Monday, December 11, 2006
SAFE launch: Address by Tan Joo Hymn
[Photo courtesy of Alex Au]

"Before I became President of AWARE, Hoon Eng had suggested that AWARE host a gay-affirmative forum. It was supposed to be on Valentine’s Day, to explore the different kinds of love, or rather, the different expressions of love.

Lack of time and clashing schedules meant that I “inherited” the project, which was eventually called the Mothers’ Day Forum. It was even more poignant that the forum took place, well, the Sunday before Mothers’ Day, because of a mix-up in dates, because it was due to a mother’s great love for both her gay sons and her determination to accept them unconditionally whatever the odds, that prompted the event.

The message that I wanted to convey through the forum was that it is rejection and stigmatization that tears families apart, not the fact, nor even the revelation, that certain family members are gay. At the forum, I was genuinely moved to tears at the honest and authentic sharing, and the courage of each and every person who spoke up. No matter how old and mature we think we are, there is still a little bit in all of us that still remains the little child, wanting and needing our parents’ love and acceptance. And I think it is this need that causes the most pain and longing.

And on the part of parents, we all want the best for our children. Through the lens with which we view the world, coupled with our own fears and insecurities, we make judgments for and about our children that we think will serve them best. Ironically, often by causing them pain, to dissuade them from their chosen cause of action. After the forum, I kept thinking about my own daughter… If she chose to be a cut-throat Wall Street stock broker or a politician – will I still be able to love and accept her unconditionally? Or would I resort to threats and rejection to try to make her see the “error” of her ways?

Both parents and children need and deserve support and understanding, and not labels and judgment. Actually, that is my firm belief about just almost anything – if we truly want to find a solution, we have to drop the labels and stigma before we can see a clear way through to a workable, lasting solution – be it HIV/AIDS, single mothers, homosexuality, family violence etc.

It was in this spirit that we got together to start SAFE – supporting, affirming and empowering our LGBTQ friends. A big thank you to Regina De Rozario for helping us set up the website.

We hope that we can reach out to families who are worried about the lives their gay children will have, who are concerned about what the neighbours might say, who are scared silly that the police will come knocking one day brandishing Section 377A. Through providing information and resources and just good ol’ emotional support, we hope that these families will be able understand and affirm their gay children/siblings or even parents. Support from friends and activists is good, but support from family is great!

I read a passage that said: There is no lack of love in this world, just a lack of awareness that the love exists.

If SAFE manages to increase that awareness by just a bit, we would have succeeded."

- Tan Joo Hymn, founding member of SAFE