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10 Jun 2011

If only gay people could stop feeling guilty for being different

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, a former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore and Malaysia who appears as himself in the recent Pink Dot promotional video, underscores the importance of self-acceptance among LGBT people, and accepting others in the community by embracing difference and celebrating diversity.

"If only gay people could stop feeling guilty for being different" is my tag line in the recent Pink Dot video. Credit must go to Singapore filmmaker Boo Junfeng who directed the 2011 promotional video that has since attracted over 190,000 views since it was launched on YouTube almost a month ago. As I repeated the line a number of times in its filming and further reflected upon it, I was made more aware of its meaning and significance. 

The situation on homosexuality will most certainly be more favourable if more from the LGBTQ (lesbian,gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer) community could with courage come out of their closets and take pride and carry no guilt about their sexual orientation. If only more straight people could comprehend the wide spectrum of human sexuality and regard homosexuality as normal and natural, and step forward to lend their support.

Pink Dot in its brief history has obtained credibility and gained favour. We are on the way to reach the tipping point just as the political rallies held by opposition parties have demonstrated in the massive crowds that participated in the recent elections in Singapore. I recall how in their earlier political campaigns, I went sheepishly to join the small crowds who were fearful of standing in solidarity with the opposition. Changes have occurred dramatically and people proudly gave their votes to the opposition candidates. The same is going to happen on the issue of homosexuality. It is really getting better and it is merely a matter of time. 

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

In voluntary service to the LGBTQ community through Free Community Church since its inception over seven years ago, I have observed the people who were assisted in eradicating guilt and achieving self-acceptance. With fear and trepidation they appeared and discovered courage and liberation. I remember a lesbian teacher who pulled her baseball cap down to try to hide her face and now able to stand before the congregation to witness to Christian truth. Likewise, the gay university student who came by himself and sat quietly afraid to engage with others now sings in the musical team to encourage other worshipers. 

It is striking that FCC singularly “affirms that same-sex and transgendered relationships, when lived out in accord with the love commandments of Jesus, are consistent with Christian faith and teachings. Indeed, we find discrimination based on negative judgment of others, fear of difference, and homophobia inconsistent with Christian teachings.” It is a strong statement on freedom to love. 

LGBTQ need a secure place to help them to stop feeling guilty and build self-acceptance. Many others in society need a safe place where they no longer need to face discrimination and condemnation. The celebration of Pink Dot is a stage towards a society which is on the road to gay-affirming.

Self-acceptance is essentially what is needed for LGBTQ people. Why do we have to succumb to the dictates of cultural conditioning enforced by anachronistic religious teaching. Much has been attributed to what is taught about same-sex relations particularly in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Historical-critical studies of these religions and their sacred writings have shown how they themselves are culturally bound and historically related and each claim universal and timeless relevancy. History records that contrary to sacred texts, religions have rejected patriarchy, racism, slavery, and violence. Prejudice based on sex, race, sexual orientation and economic status are no longer just and valid. This came about through the fresh interpretation of the sacred texts from the perspectives of the feminists, racial minorities, poor, and queer people.

We do not have to bear the heavy burden of guilt that the conservative community has placed upon the shoulders of LGBTQ because of its minority and marginalised position. We all must accept ourselves by embracing difference and celebrating diversity.

Due to the inter-connected and globalised community we know now how a growing majority of people are gay-affirming even though LGBTQ remain always a significant minority of the population. That the numbers of LGBTQ people are not increasing proportionately is in itself is a mystery. We see an increasing number of those who understand sexual orientation and acknowledge same-sex relationships as natural and normal.

We are making progress in embracing differences. Each one of us is unique and different. A gay professor gave me a gift of a tee-shirt with the line: "Gay? Fine by me." I took a picture and published it in my memoir to declare my positive view on gays. Just last month I attended a retreat of Methodist pastors from Malaysia and Singapore. I took along a tee-shirt with the words "Same-same" in front and "but different" at the back. A number of the pastors recognised the statement that I was making and quietly agreed with it.

I did not realise that over forty years ago when I was the Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysian and Singapore, I was appointing gay and lesbian Methodist pastors and missionaries to serve faithfully in the churches and schools throughout Malaysia and Singapore. It was then an unwritten policy of "Don't ask, don’t tell." But it was known then and even now that they were violating the teaching of the Church which still regards homosexuality as a sin. That too is in the process of changing and rather rapidly. I am certain that there are a number of gay and lesbian clergy and laypersons who are serving in different religious institutions today.

