15th January 2008 – PinkNews
Banks woo gay recruits in Asia
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
While multi-national corporations have been actively recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual staff in the UK for some time, the policy has now been adopted in some Asian nations. The Financial Times reports that American investment bank Lehman Brothers held a recruietment event for LGB students at Hong Kong university and is considering similar events in Singapore. Homosexual relations are legal in Hong Kong. Despite recent debate about the issue in Singapore they remain against the law. Other major institutions such as Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and UBS are also targeting gay graduates in Hong Kong, the FT reports.
Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman Brothers in Tokyo, told the paper: "The way we’re tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we’re a US firm based in New York." Last year British gay equality organisation Stonewall launched its third annual guide for LGB graduates, Starting Out, sponsored by Credit Suisse. Multi-nationals such as American Express, Abn Amro, Barclays, BP, Citi, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Time Warner and UBS advertised their gay-friendly credentials in an attempt to attract the best talent.
January 24, 2008 – Fridae.com
Singapore holds first festival dedicated to LGBT feature films: jan 25 – 27
The Love and Pride Film Festival is the first festival here dedicated to feature films of LGBT interests. But publicity by its organiser Golden Village is discreet and minimal. China has it. Indonesia has it. India has it. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and the Philippines all have it. And this weekend, Singapore might just be having its first. Organised by cinema chain Golden Village (GV), Singapore will be seeing its first film festival dedicated to gay and lesbian feature films. It’s called the Love & Pride Film Festival and its modest slate of films consists of only seven titles screened over three days. Although all these films have been cleared by censors and shown separately in Singapore cinemas in 2006 and 2007, GV felt that the films still have sufficient drawing power to attract new and repeat viewers.
Ching Su-yin, GV’s marketing manager, tells Fridae: “In the past few years, we’ve seen some wonderful critically-acclaimed films that deal with the theme of gender and sexuality. We felt that it would be a great idea to bring them back in a special festival dedicated to such films.”
Most of the selected films performed well at the box-office when they were first released, drawing sizeable gay and straight audiences. Brokeback Mountain, in particular, was a big box-office hit. The four screenings of Brokeback this weekend will be made especially poignant by the fact that its star Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose on Tuesday. Unlike the Short Circuit film festival – a private festival organised by gay activist Alex Au, poet-playwright Alfian Sa’at and Boo Junfeng and featuring gay-themed short films by local filmmakers – the Love & Pride Film Festival does not seem motivated by social or political concerns, but primarily commercial ones.
Ching says that GV organises annual film festivals for embassies all year round, such as the annual European Union Film Festival as well as the Italian, Japanese and Norwegian Film Festival. But as January is a quiet month for them – they had decided to plan a festival on their own, centering on critically-acclaimed films of a certain theme. It just so happened that there has been a surge of high-quality LGBT films in recent years. In fact, 2007 alone saw more than 30 films with gay and lesbian interests. (See the table below.) These films were brought in by major and boutique distributors including GV, Shaw, Cathay, Festive Films, Warner-Fox, UIP, Archer Entertainment, Encore Films, Lighthouse Pictures, BVI, Fortissimo Films, and others.
And so, dedicating a festival to such films seemed like a natural choice. As this is the first time GV is organising a festival without the collaboration of an embassy, it has been modest in its advertising efforts. There hasn’t been much publicity for the Love & Pride Film Festival in mainstream media, but GV has put ads and notices on gay websites such as Fridae. Several web forums have also picked up on the news and are vigorously discussing it. Fridae would like to thank all the distributors who have supported the distributions and release of LGBT feature films in past and coming years. Thanks to you, wonderful stories of queer men and women are being given an opportunity to be seen and heard.
The Love & Pride Film Festival will be playing at GV Grand and GV Vivocity Gold Class cinema this weekend from Jan 25-27. Tickets at GV Grand are at $7 per movie, or $18 for three movies together. Tickets at GV Vivocity Gold Class cinema are at $98 for two persons and come with a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne each and strawberries fondue. To check timings and book tickets, log on the link provided below.
Gay Films of 2007
2007 saw a surge of films with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender interests. Fridae lists all 33 of them according to their release dates in Singapore, starting with Big Bang Love in January:
Big Bang Love –
Japanese gay arthouse romance by Takashi Miike (Audition)
Thai comedy about how to differentiate gay from metrosexual
Running With Scissors –
Hollywood drama about a gay teenager growing up
Berbagi Suami (Love For Share) –
Indonesian women’s drama with a lesbian subplot
Spanish women’s drama directed by gay auteur Pedro Almodovar
Paris, Je T’aime –
French drama with gay subplot directed by gay helmer Gus Van Sant
Notes On A Scandal –
Judi Dench as lesbian teacher in love with Cate Blanchett
20 Centimeters –
Spanish comedy about transvestite whose lifelong dream is to remove her 20cm-long manhood
Homoerotic Hollywood period drama with abs, abs, abs and a gay King Xerxes
The History Boys –
English comedy about two gay teachers teaching rowdy boys
Singapore drama by openly gay director Graham Streeter. Supported by Singapore’s Media Development Authority
I Don’ Want to Sleep Alone –
Homoerotic attraction between Chinese man and Indian foreign worker. Made in Malaysia by gay helmer Tsai Ming Liang.
Eternal Summer –
Taiwanese gay love triangle involving two boys and a girl. Stars hotties Joseph Chang and Bryant Chang.
Hollywood biopic of gay writer Truman Capote who wrote In Cold Blood
Spider Lilies –
Taiwanese lesbian romance which won the Teddy Award at Berlin International Film Fest.
The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros –
Filipino drama about cross-dressing boy in love with a policeman; another Teddy Award winning film.
You I Love –
Russian comedy about bisexual man who has girlfriend and boyfriend
Gone Shopping –
Singapore drama featuring artist Rizman Putra as a mysterious cross-dresser. Supported by Singapore’s MDA
French comedy about gay ghosts haunting an abandoned discotheque
Women Who Love Women: Conversations in Singapore –
Groundbreaking Singapore docu on local lesbians by Lim May Ling and Ngiam Su Lin
Hollywood musical based on 1988 film by openly gay director John Waters
Mysterious Skin –
Hollywood gay drama by Greg Araki gets a rerun the Arts House
The Home Song Stories –
Australian family drama by openly-gay director Tony Ayres. Supported by Singapore’s MDA
Me… Myself –
Thai movie about an ex-transvestite played by Anand Everingham (Shutter)
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry –
Hollywood comedy about two men pretending to be a gay couple for insurance purposes.
Savage Grace –
Complex Hollywood drama about a gay man and his relationship with mother played Julianne Moore
Hunting and Gathering –
(Seemingly) gay man with taste for fine crockery and high art rooms with two friends. From France
Sexually-confused man (Hugh Dancy) can’t decide if he likes Claire Danes or Patrick Wilson in this Hollywood drama
Gay prisoner pines for handsome cellmate (Chang Chen) in this Korean drama
Hollywood fantasy with Robert De Niro as cross-dressing gay pirate.
Pleasure Factory –
Singapore drama with gay subplot involving army boy who had fling with campmate. Supported by Singapore’s MDA
Across The Universe –
Hollywood musical with lesbian subplot involving girl in love with landlady
Eastern Promises –
Vincent Cassell as gay mobster in this Hollywood gangsterama
February 7, 2008 – ftd.de
Cool reception for Asia’s gay workers
by von Raphael Minder
Homosexual employees face discrimination across most of Asia, but global investment banks are at the forefront of change. The international dimension of investment banking is forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination. Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, recently held an unusual recruitment event at Hong Kong university. Lehman’s invitation was specifically aimed at gay and lesbian students who aspire to be bankers. Encouraged by the success of the presentation and buffet dinner for 50 students, Lehman is planning to extend its initiatives targeting the gay community this year. It will include the bank’s first pro-gay activities in Singapore, the city-state that has become one of Asia’s leading financial centres but where sex between men is illegal. Lehman Brothers is not the only bank seeking to recruit from Asia’s gay community. Such is the enthusiasm among investment banks that some have banded together to give their Asian events a higher profile, taking it in turn to organise lectures, dinners and other events around a gay or lesbian theme. In November, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, Merrill Lynch and UBS co-sponsored a cinema evening in Hong Kong which featured The Bubble, a 2006 film about the gay relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier.
