The 377A issue is not necessarily irreconcilable. When we take a closer look at human nature, and the importance of identity to our sense of person-hood, we will see that religious people and gay rights activists both act from the same basis that unites them as human beings: they are both attempting to defend something that is deeply related to their sense of self-identity. Race and religion are not the only identity-conferring characteristics that people identify deeply with, and consider fundamental to their sense of who they are as a person. Understanding this might reduce polarization, encourage empathy, and help us make progress on the matter.
All human beings have an intimate sense of what makes us who we are. This is something that you, I and everyone else share. There are things about ourselves that we identify with most deeply as constituting what we consider our life to be fundamentally about. This includes certain commitments, such as our commitment to our family, or our commitment to our religion (or lack of one).
For all of us, abandoning this sort of identity-conferring commitment will cause us to lose grip on what gives our life its identity, or individual character. If someone who has been raised a faithful Muslim, or a faithful Christian, is forced to convert into another religion, or stopped from practicing his/her religion, he/she will no doubt feel that his/her life has lost its sense of meaning; that he/she has been deeply and severely attacked as a person. I am sure many religious people will agree with this.
I also believe this is why even though religions are mutually exclusive (i.e. they make contradicting claims as to who is the one true God), they can nonetheless co-exist. Religious harmony comes about because we understand the importance of the identity-conferring aspect of religion to others (and ourselves), and we believe this is something to respect and protect, even if we do not share the same faith with them.
I can be… (a) Christian… (and yet) go out of my way to defend my Muslim counterpart… because I can appreciate how important his religion is to him and his sense of identity
Therefore, I can be an extremely committed Christian or a Buddhist, and yet, if I see someone trying to stop Muslims from exercising their religion, or even trying to convert them by force, I will go out of my way to defend my Muslim counterparts. This is because I can appreciate how important their religion is to them and their sense of identity, and I believe that this must be respected and protected. In my opinion, this should be the reason why different religions seek to live in harmony with one other, rather than the fear of criminal punishment, or social backlash.
However, aside from commitments, there are other things that give us our sense of identity. Our personal characteristics, for example, can be identity-conferring. This includes our race. I believe many people would be appalled at the idea of undergoing plastic surgery to remove certain features that are essential to their race, such as their hair, facial structure or skin color. If you asked them why, they might reply “because this is who I am“. If we forced them onto the operating table, they would, like the faithful Muslim or Christian, feel that they have been deeply and severely attacked as a person. Similarly, if we took someone who identifies as male, and forced them to wear a dress, make-up, and high heels for the rest of their life, that person will also feel that they have been deeply and severely attacked as a person.
Just like race, religion or gender, sexual orientation is a personal characteristic that people identify with very deeply as constituting what they consider themselves to be as a person
Just like race, religion or gender, sexual orientation is a personal characteristic that people identify with very deeply as constituting what they consider themselves to be as a person. Just like the person raised religiously, or the person who rejects plastic surgery to alter racial characteristics, prohibiting a person from acting on their sexual orientation, or trying to ‘convert’ them, deeply and severely attacks them as a person.
Hence, both the religious activists who oppose homosexuality, and the activists who call for the repeal of Section 377A are acting from the very same basis that unites them as human beings – they are both attempting to defend something that is deeply related to their sense of self-identity, which they naturally consider as extremely important to them. 
Race and religion are heavily recognized and protected, but they are not the only identity-conferring characteristics that people identify deeply with, and consider fundamental to their sense of who they are as a person.
I think that future conversations on this topic must begin from this premise. Race and religion are heavily recognized and protected, but they are not the only identity-conferring characteristics that people identify deeply with, and consider fundamental to their sense of who they are as a person. Gender and sexual orientation matter as well. I believe that understanding the relationship between different identity-conferring characteristics will help promote a more cohesive, plural Singaporean society where different people can live in harmony, regardless of race, religion, or any other identity-conferring characteristic.
I believe that if religious groups think carefully about why they care so deeply about Section 377A, and if they think about the reasons why they tolerate other religions, and why other religions tolerate them, they will begin to see the important role that identity-conferring characteristics/commitments play in their own lives, and the lives of others. When they do so, they may begin to realize how much they share in common with the other side. This realization can contribute to empathy, understanding, and perhaps even acceptance. 
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NOTE: The notion of identity-conferring commitments was first introduced by the philosopher Bernard Williams in the 1970s. It is a rather important feature of modern philosophical thought. Those who are interested in learning more can read this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry, or alternatively, read Williams’ contribution in Smart & Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge University Press, 1973
 It is worth making one clarification. Not all identity-conferring commitments must be respected. If someone considers committing acts of terror as fundamental to his sense of who he is as a person, we should not respect it, because of the harm that he causes to others. But this type of harm is surely very different from the so-called ‘harm’ some people believe will emerge from the fact that the other side’s values contradict their values. Such a wide definition of harm is problematic because it means that one suffers only as much harm as one causes someone else by the very fact that one believes in different things from someone else.
 One possible counter-response is that religion is a choice, and sexual orientation is not. Perhaps this is applicable to people who have voluntarily converted. However, for a majority of people who are born into a religious environment, or a religious family, they never really had a choice with regard to their religion. Even when they are old enough to be exposed to other ideas, it is difficult for them to relinquish something that has been such a big part of their lives.