This is an exciting time and we are being caught in the tide of diversity in the affairs of men and women, straight or gay. Each one of us is differently gifted and has a contribution to make in the human community both local and global. The appeal is to get rid of guilt. The call is for self-acceptance about who we are and what we can become. It is to maximise our potential and become that kind person who live and work in community which is mutually accepting, caring and supporting one another in the creating of a better future for all.

Those of you in the LGBTQ community who love and accept yourself and relish the freedom that it brings have a special responsibility to help others who are still struggling to resolve their gay identity. You are able to save them from their loneliness, suffering and misery.

Those of us who are straight should regard all people are of sacred worth who deserve respect and ought to have freedom to love and to become who they have been created to be – unique, different and distinctive.

Together we share the awesome task to shape a community which is more caring and compassionate, more free and just that strives for the well-being of all.

Participate in Pink Dot 2011: Support the Freedom to Love on June 18 and make Singapore more open-minded and inclusive Pink Dot.

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao serves as Pastoral Advisor to the Free Community Church upon retirement from full-time Christian ministry. He was the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysian and Singapore. Subsequently he served as General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, an ecumenical organisation of over a hundred churches and national council of churches in Asia. He holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Boston University and was honoured by them with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988. He published his memoir A Bishop Remembers in 2006.


1. 2011-06-10 21:34  
I never felt guilty about being different. I did wonder why I was different and did hide my differences but never ever felt guilty about it. The reason I hid my sexual orientation was more to do with protecting my physical safety. Back in the 1960's and 70's it was quite dangerous to be openly gay in regional Australian towns.
2. 2011-06-10 22:52  
Reverend Yap

I would like to thank you for your kind words.

I don't understand why I get teary and bawling when I read this article. "Tears of comfort" came to my mind, I feel so relieved when I was crying, I could not fully explain it. Maybe it is because your words speak to the sense of loss from trying to live against a christian upbringing, mission school doctrines, cruel classmates, homophobic pastors that shaped my young mind with dread and guilt about myself, intolerant family.

After the tears, I felt tired and relieved at the same time. I guess it matters to know I am not a mistake, coming from a man of spiritual authority. I feel I can claim my past once again, able to stand a little taller knowing that I do matter and I am worthy as like everyone else.

Life is fleeting and your words lighten my continuing journey in it.

I can come home again.
3. 2011-06-10 23:13  
Remind me again of the difference between the clergy and politicians...
4. 2011-06-10 23:45  
ASTRA- wow-- what a nice and amazing story of self-acceptance :P
5. 2011-06-10 23:49  
Lovely aspirational video. And good on Rev Yap for being human first.
6. 2011-06-11 00:31  
a meaningful and must share video... :)

and Thankyou so much Rev. Yap for Your kind and soothing words..., You`re really living angels on earth :)
7. 2011-06-11 01:24  
The tagline is generalizing and to a large extent incorrect. There may be some people feeling guilty for being gay, but I'm not one of them, and in fact I know none that do.
修改於2011-06-11 01:33:19
8. 2011-06-11 03:51  
Bravo! Thank you Rev. Yap!
9. 2011-06-11 05:17  
Singapore should be more open.But even if i disclose that i am a gay,~.~..Sure have alot of rumour passing around,that will be awful for me D:
10. 2011-06-11 08:57  
No I am not gay but...
I dont know why...my cock get hard with men only...hahaha:)
11. 2011-06-11 09:02  
Being different is a definitely, but we can choose the way we behave and make it no different from others. - Simon
回應#12於於2011-08-13 17:25被作者刪除。
13. 2011-06-11 10:30  
I feel guilty abt being different, n disgusted abt the way I look every single day it's making me depressed most of the times. :(
14. 2011-06-11 11:13  
It's good to have inpiring people like Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao who speak out about love and acceptance. I would say that it's not even guilt to be different, but fear of being rejected and not loved. When I was a young and growing up in Paris, I got rejected and singled out as Asian. It was the end of the Vietnam war, and being Vietnamese was not the most glamorous thing. I felt uncomfortable being Asian. Then more elements added up: being gay, being an artist, thinking differently in a world where sameness is the key. But it all got reversed after my first trip to Vietnam. I started to feel proud and happy about my culture. However, I would have to say that this guilt of being different may cover many aspects of one's life. So the thing to do is learn to feel good about whatever we do, in the job we choose, the way we live, the way we think. Then slowly, self-confidence will grow and as a result, people's reaction to us changes. It all comes down to love actually. That's the base of everything. Feeling guilt to be different is a sign that the person doesn't love him/herself enough. But once self-love grows, hate and rejection cease to matter. To me it's not only about being gay, it's about being oneself. :-)
15. 2011-06-11 12:18  
nice video..
16. 2011-06-11 13:28  
gay people dont spontaneously feel guilty... they are just as normal as anyone else. BUT they are made to feel guilty by a society which cannot tolerate difference
17. 2011-06-11 23:04  
If only gay people could stop feeling [guilty for being] different

