The Singapore LGBT encyclopaedia Wiki

Mainstream society in Singapore was largely unaware of the existence of a local gay community until the publication of a groundbreaking series of articles in 1972 by the evening tabloid of the day, New Nation (see main article: Singapore's first newspaper articles on the LGBT community). Indeed, there were many LGBT individuals themselves who were also ignorant of this fact until the seminal exposé hit the newsstands.

Since then, courageous individuals, the first of whom were artists Tan Peng and Jimmy Ong in the early 1990s, have gradually and sporadically come out to the general public. This was initially via the local press and subsequently, as the Internet gained widespread penetration by the 2000s, more commonly through the online media. Even so, nobody knows how many LGBT people there are in Singapore because the once-in-a-decade national Population Census has never attempted to gather such data[1].

Venues where gay men could meet have evolved from surreptitious, nocturnal rendezvous to more open, "decent" businesses like bars and clubs and even a community centre and church. Ever since the nationally publicised attempts of People Like Us, Singapore's first LGBT advocacy group, to gain registration as a society in 1996 (which failed twice) to the record-breaking attendance at Hong Lim Park during the annual Pink Dot event which supports the freedom to love, more mainstream Singaporeans and the Government have come to recognise the existence and legitimacy of the local LGBT community's needs.

Businesses which cater to the community have been allowed to flourish, even though, at the official level, the policy still remains to forbid the registration of any business or society which specifically states in its application that it wishes to target the niche LGBT segment. The latest concession was in the realm of public housing in 2013 when the Housing and Development Board (HDB) allowed singles (including LGBT ones) to buy new 2-room BTO (built to order) flats directly from it (see video:[2]), a privilege hitherto reserved only for opposite-sex married couples.


Main article: Sexual orientation

The term "homosexual" in this wiki is defined as "having a greater sexual or romantic attraction for the same sex than for the opposite sex". Thus, a person happily married to a spouse of the opposite sex may still be homosexual even though he or she consciously refrains from or has never indulged in homosexual acts. The term "gay" denotes someone who self-identifies as homosexual.

The articles in this category have been intentionally prefixed "Singapore gay..." instead of the ideally accurate "Singapore LGBTQI..." so as to render them more accessible to the lay reader who may not be familiar with technical gender terms and acronyms, and to increase the likelihood of their getting higher-ranking hits when users of web search engines type "gay" and "Singapore".


See also: Singapore LGBT surveys

It is not known how many LGBT people there are in Singapore. The Census of Population, which is done once every ten years, does not keep track of this demographic. The situation is not surprising since even a country where LGBT rights are much more advanced like the United States does not include this category in its published census statistics (see LGBT demographics of the United States). An estimate based on people who identify as LGBT in developed countries would range from 3 to 5% (see Demographics of sexual orientation).

Historical background[]

See main articles:

Singapore gay culture[]

See main articles:

Singapore gay personalities[]

Main article: Singapore gay personalities
See also: Singapore LGBT allies


  • Paddy Chew
Main article: Paddy Chew

Paddy Chew- Singapore's first person living with HIV/AIDS to come out to the general public (1998)

The first Singaporean living with HIV/AIDS to publicly declare his HIV-positive status, thus giving a face to a hitherto anonymous affliction which mainstream society considered remote from possible encounter. He came out on 12 Dec 1998 during the First National AIDS Conference in Singapore. He identified as bisexual.

His plight was dramatised in a play called "Completely With/Out Character" produced by The Necessary Stage, directed by Alvin Tan and written by Haresh Sharma, staged from 10-17 May 1999. He passed away on 21 Aug 1999, shortly after the play's run ended.

  • Arthur Yap
Main article: Arthur Yap
Arthur Yap - one of Singapore's finest poets

Yap was arguably Singapore's finest poet, enormously influential amongst the later generations of Singaporean writers. He was also a painter. He won the 1983 Singapore Cultural Medallion for Literature. He died of naso-pharyngeal carcinoma on 19 June 2006, bequeathing $500,000/-, part of his estate which included his apartment off Killiney Road, to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCSS) where he was a patient. [3]

  • Edward Chew
Main article: Edward Chew

Singapore's first "pink" entrepreneur who identified as bisexual. Publisher of the world's first glossy Asian gayrotic periodical, OG, which was produced in Singapore, printed in Hong Kong, and widely distributed around the world through the 1980s and 1990s. Many Singaporean gay photographers and graphic artists worked underground to produce OG semi-annually over two decades.

