A warning has circulated around youth LGBTI networks in Singapore to be wary of a Christian group which appears to be LGBTI friendly and is targeting them on Facebook. But upon further research people have realized if offers ‘gay cure’ or conversion therapy.
Young LGBTI people started noticing ads for the group TrueLove.is pop up regularly when they logged into Facebook. Youth group Young Out Here circulated the warning.
At first glance TrueLove.is seems to be a LGBTI Christian support group. Their branding features rainbow colors and it claims to provide ‘stories and resources for Christians who want to know more about LGBTQ issues’.
The group belongs to the 3:16 Christian denomination. Founded in 2013, 3:16 aims to ‘win big for the kingdom of God’.
TrueLove.is’ Facebook page features posts and videos helping people to love their LGBTI family members. It also tells young LGBTI Christians ‘don’t just come out, come home’.
Seems legit so far, right?
Jessica saw the group’s ads pop up on her Facebook timeline every time she logged into her account.
She’s not a Christian but does identify as a lesbian and thinks TrueLove.is’ approach to LGBTI issues is ‘extremely unhelpful’.
‘It’s a Christian organisation formed with an LGBT target audience, with the aim of rehabilitating existing perceptions towards the stance encapsulated by “hate the sin, love the sinner”,’ she told Gay Star News.
‘Resources on the site itself use language that appear to distinguish it from the old conversion therapy strands – nowhere is the word “cure” used, nor do they entirely claim to be able to get rid of “same-sex urges”.’
Jessica points out that TrueLove.is claims that ‘practising’ homosexuality is wrong. The group paints such relationships as nothing more than sinful sexual desires.
‘I think True Love is extremely unhelpful for people who have already massively internalised homophobia, which is virtually 90% of LGBT people I know who live here, and also for those who have a lack of good supportive allies,’ Jessica said.
To further confirm the group’s dubious intentions, it has an official affiliation with the Church Of Our Saviour (COOS). That church has advocated for the ongoing crimininalzation of gay sex in Singapore. It also runs a program to lead LGBTI people to salvation and promises to ‘cure homosexuality’.
Almost every mainstream health and psychiatry organization in the world has condemned gay cure or conversion therapy. Gay cure therapies can involve ‘praying the gay away’. In the United Kingdom, people forced to undergo ‘gay cure’ therapy reported being nearly drowned and starved. In some countries people are beaten, raped, force-fed, injected with drugs against their will.
True Love Is…
Testimonials on the TrueLove.is’ page show church members who ‘used to be gay’ share their stories of how the church helped them become different people.
‘After that one-night stand, I was at the end of myself. I told God, I’m done. I have nothing left. You have to help me,’ former gay man Raphael states in one of the videos.
‘Don’t just come out, come home’
Rice Media journalist Grace Yeoh attended TrueLove.Is’ inaugural youth conference in August.
Yeoh realized the group’s mantra to ‘come home’ really meant ‘a commitment to Christ and His ways, which includes not acting on one’s SSA (same-sex attraction)’.
At that conference TrueLove.is’ creative director Pastor Norman Ng told attendees ‘your greatest ministry is what hurts you the most’.
‘I have a friend who’s struggling with SSA who’s early on his journey,’ he said on the day.
‘He says he did not choose this, but if he can’t change it, then he’s going to use it so that others might come home. If we are courageous and strong enough, then we get to take the pain and transform it into power.’
Singapore and the LGBTI community
Singapore is a multicultural and socially conservative city state. Christian denominations make up about 19% of the country’s population.
Homosexual sex is still outlawed under Section 377A of the penal code, an outdated law inherited during British colonialism. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview last year that the gay sex ban was unlikely to change anytime soon.
LGBTI people are not protected under anti-discrimination laws and same-sex couples are not recognized in any official capacity.
The government in recent years has tried to diminish the success of the annual LGBTI Pride event, Pink Dot SG. First, it banned anyone who was not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident from attending. Then it put a ban on foreign multinationals based in Singapore from donating to the event.
But local companies stepped up to support Pink Dot SG and for the past two years record crowds have attended the event.
Facebook targeted advertising
What has really upset LGBTI people in Singapore is that TrueLove.is seems to be targeting its ads to young LGBTI people in the country.
The social media giant uses specially designed algorithms to target advertising to its users based on their online behaviours. It allows advertisers to target their content to users based on interests, friends and other factors.
Locals have denounced TrueLove.is’ targeting of young LGBTI people.
Their tactics are misleading according to, Yeong Jun Bo. The 24-year-old student originally didn’t click on the ad. Yeong presumed he had been targeted because of ‘all the queer stuff I share on Facebook.
It wasn’t until he heard the controversy around it that he looked into and described their marketing strategy as ‘insidious’.
‘It’s misleading and I think more often than not, queer youths have such a vulnerability even more so when they have to reconcile their faith and sexuality,’ Yeong said.
‘It preys on that aspect of vulnerability and no one should be capitalizing on it for anything, especially not to advocate religion. I always think religion and faith and how one practices it varies from person to person.’
Triggering and hurtful
Both Jessica and Yeong have friends for whom TrueLove.is’ agenda is upsetting.
‘My trans friends are most affected by it, especially those who still struggle with their Christian faith,’ Jessica said.
‘I’ve a friend for whom this was particularly triggering, as they’d once been a huge church leader and prayed for years for god to change him, but clearly it didn’t happen.’
For Jessica, the biggest problem with TrueLove.is is that has so many more resources than LGBTI organizations. Those organization could better help LGBTI youth if they had enough resources.
‘LGBT organisations don’t have the means, nor ability to get our message of support in the way True Love has been able to, partly because of state restrictions, and most importantly because of the power of this set of Christians – all sorts of Christians make up only 10% the population at the most right now, but those who bother with LGBT people are likely to be richer and more powerfully connected,’ she said.
What’s Facebook doing about it?
Gay Star News reached out to TrueLove.is multiple times, but they ignored all requests for comment.
Facebook has started investigating the group and the claims of LGBTI Singaporeans that it’s a front for gay conversion.
A spokesman for Facebook said it does ‘allow ads that promote gay conversion therapy or that imply personal attributes about people, like their sexual orientation’.
Under two seperate policies, ads that promote gay conversion therapies are not allowed on Facebook. One is the misleading or false content policy.
The personal attributes policy also bans ads for gay conversion therapy. That policy states that ads must not contain content that asserts or implies personal attributes.
This includes; ‘direct or indirect assertions or implications about a person’s race, ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, age, sexual orientation or practices, gender identity, disability, medical condition (including physical or mental health), financial status, membership in a trade union, criminal record, or name’.