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The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.
~Lynn Lavner

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Tribute To our Friend, Otto Fong

Tonight when I logged on to Fridae, I nearly fell off my chair. There, on the front page of the website was a familiar face. Evenmore startling was the headline under it: "Singapore teacher removes coming out blog under ministry pressure". For those who still don't know, Otto had started a blog with an open letter to Singaporeans pleading greater acceptance of gay people. In it, he said that he had always been gay and proud of it, that being in the closet all these years working as a teacher had stunted his personal growth as a living, loving human being, and that he hoped Singaporeans would see the current anti-gay crusade for what it is - a play for more political and moral influence by a small group of religious conservatives with hate in their hearts. I spent a good half hour reading the story and going to all the websites that had reproduced Otto's coming out letter. At the end of it, I was almost moved to tears - especially when I saw the many words of encouragement sent to Otto by his students.

"Dear Mr Fong, regardless of your sexuality, you'll still always be one of our greatest ever teachers," said one of the posts, penned by two of his students who hold leadership roles in school. "We as leaders under you for two years have seen how you set the foundation for us and pushed us forward. Where we are now, especially in our CCA leadership has come from you. We strongly believe that your teaching is too valuable to be compromised because of sexual orientation. RI can't lose this gem. We hope they don't."

I couldn't help but try to recall my impressions of Otto. I have only met him twice, at two BearProject movie outings. The first time I met him, he seemed reluctant to tell me what he did for a living and where he worked. There is a big gulf to traverse between that conversation(maybe two months ago) and his actions on Saturday, and this is why I find his public revelation doubly surprising and awe-inspiring.

There are two things I want to say about what Otto has done. The first is that his simple act of bravery stands in stark contrast to everything that the anti-gay movement is, and has been doing. People will bandy the most sophisticated-sounding scientific, legal, constitutional and moral arguments. They will cite all sorts of allegedly conclusive surveys and statistical studies. But these will always ring hollow against the honesty and sincerity of personal testimony. Let's not allow the moral bigots of the world to forget that. Gay people touch the lives of those around them in a very real way. We are open and direct, and give and receive love without prejudice or judgement. Like Otto, we should be proud of who we are and what we've done for ourselves, friends and family. Whether section 377A is repealed or not, they cannot take that away from us.

And we should strive to do even better each day to prove small-minded critics wrong.

The second thing I wanted to say was that after reading Otto's letter, I asked myself whether I would be brave enough to do the same thing. Can I even be bothered to do the same thing? I know the answer in my heart and I last felt that sort of discomfort as I watched Alfian Saat's last play "Asian Boys III". For it is somewhat true that as long as I have my partner with me, and we live happily with our friends going on holiday to Taipei and Tokyo, gymming at California Fitness and having loud, raucous dinners in HDB flats that we have either rented or bought after we turned 35, that there isn't any need to hanker after more acceptance in society. What can it achieve in the larger scheme of things? What about the hurt we might cause to our parents and those who love us, as well as our careers?

I don't know the answer to those questions. I think everyone's answer will necessarily be different and very few will be goaded into action like Otto was. I myself am out to my family, friends and colleagues, but I have stopped short of going public. Maybe one day I will, and I will draw my courage and inspiration from someone like Otto. For whatever happens next, he has made an indelible mark on the ongoing struggle for gay acceptance here in Singapore. We are moving slow, but every millimetre must surely count for something. And I have every hope in my heart that someday, we will get there.

P.S. I am writing to Bob Koh (headmaster@ri.sch.edu.sg), headmaster of Raffles Institution, tomorrow morning. And the next time I see you Otto, I am definitely buying you a drink!

- Rookcub

(Rookcub spoke & emailed me his reactions from the recent series of events that happened to our friend Otto. I think Otto deserves more than a pat on the back... So Otto, you too will have my utmost relentless support no matter what. - Asimov_22)

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12 comments:

stonedwin said...

I read, and I was moved.

Moved by the words and commitment underlying, and inspired by the immense courage to speak out.

It takes a big human being to have done what you did and risked the very passion that made you write in the first place.

No matter what happens, you have taught and inspired. You taught me that we have a choice. Choice to either remain as a bonsai, or to grow beyond and fulfil our fullest.

Your words have reaffirmed my beliefs.

I salute you.

quest said...

i really salutet to otto,tell u what matter this is done by the people have guts, i know the feeling and especiall he is a teacher,will be facing alot stress, i pray for god hope he are fine :)

God bless him

Saltwetfish said...

Urmmm... shouldn't "tribute" be used for dead persons?

VitalAuto said...

Otto is like my oldest friend in the world. We've known each other since sec 3 in chinese high. He was the sheena-easton-loving geek and i'm the boy-george-loving weirdo but we clicked.

Throughout all these years, I have always been the out and loud one. He would freak out if i said the word "gay" too loud. When we were eating in food court, where there were students of his around, we were asked to behave ourselves. Well, at least, i was asked to :p

So when he showed me the letter on Saturday, i was really shocked but am very proud. Knowing him, this is a very big step for him. I didn't stop him cos i know he must have thought through it carefully before doing so. I can only be proud to call him a close friend and stand by him.

I have talked to him last night, things were a little rough in school and plus I don't think he was expecting the media getting involved. After all, it was just a heart felt letter to his close friends, and colleagues. But he'll be fine. I think he needs your support.

So drop some words of encouragement, he'll appreciate it. :)

rookcub said...

saltwetfish: after your comment, i panicked and went to check the meaning of "tribute" in the dictionary!
no la, a tribute can be to a living person too, it just means a testomonial, a compliment or something done of out gratitude or esteem :)

Gatsu said...

Hey Otto,
I first got to know you through your comic works and that was about 2 years ago.

I guess one have to be pretty dedicated to one's profession in order for them to even express it in their leisure work or passion. In your case, the comics.

I hope that all go well at the end of the day, for someone who cares so much to risk it all, it is surely not something everyone can achieve.

So God bless and may your days be fruitful. =)

HUSH said...

Dear Otto,

RESPECT + SUPPORT!!

cub4u33 said...

Dear Otto,

You have my respect and admiration.

Anonymous said...

Hi Otto!

Some day, I too hope that I can muster enough courage as you did, and come out of the iron-cast closet I've built for myself all these years. You have my utmost admiration and sincere wishes that everything will go well for you from here on.

Jason aka BH.

kit_sg said...

What Otto did was very brave and selfless. Although the letter has been taken off his blog it is being replicated at various internet sites and I believe will continue to help provide assurance and encouragement to gay youths. I’m sure Otto and his loved ones will weather this storm and come out (no pun intended) stronger and closer.

At the same time let us also not forget to appreciate those friends from PLU, Fridae, Adlus, and other individuals, whose courage and perseverance have continue to help push for gay acceptance here

Hardcore said...

Otto,

Your words really touched my heart...Tears flowing down from my eye, courage makes me stand up and walk straight ahead as what i am today....

Though i really dun know you well only met during the movie outing. But after reading your post which makes me think that i am really really proud to have a friend like you...

SunDevil said...

Dear Otto,

Whatever happens next, I hope it comforts you to know that we are all here to walk down this road with you. And that you'll never ever be left to face any repercussions all alone!

Thanks, for being the voice that many of us could only hope to have.