Spurred on by the success of the inaugural IndigNation in 2005, organisers People Like Us (PLU) designated a subcommittee to put together another month-long festival of arts and intellectual events in August 2006.
Almost all events were open to everybody regardless of gender and sexuality, with free admission. IndigNation did not discriminate. However, there were a few events where admission rules applied. For these exceptions, admission guidelines were released on PLU's IndigNation website.
IndigNation 2006 reaffirmed the participation of the LGBT community in the intellectual and cultural life of the country, reminding all that they were as much a part of Singapore as anyone else.
At the same time, it should be noted that the State still gave short shrift to its LGBT citizens. Through law, administrative policies, censorship and homophobic remarks by ministers, Singapore continued to discriminate against some of its most productive citizens.
The calendar was never closed. Anyone with an event could write to the organisers (using the Contact Us link) to propose adding the event to IndigNation 2006. They did not even have to be LGBT. The only requirement was that the subject matter of the event touched on the issue of sexual orientation, or celebrated minority sexualities.
The chair, organiser or a lead person at each event announced the house rules regarding electronic recording at the start of each event. It was the policy to be as liberal as possible, but were certain events where being too liberal undercut the mood of the event.
Many events were held at 72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road, the home of TheatreWorks, who very kindly gave the organisers use of their ample space for 2 weeks. More information on its location and bus services to the locality could be found on a separate web page.
"August 2006 is Singapore gay pride season again 17 July 2006
Indignation 2006, the second annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Season, starts on 1 August and will comprise around 20 events.
Like last year, there will be a number of forums on various subjects, from women’s issues to gay marriage, from Indian classical literature to the recent general election.
Well-known writer Christine Suchen Lim will be reading two of her stories on 10 August in the event titled “Mothers at the edge”. Acclaimed playwright Desmond Sim’s new play, “Fairy Godfather” will be given a reading on 12 and 13 August.
Dominic Chua will once again be organising ContraDiction”, an evening of gay poetry, on 3 August.
This year, transgendered Singaporeans will also be having their own dialogue session, also on 3 August.
The organisers of Indignation 2006 are a subgroup from People Like Us, a gay and lesbian group whose mission is public education with respect to sexuality and non-discrimination.
“There is a tremendous amount of energy and creativity among gays and lesbians,” says Russell Heng, one of the organisers. “The pity is that Singapore doesn’t realise the contribution made by gay and lesbian Singaporeans unless one organises a festival like this to showcase it.”
Adds Alex Au: “Nor do many Singaporeans realise that straight people too, e.g. Suchen Lim, one of our contributors, support the message that ignorance and discrimination is wrong.”
“Indignation is a broad tent. Everybody, straight and gay, is welcome to participate,” stressed Kelvin Wong. “And hopefully, people will realise that that party set do not typify the gay community.”
“The ultimate message of Indignation,” says Jean Chong, “is that lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and gays are part of Singapore life and members of our families, and we should be asking ourselves, why do we discriminate against our own?”
Agreeing, Miak Siew, who is curating an art exhibition, titled “Sama-sama”, says, “We want to reflect the dreams and aspirations of the gay community as part of Singapore.”
Not all events are serious; Pride Season is interspersed with social evenings for light-hearted fun including an evening of Chinese singing at Xpose cafe and the Great Singapore Makeover at Mox bar and cafe. Tantric Bar is organising Paradise 2006, to celebrate National Day.
The Pride Season will round off with a book launch on 24 August, followed by a chill-out evening at Club95."
- Tuesday, 1 August to 15 August 2006: Sama-sama art exhibition - installation art at 72-13
- Tuesday, 1 August 2006: The 2006 general election and the gay issue - a talk by Alex Au
- Tuesday, 1 August 2006: IndigNation LGBT launch party - by Twoqueens
- Thursday, 3 August 2006: ContraDiction 2 - an evening of gay poetry, facilitated by Dominic Chua
- Thursday, 3 August 2006: Echoes of transsexuals - by Sgbutterfly
- Saturday, 5 August 2006: L3: Loving, leaving, living - a forum for women, organised by Sayoni
- Saturday, 5 August 2006: Paradise 2006 - a National Day party by Tantric Bar
- Sunday, 6 August 2006: Signs of our times - the changing gay scene in Singapore and India
- Tuesday, 8 August 2006: AlieNation Revisited - join DJ Mentor, X’ho’s Shameless night at Home Club. Organised by S.A.D.
