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University in Singapore explains why LGBT-themed TED talk was canceled

University in Singapore explains why LGBT-themed TED talk was canceled

Singapore radio star Joshua Simon (Photo Provided)

A university in Singapore embroiled in a backlash over allegedly censoring an LGBT-themed TED talk has spoken out.

Local radio star Joshua Simon did not talk at Singapore Polytechnic last week after the university asked him to remove references to his same-sex relationship.

A Singapore Polytechnic spokesperson on Wednesday (3 July) told the Straits Times: ‘Joshua Simon was advised that certain references to his sexuality might be sensitive, given the diverse profile of the audience’.

The spokesperson said organizers ‘assessed that certain parts relating to his sexuality might be inappropriate, for the target audience’.

The university asked him to consider reviewing his script.

‘Unfortunately, he decided not to speak at the event at all’ the spokesperson said.

Coming out

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, organizers asked him 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 the Ministry of Education (MoE) rules.

The MoE on Wednesday told the Straits Times that universities decide what happens on campus.

The ministry said Singapore Polytechnic did not consult them on the event.

‘We encourage open discussions on various topics, but some issues, especially those that concern race and religion, are sensitive and potentially socially divisive’ a spokesperson also said.

‘Organisers need to be cognizant of them and exercise appropriate judgment’.

Censorship and Section 377A in Singapore

Simon told Gay Star News it was a ‘real disappointment’ that his talk was canceled.

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.’

In July last year, St Joseph’s Institute (SJI) – a Catholic school in Singapore — also canceled an LGBT-themed speech.

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.


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I’ve been invited to do a TED Talk. It’s called ‘Searching For Aliens In A Human World’ on the 29th of June. It’ll be available on the global TED Talks channel. I’ve been very open about how the past year has been for me. Many of you know how I turned to books, podcasts and TED Talks for insight, anything to help me get out of bed and stand up straight. To watch someone go up on stage, hold that microphone and allow themselves to be vulnerable to the world, I think it’s incredibly brave. A part of me hoped that someday down the road I’d be able to, in my own little way, contribute to that playlist. I just did not think it would happen so soon. So I’m very, very nervous. This is easily the scariest thing I’ve ever said yes to. And I did say yes so, oh god I guess it’s happening, haha. I’m doing it! I AM DOING IT.

A post shared by Joshua Simon (@joshuasimonxl) on

But, the break-up and outing gave him 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.

‘It is 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.’