Investment banks’ efforts to recruit more gays and lesbians is partly an attempt to attract the most talented employees. At a time when Asia has become the world’s biggest region for deals such as initial public offering, investment banks are struggling to fill the new positions on offer. And the intense hiring competition makes it crucial to ensure talented gay people are not deterred from applying because of a combination of Asian intolerance and western macho behaviour on trading floors. Cheryl de Souza, Lehman’s Asia director of diversity and inclusion, says: "Walking across some of the floors in Hong Kong, you will find that we now have people who feel comfortable about having a picture of their [same-sex] partner on their desk and that’s huge in terms of progress." Furthermore, banks are increasingly committed to corporate social responsibility and best practice, which also helps explain why some US executives argue that they are ahead of their peers in pushing for sexual diversity. Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman in Tokyo, says: "The way we’re tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we’re a US firm based in New York."
In most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination
What Lehman and some other investment banks are trying to achieve in Singapore and other parts in Asia runs counter to the region’s cultural and legal environment. Homosexual people are broadly accepted in some countries, notably Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong, where gay sex was only decriminalised in 1991. But in most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination and censure – both in and out of the workplace – amid a blend of religious intolerance, family conservatism and legal bans, often inherited directly from British colonial rule. For instance gay sex is a criminal offence across the Indian subcontinent.
In Malaysia, a Muslim country where sodomy is a crime, police in November broke up a gay sex party in a fitness club on Penang and arrested 37 men aged between 20 and 45. The evidence gathered against them included used condoms found on the floor as well as six boxes of new condoms – which in many countries would probably be construed as a sign of responsible sexual behaviour. Richard Welford, a director of CSR Asia, a consultancy focused on corporate social responsibility, says: "In the vast majority of cases in Asia, gays and lesbians have to stay hidden. Sometimes they will even make up boyfriends or girlfriends . . . But it does seem that in some sectors such as investment banking, businesses are taking the lead [in improving the situation for gay people]. You could say that they are ahead of Asian society there."
Investment banks are in a better position to push for change
This has not been the case in Asian retail banking. Unlike retail banks that have countrywide branch networks, investment banks are also in a better position to push for change because they generally operate only in a country’s biggest city, where the population is usually most diverse and conservative attitudes are less entrenched than in second-tier cities and more remote Asian manufacturing centres.
The international dimension of investment banking is also forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination more regularly than their counterparts in retail banking and other more local institutions. A recurring problem is the difficulty of getting investment bankers to relocate to countries that do not offer dependent visas for same-sex partners. Still, the jurisprudence governing homosexuality is not necessarily the best guide as to where gay people will find it easiest to work in the Asia-Pacific region, according to some executives who gathered at a recent evening party of Fruits in Suits, an association that holds monthly events in Hong Kong.
Some even contrast life in Sydney, where the Mardi Gras celebration is one of the world’s biggest annual gay events, with the macho working environment within parts of the Australian financial services industry, which one banker says is "a lot behind the curve". India offers another intriguing situation, according to Stephen Golden, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs, who helps co-ordinate the bank’s global leadership and diversity programme. He says: "India is one of those places where the laws relating to homosexuality haven’t changed but society has. We have had employees who are openly gay and have been asked to transfer to India and have gone there without any issues. They understand the cultural environment and have had very good experiences."
"The least diverse office we have in Asia"
On the flip side stands South Korea, where there is no legislation banning gay sex but where gay people say they cannot be open about their sexuality for fear of being treated as social pariahs. Kay McArdle, who heads Goldman’s diversity programme in Asia excluding Japan, describes Seoul as "the least diverse office we have in Asia". Still, she finds reason for optimism in the current staffing problems that Korean firms are confronting. Recognition that there is a dearth of women in the workplace should eventually translate into broader improvements for gay people and others who struggle to gain acceptance in the Korean workplace, she argues. "The Korean government has recently been doing a huge push on getting women back into the workforce as many employers face acute staff shortages." Ms McArdle says. "They are getting up the curve, slowly but surely. And that is good news for diversity in general."
April 4, 2008 – afp.google.com
Singapore censors say four films banned from film festival
Singapore (AFP) — Four film documentaries, including one by a gay Muslim and another about terrorism, have been banned from being shown at Singapore’s film festival, the censor board said Saturday. It said the films "exceed the Film Classification Guidelines". Board of Film Censors chairman Amy Chua said "Arabs and Terrorism" and another film, "David the Tolhildan", were "disallowed on account of their sympathetic portrayal of organisations deemed terrorist organisations by many countries." Since independence in 1965, Singapore has grown from an underdeveloped country to an Asian economic powerhouse. But critics say this has come at a price, in the form of restrictions on freedom of speech and political activity. According to the film festival programme, "Arabs and Terrorism" presents a dialogue between right-wing American policymakers and Middle Eastern political factions.
"David the Tolhildan" is about a Swiss man who joins the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the festival said. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by much of the international community, has been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey. Another rejected film, "A Jihad for Love" by gay Muslim film-maker Parvez Sharma, is about homosexual people living within Muslim communities, the festival said. In a statement, Chua said the film was disallowed because of "the sensitive nature of the subject". Japanese documentary Bakushi, which is about bondage, also failed to get classification because it "normalises unnatural fetishes and behaviour", Chua said.
Festival officials could not be reached for comment but a notice on the its website said "A Jihad for Love" and "Arabs and Terrorism" had been "disallowed". It did not elaborate but said "Arabs and Terrorism" had been set for a sold-out screening on Saturday. Singapore’s government says the city-state has been liberalising but maintains a conservative core. About 200 films have been classified for the festival which runs until April 14, Chua said.
April 6, 2008 – The China Post
Singapore censors ban films on terrorism, homosexual, fetish
Singapore (AP) – Singapore’s censors have banned documentaries about terrorism, gay Muslims and a sex fetish from being screened at a local film festival, a newspaper reported Saturday. Two of the films — "Arabs and Terrorism" and "David the Tolhildan" — were blocked by the Board of Film Censors because of their "sympathetic portrayal of organizations deemed terrorist organizations by many countries," The Straits Times newspaper reported.
"Arabs and Terrorism" features interviews with American policymakers, Middle Eastern political factions and academics. "David The Tolhildan" is about a Swiss man who left his country to join the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish rebel group. The European Union, the United States and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Films which portray terrorist organizations in a positive light by lending support and voice to justify their cause through violence are disallowed under the film classification guidelines," censorship board chairman Amy Chua was quoted as saying.
Officials at the Media Development Authority, which oversees the censorship board, could not be reached for comment Saturday. The banned films had been scheduled to be shown at the Singapore International Film Festival, which started Friday. Censors also objected to a film discussing homosexuality in the Islamic world. "A Jihad for Love," a film about gay Muslims, was banned "in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle," Chua was quoted as saying.
"Bakushi," a documentary about a sex fetish involving tying up women, was also banned because it had a theme that "normalizes unnatural fetishes and behavior which is disallowed" under film content guidelines, Chua was quoted as saying.
Singapore Media Development Authority fines TV Channel 5 $11,000 for airing an episode of ‘Find and Design’ show.
The Authority’s decision:
"The episode contained several scenes of the gay couple with their baby as well as the presenter’s congratulations and acknowledgement of them as a family unit in a way which normalises their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup. This is in breach of the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise gay lifestyles."
April 24, 2008 – PinkNews
Television company fined for making gays look ‘normal’
by Adam Lake
Singapore’s City State Regulator has fined a television station £5000 for featuring a gay couple in way that makes them look ‘normal.’ The Media Development Authority fined MediaCorp TV for featuring the couple with their adoptive son, claiming that it "promoted a gay lifestyle." Homosexual sex is illegal in Singapore, however, in October 2007, the Singapore government declared that private, consensual, adult homosexual sex would no longer be prosecuted but that its illegality would remain.
The authority said the episode contained scenes of the gay couple with their baby and the presenter’s congratulations and acknowledgment of them as a family unit "in a way which normalizes their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup." The hit show, Find and Design, helps couples renovate a part of their home. In this particular episode the couple wanted to makeover their child’s bedroom. Earlier in the year a cable television station were fined £3500 for showing a commercial where two women kissed.
In its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index , Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 147 out of 167. Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government and are often perceived as pro-government. Prior to 2003, homosexuals were barred from being employed in "sensitive positions" within the Singapore Civil Service. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong demolished this barrier in a widely publicised statement.
29 April 2008 – Fridae
Wilde Fundraiser on May 13 to benefit Singapore Gay Pride Festival
by News Editor
Banned a decade ago in Singapore, Wilde which depicts the rise and fall of the widely known gay Irish-born playwright, Oscar Wilde, will be shown at a Gala Fundraiser on May 13 to benefit Indignation, Singapore’s gay pride season. Fridae.com, in support of Indignation 2008, is organising the Singapore premiere of the film Wilde on May 13, 2008.