- Thursday, 10 August 2006: Mothers at the edge - by Christine Suchen Lim
- Saturday & Sunday, 12 & 13 August 2006: Fairy Godfather - a dramatised reading of Desmond Sim’s latest play, directed by Jeremiah Choy
- Saturday, 12 August 2006: Be who you want to be: the great Singapore makeover - organised by Safehaven and Mox
- Monday, 14 August 2006: Celebrating couplehood - gay marriage and protecting your loved ones
- Monday, 14 August 2006: “For…” - an evening of Chinese sing-along
- Tuesday, 15 August 2006: History talk: Same-sex love in classical Indian literature - by Venya Sinhaputri, *followed by Western gay history - from Enheduanna to the Fab Five - a talk by Ng Yi-Sheng
- Wednesday, 16 August 2006: Why watch a gay play? - a living room chat hosted by Richard Chua
- Thursday, 17 August 2006: Life journeys: the best is yet to come - a talk by Oogachaga
- Tuesday, 22 August 2006: Bringing out the woman in God - by the Free Community Church
- Wednesday, 23 August 2006: Book launch: Singapore queers in the 21st century
- Thursday, 24 August 2006: Book launch: An Asian gay man’s coming out journey
- Thursday, 24 August 2006: We the Citizens - TalkingCock in Parliament - by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen of TalkingCock.com
Review by Alex Au
What does a gay sensibility and the gay experience bring to art? Sama-sama, showcasing the works of 13 artists - of whom 1 is straight - gives clues to the answer. In their different ways, these works subvert habitual ways of seeing and thinking, contesting particularly questions of convention and permissibility.
The Queen of Happiness II
Justin Lee’s The Queen of Happiness II confronts the viewer with army fatigues festooned with a sparkling brooch. You almost take a step back, either dazzled by the ornament or shocked by the incongruity of the combination. But why should that be, we have to ask? Why is national defence in our minds so wrapped up with gender constructions? And in such a climate, how do we treat those whom we conscript, who do not conform?
Kissing by Shaun Paul Singh is close-up graphic of two lovers with interlocked lips. Their passion fills the frame completely — you see nothing else — just as that moment fills the two characters emotionally, eyes closed. You cannot easily avert your own eyes; by its boldness, there is nothing else to see but two men in a wet embrace. There are no excuses for not noticing, but are there still excuses for passing judgment?
Chia Ching Kai’s Sama|Beza is a series of similar-looking portraits. The colours are different and the background subtly changes. Are they are same person in different contexts, displaying different moods and aspects of his character situationally? Classically, LGBTs do that every day of their lives.
Yet Chia has given very different names to each portrait and thus each person depicted. Are they therefore different people all attempting to assimilate and conform? That is, while we may come from different backgrounds, do we all end up looking and behaving the same? Why?
Shitlosophy, far and away, has been getting the most attention. This installation work by Samuel Woo and Alecia Neo is a collection of photographs mounted on a wall, all of them depicting somebody in a lavatory. Here is an intimate moment that in fact is nothing unique to any of us. At any moment that we are in the toilet, there are perhaps millions of others who are in a nearly identical situation, feeling the same abdominal fullness and eventual relief. We’re part of transient diaspora, yet each of us is completely isolated from everybody else in that great shitting community, too embarrassed to contemplate anyone else doing/being likewise but ourself.
Woo and Neo invite viewers to sit on a bowl, look at themsleves in the mirror and see themselves as part of a wider world. Some have had their pictures taken with a polaroid, pinned up and joining the constellation of stars.
This exhibit has been horribly censored by the government. Two secondary messages intended by this work have been disallowed. Among the diaspora of toilet-users depicted photographically was a police constable. Even authority figures have to take a dump now and then; they too produce dirt. How are they different from us morally? Yet it was impermissible to exhibit that photograph, which in itself becomes a question — are they placed on a higher moral plane by intrinsic value, or by the brute force of power?
The other photographs censored were all those that had two persons in a lavatory cubicle. In some, there were two girls, in others, two guys, often with some degree of undress, pointing to the social and creative uses we put toilet cubicles to. That is one of those unconventional thoughts that the Media Development Authority (MDA) did not approve of.
It would have been interesting had Woo and Neo included in their collection a photograph or two of a mixed-sex couple in a lavatory. Would the MDA have allowed that photograph to be displayed?