Straight allies of the LGBT community[]

  • Reverend Yap Kim Hao
Main article: Yap Kim Hao

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, during his retirement from full-time Christian ministry, served as Pastoral Advisor to the Free Community Church, a role he regarded as a calling of God. Even as this ministry affirms lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in opposition to the stance of the institutional church, he was convinced this was a ministry he could not evade, a responsibility he could not avoid - to declare Christ’s inclusive love to those who had been ostracized and neglected for far too long by the Church.

Rev Dr Yap was the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysian and Singapore. Subsequently he served as General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, an ecumenical organization of over a hundred churches and national council of churches in Asia. He held Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Boston University and was honoured by them with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988.

In addition to his ministry with FCC, Dr Rev Yap served on the Council of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) in Singapore and was committed to the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and understanding.



Singaporean gay activists Alex Au and Kelvin Wong during a television interview on Channel i News in July 2003.

  • Eileena Lee (see Fridae interview,Yahoo! profile) - one of Singapore's most well-known lesbian activists. Lee was the founder of RedQueen!, Singapore's first and main lesbian mailing list. She was instrumental in the setting up of Looking Glass, a counselling service for lesbians in emotional distress, and Pelangi Pride Centre, Singapore's first LGBT community centre. She relinquished her appointment as president of the pro-tem committee of People Like Us 3 in 2006 but continues to build a bridge between the lesbian and gay communities. She currently devotes most of her energy to moderating RedQueen! and organising activities at Pelangi Pride Centre.
One of Singapore's most well-known lesbian activists, Eileena Lee, during the Channel U television documentary "Inside Out" aired on 23 February 2005.

  • Charles Tan - PLU3's effectively-bilingual, diplomatic, affable and unflappable spokesman. Tan was the second male gay activist to be interviewed on Singapore television and is an ardent advocate of democracy.
Singaporean gay activist Charles Tan during the Channel U television documentary "Inside Out" aired on 23 February 2005.

  • Jean Chong (see Fridae Interview, blog) - one of the founders of Sayoni, a discussion forum for queer women. Chong was also active for 7 years in organising women's activities for Safehaven and the Free Community Church. She is currently the only woman serving in the core committee of People Like Us. She played an instrumental role in organising all the women's functions for IndigNation and was the chief liaison personnel for many of its other events. In August 2011, Chong led a 3-woman team from Sayoni to the Conference to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) at the United Nations in New York to highlight the discrimination experienced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in Singapore. She forms a strong link between the lesbian and gay communities and is the best known second-generation lesbian activist, having cultivated strong links with both local and regional LGBT organistions and the media, as well as contributing to civil society.
Jean Chong, one of the founders of Sayoni.

  • Charmaine Tan - one of the three founders of Pelangi Pride Centre, together with Eileena Lee and Dinesh Naidu. Tan was also one of the founders of Women's Nite, an event for women held on every last Saturday of the month at a location in Singapore.
Charmaine Tan, one of the 3 founders of Pelangi Pride Centre.


  • Max Lim
Main article: Max Lim

Singapore's first gay impresario to be known by a wide swathe of the local LGBT community. He was the first to organise outdoor gay parties in the early 1990s at such venues as the East Coast Lagoon and Big Splash, and non-Sunday gay disco nights at various mainstream clubs like Dancers - the Club in Clarke Quay and at Far East Shopping Centre. He opened Spartacus, Singapore's first gay sauna with a daily gay disco on the ground floor, and later, Stroke and Raw saunas along Ann Siang Road. Lim was the first to experiment with such novel concepts as a 24- hour sauna that never closes, a totally gay restaurant, a transwoman pride march down Ann Siang Road and Club Street, a drag artiste cabaret-disco, swimming trunk fashion shows, erotic film screenings, overnight lodgings for gay men, and offering patrons the option to buys shares in gay enterprises.

Dr. Stuart Koe - founder of Asia's largest English-language LGBT web portal,

  • Vincent Tnay [5] - Founder of Vincent's lounge / Vincenz, Singapore's first dedicated East-meets-West gay bar where Caucasian patrons could socialise with their local aficionados.
Vincent - founder of Singapore's first East-meets-West gay bar.

Arts practitioners[]

  • Tan Peng - the first Singaporean in history to come out as gay to the general public. In a statement to The Straits Times which published an article[6] on 19 February 1993 about his joint exhibition with American artist and author John Goss entitled, "Flowing Forest, Burning Hearts", Tan wrote: “Being gay, as a viewer in art exhibitions, I am tired of drawing meaning from works which ignore my existence. At the same time, I feel a desire to serve the community - to do my bit to help comfort and heal a world ailing from prejudice, intolerance and hatred.”

