A TED talk by a Singapore radio presenter was canceled by Singapore Polytechnic University after he refused to remove LGBTI themes.
Joshua Simon, host at Kiss92 FM, was set to give a speech on identity and the true self on Saturday (29 June).
Simon told Gay Star News he was excited to share his story of how a serious break up forced him to come out to his father one year ago.
But, when handing a copy of his script to organizers the day before, he was asked to remove male gender pronouns. Organizers also asked him to take out the coming out story.
When he refused, Singapore Polytechnic removed him from the event. Organizers told Simon they were following Ministry of Education rules.
‘It is a real disappointment’ Simon told Gay Star News. ‘When you’re invited to do a TED Talk, you should be able to celebrate and feel free and safe to share your story.’
Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code punishes sex between two men with up to two years in prison.
Last week, the conservative city-state’s Prime Minister said the law would be in place ‘for some time’. But, he said, the city still welcomed everybody.
Simon, however, labeled the censorship a ’trickle-down effect of 377A’.
‘[Singapore] is a lot of don’t ask and don’t tell’ he said. He explained how he hasn’t mentioned his sexuality on his radio show to abide by the rules of the Media Development Authority Singapore. But, he had hoped that TED would’ve been a safer platform.
He said he refused to censor his script as ‘doing so would also set a hurtful precedence to the next gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer person offered a chance to speak.’
What did he want to say?
Simon told Gay Stay News he wanted to share how his whole world came crashing down and he was forced to rebuild it.
The TED talk was called Searching for Aliens in a Human World.
Simon was set to explain how as a youngster he believed the part of himself that others might find weird made him an alien.
He wanted to explain for years how he hid his true ‘alien’ self and focused on the human.
But, the trauma of a break up and being outed led to serious mental health issues.
‘When something truly devastating happens and you feel like you’ve lost the love of your life and you feel completely left behind’ he explained.
‘Its those moments when you’re at your weakest, that everything that needs work rises to the surface. I learned to embrace my alien again and let it speak through me.’
Simon told Gay Star News the university had offered to meet him and apologize. But, he refused. ‘I don’t want to go near the whole thing.’
‘The reason I chose to share my coming out story was cos I thought for TED, I would be safe’.
Simon said, however, he was ‘blown away’ that fellow speaker, Victoria Cheng, spoke in his defense at the event.
His post explaining what happened has since gone viral.
In July last year, St Joseph’s Institute (SJI) – a Catholic school in Singapore — also canceled an LGBT-themed speech.
SJI said the decision ‘beyond our control’ and blamed the education ministry.
But, the ministry claimed it was not involved in the decision.
In Simon’s case, the ministry is yet to comment.