There are many more works than can be mentioned here, spread over 2 floors of 72-13, and like much of art, there is no single “correct” interpretation. The exhibition runs to 15 August 2006.
1 Response to “Review: Sama-sama art exhibition” Kris Aug 7th, 2006 at 4:18 pm Very thought-provoking exhibits, which go to show the wide range of emotions, thoughts and inspirations behind the artists and their creation(s), be they straight or gay (the person and/or the work).
For the “completeness” of the Shitlosophy work, perhaps the organisers can consider Aaron’s suggestion: to put up pieces of paper in the exact position in place of those censored photos, with a statement along the lines of “This photo has been removed on MDA’s order”. A description of the respective photos can also be listed…
The 2006 General Election and the Gay Issue
The recent general election turned out to be significant in 2 unexpected ways.
The New Paper - yes, the tabloid that gay men regularly castigated for homophobic stories - repeatedly asked election candidates gay-related questions. The answers it obtained could be read for clues as to how political parties were, or were not, grappling with the gay issue.
Even more unexpectedly, the Yawning Bread website became one of the most read websites for election-related news. Thousands of Singaporeans found themselves stumbling into a gay website when all they wanted was a photograph of a rally.
Had all this changed anything, or was this just a blip in an unrelenting erasure of gay concerns? Alex Au mused aloud that evening and let others freely voice their views.
This talk (actually, it was more informal than that - more like a conversation with the audience) was preceded by the launch of the Sama-sama art exhibition at the same venue.
Date: Tuesday, 1 August 2006 Time: 7:30 pm Admission: Free Venue: TheatreWorks, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road
IndigNation launch party at Thumper
Review by Elsa
Under the ochre red lights of Thumper, queer women of all sorts packed themselves right up to the stage, waiting for the show to start. It was the IndigNation LGBT Launch party organized by Twoqueens, to mark the start of our own pride month in Singapore.
Posters advertising the events of IndigNation were pasted up all over Thumper, and flyers were laid upon every table space. All in a bid to spread the word about pride month to the GLBT community. There were also rainbow cards pasted on the walls. Pride was everywhere.
As it got nearer to 11pm, the crowd got larger and noisier, eagerly anticipating the start of the party. Outside, there was a long queue of people waiting to enter. Evidently, there was widespread publicity of the event, and the community turned up in force to support and celebrate diversity. Even the presence of plainclothes policemen snooping around to make checks, did little to dampen our party spirits.
Later, our two enthusiastic and pretty hosts came up on stage, promising us a night of fun and prizes to be won. There would be two performances tonight. The first was by Chinese duo, Tin and Daniel. As Tin played on the piano, Daniel stood on stage and crooned to songs originally composed and created by the two of them. Immersed in the romantic melodies sung by the Chinese duo, the crowd looked on dreamily. Despite being two of the few men among the surging crowd of womyn, it certainly did not affect them as they seemed quite at ease with the audience.
Following a short break after Tin and Henry’s performance, a new band called Pittstop took over the stage and limelight. Together with a guest singer, they performed acoustic covers of a few popular songs such as Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Melancholic and haunting, the lyrics sung flowed from angst to soft vocals. Someone even came up on stage later to give the lead singer a huge bouquet of flowers, to the loud applause of the audience.
After the show was over, it was time for the real party to begin! The DJ turned up the volume and tempo, it was everybody’s cue to hit the dance floor. Very soon, the dance floor was throbbing with women dancing wildly to hip-hop. A few brave souls even ventured to do pole-dancing. Bursting with energy, people danced through out the night till closing time.
As the nation gears up to celebrate the National Day, so did the GLBT community celebrate in our own way. This time to mark another milestone in Singapore’s GLBT history, the second run of IndigNation. And what impressed me most were not the fancy shows and rah-rah dancing, but the individual, personal shows of support by the community. The gay pride t-shirts screaming “Queer as Folk” or “Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians”.
Now that’s IndigNation.
The event was advertised thus:
Vernon Voon discusses some recent court decisions in other countries and the arguments for and against legal marriage for same-sex couples. Will more countries follow suit with legalising same-sex marriage, and what is Singapore likely to do?
Protecting the ones you love
We are often told that gay relationships are not recognized by law in Singapore but the reality is that there are a number of ways in which gay people are able to protect their partners and loved ones. Gay friendly lawyer Sunita Sonya Parhar talks about the legal side of gay relationships, how to make a will to protect your partner, purchasing a home and other legal means that are available to protect our relationships.
