Being the father of two teen boys (who are growing up way too fast), I was looking for new ways to deepen our parents-sons relationship. An idea was to attend talks which lead to learning and family discussion so that we could all grow together as a family.

When I first heard about the talk on Understanding Homosexuality, I didn’t think much about it as I couldn’t see how it would be something my teenage sons or my wife could be interested in. But then I remembered conversations with them where they’ve related incidents of people whom they know of who have Same Sex Attraction (SSA) or have been living a homosexual lifestyle.

How should a Catholic react? Do we condemn or encourage? Reject or accept? Say something or keep quiet?

It might seem strange to some that a parent would take their teenage children to a talk on Understanding Homosexuality. But I think any parent would want their children to mature into fine young adults with a deeper understanding of issues that life would present to them. So education beyond classrooms with parental guidance (discerning what it bona fide and what is not) is important because we’ve all seen how ignorance leads to discrimination.  So, I checked with everyone’s schedule and made it happen for 17 November 2018.

It was gratifying to see over 90 seated in the hall at the annex to the Church of Sts Peter and Paul that afternoon, a clear sign that people want to know more. We were also pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces – a father and his teenage son from our old parish.

Bryan Shen, a registered counsellor and supervisor spent time in helping a diverse audience made up of youth, adults and seniors to learn more about this complex subject.

He shared that homosexuality exists in every country, culture, social-status and religion. It is condemned, avoided, and experienced in silent anguish because prejudice and fear exists. He also shared that parents in Singapore who discover their child with it, could face a multitude of emotions including shame and guilt.

Bryan then shed more light through stories and by presenting terminology used today, Gender Identity Development, and Factors that contribute to Homosexuality amongst other topics.

What I’ve learned is that as a Catholic community, we can help those with Same Sex Attraction (SSA). We all don’t have to be doctors in the “field hospital”, but we can be support systems, signposts to point the way, be welcoming and understanding, and breaking down the walls of discrimination.

The issues that surround gender identity will not “go away” and for those who live it, the challenges and pain are there daily. Education and knowledge are some of the first steps that we as a church can take as we reach out to them. The lack of understanding, ignorance and half-truths leads to hurt.

…The talk definitely helps one understand the psychology behind this. The session explains the symptoms for this struggle clearly and highlights the important role fathers and mothers play in a child’s upbringing.

Michael D

Bryan’s session was enlightening n opened my eyes to the importance of a sound family structure and foundation. Mom and dad roles are critical for balance in a child’s formation in the early years. Dysfunctional families impact a child in more ways than I ever knew.

Jo-Anne Lee

This talk opens our mind to understand the misconception we have on homosexuality and how we can be more compassionate in sharing God’s love with them just as Christ showed compassion and love towards us.

Moses Kow

…It has also reminded me that many who has the SSA condition bears a painful history, and how we as a Christian community need to extend our friendship and support to our fellow brothers and sisters without compromising our beliefs.

Gabriel Ho

Knowledge and information from reliable sources are key. It is not enough to know a little because fake news (and half-truths) is prevalent online today. If one truly cares, take the effort to look at authentic studies and facts, and not just rely on unsubstantiated talk and what popular media outlets are saying.

The work of forming the next generation to be good parents, role models etc. are of great importance in preventing the problems surrounding gender identity issues. This is merely one of the many challenges that we will face as a society in the years to come.  The good news is that many of our modern-day problems can be mitigated by nurturing our families with love and support. This is something that we can all do now – we shouldn’t wait any longer. Take that first small step today.

As for me and my family, we had a good experience at the talk and attending the sunset Mass at the Church thereafter was a fantastic bonus. This was followed by dinner at a ‘gaming’ café which allowed us a couple of hours of playing board games. Not too bad for a small step.

Let us pray along with Archbishop William Goh for his prayer intention for November 2018:

Family, the Bedrock of Society: “That husbands and wives recognise the importance of family as the bedrock of society and nurture authentic relationships in family life.”

Written by Nicholas Lim. Photos by Ryan Lim. Special thanks to the priests and parishioners at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul for their hospitality.

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