Wilde, which stars Stephen Fry in the title role, then-newcomer Jude Law as his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, chronicles the rise and fall of one of the geniuses of English literature, Oscar Wilde, whose plays, including Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest, are now classics. Even as Wilde enjoyed his celebrity status, he was madly in love with a succession of young men, at a time when the law against "gross indecency" had only recently been passed by Parliament. This law was the precursor of Singapore’s infamous Section 377A. When Wilde was charged under this law in 1895, it was a huge scandal and his conviction made him a martyr to the hypocrisy and persecution represented by such a law. The film, Wilde, was made in 1997, the centenary of Wilde’s release from prison after serving two years in horrid conditions. It was banned by the Singapore Board of Film censors when it was first released but has now been re-rated R21 without cuts.
Net proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit Indignation – an annual festival consisting of talks, art exhibitions, readings of plays and poetry, together with some social events, scheduled for August 2008. All Indignation events are open to the public and are traditionally free of charge, in order to be accessible to everyone. “Fridae is pleased to continue to support Indignation since its inception in 2005. Throughout history, and continuing today, gays and lesbians struggle to fulfill their full potential because of societal stigma and discrimination. We hope that this movie will continue a dialogue on gay issues, and allow the wider society a chance to understand them.” Says Dr Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae.
The events are intended to be celebratory and are designed to serve the goals of learning and informing, affirming LGBT identity and highlighting creative works whose gay authorship is often erased. “Indignation serves to keep the issue of gay (in)equality on the agenda,” says Alex Au, one of the organisers of the festival. “Without a concentrated gay pride season, it is very easy for the gay cause to disappear beneath other news events. At the same time, Indignation addresses the issue in people-friendly ways – through forums, exhibitions and very accessible social events, the aim being to raise awareness and to build a sense of community. I hope people see this as something worth supporting.”
Tickets are priced at S$20 and S$50 (which includes a reception) are available on www.fridae.com/wilde. Donations will be accepted online and at the door.
For a brief review of Indignation 2007 and a montage of pictures, visit www.plu.sg.
Fridae, Shaw and Crocodile co-present
The Wilde Indignation Fundraising Gala Premiere (R21)
Date: May 13, Tuesday
Time: 9pm (Reception from 8pm for VIP ticket holders)
Venue: Lido 2, Shaw House, 350 Orchard Road
30 April 2008 – Fridae
Oscar Wilde – the most celebrated victim of an anti-gay law
by Alex Au, owner of Yawing Bread.com, Singapore
The life story of playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, who is today widely celebrated as an artist persecuted for his homosexuality, is being told in Wilde starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law. The movie will be shown at a Gala Fundraiser on May 13 to benefit Indignation, Singapore’s gay pride season. "People who do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have tried… And that you, Wilde, have been the centre of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to doubt." With that pronouncement, the judge sentenced Oscar Wilde in 1895 to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
The law in this case was the Labouchere amendment of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, passed by the UK Parliament in 1885 that made a crime of "gross indecency." Singapore’s Section 377A (Malaysia has a similar law) is descended from this law. The case of Oscar Wilde was the most celebrated in the decade. It scandalised Britain, with rumours implicating a cabinet minister, and made him a household name through much of Europe and America, providing to this day a salutary lesson on the effects of anti-gay laws. Wilde was already famous before the trials – there were three in quick succession. Since the late 1880s, he had become well known for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his sell-out plays, such as Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Prior to that, he had been an art critic and had travelled around Britain and the US giving lectures on art and esthetics, albeit to no great success. Nor were his early plays, but eventually he found his voice, inventing single-handedly the form known as social comedy – plays filled with quick witty dialogue that poked fun at the manners, prejudices and hypocrisy of the upper classes. He himself had displayed these verbal qualities for 20 years. One could always rely on him for a cutting repartee. It was a period when it was fashionable for men to be flamboyant, especially if one was involved in the theatre or the arts; Wilde’s exaggerated personality stood out from his peers only by a matter of degree. However, he was also rather full of himself and could be disagreeably thoughtless, arrogant and stubborn.
There is nothing to indicate that Wilde was aware of his "uranian tendencies" (in the language of the day) when he married Constance Lloyd in 1884. Wilde was 30, and the bride, 26, and they would have two sons soon after. He loved them deeply, but within three years of the marriage, the first homosexual affair had occurred, with 17-year-old Robert Ross who had moved into the Wilde family’s house at Tite Street to stay three months while his single mother went abroad. He was preparing for his Cambridge entrance exam and might have been tutored by Wilde.
The biographer Barbara Belford noted that the same year, 1887, Wilde’s most prolific period as a writer began, with the older man feeling at last "liberated, happy to be alive." After Ross, Wilde began to explore London’s underground homosexual scene. At first, Wilde relied on friends to introduce him to good-looking young men including one John Gray, a civil servant by day and a talented poet in his spare time. John Gray would inspire the character Dorian Gray in Wilde’s 1889/1890 story of hedonism and eternal youth.
It would be another young man however, Lord Alfred Douglas, who would become the centre of Wilde’s love-life. Nicknamed "Bosie," this very handsome 22-year-old was introduced to Wilde by a mutual friend in 1891, but it wasn’t until the following year before the relationship got serious. Bosie was hardly an innocent boy; he had been sexually active during his schooldays and even during the time with Wilde, he was the more sexually outgoing of the two.
By this point, Wilde had become famous as a dramatist, and this might have got to his head, for he and Bosie made no effort to be discrete about their affair. Just about all their friends knew, though it is unlikely that Constance did, for Bosie was often welcomed to the Wildes’ London townhouse or their vacation home in Torquay. Within months, this affair had become a subject of blackmail. It happened when Bosie gave away one of his coats to an acquaintance, who found inside a pocket some letters from Wilde, one of which suggested a sexual relationship. Copies of this letter soon circulated and while Wilde bought the original back, he could not be so sure of the copies. In fact, one of them would later surface at his trials.
Despite outward appearances and undeniably deep emotional attachment, Wilde’s relationship with Bosie was tumultuous. The younger man was willful and temperamental, sometimes returning Wilde’s rather idealistic love with cruelty. In any case, they were sexually incompatible, both preferring young men. Intimacy between them petered out into a platonic friendship well before the trial and both had been largely looking to third parties for sex. Bosie, an advocate for sexual freedom, was the more reckless, leaving parties with beautiful young men in hand and even going to the East End, then a very low class area. Wilde preferred to have his rentboys discretely arranged by Bosie’s friend, Alfred Taylor.
An irate father
Bosie’s relationship with his father was strained, to say the least. The Marquess of Queensberry was a gruff and demanding man and when he found out about Bosie’s relationship with Wilde, began to harass the latter to end it, often prowling the playwright’s favourite restaurants looking for him. On one occasion, Queensberry intruded into Wilde’s Tite Street home. On 18 February 1895, Queensberry went to Wilde’s club looking for him, but as he was not there, Queensberry left his name card with the porter, adding by hand the words, "To Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite [sic]". When Wilde saw this card on February 28, he decided that he had cause to make a police report against Queensberry for libel, since the older man had defamed him with those words to a third person – the porter. And so it was Wilde who initiated the legal process, though understandably, he was sick of being harassed and persecuted by Queensberry, whose state of mind was now very unpredictable.
Queensberry’s eldest son and Bosie’s brother, Francis, Viscount Drumlanrig, had died the year before. Explained as a hunting accident, word circulated that it was actually a suicide and that Drumlanrig had had a romantic relationship with Lord Rosebery, the foreign minister (later Prime Minister. Having two sons the subject of scandalous gossip was perhaps too much for the man to bear. Around the same time, Queensberry’s short-lived second marriage also came to an end – not by a divorce, but by an annulment on grounds that he was impotent. Friends advised Wilde not to pursue the libel case against Queensberry since it might involve having to lie that he was a homosexual. But Wilde was determined to go ahead.
The trial opened on 3 April 1895 to a packed courtroom. Queensberry’s barrister, Edward Carson, was well prepared, armed as he was with statements by a number of rentboys whom Wilde had been familiar with. Carson named three – Parker, Scarfe and Conway – in his opening statement. In the end, he didn’t even have to produce them in court, for merely through cross-examination of Wilde himself, Carson was able to demonstrate that Wilde could have had no reason for meeting so often with these 18 to 20-year-olds other than sexual intimacy.