Date: Monday, 14 August 2006 Time: 7:30 pm Admission: Free Venue: TheatreWorks, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road
Review by Alex Au
Can I tattoo my will onto my thigh? was a question from the floor that sent the audience into uproarious laughter.
But it was a serious question. Would such a will be valid? Lawyer Sunita Sonya Parhar thought not, for the question would surely arise as to how the required two witnesses could sign it.
This was one of the more creative ideas that Parhar’s talk led to on the evening of August 14th. The thrust of her talk was about the importance of making a proper will, and keeping it updated, so that our loved ones are taken care of. This is especially critical when same-sex partners have no legal recognition in Singapore law.
In the Q&A, she also explained the difference between “joint ownership” and “in common” ownership, and the effect of these on who gets to own a shared property after the demise of one partner.
Prior to her talk, Vernon Voon gave a thorough run-through of the legal arguments for and against same-sex marriage, based on recent court cases in the US. Was the purpose of marriage for procreation and protection of children? Or was it for encouraging stable and committed relationships? Even if it’s for the sake of children, does this mean marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples?
A key principle applied in America is that of strict scrutiny and heightened scrutiny, but, it was explained, it’s not a principle applied in Singapore law. Hence, in the Q&A, the question arose, how does one go about challenging the constitutionality of any law in Singapore? Without actually saying so in words, there was a sense that even getting a lawyer to handle your case would be enough of a hurdle!
The lively talk was attended by about 30 persons.
- Watch a video recording of Vernon Voon's talk:
“For…”: an evening of Chinese sing-along
The event was advertised thus:
A sing-along session of original compositions, inspired (and adapted) from people like us, among us, and for people like us. Let Tin and Henry’s voices and works make this night a most soulful one, a most truthful and maybe, painful one as well, that will make you realise how wonderful life and love is.
Chinese translation of chinese karaoke night:
Date: Monday, 14 August 2006 Time: 7:30 pm Admission: free Venue: Xposė pub/restaurant/cafe, 208 South Bridge Road
Mothers at the edge
Review by Russell Heng
Writer Christine Suchen Lim began by declaring she was turning story-teller for the evening a la the Chinatown story-tellers of yore. That was what she delivered, reading her two short stories like she was speaking to her audience, pausing here to make a comment, breaking there to fill you in on some missing background. The about 30-strong audience was drawn tightly in a semi-circle around her. With no mike available, the writer had to rely on her deep natural voice to fill a cavernous room that was once a Chinatown warehouse. It was makeshift but it was also intimate. For those of us who have been around long enough to know the Chinatown storyteller scene of the 1950s, a touch of reminiscence was in the air.
Lim’s first story The Morning After was about a morning after a mother (written in the first person) found out her son was gay. In the Q&A that followed, somebody asked her how much of it was patterned on her own experience of having a gay son (who was present in the audience). But delineating that thin line between life and art was really not the most important outcome of that exchange. The more profound impression was that of writer and audience engaged in a conversation on a subject that would normally made people cagey. That evening, Lim was not the only mother who was demonstrably supportive of a gay son. I ran into another who had two gay children and I suspect there were more of them in the audience. What a sea change from 10 years ago when a fledgling People Like Us could not find even one such parent to start a support group.
The second story My Two Mothers stood the issue of parents of gay children on its head. What about straight children who have to come to terms with gay parents? The protagonist in this tale, Pearl, was adopted and brought up by two mah-chays (a generation of women from China who came alone to Singapore in the colonial days in search of a livelihood and remained unmarried either by choice or circumstances). As Pearl grew up she began to understand with unease the relationship between her two mothers. I shall not spoil the fun by telling you how the story ended except to say that Lim threw in a funny anecdote about what happened when she read this story in a convent to a gathering of nuns and novices.
Lim hopes to gather these stories into a volume. Watch out for it.
Ms Susan Tang of the Free Community Church chaired the event.
1 Response to “Review: Mothers at the edge”
Charles SF Aug 19th, 2006 at 4:20 pm This is quite heartwarming to read. Great event!
The event was advertised thus:
"What happens when a girl learns at her father’s funeral that her godfather was the late father’s lover and her mother still bears a deep grudge? Fairy Godfather is a new play by Desmond Sim who gave us the award winning Autumn Tom Yam.