If only gay people could stop feeling different !

If we want the same right to love, why should we define ourselves as so different ?

Wouldn't we be more efficient demonstrating that we are the same at the end of the day ?

Where the gay-ghetto was an area of security, it seems to become in quite a few places an area of comfort.

Maybe the next hurdle, the next fight, the next step is to prove we are the same, not that we are different. And that there is neither shame nor pride, just the way things are....
18. 2011-06-12 02:17  
While I understand (and appreciate) Rev Yap's good intentions, there seems to be a slightly patronizing tone of his remark, "if only gay people would stop feeling guilty for being different". Guilty for what??? It's as though there's the presumption gay ppl 's sexuality makes for being ashamed; that we are all tormented, lost souls that must be guilty of our "flaws", much like a dark skinned or left-handed person who should feel like crap for not fitting into society's ideals from birth. Or that homosexuality is a kind of "defect" one should graciously tolerate. (read: betrays elitist attitude).

Oh, well. at least he still beats ppl like TSM & TLA- those are some serious HARDCORE religious homo-obsessives we're talking abt lol. .
19. 2011-06-12 10:39  
Thanks for such a heart touching clip. I have always felt proud for being different and being exotic as a gay person.
20. 2011-06-12 12:45  
Amiable words from Yap Kim Hao, albeit misguided at best. He has to ask himself and the powers that be, how gays in Singapore can ever stop feeling guilty for who and what they are, when all the Singapore government is telling them, that being gay is wrong. Section 377A and a sore lack of freedom of choice shows in glaring light that Singapore has no interest in its people being diverse or proud of who they are.
21. 2011-06-12 18:33  
I think Lefties, Southpaws, and all non-right-handed people should feel guilty. Your comical way of writing, holding pens, and refusing to conform to society's standards - and the confusion you create whenever some reaches out to shake your hand - is a disgrace, and you should All feel guilty for not being Normal like the rest of us. Shame on you, Lefties!

Why, Tom Cruise didn't get where he is today by being left-handed, did he? When Jesus lost it, and started throwing punches around at the moneylenders, he didn't swing from the left side, did he? When Homer picks up a cool, refreshing Duff beer, which hand does he use?

I want you all to think very hard about this, and, when you've stopped feel ashamed and guilty about your unconventional minority ways of living, you can join the Right way forward - the side that knows which is the Right hand to pull a glove onto first.
22. 2011-06-12 23:46  
In addition to my previous statement (#7) and responses to it (eg #12), I would like to add that not only do I not feel guilty, I also do not feel different.

Regardless of who you are, whether your skin is black, yellow or white, whether you are male or female, young or old, and whether you read the Bible, the Koran or the Torah. If you read this, then please know that:

I live my life by the same universal values as you do.
I have the same needs and ambitions in life as you do.
I treat people like I hope to be treated, as do you.
I love another person the same way you do.
I grieve a loss the same way you do.
I have my own distinct personality, as do you.
I have my own style and preferences, as do you.
I have my own face, my own voice and my own body, as do you.
I am a unique, amazing individual.
You see, I am just like you.
修改於2011-06-12 23:49:49
23. 2011-06-13 00:32  
24. 2011-06-13 01:21  
#18 is so wise...well said.

I never had those sin or "guilty" sense.

"Keep away from people who try to belittle you..." - Mark Twain
25. 2011-06-13 05:59  
I am humbled by the comments that you made after reading my article. I was so touched and so moved by Astra #2 candid comment that I shared it in concluding my sermon lyesterday on "Embrace Difference Celebrate Diversity." There was a time of unusual silence as the members empathised with Astra and reflected on their own journey of freedom. It was focused on self-acceptance and shaping a community of diverse people supporting one another to realise the dream of a better future for all. The realiity of difference is only too obvious. The discrimination against the minority is only too evident.