When the prosecution threw in the towel, abandoning the libel case, Wilde was left open to the charge of gross indecency as the statements that Carson had from the rentboys were deposited with the police and could be used against him. He was arrested the same day that his libel case collapsed. Despite damaging evidence given by rentboys Fred Atkins, Charles Parker and William Parker and other witnesses, the second trial failed to produce a unanimous verdict from the jury, and so another one had to be convened.
The third trial began on 22 May with the same witnesses and letters in evidence but what was different about this trial was that the prosecution was led by none other than the Solicitor-General, Sir Frank Lockwood himself. It was quite extraordinary for such a senior representative of the Crown to take the lead, and in a case that didn’t even involve murder or treason, and it suggested that the Crown was determined to obtain a conviction in order to make an example of Wilde. Why should that be? Word went around that Queensberry blackmailed Rosebery that he would reveal details of his affair with his son Drumlanrig if Wilde was not put away. Wilde’s most productive period was cut short by this turn of events; he never wrote a play again. His genius, however, outlived his persecutors, and the freedom to be true to our sexual selves, as he resolutely believed by the end of his life, is now seen as a moral right.
Tickets for the gala premiere are priced at $20 (US$15) and $50 (US$38) – the latter includes a cocktail reception – and are available online at www.fridae.com/wilde.
June 4, 2008 – Fridae.com
Passport for Men seeks new host
by News Editor
Despite the “passport” in its name, TV program Passport for Men has so far been a local operation focused only on Thailand but that’s about to change with the addition of English subtitles. Thailand’s first lifestyle TV program targeted at men will add English-language subtitles starting in July as its producers hope to widen the programme’s audience to includenon-Thai speaking foreigners in Thailand and viewers outside the country. It is also looking to add more talent to the mix. "We’ve spent several months fine-tuning our product, and now we’re ready to bring it to a wider stage," said Vitaya Saeng-Aroon, a Fridae columnist, director of Cyberfish Media and one of the show’s four producers in partnership with PFM Production.
The programme was first profiled by Fridae in early March and numerous readers wrote to suggest adding English subtitles. "Reaction from viewers has been great from both Thais and non-Thais. The most requests we get are for English subtitles, and we’re happy to oblige," Saeng-Aroon told Fridae. He added that every episode, current and past, would be subtitled, so viewers will be able to follow the series from its beginning. Featuring three twenty-something male hosts Tong, Chan and Beige, the programme offers three segments "Living and Dining," "Travel and Lifestyle" and "Fashion and Fun." Focusing on general living and lifestyle trends, producers say the programme is suited to men regardless of their sexual orientation.
"What should a guy who cares about his looks do? How does he find a great condo? Or prepare a quick and healthy meal? All men need advice on these topics," Vitaya said. To further expand the audience, the producers are in talks to broadcast the show on a major Bangkok cable TV channel and expand distribution via the Internet. While clips of episodes have appeared on video-sharing Web sites such as YouTube, Cyberfish and PFM Production are planning to stream Passport for Men on a dedicated server and are looking for a network partner to broadcast via the Internet for overseas market.
"While Thailand’s domestic Internet is fast, international bandwidth is slow and limited," Vitaya said. "We’re looking for a partner to host the show on a server outside Thailand with reliable, high-speed connections for our international audience."
Distribution via Bangkok’s subscriber-based cable TV network is awaiting final contract talks, Vitaya added. Once an agreement is reached, the switch from its current satellite carrier could be made as early as July – just as English subtitles are added.
June 16, 2008 – PinkNews
Comment: How the biggest threat to gay communities in Singapore is not just the legal system
by Jane Rochstad Lim
Singapore is a tiny island state which has managed cramped 4.6 million people into her lands. Although it is sandwiched between Muslim countries, the country has a Chinese majority, but also supports a healthy proportion of Malays, Indians and others (which includes the Whites). The four races are accompanied by four major religion, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Since the 1950s, the island’s autocratic government has managed to transform the fishing village to a global, modern city. Long gone is the idyllic lifestyle associated with a tropical island life. Sky scrapers rule the skies as the little villages (they prefer to call it slums) vanish, Google has become our main source of information and up to 44 per cent of our adults are myopic due to staring too much at textbooks, TV and computer screens. You would think that such a diverse, modern country, which ranks 25th on the Human Development Index would be open about our sexuality.
When the British left Asia, their gift to their former colonies were the democratic parliamentary system, legal system based on English law, a civil service based on British models, educational system, left hand diving and debts. We can go on and on about the flaws of the school system and the unfairness of the debts, but what we shall talk about today is the law section of 337A. 337A basically says that sex , or ‘gross indecent act’ between two men is illegal. Such acts are punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years. To uphold the law, there are strict censorship laws in place, which prohibits the display or promotion of any same-sex lifestyle. For example, the 2007 Xbox game "Mass Effect" was ban in Singapore due as it contains a scene of lesbian intimacy.
Douglas Sanders, a professor in law at the Chualalongkorn University in Bangkok was kicked out of Singapore for wanting to give his public talk on the section 377 during at IndigNation in 2007. It is not only the private sector which is bound to this censorship. According to censorship laws, no gay content, or the promotion of gay lifestyle should be depicted in free-to-air television. In April this year, state media MediaCorp TV Channel 5 was fined S$15,000 (£5,600) for promoting a gay lifestyle. The home decorating series, ‘Find and Design’ featured a gay couple who renovated their games room into a nursery for their adopted child. It also showed shots of the couple with the child, and at the end was congratulated by the host for their new joy.
Singapore’s Programme Advisory Committee for English Programmes (PACE) said that this was unacceptable as "gay relationship should not be presented as an acceptable family unit." Before 2007, the act of gross indecency is punishable to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. The law forbid oral and anal sex, and it seemed like the only acceptable position for sex is good old fashion missionary. A little house keeping in Parliament then permits the these acts for heterosexuals, but not homosexuals. This double standard enraged many gay activists, who argues that section 377A that forbids homosexuality is as ancient as the laws that forbid oral and anal sex. Keeping such double standards also highlights that the Singapore government is acknowledging that they are a bunch of homophonic who are unable to keep up with modern times (To give them credit, we young heterosexuals also complain that they are a bunch of dinosaurs that have lost touch with modern thinking).
It also go against the ideological image in which the government is trying to create Singapore to be: a vibrate, modern, diverse, global city. No developed country has laws that treat their homosexuals as second class citizens, and it seems like even though Singapore has caught up with the West’s economical ideas by forcing capitalism down our throats, but still chooses to stay behind when it comes to social liberties. In the defence to keeping the law, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained to the State’s newspaper, The Strait Times that the section could not be taken out of the law, as people who oppose it do so with deep religious convictions, especially Christians and Muslims.
Singapore is a conservative country which values the conventional family unit. Therefore it is not ready to legally accept the existence of homosexuals, he added. He also pointed out that that what homosexuals really want is more space and full acceptance by Singaporeans. By pushing for the law to be appeal, they will not gain what they want, but rather "will divide and polarise our society" The harder the gay activist push, he cautioned, the harder the conservatives would push back. It is the government’s job to mediate between children who are fighting and it is often not an easy task. In a way, I do understand what he means. Singapore is a country that is build from oppression. When the People’s Action Party (PAP) won power amidst racial rioting in the 1960s, the first thing the government did was to cut away freedom of speech, illegalised demonstrations and imposed a curfew on its people.
They ‘promoted’ social harmony through a series of cultural propaganda and laws and gave all religious groups 2 days of public holiday. They imposed social studies in primary schools, encouraging the children to tolerant other races and religions. The island also decorates itself during different festivals, organised religious and ethnic understanding groups actively tells people to accept the differences and anything sort of discrimination against race and religion would not be tolerated. Unfortunately, homosexuality was still relatively unknown during that time, otherwise PAP could also brainwash the people into accepting that we are all different.
Homosexual is a word that only came to our world around the late1980s, when the AIDS epidemic came about. It does not make things any better when Paddy Chew, the republic’s first person to declare his HIV-positive status, is a queer. (He was bisexual and recently died.) To ask the older generation to accept homosexuality as normal is, to me, a task that is almost impossible. It goes against everything they were taught at home, school and religious classes. To them, it is as though you are telling them that the place we should be really looking forward to go is hell, and not heaven. And since the conservative, older generation has a majority in age demographics, it is safe to say that only death would bring about any change to the sunny island. However, not all hope is lost. The country is slowly opening up. In 2004, the government had abolish the need for a permit to hold in-door talks. They have also let a few mainstream movies such as Brokeback Mountain enter. Although openly gay artist Martin Loh’s newest homosexual exhibition is said to be cancel due to logistic problems, he has, in 2003, launch a successful gay content exhibition called Men in the Raw.