  • Jimmy Ong - one of the first Singaporean to come out in the press (The Straits Times) with a photograph of himself in an article published in 1990 [7]. He was an early member of People Like Us and attended their monthly meetings at The Substation. Ong is an artist specialising in large, charcoal, gay-themed drawings. He held an exhibition of his work at the Post Museum during IndigNation 2008. He currently lives in the US in a legal gay domestic union. (see website).
Martin Loh - Singaporean artist.

  • Cyril Wong (see website) - The only openly-gay poet to win the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award for Literature, Wong is at the forefront in canvassing greater public support for the arts in general, and poetry in particular.
Cyril Wong - Singaporean poet.

  • Dominic Chua (see Yawning Bread article) - Singaporean poet who organised Contra/Diction, Singapore's first gay poetry-reading session, held during IndigNation, Singapore's first month-long gay pride celebration in August 2005.
Dominic Chua - Singaporean poet.

Royston Tan - Singaporean film producer.


  • Dr. Russell Heng (see Fridae interview) - Singaporean academic, playwright, psychologist and former Straits Times journalist. The most senior of all the gay activists, Heng was the first local academic to write research papers on homosexuality in Singapore and also one of the founding members of People Like Us.

  • Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha - Singapore's first openly gay politician who came out to the general public in 2013. He resigned from the Singapore Democratic Party also in 2013 to concentrate on civil society activism. He left Singapore for New Zealand in 2015 after his teaching contract at UniSIM was not renewed. He is currently working as a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Social Policy at Massey University, New Zealand which he joined in February 2020.

  • Dr. Tan Chong Kee (see Fridae interview, website) - the impressively bilingual and academically-qualified founder of Sintercom (Singapore Internet Community), Tan has been a guest on several television panel discussions and documentaries, and the subject of newspaper articles on socio-political activists. He delivered the first lecture of IndigNation entitled "Same Sex Love in Classical Chinese Literature", in Mandarin. Tan left Singapore in 2007 and currently resides in San Francisco with his white American husband whom he married in 2013. He was interviewed by The Independent in January 2014[8].


  • Sylvia Tan (see bibliography) - the first Singaporean journalist to write exclusively about local, as well as international, LGBT culture. Tan holds a degree in communications science and worked as the principal reporter and news editor of the English section of, Asia's largest English-language LGBT web portal from 2000 to 2014. She currently writes part-time for Gay Star News, an online international news source based in the UK. Tan is also actively involved in LGBT activism, including the organising of Women's Nite events and serves on the Pink Dot steering committee.

Sylvia Tan - Singapore's first journalist to report exclusively on local and regional GLBT culture

  • Roy Tan - healthcare professional passionately interested in documenting local LGBT history. Tan started all the Singapore LGBT-related articles in Wikipedia in 2005 and ported every article removed by deletionists to SgWiki[9] initially, and then to Shoutwiki[10]. He has also recorded and amassed the most comprehensive collection of local LGBT videos on YouTube[11]. On 13 December 2008, Tan delivered Singapore's first outdoor LGBT talk at Hong Lim Park[12]. Tan also intended to organise Singapore's first gay pride parade at Hong Lim Park[13],[14][15],[16],[17],[18] in 2008 after the government legalised protests there. This later morphed into Pink Dot SG[19][20],[21],[22][23],[24], an event which supported the "freedom (of LGBT people) to love" and which later spread worldwide. Together with fellow citizen Tien Kim Chuan, Tan marched in Singapore's first and only gay Chingay contingent when the public were allowed to form their own marching group in 2010[25] (see video:[26]).

Roy Tan waving the Pink Dot flag during the inaugural Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Park in May 2009

  • Bryan Choong, a trained counsellor and the first Centre Manager and subsequently Executive Director of Oogachaga, a community-based, professional counselling, support & personal development agency working with LGBT individuals, couples & families. He was one of the recipients of the inaugural Asia Pink Awards, held in Singapore on 16 March 2014. Since July 2015 he's stepped down as Oogachaga's executive director and taken on the role as its Consultant.

Bryan Choong

Leow Yangfa, editor of "I Will Survive" in 2011

Other prominent personalities[]


Straight allies of the LGBT community[]

Main article: Singapore LGBT allies
  • Sam Ho (Ho Chi Sam) - one of the founders of SinQSA. Ho is a family man who aims to lead a debt-free life. He feels SinQSA is meaningful for straight people who feel they do not belong to part of a majority which perceives itself as homogeneous in values and beliefs and that there is diversity even within a community.


