Yawning Bread. May 2007

The battle of St James - 5th set of letters in the Straits Times

source: The Straits Times, 10 May 2007





10 May 2007
Straits Times Online Forum

Three-point rebuttal to writer's response to article on gays

I refer to Mr Brian Selby's letter [1], 'Professor's view on gays prejudiced' (Online forum, May 8), written in response to my article, 'Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error' (ST, May 4).

As my article and this letter are not intended to be theses with footnotes, I will not delve into the various issues in great detail in this forum. Suffice to say that I have three main objections in response to Mr Selby's letter.

First, Mr Selby asserts that my article constitutes 'hysterical, homophobic and bigoted diatribe'. His words obfuscate the important and relevant legal and policy issues raised in my article.

Mr Selby appears more interested in precluding informed debate by adopting the tactic of insulting those whose views he disagrees with, in the hope of silencing these views. This undermines free debate in a democratic society.

If, to take a stand is to be prejudiced, then everyone is 'prejudiced" in favour of his or her own view. According to his reasoning, Mr Selby is himself prejudiced against the views expressed in the article. He is a bigot by his own yardstick.

His use of the term 'homophobia' is also provocative and aggressive. This is because the term 'phobia' suggests a disease and thus 'homophobia" is a disease which symptoms are a 'fear of homosexuals", implying that those who have not jumped aboard the pro-homosexual bandwagon are somehow ill.

Mr Selby's approach attempts to beat certain views into submission rather than to engage in reasoned debate. Indeed, his personal insults seek to undermine my professional credibility and, by association, my views. Such an uncivil response shows up the weakness underlying Mr Selby's own biases.

Second, Mr Selby in questioning my professional capacity as a law professor at NUS, dogmatically assumes his own views are the only right views. This resort to 'professional assassination' is unfair and does not even bother to engage the substance of the debate.

Third, Mr Selby makes several obtuse assertions. He misunderstands my observations concerning the broader homosexual agenda which has manifested in foreign countries, particularly in Europe and North America.

He asks for evidence showing steps taken to lower the age of consent or change the definition of marriage in Singapore. The point I made was that decriminalising homosexual acts is the first step in achieving this agenda.

It is instructive to consider the experiences of other countries and to learn from their experiences, good and bad. The onus is on those calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality to show that such steps as outlined in my article will not take place in Singapore.

He makes another erroneous statement that my view is that these foreign countries protect free speech 'so long as it does not perpetuate a violent act".

The point I made is that homosexual rights in countries such as Sweden have trumped other constitutional rights such as freedom of religion and conscience and the free speech of people in expressing their view that homosexuality is morally wrong.

Those who oppose the views expressed in my article should do so in a responsible manner. The making of unsubstantiated and unnecessary personal and professional attacks against myself (for example, in cyberspace blogs, letters to the media or my employer) is unfair and defamatory.

Concerned Singaporeans must not be stopped by such tactics of intimidation, such as this form of written abuse, from speaking out against matters which harm the welfare of Singapore.

The call for decriminalisation of homosexuality raises several controversial issues. My article highlights important and relevant considerations which inform the debate, so often glossed over by those who promote 'homosexual rights' over the rights of all in general.

The cogency of my arguments is not undermined merely because a sector of society dislikes such arguments based on their personal preferences and 'liberal" views; their views are not presumptively superior and indeed, radical liberalism is morally questionable.

The fact that different viewpoints exist, based on alternative premises like moral relativism, does not undermine the legal reasoning, logic or policy issues raised in my article.

In due course, the Government will address and resolve these legally and politically contentious issues (in a context where these issues can more fully be debated, such as Parliament, compared to the limitations of newspaper articles or cyberspace).

In the interim, concerned Singaporeans do not deserve to be misled by wild rhetoric but to have access to well-reasoned perspectives and, one would hope, civilized debate.

Yvonne C. L. Lee

* * * * *

10 May 2007
Straits Times Online Forum

Doctor using selective material to justify own conclusion

I am writing in response to Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang's letter [2], 'Homosexuality Neither a disease nor an immutable trait' (Online forum, May 8).

I am shocked that a medical doctor by training would make such flawed statements.