In 2005, activists has also declared August a month to celebrate the country’s queer culture by launching the annual IndigNation. Pubs and bars who raised the rainbow flag outside are still in operation, and thankfully there is no recent case of people being prosecuted under the section 377A. Most government want to place themselves in a favourable position by keeping the majority of the people happy . Section 377 is basically there to keep conservatives happy. Since our Asian values is to respect our elders, the government is trying to ‘respect’ them by not ruining their enclosed ideology of gender identity. As for products placed on the shelves, the government can argue that heterosexuals have the right to not see any content which violates their narrow minded thinking, and so they have to be ‘protected’. Also take in mind that not only explicit images of homosexuals are ban, heterosexual men will find it impossible to find porn on the selves as well.
The dangers of section 337, I would say white elephant 337A does not lie in the present, but the future. If PAP are to be voted out, section 337 will give the new government rights to prosecute people for being themselves. Laws that can potentially hurt the people should be abolish for political reasons, not religious ones. If we were to learn from history, we can see that mixing religion and politics usually results to war and death. Religion is a thing that can be interpreted in many ways, and people can choose what to believe and what to discard. But homosexuality is a fact, something that can be seen and touch. Not believing in God would not hurt you in anyway (since you do not believe in divine punishment) but having a law that may potentially decimate a person will definitely hurt. I would ask, for the homosexual community to have patience in Singapore, just as I would ask the heterosexual majority to reach out and try to be more understanding. Though 337 is still enforced and we have no public education about homosexuality, there is always trusty Google to teach us the way and we are not being completely shut down for being queer. If we as a nation (with the help of over powering propaganda of course) can overcome religious and ethnic difference, I am sure we can one day overcome the barrier of sexual orientation as well.
02 July 2008 – Fridae.com
Born This Way But…
by Ng Yi-Sheng
Journalist/songwriter Dr Ng King Kang publishes his second book on homosexuality in Singapore, a compilation of results from a survey of political and social attitudes towards gay men since 1990. In 1999, Ng King Kang stunned Singapore with The Rainbow Connection, possibly the first upfront, unapologetic non-fiction book about gay people in this country. Written as his Masters thesis at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the book used a combination of firsthand accounts and sociological analysis to describe how Internet access was transforming Singapore gay culture.Now, nine years later, Dr Ng’s come out with a new book, a sequel of sorts to the first, entitled Born This Way But…: The Changing Politics of Homosexuality in Singapore. Its title references former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s widely quoted remarks when asked by a Time magazine journalist in 2003 about the city-state’s policies towards homosexuals: “So let it evolve and in time to come, the population will understand that some people are born that way. We are born this way and they are born that way but they are like you and me.”
At its heart, the book is a compilation of results from a survey on attitudes to male homosexuals, conducted as part of his PhD at Deakin University, Melbourne. However, with its accompanying essays, it forms the most comprehensive printed work to date on the political situation of gay Singaporean men. “[T]he social and cultural climate with respect to homosexuality in Singapore is changing,” the work concludes. “From what was a very clear-cut, black-and-white negativity several years ago, there is now a developing understanding of the need to recognise that homosexuals make up a diverse society that is necessary for Singapore’s economic competitiveness.”
Dr Ng’s a recognised figure in the local media industry, famed not only for his work in journalism – he’s a Senior Correspondent with the Mandarin daily newspaper Lianhe Zaobao – but also for his creative output. He’s published 15 books, all written in Mandarin, except for the two on homosexuality in Singapore. These include a quartet of books on travel, his 2359 series, which is a collection of his weekly newspaper column, and his first book, Frivolous Days, which captured his undergrad days in NUS. Several of these books have been bestsellers – Frivolous Days, for instance, is now in its fourth edition and has sold more than 10,000 copies in Singapore alone. He’s also lauded as a particularly prolific songwriter, with hundreds of Mandarin songs under his bet. Since the mid-‘80s, he’s recorded four albums, won multiple awards for his popular TV theme songs, and been commissioned to write National Day songs twice. He’s also a regular speaker on creative writing and a judge at the songwriting and singing competitions at NTU.
According to Dr Ng, his new book is an extension of the original project of his Masters thesis, which offered only a basic glimpse into the world of gay Singaporeans as they started to build furtive online communities. Since then, the gay community has grown in numbers, visibility and confidence – but it still remains marginalised by the government and media, who exhibit strangely contradictory attitudes on these matters, veering from apparent supportiveness to outright repression. “The government has been saying that our society is still by and large a very conservative society that is still not ready to accept homosexuality,” the author tells Fridae, explaining the impetus behind his work. “I wanted to find out how true this is, and to provide evidence, be it for or against the government’s stand.”
Interviewing hundreds of random 21-29 year-olds in Singapore from 2002 to 2003, Dr Ng gathered opinions on homosexuality and its intersections with education, government and the local media. While the results are decidedly mixed, he notes a clear shift toward tolerance among this younger generation of citizens, paralleling the greater freedom with which politicians and journalists are allowed to talk about the issue today. Yet while there’s tolerance, there isn’t yet widespread acceptance – many interviewees remain convinced of the latent immorality of homosexuality. There’s still a long way to go before we can treat it as a political issue with maturity. One note of optimism, however, occurs with the publication of this book. Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of MediaCorp and Singapore Management University, was willing to write a foreword for Dr Ng, despite being solidly, heterosexually married with children. “This book’s publication takes issues beyond an academic realm and will provide thoughtful material for anyone, gay or straight, who cares deeply about the happiness and rights of all Singaporeans, and about the development of this Little Red Dot into a creative, compassionate, and cutting-edge society,” he says.
As a well-researched text examining attitudes towards gay men in Singapore from 1990 to 2004, Born This Way But… is a milestone document in the formation of our country’s queer culture. Thanks to Dr Ng, we’ll have a reference to understand how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.
Born This Way But… is priced at US$35 is available on Fridae Shop.
12 August 2008 – fridae.com
by David Cheong
Bears, musclebears, G-men… the lines seem to be blurring in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia as the subculture becomes increasingly visible. David Cheong highlights TheBearProject Charity Art Show to be held this Saturday and gives readers an introduction to this group of heavy-set men. One of my British friends always has the same argument with me. “You can think what you want, but there is no way that you guys can be called bears,” he says hotly. “Bears are big and hairy gay men. If you’re not hairy, you’re not a bear.” I always have the same retort. To say that smooth, hairless Asians can’t be bears is to subscribe to some sort of Western imperialist ideal. Yes, the bear subculture that turned its back on the smooth, lean and urban gay stereotype did originate in the US and has become extremely popular in certain parts of Europe, but it doesn’t mean that the concept of a gay bear is exclusively Western and can’t be re-interpreted in another part of the world.
As a matter of fact it already has, whether Western purists approve or not. In Asia, monthly Japanese magazine G-Men was the first to idolise the stocky, ultra-masculine gay Asian man sporting a crewcut and goatee. Since then, the “G-Man” look has been highly sought-after and copied by thousands of young gay men in countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong. And just like in the West, these burly, powerful and often fat guys (so far removed from the Western stereotype of the beautiful, slim gay Asian boy) also quickly became known as “bears.” Today, Asian bear culture is thriving not just in Japan but within little bear communities established in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. In Taiwan, the unofficial Asian “bear capital,” the bear stereotype has even gained enough mass acceptance to emerge as a mainstream gay look. Rambunctious and physical (think knee-length shorts, chunky shoes and lots of hugging), Asian bears maintain a fairly tight regional network – getting to know each other on the Internet and making it a point to visit each other when they go travelling.
They hang out in dedicated bear saunas, or gulp down drinks over Chinese karaoke in bear bars like New Wally Matt and Red Point Café in Hong Kong, Same and the now-defunct Oso in Singapore and the Bearbie Bar in Bangkok. There’s even a “Little Bear Village” near Ximending in Taipei and “bear parties” in Taipei and Hong Kong. Back in Singapore, bear culture is still nascent – hampered somewhat by persistent prejudices against heavier-set gay men whose bodies don’t conform to the tanned, V-shaped ideal. But Singapore bears are growing in confidence and making their presence felt with the formation of Singapore’s first bear community group TheBearProject (TBP).