Singapore gay venues[]

(For a discussion of places no longer extant where homosexuals used to socialise or cruise such as Le Bistro, Pebbles Bar, Treetops Bar, Vincent's lounge, Niche, Marmota/Legend/Shadows, Spartacus, Rairua, Boat Quay and Esplanade Park, see the article Singapore gay venues: historical).

Non-commercial/non-sexual venues[]

Formerly located at #04-02/04, Yangtze Building, 100A Eu Tong Sen Road, it later shifted to 56 Geylang Lor 23 Level 3, Century Technology Building. In June 2014, it moved to its current premises at #02-01, One Commonwealth.

The main hall of the Free Community Church in their newest premises at Commonwealth Lane.

A Singaporean Christian church which welcomes all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. It conducts Sunday services at 10:30 am.

Set up by activists to inculcate pride in being gay and in staying HIV negative, it was formerly located at 22a Rowell Road, above the AFA headquarters, in the Serangoon or Little India area and at Bianco - 21 Tanjong Pagar Road, #04-01, Singapore 088444 (above Mox Bar & Cafe) and operates every Saturday from 4-8pm. From April 2008, it operated out of 54 Rowell Road, back in the Serangoon or Little India area. In the early 2010s, it was housed in DYMK, at Kreta Ayer Road and Neil Road. It is currently located within the Free Community Church itself at One Commonwealth, 1 Commonwealth Lane, #02-02, Singapore 149544 (tel. 8525 2643).

Its main features are the extensive library of local and international gay literature as well as non-fiction books whose catalogue can be searched online on its website, and an archive of Singapore gay history and culture. Events are held every 2nd Saturday of the month. For this and other information, please email or see

Arts venues[]

The following list consists of exhibition and performance venues where many works dealing with LGBT themes or by LGBT arts practitioners have been held. However, they are not exclusively used for such purposes.

45 Armenian Street. Founded in 1990 by the late Kuo Pao Kun, it is Singapore's first independent contemporary arts centre, centrally located in the civic district. Its sub-sections include a black box theatre, a gallery, a dance studio, the Blue Room and two multi-function classrooms. It was the venue for the nascent PLU Sunday meetings in the early 90s. The historic PLU 2 pre-registration discussion was also held in the Blue Room in 2003.

208 South Bridge Road, Level 2 (above Xposé)

Exterior façade of Utterly Art, on the second floor, viewed from South Bridge Road. The glass door next to Xposé's entrance leading to the stairs to Utterly Art. An exhibition of paintings by Martin Loh. A view of Martin Loh's artwork in a corner of Utterly Art, next to the windows.

It provides exhibition space and management services to local and Asian artists, and photographers. The most active gallery on the Singapore art scene, it is a leading showcase of works by established painters like Martin Loh and Chng Seok Tin, as well as popular young artists like Trina Poon.

It was the venue for the very first event of IndigNation, Singapore's historic, inaugural, government-approved gay pride month celebration in August 2005. This was an exhibition of paintings by artist Martin Loh entitled Cerita Budak-Budak, meaning 'children's stories' in Peranakan Malay. The event was followed up with Contra/Diction - A Night with Gay Poets held on 4 Aug 05, Singapore's first public gay poetry reading session which was attended by over 70 people, with standing room only.

Entertainment and cruising venues[]

Singapore gay terminology[]

Main article: Singapore gay terminology

The following list consists of formally accepted words, as well as slang in Singapore's four official and other minority languages, used to refer to gay men and lesbians. Terms for transgender and intersex people, while not strictly applicable to homosexual individuals, are also included in this section.


In 1972, Singapore's first newspaper article to mention the existence of a local LGBT community categorised gay men together with transgender women as "homosexual males".

However, derogatory slang words initially referring specifically to transgender people in Singapore and Malaysia, for example "ah kua" (Hokkien), "bapok", "pondan", "kedik" (Malay), "kidi" (Tamil) and "muffadet" (Singlish), also came to be used as slurs on effeminate cisgender men because for the greater part of the twentieth century, there was confusion as to what the difference between gay and transgender was. In fact, in the revelatory Singapore's first newspaper articles on the LGBT community published in 1972, even after months of research, the investigative reporting team still lumped homosexual men together with transgender women into one large category with three subdivisions.

The article stated:

"Basically there are three main types of homosexual males:

  • ONE: The transvestites, or drags, who dress as women.
  • TWO: The effeminate males, who are very feminine in appearance or mannerism.
  • THREE: The normal male, neither effeminate nor unlike other "straight" (non-homosexual) males in appearance."