He first wrote that 'a disease is defined as an impairment of health or condition of abnormal functioning' and 'homosexuality certainly fits the definition of a disease as there is an increased mortality rate mainly from Aids; the life expectancy of a homosexual and bisexual male is up to 20 years shorter compared to a normal male'.

I do not see how Aids is linked specifically with homosexuality. Aids affects humans, regardless of sexuality. Not all homosexuals contract Aids, and not all Aids sufferers are homosexual.

I am rather disappointed that he did not list the methodology of the study he quoted.

One key assumption was that 95 per cent of HIV deaths were attributed to gay and bisexual men, which was the case in Canada from 1987-1992 which was the height of the Aids epidemic in North America.

From the data collected by the Ministry of Health, from 1985 to June 2006, out of the total of 2,652 HIV-infected Singaporeans, 673 are homosexual or bisexual. How appropriate is this study in today's context in Singapore?

Subsequently, he stated that 'being a homosexual (statistically speaking) puts one at risk of suffering from poor health and dying early'.

Geschwind and Behan (1982) published the first study showing that people suffering from immune disorders and/or dyslexia were more likely to be left-handed.

In the first part of the study, the frequency of disease reported in left-handers was 2.7 times that of right-handers. This was especially true for thyroid and bowel disorders. In addition, left-handers reported learning disorder nine times more often than right-handers.

A second part of the study handed the questionnaire to the general public. However, only those who had a hospital diagnosis for an immune disorder were chosen. For this study, the rate concerning left-handers and immune disorders was 2.3 times that of right-handers.

From Dr Chin's line of reasoning, we would therefore conclude that left-handedness is a disease and require treatment as well.

Dr Chin also stated that 'a review of the history of events shows that the decision was not based on scientific evidence, but in fact was the response of an organisation under siege by gay activists'.

What he failed to note was that the research by Dr Robert Spitzer that he later cited was also rejected by the American Psychological Association when it issued a statement cautioning that 'there is no published evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one's sexual orientation'.

It was noted the study was retrospective, that it lacked controls or independent measurements, and was based entirely on self-reports by people who were motivated to say they had changed because of their affiliation with ex-gay or anti-gay groups.

In 2001, Jack Drescher, M.D., Fapa Chair Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues of the American Psychiatric Association, wrote a letter to the Finnish Parliament which discussed the Spitzer study

'As for the scientific merits of his study, I believe it is significantly flawed. One flaw is that the majority of subjects in the study had one 45-minute telephone interview with Dr Spitzer and no follow-ups.

'Other than Dr Spitzer, I can find no reputable researcher who will agree that this is an accurate way to assess whether a person has changed their sexuality. That point was underscored in another study presented at the same symposium.

Schroeder and Shidlo's study (in press) found that many individuals who claimed to have changed sexual orientation during a first telephone interview changed their story at a second, follow-up interview.'

Dr Spitzer himself said in subsequent interviews '...the kinds of changes my subjects reported are highly unlikely to be available to the vast majority (of gays and lesbians)... (only) a small minority - perhaps 3 per cent - might have a 'malleable' sexual orientation'. He expressed a concern that his study results were being 'twisted by the Christian right'.

In 2005, he told the Washington Post that supporters of reparative therapy have misrepresented the results of his study. He said 'It bothers me to be their knight in shining armour because on every social issue I totally disagree with the Christian right... What they don't mention is that change is pretty rare."

As a member of the medical profession, Dr Chin's statements would carry more weight, and I would have expected a higher standard, instead of selectively reading research and studies that justify one's own conclusion, and ignoring that which does not.

Siew Meng Ee


Foreword by Yawning Bread

There were no letters on this topic in the print section of the Straits Times Forum today.

The Molly Meek blog post An ill-reasoned letter probably refers to the "Three-point rebuttal...." letter from Yvonne Lee.

See also God, morality and Haidt



  1. Brian Selby's letter can be seen in The battle of St James - 4th set of letters in the Straits Times 
    Return to where you left off

  2. Alan Chin's letter an be seen in The battle of St James - 4th set of letters in the Straits Times 
    Return to where you left off