The SJI Saga dissected

If you haven’t any clue what’s going on with the St Joseph’s Institution Saga, here’s a summary:

  • A group of students invited a research and advocacy director at the Inter-University LGBT network for a TEDXYOUTHS@SJI talk
  • On the eve of the talk, the speaker was uninvited.
  • SJI cited reasons of relevancy to the topic of the talk and the teacher-in-charge’s failure to check through the list of speakers.
  • Ms Yeo and the Inter-University LGBT Network then went on Facebook to share about what happened, that went viral and media outlets like TODAY caught on about the story.

It then gets juicier.

SJI’s Vice-Principal Leonard Tan gave a speech to the boys in the school regarding the banning of Ms Yeo. Of course, with today’s technology, some kid in school decided it was in proper order to film it down and oops! leaked it. Field day for the alternative media like The Online Citizen and Independent SG lor, because from that speech, it appeared that VP Tan was anti-activism and at points bringing his Catholic faith into the picture.

So it’s easy to paint VP Tan as pro-establishment, anti-activism if you just read what they wrote, take the whole thing and re-ignite the whole “poor LGBT folks being bullied by Christian conservatives” line of thought, as TOC has.

Same same but different – 10 years ago, the same tension between the two camps happened in what is now known as the Aware Saga also happened. So are we resurfacing this “us vs them” discussion?

But actually if you think carefully, SJI is a mission school. A school that was started by missionaries for spreading Christianity. Even as today’s mission schools’ original mission is diluted and faith being in the backdrop, these school continue to be schools with Church teachings woven into its culture and are schools where Catholics choose to send their children to (yah, you see the catfights during Phase 2B of P1 Registration?) So why is it surprising that a school like SJI turn away a LGBT-centred talk? They expect the priests and nuns to chill at the back and watch as someone tell the children things that contradict the Church teachings meh? Seriously, try pulling this stunt on a Madrasah and see what happens!

As society becomes more diverse, finding common ground and respecting delicate boundaries between groups become all the more tricky.

Back in 2009, the LGBT community was riled up over the takeover of the Aware Exco that fought back and got the Christians to back off. Of course lah! No one expects a Women’s rights group to be only for straight women, and the stealthy way in which the Christians had taken over the Exco really was a major turn-off.

Now in 2018, why are we then up in arms about a Catholic school wanting to keep discussions of LGBT outside of its gates? If civil society is about respecting the boundaries of others and differences, then the pro-LGBT should acknowledge that the Church would be uncomfortable with this sort of encroachment on their grounds.

Aside from the poor oratory skills of VP Tan (seriously, what’s with punctuating his sentences with “ok???” ), we should consider their grounds as well and cut the school some slack. We know lah, the pro-LGBT kids in school also want their stand to be heard. Can lah, take the discussion and discourse outside the gates, outside of your uniforms. No one will stop you there.