It was probably not a deficiency in the thoroughness of the research undertaken by the journalists but the relative infancy of scientific knowledge regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the 1970s. In fact, the acronym "LGBT" only began to be used by activists in the United States, the home of the worldwide gay rights movement, as late as in 1988 before finally managing to creep into cognisance in the Singaporean lexicon during the mid-2000s.

Moreover, in the non-English languages spoken in Singapore, there were traditionally no terms for non-effeminate homosexual men. These local languages had to borrow or translate directly from English - for example "homoseksual" and "gay" by Malay, "同性恋者" by Chinese and "ஓரினப்புணர்ச்சியாளர்" (ohrinappunartchiyaalar) by Tamil. Therefore, if one wanted to insult a masculine homosexual man about his sexuality, one would have to resort to using a slur that was meant for transgender women.


PLU - acronym for People Like Us, the first Singaporean organisation involved in the struggle for gay equality. It is also used as a slang word for LGBT people, especially amongst the younger Internet-savvy generation. It has only been in fashion since the late 1990s, but has rapidly become the most popular, even spreading to neighbouring Malaysia.

Muffadet - the Singlish corruption of 'hermaphrodite', an individual with the reproductive organs of both sexes. The derogatory slang word probably first surfaced in the Eurasian communities of Singapore and Malaysia, especially those with British ancestry, since their command of English was the best of all the local ethnic groups in the Straits Settlements and privileged them to know the meaning of such a relatively difficult and uncommon word as 'hermaphrodite'. As most Eurasians were Catholic and sent their children to the Christian Brothers Schools such as Saint Patrick's School, Saint Stephen's School and Saint Joseph's Institution, the slur was gradually also picked up by the Chinese, Malay and Indian students in these educational establishments. It later spread to the better English-speaking schools such as the Anglo-Chinese School, Raffles Institution, Victoria School and Montfort School. In fact, some gay pupils in Montfort School (also Catholic but not a Christian Brothers School) used to jokingly refer to it as "Muffadet School". Alternatively, other-race students in secular English schools could have contemporaneously imbibed the term from their Eurasian classmates. Muffadet, as a derogatory slang word for transwomen and effeminate men, fell into disuse towards the later part of the twentieth century.

Sister - slang for a transwoman (male-to-female transgender, transvestite or transsexual person). Also commonly used by some portions of the gay community to refer to close male gay friends.

A.Q. or A.K. - acronym for ah kua or ah qua, the Hokkien word for transvestite (see below).

A.J. - a popular term probably derived from the Pig Latin word for "gay", i.e. "aygay", with the guttural "g" softened to a "j" to further disguise its form. It was initially used by English-educated schoolboys in the better schools but later spread to and is currently mainly used by the younger generation of local Chinese-educated gays. The term is often used as code, in situations where the speakers do not wish to allow outsiders to understand the conversation. Example: "Is he AJ or straight?", "My classmate is also AJ."

G - abbreviation of 'gay'. Example: "Is he a G?"

On - slang meaning 'gay'. Example: 'Is he on?'

Poon - little known code word for "gay" used in some circles of English-educated Singaporeans in the 1980s and 1990s.

302 - army slang for an effeminate soldier; derived from the Singapore Armed Forces' medical classification of mental disorders known as Category 302, a designation for both homosexual and transgender personnel.

Prawn - code word applied to men who have attractive bodies but not handsome faces, i.e. good only from the neck down, like prawns. This term was employed by Alfian Sa'at in his play "Asian Boys Vol. 3". It has unfortunately been used by Taiwanese gays when referring to their Singaporean counterparts[29].

Lebanese - code word for "lesbian" used by local lesbians in the 2010's, during the early Facebook generation.


Pondan - derogatory word for a male-to-female cross-dresser/transvestite or transgender woman. Also came to be used as a slur on an effeminate cisgender male; increasingly being employed by the Malaysian media to refer to non-effeminate gay men[30].

Bapok/bapuk- derogatory word for a male-to-female cross-dresser/transvestite or transgender woman. Also came to be used as a slur on an effeminate cisgender male.[31].

Kedi - derogatory word for a male-to-female cross-dresser/transvestite or transgender woman derived from the Ottoman Turkish word كدی‎ (kädi) which means "cat". It is pronounced as "kedik", with a glottal stop at the end. the word was first used in the local English press in 1972 (see main article: Singapore's first newspaper articles on the LGBT community).

Peliwat - homosexual; derived from the Arabic word "liwat" which means "sodomy" or anal sex, a serious crime under Shari'a law[32].

Luti - Arabic for homosexual, literally the Biblical Lot; not commonly used by the Malays.