“I started the group partly because I wanted to dispel the notion that fatter guys had low self-esteem and didn’t like going out and having fun,” says 27-year-old Ernest Yeo, who founded TBP with fellow bear Gary Lim. “Actually, a lot of us already knew each other, so I thought why not organise activities like going to the movies or playing badminton so that we can get together on a regular basis?” The group now boasts about 120 members and it recently celebrated its first anniversary with a raucous party at Play, a dance club. According to its founders, TBP is inclusive, meaning that you do not need to be a bear to join. But assimilation is decidedly smoother if you already have the required physique. And if you’re a musclebear, you’re definitely an A-lister!
Last year, TheBearProject made its debut when about 20 of its members turned up for The Pink Picnic at the Botanic Gardens. This year, the group decided to organise an event on its own for the Indignation festival. “We thought that since quite a few of us were in the creative industries, why not organise a little art show of our own works, and auction them off to our members for charity?” says Ernest. “It would make a nice change from the usual movie outings and social get-togethers and also be a chance to do something for our community. And I guess there’s a wackiness to the idea of big heavy guys peddling fine art.”
The result is TheBearProject Charity Art Show, featuring almost 20 works from TBP members and guest artists that the organisers know personally. Open to the wider gay community in Singapore, the works will be exhibited on August 16 at Play and auctioned off for charity the same night. In addition to artwork by 10 TBP members, there are contributions from noted lesbian artists Genevieve Chua and Felicia Low, concept artist Heman Chong, painter Jeremy Sharma and photographers Tay Kay Chin and Chan Wai Teik. Proceeds will be donated to The Triangle Project, a charity initiative of The Necessary Stage that provides opportunities for the less privileged to watch theatre, as well as a number of other charities.
“It’s one of the last events on the Indignation calendar and we hope everyone can come down to see the works and support a good cause,” says Ernest. “It’s being held in a club, which is not a typical art venue, but that gives the show quite a cool, underground feel.” Looking ahead, TheBearProject’s founders say they want to grow the group even more and help get its members more involved in the activities of the wider gay community. “A bunch of us helped the Pelangi Pride Centre move to Little India. We enjoyed ourselves and I think they appreciated the extra muscle power!” TBP also hopes to link up with similar bear groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan for more regional events. Bear Olympics, anyone?
August 26, 2008 – Fridae.com
Indignation 2008: A recap
by Alex Au
Unlike last year, Singapore’s LGBT pride season Indignation which ended last week was not hit by any bans. Fridae columnist and event co-organiser Alex Au recaps the events organised by various community groups and individuals over a 3-week period. "Look there," Jean said to me. "He’s the undercover policeman." The man in civvies was some 50 metres away. "How do you know that?" I asked. I’m quite a stickler when it comes to pinning down the sources of information that I receive. He was counting us," she replied with confidence. "How do you know he was counting us?" You can see his mouth move. He can’t even count silently."
That was Saturday afternoon, at the Unofficial Pink Picnic, one of the events during Indignation, Singapore’s GLBT Pride Season, now in its fourth year. It was called Unofficial because last year’s Pink Picnic was officially banned. Last year, the Botanic Gardens had written a stern letter to me saying, "As the events are advertised, they are considered organised gatherings. Permission from the National Parks Board will be required to hold them in our parks and gardens." In our case, permission was denied. Not that we even applied.
But every day, people hold organised gatherings at the Botanic Gardens without ever seeking permission. Joggers, taichi practitioners, photography enthusiasts, tour groups and picnickers arrange to meet at the park and do whatever they had planned in advance to do. The absurdity of the letter’s argument was apparently lost on the bureaucrats who penned it. Still, last year’s Pink Picnic went on in defiance of the letter, with plainclothes policemen circling us like birds of prey.
2008 and we decided we would do it again. Once more a pink picnic would be included in the Indignation calendar. Once more, plainclothes policemen were deployed, two this time. But perhaps the authorities were less panicky this year. There was no letter of warning and they deployed less than their best officers – the ones who can’t even count without mouthing the numbers. It couldn’t have been easy for the poor bloke. There were perhaps a hundred people spread out on multiple mats, blending into clusters of other picnickers who weren’t even aware they were sharing a lawn with lesbians and gays. Among us were infants and dogs. Wait a minute – you mean gay people have children? Should children be counted too? What about dogs?
We saw the officer make a few calls. Perhaps he was asking for instructions.
Attendance at other events too were noticeably up this year compared to 2007, even though the nature of Indignation (as things currently stand) is such that we don’t expect it to ever attract large numbers. The kinds of events that can prove popular are all ruled out by Singapore’s vice-like regulations. Singapore cracks down harshly on any outdoor activities with the slightest whiff of the political, as the persecution of opposition politicians and Burmese dissidents so clearly show (Burmese expatriates who have organised small marches and vigils over the military crackdown last September now being deported.)
Another example: After Fridae’s Nation party in 2004 was featured prominently in international media such as the Far East Economic Review and The Wall Street Journal, its year-end party SnowBall was banned at the last minute. Even indoor events must be of the type that do not involve licensing risks. That rules out parties at venues, even gay ones, that worry about their liquor licences being cancelled the moment they are associated with gay activism.
Given these restrictions, Indignation, co-ordinated by gay advocacy group People Like Us, is a festival of art and knowledge, and 2008 continued in this vein, with talks, exhibitions and recitals taking centre-stage. Jimmy Ong, a well-known artist now working in New York, showcased his latest life-sized charcoal drawings in his show Ancestors on the Beach. TheBearProject, a group catering to big gay men, put up some exquisite artworks for auction to benefit the Necessary Stage’s Triangle Project, a scheme that provides opportunities for the less privileged to watch theatre
An amazing number of writers, poets and singers crammed themselves into the program of ContraDiction IV. One of them, deejay X’Ho, recited a funny, tender but sexually explicit poem about making love to a native Borneo boy. In the audience of about 150, was a senior official from the National Arts Council. What did he think, I wonder? Otto Fong, former physics teacher at a leading all-boys school, told a rapt audience what happened when he came out on his blog and why he did it. His 15 hits a day suddenly became tens of thousands and life was never the same again. Filmmakers Loo Zihan and Boo Junfeng showed short videos touching on how parents cope with learning that their sons are gay.
The transgender group SgButterfly sprang a surprise, organising an event that had late-onset MtF transgenders speak openly about their coming out and transitioning experience. One of their speakers, Fanny, even brought her daughter to the event. Oogachaga’s contribution to Indignation was Cruising through History, a talk providing fascinating details about long-lost places where gay men and transsexuals used to meet. The room was so full, late-comers couldn’t even squeeze in. Four Malaysians came down specially from Kuala Lumpur to star in Heartbreak Heroes. Pang Khee Teik, Jac Kee and Jerome Kugan gave readings of their works while academic Dr Farish Noor gave a tantalising glimpse of sexual fluidity in the ancient Indonesian epic, the Hikayat Panji Samarang. This cross-border event was part of this year’s theme "Building Bridges.” Pang and Kugan are organising Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia’s first "sexuality rights" festival from Aug 29 – 31 in Kuala Lumpur.
Also reflecting this theme was the number of heterosexuals taking part in the various activities. They were there at the picnic and in the audience of every event. On occasion, they were the featured speakers. Sam Ho introduced his new group, the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance (SinQSA). Psychotherapists Juliana Toh and Anthony Yeo gave their take on how parents react to their children’s coming out. Constance Singam, President of women’s group AWARE, displayed courage in deciding to speak to a full house of (mostly) lesbians at a Sayoni-organised talk, even though she was well aware many in her audience might be a little hostile about AWARE never speaking up for lesbian concerns.
Unlike in 2007, we were not hit by any bans. In fact, except for the police officer at the Botanic Gardens, the writer did not notice any other undercover officers at the other events. This was a change from last year when almost every evening saw at least one or two persons in the audience who were clearly there to monitor us. "This is terrible," my friend Clarence exclaimed when I told him we weren’t under such close surveillance this year. "We’re becoming mainstream."
August 27, 2008 – Fridae.com
Outdoor gay events permitted from Sept: Singapore authorities
by Sylvia Tan
Public protests and demonstrations will be allowed in Singapore – at a designated park – with several restrictions, officials announced this week. “A kiss-in on Valentine’s Day would be fun!” quipped gay Singaporean playwright Ng Yi-Sheng when asked by Fridae if he has heard about outdoor demonstrations being permitted at one of the city’s parks from Sept 1. Known for its draconian rules against public protests, Singapore will ease its ban to allow citizens to stage outdoor protests by doing away with the need for police permission for demonstrations held at a designated spot known as the Speakers’ corner. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong first announced the changes during the National Day Rally on August 17.
