Entertainer Kumar has come out.
This is something I fully support, and given his celebrity status, I find it all the more admirable.
The New Paper reported his uncertainty prior to coming out. It’s rather interesting for someone I believe to be a rather private introverted man who appears to not care what others think, yet is also concerned about being accepted.
He is human after all, and serves as an example that as human beings, while we are susceptible to fear, we are capable of the courage to conquer it.
With respect to Kumar’s coming out, I worry about the uninformed segment of the Singaporean population, who constantly and willingly subject themselves to fear and never have the courage to break out of it – the homophobes.
The homophobic will most likely digest the news in the way that they would understand. They will judge based on their unquestionable and warped sense of binarist gender logic, which is chiefly dictated by the essentialist notion that gender, sex and sexuality are strictly aligned (i.e. male-manly-man and female-womanly-woman).
Kumar is a drag queen by profession. In my personal understanding, when someone cross-dresses for a living (part-time or full-time to earn a wage), it would constitute as being a drag queen or king. At the surface, it is entertainment. Scratch deeper, it parodies gender behaviour and roles, drawing laughs. At a deeper level, as a parody and/or art form, it exposes the flimsiness of gender as we know it.
For me, gender is just a coherent set of culturally intelligible/recognisable actions and traits agreed upon by a majority of people and institutions, to be associated with a certain physical and biological sex.
Shucks. It’s probably easier to understand if we all can sweep this back into the closet and assume it is natural, moral, just and correct to have our male-bodied manly men and our female-bodied womanly women as heterogeneous entities.
The homophobic Singaporean typically understands and subscribes to the following myths:
1) Gays are sissy men
2) Gays are men who want to be women
3) Men who dress like women are gay
4) Men who like men see themselves as women
5) Sissy men like to dress as women.
6) Gays are just women trapped in men’s bodies, or have women’s brains.
In academic speak, and I hope to shake off some rust, homophobes are very prone to:
1) Gender essentialist ideas
2) Dichotomous gender binarism
3) Traditional male-dominated constructions of gender
4) Believing that sexual intercourse is essentially phallocentric and only penile-vaginal penetrative sex
Or, simply put it, the homophobe is prone to essentialist dichotomous gender binarism, constructed and enframed by historical and cultural male-dominated phallocentric patriarchal discourses.
So, in the eyes of a homophobe, a drag queen coming out as homosexual may leave some myths unshaken.
Given the homophobes’ lack of awareness and understanding, which are in a huge way caused by their spiteful hate-mongering yet ignorant oppression of sexual minorities for the longest time, he or she will come to a conclusion that upkeeps the harmful homophobic myths.
One damning myth is that gay men secretly want to be women.
A lot of people believe in these types of myths. Believing is easy; questioning is difficult.
There is no problem with a drag queen coming out. The problem lies with a segment of society that is vicious in its denial that humanity is a collage of different identities, sometimes fluid over time, fluid over space, overlapping, heterogeneous and uncategorisable. Kumar’s coming out, for some and for others, is empowering yet disempowering at the same time.
Even if some among the essentialist dichotomous binarist apologists were to accept Kumar and his coming out, it may come at the expense of individuals of different identities who are trying to come out.
I think this is a threat we face in the longer term.
In principle, in isolation, this is a good thing and this is the right thing.
Place it before a less understanding and less informed audience, it may be disadvantageous for those who don’t fit the binarist mould.
To be honest, for the longest time, I find it difficult to come to terms with self-identified homosexual men who are muscle-bound and rather butched up in their mannerisms. I’ve been brought up to adhere to and preserve the system, and preserve the alignment of sex, gender and sexuality, and in the process of adherence and preservation, live to embody the alignment and feel it to be natural.
Another interesting narrative from Kumar is that, prior to his coming out, he felt that identity, as in sexuality, is both a combination of nature and nurture.
But the crux of diversity is not only to have a harmonious co-existence of identities, but also narratives. Kumar’s narrative probably does not correspond with those of many LGBT and LGBT-affirming folks.
The disagreement within and amongst LGBT and LGBT-affirming circles is to me a reflection, or rather, a function of their very oppression by heterosexist homophobic discourses. In some ways, it reflects the low tolerance for diversity.
To a practical extent, the articulation of LGBT rights is made in the language mostly understandable to heterosexist folks who hold harmful homophobic myths, with a view to empower the latter as agents of change for a more harmonious diverse society.
I still feel that high profile, or socio-economically privileged LGBT persons should come out and show that diversity to the wider audience, and also serve as an example and perhaps a role model, that you can be comfortable with who you are.
SAM HO is an avid blogger on LGBT issues : http://thinkingbetterthinkingmeta.blogspot.com/