IndigNation is proud to present a dramatised reading of Fairy Godfather by theatre/TV actors Amy Cheng, Jason Chan and Loretta Chen, directed by Jeremiah Choy.
This event has been given an RA18 rating by the Media Development Authority. You will need to be at least 18 years old to enter.
Date: Saturday, 12 August 2006 and Sunday, 13 August 2006
Time: 8:00 pm
Admission: Free (Please see Admission guidelines)
Venue: TheatreWorks, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road"
Review by Russell Heng
Playwright Desmond Sim (pic right) is no stranger to those who are familiar with Singapore theatre, particularly its gay plays. Sim wrote the very successful Autumn Tom Yam about an old wealthy American professor who left his wife for a working class Thai boy. In staking out such classic rice queen territory, the play poses those popular questions about what such a couple can possibly see in each other, separated as they are by such a huge chasm of language, class, education and age. Sim’s always tells a good story and throws in enough pathos and poignancy to tug at your heartstrings. In Fairy Godfather, he delivers that same winning formula.
Since Sim has a following, the dramatized reading of his new work played for two nights. For the first show, 80 turned up, among whom were well-known people of the theatre fraternity. The following evening drew a smaller crowd of about 30.
Here is how the plot goes. In his lifetime Kyle swung both ways. He married Liz and they had a daughter Carina. But before Liz was a boyfriend Julian who ended up being Carina’s godfather. When Carina was 18, Kyle passed away. At his funeral, a battle of will began between Liz and Julian revolving round the question who did Kyle love more. For many, particularly the gay members of the audience, it was too easy to root for an all-suffering Julian rather than a vain and sour Liz. Too much a case of the good fairy versus the wicked witch, complained members of the audience at the post-show feedback on both evenings. I won’t spoil the play for those who have yet to see it by spilling the beans. Just expect some clever little twists in the plot before the final denouement.
With a name like Fairy Godfather, most may be forgiven for expecting the play to be just one long campy farce. Well, there are many moments of light humour written into the dialogue (another of Sim’s hallmark) but the play is actually a thoughtful engagement with sexual politics, showing its audience how, ultimately, the sexual leads to so many tangles and complications that have nothing whatsoever to do with the sexual. In Sim’s own words: “It becomes an issue about trust and faith. Just because someone does not love you the way you want them to, it does not mean that they are not loving you with everything they have. Sounds easy to understand but, in truth, so complex to comprehend”.
Director-actor Jeremiah Choy (pic right) directed the reading. Amy Cheng read the role of Liz, Loretta Chen the role of Carina and Jason Chan, the role of Julian.
L3 - Loving, Leaving and Living
The L3 forum was the first time queer women's group, Sayoni, participated in Indignation and, more importantly, the maiden occasion it held a talk or forum for the public. A series of audio recordings of the event were uploaded for the benefit of those who were not able to attend but were later removed. Although Sayoni videoed the event, it stated categorically on its website that the video would not be released anywhere.
Review by Lisi
When do queer women realize that they are queer? How do they come out to the people around them? What do they think of long-term lesbian relationships? How are they prepared to deal with issues that come with aging?
Here are some of the questions addressed by four queer women from different generations, during the L3: Loving, Leaving and Living forum held on 5th Aug. The live forum was organized by Sayoni.com, the community for Asian queer women, as an Indignation 2006 event. The forum attracted an impressive turn-out of 105 audiences, mostly women, but including straight and gay men as well.
The speakers were chosen from different age groups: Elsa represented the early teens; Anj represented the early twenties; Jean represented the early thirties and Meiling represented the forties. The contrast in perspectives was shown through a series of questions, a spectrum of concerns pertaining to the lesbian community, discharged by a feisty emcee, Kelly.
The general atmosphere of the forum was light-hearted, with laughter bursting within the audience from time to time, because of the witty comments from the panelists. However, the discussion was nowhere near frivolous. The panelists shared their life stories and perspectives with such spontaneity and sincerity, which was indeed commendable.
The coming out experience of the panelists was all different in one way or another, painting a stark contrast of the social context they lived in. The younger panelists, Elsa and Anj are out to their families, and coming out was not a continuous internal struggle for them, as compared to their senior counterparts. Jean mentioned how she got her queer education in clubs because there was hardly any source of information in the past, before the internet was common and accessible. She even attempted to ask the audience who had heard of those clubs, and obtained no response, much to the amusement of all. Meiling spoke with incredible forthrightness, when she told the audience her struggles over the years and what it took for her to come out to herself.