Anak ikan - Literally, "child fish"; "fry", a slang term used to describe cute young boys. It corresponds to "twink" in English.

Homoseksual - derived from the English word homosexual.

Mak nyah - Transwoman. Formed from the combination of "mak" which is a colloquial contraction of "emak" (meaning "mother" in Malay), and "nyah" ( meaning "to run from", "to transition")[33],[34]. The term "mak nyah" was coined by the Malaysian male transsexual community (in 1987 when they tried to set up a society but was denied by the Malaysian Registrar of Societies) as a preferred substitute for "pondan" or "bapok" which generally refers to men who are effeminate homosexual (and cisgender) males. Ponen - an effeminate male (less commonly used)[35],[36].

Hadik-hadik- an effeminate male (less commonly used)[37].

Pengkid - "tomboy" or butch lesbian; a female who appears outwardly male[38],[39].

Pak nyah - transman (female-to-male transgender or transsexual person); perceived to be much rarer than mak nyahs.

Abang - literally 'older brother', but used as a slang word for a transman.

Waria - an Indonesian contraction of 'wanita' meaning woman and 'pria' meaning man, thus coining a word for the "third sex", usually meaning transgender people. The Warias were the subject of a documentary by Kathy Huang entitled "Tales of the Waria"[40].

Wadam- a contraction of 'wanita' and 'Adam', literally a woman who looks like Adam; masculine female or butch lesbian.

Cunta - uncommonly used word for 'hermaphrodite'.

Mukhannis - an Arabic-derived term for a pre-operative transwomen; used by the Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia which forbids such a person from undergoing sex-reassignment surgery, cross-dress, wear make-up or even act effeminately[41].

Mukhannas - an Arabic-derived term for an effeminate male who does not want to change his physical sex; used by the Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia which forbids such a person to cross-dress, wear make-up or even act effeminately[42].

Musahaqah - an Arabic-derived term for homosexual sex between females[43],[44].

Kes cermin - literally means "mirror case"; prison slang for an inmate convicted for a homosexual crime.

Main pedang - literally "to play with swords"; slang word used by mak nyahs to refer to gay men.

ICI - slang word used by mak nyahs to refer to lesbians, evoking imagery that they mutually paint each other with multicoloured saliva.

Kunyit - a derogatory slang or code word mainly used in Malaysia since the early 2010s for a gay man who may or may not be effeminate. Kunyit is the Malay word for turmeric, a spice of the ginger family that comes in the form of a yellowish-orange powder. The metaphorical sense is that inserting the penis into someone’s anus may bring into into contact with stools, which for the locals resembles pasty kunyit. As a corollary, gay men are sometimes referred to as "geng kunyit" (turmeric gang)[45],[46].

Sado - buff or muscular (not specifically a gay slang word; commonly used by Malaysian teenagers; nothing to do with sado-masochism). It originated from the expression "besar bodoh", meaning a big, dumb person. This evolved into "besar do" ("do" being a contraction of "bodoh") and ultimately into "sado"[47].

Cenda - an alternative term for 'gender'.

Darai - a general term for queer or LGBTQ+. It has its origins in Kedah.

Kelamin - sexual.

Patur (a contraction of patuh akur; "patuh" means "to obey" and "akur" means "in agreement with") - conforming.

Tancenda - agender.

Cenda darai - genderqueer.

Bukandua - non-binary.

Bena - fluid.

Kebenaan cenda - gender fluidity.

Cenda tak pakur - gender non-conforming.

Cenda sejadi - assigned-at-birth gender.

Melit - curious; a term of Indonesian origin.

Demelit - bicurious.

Pembedahan tukar kelamin - sex reassignment surgery.



Tóng xìng lìan (同性恋) - literally "homosexual love".

Tóng xìng lìan zhe (同性恋者) - proper or scientific term for a homosexual. The suffix 者 zhe ('person' or 'one who') is frequently dropped - incorrectly according to grammar purists - in colloquial Mandarin usage in Singaporean (as well as in China).

Tóng xìng aì (同性爱) - homosexuality (lit. "homosexual love"); a more respectful term than 'tóng xìng lìan' (同性恋).

Bō li (玻璃) - (lit. "glass") slang for male homosexual. It draws an analogy between the opening or mouth of a glass bottle and the male anus.

Tóng zhì (同志) - properly meaning "comrade" and profusely used during the Cultural Revolution, but used as slang for homosexual in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan[48]. Not commonly used in Singapore but well known because of the influx of mainland Chinese workers.

