’t know it’s there, you are going to step on it and get exploded to pieces.

Here’s some states of mood a woman can be in and what a guy should do (most of the time anyway). No guarantee it’ll work for every case though, as I’ve said: women are UNPREDICTABLE!!!

 

Mood: Distant

Meaning that she seems cold, treats you like you are almost not there, gives only nods or short answers to your questions or even completely ignores you, doesn’t laugh at your stupid jokes.

If she doesn’t do that to you all the time, then no, she’s not thinking of breaking up with you.

She might just be tired, not feeling her best, or she might have a problem that she’s not ready to talk about as yet. When you find yourself faced with a girl that doesn’t want to talk, quieten down too. Make only sensitve and tactful remarks, and talk only when necessary. And yes, I think it’s better to try not to say anything that’s supposed to be funny cause I doubt she’ll find it funny. Try to send her home earlier so that she can rest. You need to give her a little breathing room to pull herself together before you start digging into what’s going on. If you push her to talk before she is ready, not only will you not get the facts, you’ll most likely wind up with a resentful and defensive woman on your hands.

In fact, if you are nice enough to her, chances are that she’ll feel guilty for treating you like that once she feels better.

Mood: Depressed

A depressed woman is probably going to be in need of comfort and encouragement rather than space and time alone (both of which might make her mood even worse). Hugs work the best. And yes, gifts. Surprises. Chocolates. Flowers. Anything that rocks your woman’s boat. Just let her know that she is cared for and appreciated.

If her bad mood lasts longer than expected, try setting up a date night reminiscent of happier times, like a return to a favorite restaurant or a memorable destination. A surprise like this delivered unexpectedly can do wonders to lighten her mood and let her know that you are going to stick it out and help her through a rough time rather than bail when she isn’t at her bubbly best.

Mood: Angry

There are two types of anger for a woman:

  1. Provoked anger – because of something you’ve said or done. If you’re the cause, then well, just apologise! And either mean it, or at least sound/look like you do. Because if it’s just a relunctant “sorry”, she’s going to pick that up and you can up one more grade to her storm. If you don’t want to apologise, then well, put on your armour and prepare to go into war.
  2. If the anger seems unjustifiable to you, well, what for apologise? Instead, probe cautiously, and may I emphasize “cautiously”, to find out the actual source of the problem. Don’t make sweeping judgments like “I’m sure if he doesn’t mean it” and never make any slightest suggestion that she’s petty / childish. Unless you wish to end up with (1).

If she can’t have a proper conversation without talking at the top of her voice or screaming / shouting, don’t talk, back off (in other words, RETREAT!) and refer back to the entry on being distant.

 

Y walked to the door, picked up a catering service pamphlet, glanced through and threw it casually to me.

“Look, there’s catering packages for weddings.”

– Oh, great, does the package come with a husband?

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