Despite that society has come a long way and has made much progress over the years, coming out is still not a bed of roses for the younger generation. Elsa narrated her stories of coming out to friends who are fundamentalist Christians, and the pain she endured when she was asked to change her orientation, by the very people she cares for. The way she narrated her story was hilarious, and the audience erupted in laughter at certain points of time. However I felt a lump in my throat as I watched the bubbly teenager share her traumatizing experiences. It was heart-wrenching to see how much a typical gay/ lesbian youth has to go through in Singapore.
The panelists also discussed the various issues in the community, such as the use of labels in identity, the butch-femme binary, homophobia, relationships, growing old together etc. Certain highlights consist of the following: An unanimous definition of cheating- nothing beyond the mental space. Varying degrees of being out, proud and loud- Notably, Elsa and Jean believed in being out in every aspect of their lives and Anj shared about the initial maelstrom in the family before acceptance. Meiling emphasized that aging gracefully means that one should start financial planning as soon as possible.
It was refreshing to hear the different viewpoints of the women, and how dialogues, exchanges and consensus reign despite the differences. The differences also served to illuminate how much progress we have seen over the years.
During the question and answer session, the audience was a little apprehensive at first but warmed up in no time. They shared their viewpoints on “internalized homophobia”, which took on a more macro edge: fear of minority groups within the queer community. In a particular question, “What are we fighting for, when people who accept you will nonetheless see you as not normal?” the speakers were quick to point out that if past activists were non-existent, the forum would not have been possible.
The responses from the audience were so effervescent; the emcee even had to request that they might continue the discussions after the forum has ended.
In their closing speech, the panelists gave their heartfelt wishes for the community. From helping gay and lesbian youths to urging people to stay connected with their extended families, I could sense their dedication and passion for the community.
Last but not least, the organization of the entire forum was laudable as well. I certainly appreciated that the organizers managed to set up a public address sound system, so that the panelists’ speech could be clearly heard from the back of the room. This was extremely helpful, given the highly echoing characteristic of the big and high-ceiling room. Intricate details such as brochures, posters and refreshments all highlighted the resourcefulness of the organizing team.
All in all, the session ended on a positive note, inducing hope in dykes who were present. It represents a tiny but significant step towards greater exposure for and understanding from the general public. Voices were heard, issues were discussed, friendships were reinforced, and queer women of all ages came together to show that we stand as one. That is Indignation for you.
Cheers for more.
2 Responses to “Review: L3 - Loving, Leaving and Living ”
cecilia Aug 13th, 2006 at 3:37 pm Hi
I really enjoy the forum. Can sayoni have more of these talks pleaseee?
pink_is_in Aug 29th, 2006 at 1:19 am hi cecilia, have you check out forum.sayoni.com? Theres a lot of discussions going on including some of the topic mentioned on L3 and many others as well.. Do check it out and sign in if you still haven’t check it out ! toodles..
Signs of Our Times
Review by Alex Au
From Rob Phillips, the audience learnt that there is not a single dedicated gay bar in all of India. From Chris Tan, we heard about how Singapore’s gay bars gradually clustered themselves in the Chinatown area.
Each country takes its own trajectory when it comes to the emergence of its gay community.
In the case of India, the internet arrived before identity formation has matured, and the internet therefore is the means by which that identity formation is being realised. Through it, middle-class Indians discover fellow homosexuals and organise themselves for social events as well for political activism.
It is not just a big city phenomenon, said Phillips. Even villages nowadays have internet cafes with dial-up connections, enabling those in relatively remote locations to become conscious of an emerging sense of community.
However, the social climate remains deeply conservative. From his observations of online contacts, many Indians are married despite homosexual desires. Online-organised parties take place quite often in homes or gay-friendly restaurants, complete with strict rules about acceptable behaviour. Same-sex dancing is almost unheard of. Sometimes, the windows of the homes are covered up with paper for the events, so that neighbours cannot spy on the goings-on.
Meanwhile, police in various cities continually carry out sweeps of known cruising grounds with many arrests. Phillips himself observed one such incident first-hand. Most surprisingly of all, the chief question on the police’s minds was ”Are you married?” There didn’t even seem to be language for sexual orientation.