Xiǎo bái tù (小白兔) - (lit. "little white rabbit") code word for "gay man". Used initially by students in Singapore's Chinese junior colleges, it is probably derived from the legend of the Chinese rabbit god, Tu Er Shen (兔儿神), who was originally a man called Hu Tianbao (胡天保)[49],[50],[51],[52],[53]. Another plausible etymology is the similarity between the rabbit's forward-bending position with its back arched and the one adopted by a "bottom" during anal sex, or the rabbit's flexed paws and the stereotypical limp writs of gay men. Therefore, it also has a derogatory connotation.

Chū guì (出柜) - to come out of the closet; to reveal one's sexual orientation.

Yī hào/líng hào/líng dǐan wǔ (一号/0号/0.5) - (literally one/zero/half) "top/bottom/flex", the active/passive/flexible partner in gay male anal sex. Commonly used in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Xǐao gōng"' (小攻), or simply "gong" (攻) as the previous term may be regarded as too diminutive - (literally "to attack") "top", the active partner in gay male anal sex. This term originated from Chinese gay romance novels and Japanese gay anime[54],[55]. More commonly used in mainland China.

Xǐao shòu (小受) - (literally "to be subjected to") "bottom", the passive partner in gay male anal sex. This term can also be used to refer to the male partner who is more effeminate and needs to be taken care of in a relationship. More commonly used in mainland China[56],[57].

  • Other less commonly used slang words for "top/bottom/flex" are "骑士/马/人马" , "剑/鞘/剑和鞘都有" and "楼上/楼下".

Jǐe mèi (姐妹) - literally meaning "sisters"; a term of endearment used between transwomen, or even effeminate gay men, to address each other.

Kǒng tóng zhèng (恐同症) - a recently-coined scientific term for "homophobia", a product of Western culture.

Yīn yáng rén (陰陽人) - an intersex person; literally meaning "a person with feminine and masculine qualities".

Rén yāo (人妖) - a term for transgender people who usually perform on stage; literally meaning "human monster" or more euphemistically, "enchanting person". It is the Mandarin version of the Hokkien A-kua. This term is regarded as offensive amongst Chinese speakers and is mainly applied to Southeast Asian transgender people, especially Thai kathoey or ladyboys. Ethnic-Chinese transgender people themselves almost universally avoid the term, favoring less deprecatory descriptions.

Bìan xìng zhe (變性者) - scientific term for a transgender person who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, hormonal treatment or lifestyle changes.

Bàn zhūang húang hòu (扮裝皇后) - cross-dressing queen; drag queen.

Yì zhūang pì (異裝癖) - literally meaning "obsession with the opposite (sex's) attire"; cross-dressing.

Zhōng xìng rén (中性人) - an intersex person; lit. "neutral" or "middle sex person".

Kùa xìng rén (跨性人) - recently coined term for a transgender individual; it has a somewhat scientific/technical ring.

Níang (娘) - adj. sissy or effeminate. e.g., "He's cute, but he's gone a bit heavy on the eyeliner. A bit 'niang' for my taste."[58]

Lālā (拉拉) - lesbian. A phonetic adaptation of the English term[59]. Used mainly in mainland China.

Kōng (控) - it means fetish in mainland Chinese gay subculture. It can be combined with almost anything. Call someone “Dashu [uncle] Kong," and it means someone who's into older men; “Xiong [bear] Kong” means someone who's into chubby and hairy “bears”.[60]

Chī tǔ dòu de (吃土豆的) - literally meaning 'eats potatoes', this term refers to a gay Chinese person who has a case of white boy/girl fever, and thus tends to only date Caucasians. There are also 'rice eaters,' 'sushi eaters' and more, depending on one's cuisine of choice.[61]


(the phonetic spelling of Hokkien words in this section follows the convention of Pe̍h-ōe-jī)

A koaⁿ (commonly spelt phonetically as "ah kua", or less often as "ah qua") - a male-to-female cross-dresser/transvestite, or more recently, with sex reassignment surgery becoming more available, also a transsexual woman; a transgender woman. Used in the past to refer to male cross-dressers who performed in Chinese operas or 'wayangs' as they are locally called.

O͘ a - literally meaning 'black crow', it is used as a covert form of "a koaⁿ", referring to the cackle that crows make, which sounds like a contracted form of "a koaⁿ". Not widespread.

A póng - 'pong' is the Hokkien translation of 'pump'; used to refer to a straight man who enjoys being the passive partner in anal intercourse, i.e. getting 'pumped'.

Mo· tàu-hù - literally 'to knead soyabean/tofu'; lesbian sex. By extension, it may also refer to sex between two 'bottoms' or effeminate/passive gay men, where their soft, limp penises do not respond to each other's fondling, and sex is an exercise in futility.

