Radio personality, Joshua Simon, revealed in a Facebook post the actual reason why he did not speak as scheduled at a TED talk event this past Saturday.
According to Simon, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) tried to get him to censor his TED Talk, and remove the parts that touched on the LGBTQ+ issues.
He protested because he felt that it would not do justice for his story as an LGBTQ+ person, as well as the community in general. When he realised that there was no room for compromise, he opted out of giving the talk.
I owe you an answer to why I did not give my TED Talk on saturday morning: the night before the event, I received a phone call informing me that Singapore Polytechnic, upon discovering that my talk included LGBTQ+ themes, removed me from the speakers list. They urged me to edit my script and leave out any content in relation to it. I said no.
Many of you know how instrumental TED Talks have been for my growth. I treasured this opportunity and worked very hard for months writing and rehearsing for it. It would be against my principles to flip the gender of my ex when mentioning my breakup and to totally leave out my coming out story to my father - both of which are, and will always be, defining moments of my story.
To hide my struggles and sacrifices is to be ashamed of them. To honour my story is to be completely vulnerable on that stage.
I told the school that I will not do the talk. I chose not to censor my script. Doing so would also set a hurtful precedence to the next gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer person offered a chance to speak. I will not allow anyone to say “if Joshua cut that out of his speech, so can you.”
A staff from SP has apologised to Simon, claiming that they had no choice but to abide by guidelines set by the Ministry of Education.
This morning, a representative from the school expressed interest in meeting me to issue a formal apology as they had to abide by the rules of The Ministry Of Education. I appreciate the gesture but right now I just want some time to be with myself.
I was however, blown away to learn that a fellow speaker, Victoria Cheng, got up and spoke bravely in my defence during her talk, a move that got her into some trouble as well. I also want to recognise the 3 incredible students from Singapore Polytechnic who fought relentlessly for the integrity of my story with their teachers up til the final decision was made. Muhan, Lijun, Sheree - my incredible allies, thank you.
Please know that I am not angry at anyone. I have accepted what has happened. This becomes part of my story now. Our stories matter. The fight to have them told continues.
It is brave of Simon to turn down the opportunity to give the talk at the last minute.
Censorship is a dangerous because it silences people and render them invisible. Self-censorship is even worse. It is a slippery slope. It did not get any worse because Simon stood up for the community.
Our tertiary institutions are supposed to be the catalyst for considered intellectual discussions, for open conversations for things that matter to us.
When will MOE catch up and review its outdated policy?