Yet, perhaps because of the escalating HIV problem in India, the health issue provides an entry point for political debate. Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code is currently being challenged in the courts, at least partly on the ground that this law creates discrimination against homosexual men with respect to access to health care.
In his paper, Chris Tan traced the development of the “gay ghetto” of Singapore to the government’s plans for the conservation of Chinatown. As the 5-foot-way shophouses were gentrified starting from the late 1980s, many were emptied of the old trades. Since the government left it to the market, with only minimal exceptions, to determine what new trades could inhabit the conserved buildings, there arose an opportunity for gay businesses to colonise a few of them.
Still, the gay businesses remain quite discreet, and very few outside the gay community would be aware that there are a number of gay bars, massage parlours and saunas in the area.
Tan thought it was rather interesting to see how the commodification of the gay culture was symbiotic with the govenrment’s gentrification and tourisation of Chinatown.
But why Chinatown? Was it solely a case of businesses clustering together to benefit from critical mass? Or was there something about other ethnic quarters that was considered by owners to be unhelpful to business?
It was a small, intimate audience of about 15 people, but its smallness had its advantages, allowing a high degree of participation during discussions that went into considerable depth.
1 Response to “Review: Signs of our times”
Kris Aug 7th, 2006 at 3:34 pm Wow! Alex, you sure work fast, getting the review out and posted on-line less than 24 hours after the talk!!
It was an interesting and cerebral evening, a session that proves that GLBT activities need not necessarily focus on parties, music, fancy togs, drinks and open bars. Too bad not more people were present, but like Alex stated, there was that level of intimacy that a larger forum might not have been able to offer….
Through Rob’s paper, which was delivered so animatedly by Roy, we learnt that the current situation for the local GLBT community, though far from being ideal, is not as bad as that in India. It certainly helps us to keep things in perspective.
As for Chris’ paper on Chinatown as a “gay ghetto”, I suspect that a large part has to do with Singapore’s land use zoning system. In shophouses that are zoned for ‘Commercial’ uses, ALL types of businesses can be allowed, without segregation of whether these are gay businesses or not.
This was perhaps an opening through which the gay ventures were able to gain a foothold in the area. Other businesses probably did not find the location and/or conservation requirements that conducive, whereas gay business owners, with a keener eye for aesthetics and strong affinity for history and heritage, found the right place to be.
Chris’ study focused mainly on places for gay males (at least based on the examples he raised). I wonder whether there is a similar cluster pattern that developed for business ventures that cater specifically to lesbians?
Last but not least, my suggestion is to have this theme of comparative studies across countries/cities for future IndigNations. Keep up the good work, all!
Review by Alex Au
In her short talk, Venya Sinhaputri unlocked for the smallish audience the fact that Tamil writing from hundreds of years ago had references to same-sex love. It was a bit difficult to follow as the gods and characters were rather unfamiliar to Singaporeans. Furthermore, as she said, translating poetry into English loses much of its beauty.
Nonetheless, it was an interesting glimpse into how the culture saw same-sex relationships with equinamity. One of the stories from the Mahabharatha was about Lord Krishna transforming himself into a woman to marry Lord Aravan, the night before the latter was to sacrifice himself in order to achieve a major battle victory.
This however begs the question of whether the old Tamil culture saw same-sex relationships in highly genderised terms, as opposed to hte modern way of seeing it in egalitarian terms.
This was not a question addressed by Ng Yi-sheng either, in his long talk about the various persons significant to Western gay history. He must have recounted at least 50 individuals from the Mesopotamian priestess Enheduanna to Hollywood’s Rock Hudson. It showed how populated Western history has been with figures who didn’t conform to the patriarchal and heterosexist model.
Unfortunately, Ng was rushing through much of his talk; it might have been better if he had fewer personalities to talk about but able to spend more time showing how these characters illuminated the ideas of their respective ages.
Life Journeys: The Best is yet to Come
It was an enjoyable evening of honest sharing and learn from true experiences, as four people, including Kelvin Wong and Roy Tan, shared their thoughts about their journeys through life.
The talk, organised by Oogachaga and chaired by Harold Tan, explored how people could lead happy, productive and fulfilling lives as gay men and women. The panel of speakers sharef with the audience the challenges they had to face with regard to family, friends and loved ones and personal beliefs. It also touched on issues they faced in career and daily lives and what they looked forward to in the future.