At a press conference on Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) – when asked by reporters – said that outdoor gay pride events will be allowed at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, reported Today newspaper. The corner was specifically created in 2000 for political speeches and speakers have to register in advance with the Police. From Sept, the corner will come under the purview of NParks. Under Singapore law, any public protest of five or more people without a permit is deemed illegal.
With the changes, demonstrators now need only to register online at the NParks website prior to the event. Permanent residents (PRs) will be allowed to participate but they have to apply for a permit if they wish to give a speech or organise a protest themselves. Foreigners however must obtain a permit from the police in advance if they wish to organise or participate in any events. Demonstrators wanting to cover issues such as race and religion are still required to obtain a police permit. Although organisers will need to furnish their personal details, the date and nature of the event and the topic, NParks’s chief operating officer, Dr Leong Chee Chiew says that they will not “do screening and make sure you speak on what you said you will speak on.”
“But if you give information, you must know you’re accountable for it. Our primary motivation is to keep Speakers’ Corner for use in as well-maintained conditions as possible… If there’s a need to make good on anything, we can follow up,” said Dr Leong. In Aug 2004, PM Lee announced that permits were no longer required for indoor talks if the speaker is a Singapore citizen and as long as the topic does not deal with race or religion. Although some members of the gay community such as Ng see the move as providing new opportunities for people to air their concerns, veteran gay activist Alex Au says that he will not organise any protests at the designated venue as the changes are “nowhere near what (he) considers satisfactory, or in any substantial way respectful of our civil rights.”
“The freedom to demonstrate is meaningless unless it is applicable to all of Singapore.” Au wrote in his blog, Yawningbread. "I would not dignify this tokenism by organising anything there. It will have to be at a proper place like here at Raffles Place or down a major street, or nothing,” Au was quoted as saying on Channel NewsAsia.
October 30, 2008 – Fridae.com
Singapore: 3 men sent to reform centre for beating male “flasher” to death
by News Editor
In the first known case of its kind in Singapore, six men have appeared in court for beating a man – who allegedly exposed himself and offered sexual favours – to death. Three men, two aged 17 and one aged 20, who along with three other men who beat a 37-year-old man to death after he allegedly offered two of his attackers oral sex in a public toilet. The Straits Times on Wednesday reported that Muhammad Ridhwan Mohd Roslan, 20, Ho Ching Boon, 17, and Lai Chee Kuen, 17 – have been sentenced on Tuesday to be confined for between 18 months and three years at a reformative training centre. They will undergo a regimen of foot drills, counselling, education and vocational training.
The remaining three – Ahmad Nur Helmy Ahmad Hamdan, 20, Muhammad Sufian Zainal, 21, and Helmi Abdul Rahim, 28 – will be sentenced on Nov 6. According to earlier media reports, 37-year-old Suhaimi Bin Sulong clashed with his attackers in the early hours of Nov 23 at Orchard Towers where he sustained blunt force injuries to his head and neck. He was taken unconscious to the Singapore General Hospital and was pronounced dead an hour after.
Although the six had been charged with the murder shortly after the incident, the charges were downgraded to that of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to which all six pleaded guilty early this month. Citing court documents, the media reported that the men had gathered at a pub at Orchard Towers on the evening of Nov 22 to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Lai and Ho said they were approached by the Suhaimi who asked them if they wanted oral sex which they declined.
At about 4am, Suhaimi allegedly approached and indecently exposed himself to Ahmad Nur Helmy while they were in the toilet. Angered, Ahmad summoned his friends – Muhammad Sufian, Ho and Lai – and they confronted the victim and asked if he was a homosexual. The Times reported that when Suhaimi ignored him, Ahmad punched him in the face till he fell onto the floor as Muhammad Sufian restrained Ahmad and helped Suhaimi up onto his feet.
Suhaimi tried to flee but was kicked in the back by Muhammad Sufian who had earlier helped him. He was then attacked by Ahmad, Muhammad Sufian, Ho and Lai. Muhammad Ridhwan and Helmi, who were bystanders, then joined in. The remaining three face imprisonment of up to 10 years, and may also be fined or caned.
October 31, 2008 – PinkNews
Singapore’s first gay protest postponed to allow for bigger event
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A small outdoor protest for gay rights due to take place in Singapore next month has been postponed because of the positive response from the gay community. The Straits Times reports that the event, a first for Singapore, has been postponed until early next year. Organiser Roy Tan said he had taken the decision "to ensure that all interested parties – straight, gay and queer – have the opportunity to participate in this landmark occasion."
Last summer a gay poetry reading during Pride celebrations was banned as was a picnic and fun run from the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The authorities also banned an exhibition of 80 shots of fully clothed, same-sex couples which they said "promote a homosexual lifestyle." Singaporean authorities have previously banned gay films and public displays of homosexuality.
In October 2007 a senior government minister told the country’s Parliament that gay people have a place in Singaporean society but they cannot be part of the "mainstream way of life." Ho Peng Kee, a Law and Home Affairs minister, was responding to a motion tabled by MP Siew Kum Hong calling for the repeal of laws that make gay sex a crime. The authorities have not brought anyone up on charges of gross indecency for several years.
The government has declared that private, consensual, adult homosexual sex would no longer be prosecuted but it remains illegal. Prior to 2003, homosexuals were barred from being employed in "sensitive positions" within the Singapore Civil Service. The city state of nearly five million people is renowned for its draconian legislation. Chewing gum is illegal and the police keep a close watch on public behaviour. In April the Media Development Authority fined MediaCorp TV £5,000 for featuring a gay couple with their adopted son, claiming that it "promoted a gay lifestyle."
The authority said the episode contained scenes of the gay couple with their baby and the presenter’s congratulations and acknowledgment of them as a family unit "in a way which normalises their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup." The hit show, Find and Design, helps couples renovate a part of their home. In this particular episode the couple wanted to makeover their child’s bedroom. Earlier in the year a cable television station were fined £3,500 for showing a commercial in which two women kissed.
08-December-2008 – msmasia.org
In-depth explanation of HIV among MSM in Singapore: Community effort no substitute for government inaction on MSM HIV
by Yawning Bread (blog)
The Sunday Times article on the alarming increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) quoted me a little too briefly and I fear that readers may not fully grasp what I was trying to say. I think I shall have to expand on those words here.
What was quoted? [from Sunday Times, 7 December 2008 – Surge in HIV cases among gay men]
But activist Alex Au from gay movement People Like Us believes rallying the gay community to protect themselves will not be easy, not when they are treated like ‘second-class citizens’. They are pessimistic about being able to change things. "Many gay people are suffering not just from condom fatigue but also from activism fatigue." In fact, he thinks the recklessness in the community can be traced to a ‘certain nihilism’ or self-destructiveness because of the discrimination they face. "It’s hard to tease out the threads but pessimism leads to fatalism which leads to nihilism. It’s almost like the gay community is saying, ‘Let’s party while we can because Rome is going to burn’."
That itself is clear enough, but much of the preceding contextualisation, I think, was lost.
On the up and up
First, let’s set the scene. On 30 November, the Ministry of Health reported that in the first ten months of 2008, there were 382 new cases of HIV infection. "In comparison," its press release said, "there were 423 HIV cases notified for the whole of 2007. It can be expected that the total number of notified HIV cases in 2008 will exceed that of last year." Based on data from the first six months of this year, where there were 153 new infections, 32 percent of them were through homosex, similar to 2007, when homosexual transmission constituted 34 percent, and a big increase from the 16 percent in 2001.
As Sunday Times journalist Wong Kim Hoh noted in his article, the disproportionate increase of HIV infection among gay men mirrors a similar trend in the West, and in other Asian countries. Even so, could we have done better? Of course, we could. But what? How?
Letting the government off the hook?
I got the sense, in my phone conversation with the journalist that he was asking me what the gay community should be doing about it. I told him I disagreed with the implied premise. In my view, if we’re looking to gay people alone to deal with this problem, we’ll never succeed. Not when the government sets such ridiculously impossible boundaries that virtually nothing that has been proven to work in other countries can be tried. The government has a huge role and responsibility. To excuse the government from that responsibility on the basis that "they are conservative", as if that is an uncontestable given, and to expect the gay community with no resources and no legal space to do the job in its stead, is laughable.
The government is a big reason why there is activism fatigue; why community leaders make no headway. For years, the government has stubbornly refused to decriminalise homosexuality or subsidise treatment (though the latest news is that it will finally change, but no details yet), and as long as anyone can remember, it has maintained a highly moralistic tone in matters of sex, especially gay sex, evident from its censorship policies, etc. If after twenty years of effort, gay HIV campaigners have so little to show for being able to change the government’s position on anything, it should hardly surprise you that they lose credibility in the eyes of the community.
