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Stigma among factors why some find it hard to accept LGBTQ family members: TODAY webinar panellists


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Stigma among factors why some find it hard to accept LGBTQ family members: TODAY webinar panellists

Published NOVEMBER 20, 2021


From left: Moderator Elizabeth Neo, TODAY supervising editor Yasmine Yahya, The SG Boys podcast co-host Yeo Sam Jo and researcher Mathew Mathews.

  • The second of TODAY’s Live webinar series on Nov 19 looks into the topic of youth attitudes towards LGBTQ issues
  • A researcher on the panel said that while people are tolerant of friends or co-workers in same-sex relationships, they apply other values such as their moral views on family
  • A gay panellist who helms a podcast said that there needs to be accurate representation of LGBTQ individuals in the media
  • It is not possible for everyone to come to a consensus on LGBTQ issues, but there must be a willingness to talk, he added

SINGAPORE — Young Singaporeans are less accepting of family members having same-sex relationships than they are of their friends and colleagues as they apply different values on both groups.


While they apply tolerance on their co-workers, other values such as their notions of morality or the traditional family unit come into play when dealing with a family member.


Researcher Mathew Mathews, who was speaking during a TODAY Live webinar on Friday (Nov 19), said: “So in my family setting, I would want that value to operate. I need people to live within a certain kind of boundary.”


Dr Mathews, who heads the Social Lab at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Policy Studies, was commenting on the findings of the TODAY Youth Survey 2021.


The survey, which polled 1,066 respondents between the ages of 18 and 35 in early October, found that more than 70 per cent of respondents were willing to accept friends or work alongside those having same-sex relationships, but 58 per cent were willing to accept family members who do so.

Relating his personal experience, another panellist on the webinar, Mr Yeo Sam Jo, said that the difference in attitudes towards friends or family members who are homosexual could also stem from a place of concern.


Mr Yeo, who helms The SG Boys podcast that discusses gay issues, said that when he finally told his parents last year that he was gay, his mother expressed concern over whether he would face discrimination at work or be treated differently by people due to his sexual orientation.


“I can’t speak for why there is a discrepancy (in the survey results) as a whole… but if you go by a case-by-case basis, I think a lot of it really boils down to the stigma of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) identity,” he said.


Friday’s webinar was streamed at 8pm on TODAY’s Instagram and TikTok accounts. The topic for the second instalment of this year’s four-part webinar series was on youth attitudes on LGBTQ issues.


The event was moderated by CNA presenter Elizabeth Neo and also featured TODAY’s supervising editor Yasmine Yahya as a panellist.



The panellists of the webinar also discussed the portrayal of LGBTQ individuals in the media.


TODAY’s survey found that a third of the respondents (33 per cent) felt that the community was positively portrayed, while almost half (46 per cent) were neutral about it. About a fifth (22 per cent) said that the portrayals were negative.


On this, Mr Yeo said that it was not just enough to have representation of LGBTQ individuals on screen, but also have accurate portrayals that did not dehumanise, rely on tropes or portray such individuals in a negative light.


He cited the example of the Chinese-language drama series, My Guardian Angels, which aired on Mediacorp’s Channel 8 last April.


The series had faced criticism for featuring a paedophile character who molested teenage boys and had sexually transmitted diseases as well as a character who was worried about the sexual orientation of her son.


Mediacorp had apologised last July for causing offence and distress, and reiterated that there was “no intention to depict the LGBTQ community in a negative light” in the series.

Such portrayals perpetuated stereotypes of the LGBTQ community, such as how gay people spread sexually transmitted diseases and are sexual predators, Mr Yeo said.

As individuals with aspirations and dreams, members of the LGBTQ community would appreciate positive portrayals in the media, he added.


On the portrayal of LGBTQ issues in the news media, Ms Yasmine said that TODAY is still “navigating” its way on how to report such issues fairly without flouting laws on how they could be portrayed.


TODAY has thus tried to centre the community’s voice in an accurate, fair and non-judgemental way in the hope that reports on LGBTQ issues will be read by the wider public, she said.



The panellists also touched on the question of whether LGBTQ individuals can be equals in Singapore without legislative changes, such as the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code that criminalises consensual sex between men.

To this, Ms Yasmine said that “only time will tell” if there will be legal changes in Singapore, but in the meantime, individuals can create safe spaces for LGBTQ persons in their work settings, social spaces or at home.


Mr Yeo said that even if Section 377A is repealed, mindsets about the LGBTQ community, such as how it is here to “tear apart the fabric of society”, must also change.

“If anything, we are all for stability and cohesion as well. We want to be part of this society as much as you are. We want to feel like we belong.”



Ms Neo asked the panel about the concerns of people in society who are opposed to the normalisation of LGBTQ issues.


Dr Mathews said that it stems from how people frame the idea of a family. These segments of the population have questions about an alternative way of running a family, whether it would be viable and its impact on children of homosexual families.


On whether different segments of society will ever reach a consensus on LGBTQ issues, Ms Yasmine said that it is not possible to convert everybody.


Drawing parallels with the feminist movement, she said that there will always be pushback from society whenever progress is made.


However, society must keep fighting for change while trying to reach across the divide and build bridges between groups who have opposing views, she added.


Agreeing, Mr Yeo said that it is not possible to force someone to agree in something they do not believe.


However, it is important that the different groups are mature and open-minded enough to listen and be receptive to what the other side is saying.


He added: “If there’s no willingness to sit down and have a proper discussion, then the battle is already lost.”


The third part of the webinar series will be on Nov 26 at 8pm where TODAY journalist Natasha Meah, mental health researcher Jonathan Quek and founder of counselling service Talk Your Heart Out Shilpa Jain discuss the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and social relationships.


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