For those who honestly do not feel guilty you have gained self-esteem and naturally feel normal. As a heterosexual I don't have to deal with the guilt issue. But for the greater number of LGBT persons society including the church has laid a heavy burden of guilt upon your shoulders. I hear your cry and feel your pain. Be assured that your Creator has knitted you in your mother's womb and each differently gifted, and wants to empower you to accept yourself. Stop feeling guilty for being different and support one another in striving and shaping an inclusive society.
26. 2011-06-13 06:33  
If you feel inclined to examine my sermon "Embrace Difference Celebrate Diversity please find it in my blogspot - http://yapkimhao.blogspot.com/2011/06/embrace-difference-celebrate-diversity.html

Peace be with you.
27. 2011-06-13 09:11  
Feel guilty? Guilty about what?

-That I don't feel hate for anyone?
-That I don't ridicule or condem someone for the way they were born.
-That I don't feel animosity toward anyone that doesn't think like I do?

In fact, come to think of it, I'm quite proud of me.

There's a far greater population out there that should feel both guilt and shame.
28. 2011-06-13 10:53  
If only we could live in a world free from religion, which is not only entirely fictional, but is all too often used to validate humanity's predisposition towards hating that which is different.
29. 2011-06-13 13:10  
Well said chadm... guilt is one of those things that religions love to deal in. Most of the sins that they invented were created as an way to impose guilt on their followers. In fact there is very little that is inherently wrong with all their so-called sins if taken in the proper context. The only real sins are actions against a person or his/her property which is against the will of that person. Think about all those 'sins' in the context of that definition and most of them disappear
30. 2011-06-13 14:18  
#18 - It was slip of the tongue......what he meant to say was: "If only gay people would stop being different." :D
31. 2011-06-13 14:24  
#18 - It was slip of the tongue......what he meant to say was: "If only gay people would stop being different." :D
32. 2011-06-13 20:51  
OK, to those who feel neither guilty nor different, great, power to you! Lord it over those who are struggling to live with their sexuality, why don't you, because you're so obviously superior to them! Jeez.
33. 2011-06-13 21:13  
It's so good to see a senior Christian in Singapore with his heart in the right place and with LOVE rather than FEAR as his guiding force. So many of his colleagues have either simply accepted fear-based falsehoods about us fed from America, or are afraid to speak up for gays, and against out-dated views of scripture, for fear of what their colleagues and congregations will think.....I hope this good man's love-based ministry can overcome the fears of such colleagues and their congregations by talking to and giving sermons to them, as well as helping the gay people he already ministers to.
34. 2011-06-13 23:09  

Check out Dan Savage's talk excerpt: Pro-Gay Christians Need to Stand Up to Christianist Bigots at

The 'Weinerlogue' is funny too.

You know what? I see a lot of people venting out against the mainstream for discrimination and homophobia, and rightly so. We shouldn't apologize for being different. I can't speak for everyone, it gets weary to keep hearing such hurtful things even though I stand up to them e.g. petitions, write-ins.... I think acknowledging them will only stengthen and heal me.

Of course, true strength comes with experience, as with time, and being through it all, I appreciate kindness and support from strangers, who have nothing to do with my life, to be shown to me. I am just at that stage where I really look forward to falling autumn leaves, or olive branches, but definitely meditation. Namaste.
35. 2011-06-14 17:52  
I also hope that the good Reverend can find time to sit and have a quiet word with famous fellow Methodist Vivian, concerning Vivian's mistaken beliefs about gay people, and his behaviour towards them. Maybe he will listen.
回應#36於於2011-06-14 20:56被作者刪除。
回應#37於於2011-06-14 22:11被作者刪除。
回應#38於於2011-06-15 00:42被作者刪除。
39. 2011-06-15 00:41  
There's an interesting feature article in the Independent newspaper today:
" "Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, it is primarily neurobiological at birth." So said Jerome Goldstein, director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Centre, addressing 3,000 neurologists from around the world at the 21st meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Lisbon last month....."