And once that happens, however hard they keep repeating the safer sex message, it won’t get anywhere. Why is it necessary for the government to change its position re homosexuality and gay people, and do it publicly? Because intervention strategies must be realistic, and they cannot be realistic without first acknowledging the manifold ways in which MSM have sex, and jettisoning its kneejerk moralistic disapproval. The most vulnerable people, whether gay or straight, are those who have multiple partners. In that sense, "gay" or "MSM" is unhelpful, because it blurs the focus. The ones that need to be most targetted in outreach are the subsets of the gay and straight populations who have a high frequency of sexual activity with changeable partners, for among them, the networking effect is most pronounced, with the virus spreading very quickly from one to many.
In my view, the "frequent sex, multiple partners" subset among gay men is much larger relative to the total gay population than the similar subset among heterosexual men, and that is why it appears as if the gay community as a whole is more vulnerable. Why is the subset relatively larger among gay men? Very simply, it is because for a straight man to have sex, he needs to find a straight woman. It is harder for him to find a willing straight woman than for a gay man to find another willing gay man. Some straight men have said to me, "But it *is* easy". Perhaps in tiny niches it is, but even then, I don’t think their idea of "easy" is anywhere close to the gay man’s experience of "easy".
Very few straight men have any inkling how really easy it is to get gay sex without having to pay, because they have never experienced such a situation, and so there is a certain blindness, except among professional epidemiologists, that such conditions exist. Add to this the moralism that cannot allow for such "promiscuity" (bad, bad — in Singapore’s puritanism) and you have a national policy built upon denial or disapproval.
Come back to the subsets. For the individuals in them, whether gay or straight, Singapore’s preferred message -– the stress on abstinence -– is utterly pointless. Their lifestyle, by its very definition, specifically does not include abstinence. Especially for gay men, it makes no rational sense. Abstinence has no meaning when there is neither legal marriage ("Save yourself for marriage." What?) nor the risk of pregnancy. Even faithfulness is problematic. How can that work when many (most?) gay men are not in long-term relationships? How can that exhortation work for those in the high-frequency subset?
For the gay man in the subset, frequent sexual activity with plenty of different people is a totally natural facet of his identity, as natural as the way Singaporeans consume different kinds of cuisine from breakfast to lunch to dinner. You tell him to eat only one kind of food at every meal, and he’ll tell you to "go fly a kite", to use a colourful Singapore expression. Ditto, you confront the gay guy with a message that preaches against multiple partners, and you’re just going to be mentally dismissed. A realistic intervention strategy for this subset must accept, with no value judgement, the fact that he is going to have sex with lots of people, and will continue to do so. Can the Singapore government do that?
Openly do that? Because if you insist on speaking with a forked tongue –- condemning promiscuity generally but trying to appear value-free in messages targetted only at certain vulnerable groups, then it is the same as conceding that you have not thrown off your moralism. No credibility again. If you have really thrown off your moralism, the audience would ask, why do you need to conceal that fact from the general public? Moreover, years of resistance to decriminalisation and to offering subsidies for HIV treatment (which everybody reads as "if you’re HIV-positive, you deserve it!") compounds the view that the government is preachy.
You can see another difference between gay and straight sexual activity in the graphic. High-frequency, multiple partner sex in heterosexual situations occur most often in commercial scenarios, whereas for the homosexual population, it is much more free-and-easy, with liaisons set up through various communication channels. It is easier to educate for and obtain condom use in an organised sector than in a disorganised one. Singapore’s massive red-light districts, for example, are not hot spots for HIV.
The working women get no sexual satisfaction from the encounter; it’s just work and so they can be calculative about insisting on a condom (provided they are not in an abused situation). But reaching out to men who from the privacy of their home, make contacts through chat rooms, or who through Facebook organise orgy parties, complete with chemical enhancers…. that’s a lot more difficult. Moreover, both men in such encounters are in a pleasure situation, and for both, the temptation of trading safety for pleasure is ever-present. In short, high-frequency heterosex typically takes place in a public mercantile arena, therefore intervention is easier. High-frequency homosex is more mutual and in a private arena, driven underground by government homophobia.
It’s the gratification, stupid
Another difference between heterosexual activity and homosexual activity is that there is a culture that envelopes heterosexual sex within romantic love, or at least the pretence of love. I’ll tell you this: 95 times out of 100, homosexual sex occurs outside the framework of love. It is sex for the sake of sex. Very often, they don’t even know each other’s names.
This being the case, gratification is of paramount importance. The orgasm, the high, is what matters. Some guys think that the rubber condom gets in the way of the "feeling" (some straight guys do too) and so they choose to bareback. Moreover, the focus on gratification means it’s a short hop to chemically-enhanced sex — yes, recreational drugs — because that’s what makes a higher high. The problem is that drug use induces more impulsive behaviour and condom use becomes erratic as a result.
I’m not sure what intervention strategies would work in such situations, but I can tell you when they will definitely not work: When one brings in a puritanistic disapproval of gratification and a punitive approach to drugs. That kind of judgementalism closes the door on engagement. There have been times when I wonder how long it will take before someone invents a drug-coated condom. Then, if you want the mother of all orgasms, you’ll have to put it on. I think that might work, but it would send our anti-narcotics people into a tizzy.
To cut to the chase, my view is that it’s already so difficult given the nature of gay sexual activity, it would be impossible to make progress so long as the government insists on keeping the door closed to viewing things and doing things differently. Yes, the community and its organisations have a role to play, as partners to government-led and funded programs, but so long as the government stands aloof and forbids this and that, no civic group, no "gay community" can do what the government will not.
29 December 2008 – Fridae.com
Homosexual persons vs. homosexual acts: Singapore Catholic Church
by Sylvia Tan
The Singapore Catholic Church says it does not support the repeal of laws that criminalise gay sex acts, and “persons with homosexual tendencies (orientation)… should refrain from irresponsible sexual acts.” Following a press statement (see below) issued by the Holy See on Dec 19 stating that the Vatican “condemn(s) all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urg(ing) States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them," Fridae contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore to ask if it would support the decriminalisation of sexual relations between men under Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code.
The statement was a follow-up to clarify its opposition to the ‘Declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity’ statement presented at the UN General Assembly on Dec 18. Sixty-six nations at the UN General Assembly supported the groundbreaking statement reaffirming "the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." On Dec 23, Fridae reported: Vatican urges countries to "do away with criminal penalties" against gays
Fr James Yeo, a diocesan priest and Parish Priest of St Anne’s Church, replied on behalf of the Archbishop of Singapore Nicholas Chia who was contacted by Fridae last week:
1. There is no current or past official position of the Catholic Teachings on the laws that criminalise homosexual acts. The Catholic Church stands united so the position of the Archdiocese of Singapore is that of the Official Catholic Church, namely that there should be no violence and discrimination towards homosexual persons. The Church teaches that all persons have dignity and must be treated with respect, love and care.
2. If we read the latest Vatican’s statement, there is nothing new. It merely says that we must not criminalise homosexuals. But the constant teaching of the Catholic Church is to differentiate between homosexual persons (orientation) and homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are morally wrong. The Church differentiates the sinner from the sins. We condemn sins but not the sinner.
3. I don’t think that we need to campaign for anything as our teachings are clear unless people wants to misinterpret them. Laws in Singapore do not criminalise homosexual persons. But homosexual acts are different.
4. Whether one is homosexual or heterosexual, one has to be responsible in the use of one’s sexual faculty. Any abuse of one’s sexuality regardless of whether one is a homosexual or heterosexual is wrong. It does not mean that if one is heterosexual, he or she can express this irresponsibly in any way he or she wants. Similarly the Church does not condemn persons with homosexual tendencies (orientation) but asks that they like anyone should refrain from irresponsible sexual acts.
5. The Church always differentiates between what is legal and what is moral. Something which is legal may not necessarily be moral.
Holy See: Response to declaration on sexual orientation
From: Vatican Information Service
Vatican City, 19 DEC 2008 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon was made public the declaration of the delegation of the Holy See to the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly on the theme: "Human Rights Questions, Including Alternative Approaches for Improving the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms".
Archbishop Celestino Migliore affirmed that "the Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the ‘Declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity’ – presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 – to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them".
"At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this Declaration goes well beyond the above-mentioned and shared intent".
"In particular, the categories ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’, used in the text, find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law. If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards".
"Despite the Declaration’s rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons, the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms", the declaration emphasized. The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them".