K'am - literally 'to suck'; to perform oral sex on someone.


Bai he - Cantonese for lesbian.

Bō lei (玻璃) - Cantonese version of the Mandarin "bō li" (see above); a gay man. Uncommon in Cantonese.

Gēi (基) - Cantonese transliteration of the English word 'gay'.

Gēi lóu (基佬) - a gay person/fellow.

Gáau gēi (搞基)- to indulge in homosexuality.

Sí fāt gwái (屎忽鬼) - literally meaning "bottom devil"; derogatory and offensive term for a gay man.

Tùhng seng lihn (同性戀) - Cantonese version of the Mandarin "tóng xìng lìan zhe".



See also: Tamil sexual minorities

கிடி (kidi) - Singapore Tamil slang word for a transvestite or effeminate male. Derived from the derogatory Malay slang word 'kedi' (see above), which in turn originated from the Ottoman Turkish word كدی‎ (kädi) which means 'cat'.

9 (onbathu; onbohthu) - Singapore Tamil code word for a gay man.

சுத்தடி (sutthadi) - outwardly male sex worker catering to homosexual men. It literally means 'to beat the anus'.

அக்கா (akkaa) - literally meaning 'elder sister', it is a Singaporean slang word for a male-to-female transgender person or cross-dresser.

நம்பி (thambi) - literally meaning younger 'brother', it is more used in India than in Singapore as a code word for a gay man.

நங்கை (thangai) - literally meaning 'younger sister', it is more used in India than in Singapore as a code word for 'lesbian'.

திருநங்கை (thirunangai) - polite and official word for a male-to-female transgender person [62],[63]. (See video[64]).

திருநம்பி (thirunambi) - polite and official word for a female-to-male transgender person.

Ali - a term referring to third gender people; not commonly used in Singapore.

Pedu - a term referring to homosexuals; not commonly used in Singapore.

Aravaani - a catch-all term for sexual minorities, but it can also include individuals who would be labelled as leaning towards 'disabled' in the western lexicon. The term is officially used in India to describe the community of transgender and third gender people.

Kothi - a term referring to effeminate homosexuals or transgender people. It is similar to the more famous term kathoey used in Thailand.

மாற்றுடை அணிபவர் (maatrudai annibavar) - cross-dresser.

திருநர் (thirangar) - all-inclusive name for transgender people.

பால் (paal) - sex.

பாலீர்ப்பு (paaliirppu) - sexuality.

பாலுணர்வு நடத்தை (paalunnarvu nadatthai) - sexual behavior.

பாலுணர்வு அடையாளம் (paalunnarvu adaiyaallam) - sexual identity.

ஓரினப்புணர்ச்சியாளர் (ohrinappunartchiyaalar) - homosexual, used most often by the Singapore media [65].

தன்பாலீர்ப்பு/ஒருபாலீர்ப்பு (thanpaaliirppu/ohrupaaliirppu) - homosexuality.

எதிர்பாலீர்ப்பு (ethirpaaliirppu) - heterosexuality.

ஈரர் (iirar) - bisexual.

இருபாலீர்ப்பு (irupaaliirppu) - bisexuality.

வெளியே வருதல் (velliyae varuthal) - coming out.

மாறுபட்ட பால் அடையாளம் (maatrupadtu paal adaiyaalam) - alternate gender identity.

மாறுபட்ட பாலீர்ப்பு (maatrubadta paaliirppu) - alternate sexuality.

மாறுபட்ட பாலீர்ப்பு மற்றும் பால் அடையாளம் கொண்டவர்கள (maatrubadtu paaliirppu mattrum paal adaiyaalam kondavargall) - all-inclusive term for LGBT or queer.

(In August 2022, the Tamil Nadu government published a glossary of LGBT terms in Tamil in the government gazette for the media to use in a first-of-its-kind move in the country to stop derogatory references to LGBT persons[66].)


Swawarga bhogi - scientific word for homosexual; "swa" meaning "self", "warga" meaning "type" and "bhogi" meaning "a person who has sex".

Flute - one who likes oral sex.

Vadanasuratham - oral sex.




Amraprasand - scientific word for homosexual.

Hijra (South Asia) - a member of the "third gender" in India.

Maasti- sexual play between men who are not necessarily homosexual, mainly to relieve sexual tension.

Samlaingik- scientific word for homosexual.

External links[]


  • Jeffrey Hays, "Homosexuality, gay life, and sex change surgery in Singapore", Facts and Details, 2008, updated June 015[76].