40. 2011-06-15 01:36  
To say the truth many times i felt guilty about being gay, but that help me to be safe, i know many people out there dont like gay people but that help me to be a better person. we can enjoy some freedom because other people work for this, i want to help to transfrom this world ina better place for gay people lets do it.
41. 2011-06-15 01:36  
To say the truth many times i felt guilty about being gay, but that help me to be safe, i know many people out there dont like gay people but that help me to be a better person. we can enjoy some freedom because other people work for this, i want to help to transfrom this world ina better place for gay people lets do it.
42. 2011-06-16 01:30  
Dr Yap should be thanked for this very courageous article. The biggest enemy of personal freedom is the Judaeo-Protestant heritage which makes people think of others merely as producers and consumers. Gays are not good because they may lead consumers to question and to rebel against the materialism that sustains a Judeao-Protestant world (and its pollution and deforestation). The likes of Vivian Balakrishnan and other Tamil and Chinese Methodists with personal inadequacies hidden by public religiosity will be headed for a great fall. It is very interesting to see repressive societies from Libya to Singapore being shaken up by dissent and finally revolution. they can hardly say they were not warned!
43. 2011-06-17 03:01  
I am the King and the of my Body and Mind also My life's choices... Only God can Judge... ..and Only God who knows. the beneath in my heart
44. 2011-06-18 15:48  
I find Yap Kim Hao's article filled with blames. He tries to push the cause of guilt back at gay people, as if it is a purely self-inflicted issue.

The so called guilt of being gay has it's roots in the religious system practiced globally.

To me, some churches and other religious organizations are starting to open their conditional doors of acceptance, simply because they've been losing worshippers and thus revenue.
Just like a ruling political party suddenly tries to change its image.
They are NOT doing it out of kindness or empathy, they do it to try to gain back their control over society.

It's just a way of compromising for survival of an outdated (right brainer targeted) political system, that instills guilt in followers for being non-conformists, inorder to convert/ farm them.

We don't need the acceptance of people who are bastions of such discriminating/ phobia instilling beliefs.
修改於2011-06-18 15:50:19
45. 2011-06-19 23:41  
British Columbia,1999-Gay Youth Face High Suicide Risk

Ontario 2001- The high rate of suicide among homosexual adolescents and youth is a phenomenon which has only recently been studied.

2009-Isolation, rejection lead many gay youths to attempt suicide.

A survey recently found that gay children are four times more likely than straight teens to commit suicide.

Nine out of ten gay teenagers also said they had been the victim of bullying.

Perhaps some of you might say that you do not need acceptance of the society. That is a good for you but how many kids out there growing up being guilty or at least feeling guilty for being gay?

Christian no christian, push the cause of guilt or not pushing cause of guilt, Pastor to sit down with Methodist Vivian or not sit down with her..it doesn't matter. For a former bishop to step out to support us in this video is something worth our praises. Lets not push the blame to anybody but support the cause and also supporting the people that support the cause.
46. 2011-06-26 00:56  
To #44: Junsheng...very acute points and excellent observation prowess you possess ;) Quite frankly, I, too am more than a tad skeptical of some christian (and islamic/other religious) clerics suddenly gushing 'GAY IS OK' in a 180-deg change...will take them with a LARGE pinch of salt. Esp. when not-too-many moons ago, when times were good and the economy rosy, they were so smug & cocksure of their assertion that "homosexuality is 'abnormal'...gay people need 'cures'"- "cures" that have ruined so many, along with their families, friends & relationships...not to mention their financial situation.

I can only hope that this attempt to suddenly play Mr. Nice will not end up in the 'keeping the enemy close / come-closer-so-I-can-slap-you-harder' game .
47. 2011-09-09 23:53  
I've never felt guilty about being gay, I have felt lonely, excluded and ashamed at being gay.

I grew up in a picturesque, small country village, from which, everybody went to Church and everyone knew everyone else's business.

I'm completely straight acting and a big guy, so I never had any trouble with bullying, I was good at sports, was a "straight-A's" student and I always had girls hanging off me.

Being gay in that atmosphere was very painful; during my teenage years I had a two year relationship with a Chinese guy (his parents ran the local takeaway) we were caught by his parents and to cut a long, sad story short, I never saw him again :(

I had to put up with endless questions about girlfriends et.c. I even dated a few girls just to keep my family happy.

I studied hard, managed to get a good education and escape that village; I've never looked back.

My experiences through childhood and manhood have taught me not to trust any religion and especially senior figures from those religions trying to soften their image and being all inclusive when, in reality, they have a big book somewhere that says homosexuality is a sin.
修改於2011-09-10 00:07:44




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