Date: Thursday, 17 August 2006 Time: 7:30 pm Admission: Free Venue: Mox bar and cafe, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road, #04-01
The Great Singapore Makeover
Review by Roy Tan
Mox Bar was jam-packed like sardines with well over 200 people on Saturday night. It was undoubtedly the best attended event of IndigNation and also proved to be the most popular with the crowd. This was abetted by the fact that it was organised by the Free Community Church and Safehaven, with a booth manned by volunteers from Action for AIDS and Oogachaga on standby to hand out goodie bags containing condoms and other paraphernalia. Thus, the contest received support from the majority of the flock of FCC, as well as members of Oogachaga.
The venue was initially intended to be Bianco, in the attic, one floor above Mox Bar but providence thankfully prompted a change of location to Mox itself. Bianco would never have been able to accommodate the massive throng which showed up. There was a delay in the start of the show and it only began well after 9 pm.
The celebrity compere of the evening, Hossan Leong, was absolutely brilliant. His rapid-fire wit in Singlish, English, Hokkien and Mandarin, coupled with hilarious antics, had the audience clapping, cheering and rolling in stitches. He opened with a series of gay Singaporean jokes before introducing the judges.
Three celebrity arbiters were roped in the lend glamour to the competition: Ernest Seah, the actor who played the lead transvestite in the movie “Bugis Street”, Andrew Loke, an advertising executive with shoulder length hair, and Steve, a UK expatriate and drag performer with the stage moniker of Miss Stevious.
Next, the contestants were beckoned onstage and emerged from behind the curtain. There were six altogether, a number which fell short the target of ten. Many were hoping that Jerry Siah, organiser of the “A Nation in Concert” charity gala would be taking part, but unfortunately he declined due to overwhelming commitments.
The “before” participants were a cherubic young adult man, a lady secondary schoolteacher, an ex-schoolgirl from Raffles Junior College, a lawyer who wore a tattered singlet held together by safety pins, a tall butch guy and Dr. Peter Goh, vice-chairman of FCC who came up with the idea for the contest. Hosann asked each contestant to introduce himself before handing the questioning to the celebrity judges. Questions were occasionally cheeky, even ribald (like asking the tall dude what the size of his feet were) and responses ranged from the banal to the witty. A one-hour break was provided for the contestants to undergo their makeover but they slightly exceeded the allotted time.
The “after” segment unveiled the cherubic young adult reincarnated as Boy George with a rainbow-coloured teddy bear sticking out from his pants, the schoolteacher transformed into a radiant Chinese bride all decked out in red, the schoolgirl changed into a black leather-clad dominatrix, Peter Goh mutated into a PAP Member of Parliament from GAYlang complete with slicked-back hair, white uniform and multi-coloured garland, the lawyer now wearing a Gaultier-like skirt-trouser combination and the tall, hunky chap trading his togs for a skimpy pair of swimming trunks. Among the more memorable moments were the Gaylang MP outlining his vision for the GLBT community and the swimmer wetting himself onstage by squeezing a sponge over his head.
The audience was handed pink slips upon which to write their names and predict the winner by sticking them to the appropriate square containing the contestant’s name on a large board. Miss Stevious provided both a mimed and live vocal (I repeat - vocal, not oral) performance as an interlude to enable the judges to deliberate on their decision.
The winner turned out to be the overwhelmingly popular FCC vice-chairman, Peter Goh who was made over as the PAP Gaylang MP. Peter then drew lots to determine which members of the audience would win prizes for making the correct prediction. The whole event ended with a thunderous round of applause for both organisers, host, participants and judges. Many in the audience remained at Mox Bar to mingle until late into the night - a fitting wrap to a most enjoyable evening.
Review by Roy Tan
This year’s AlieNation bash was oodles more exciting than last year’s IndigNation event. For one, the location was teleported from CoccoLatte at out-of-the-way Mohamed Sultan Road to centrally sited Home Club at The Riverwalk, just across the road from sauna One-Seven. Secondly, the venue itself is larger and more posh, with a sizeable dance floor, a ruthlessly efficient smoke machine and a thumping state-of-the-art sound system (see Home Club’s gallery).
Despite the plusses, however, this reviewer was the only gay man, as far as he knows, who showed up. There were approximately 3 other groups of, presumably, lesbians who trickled in close to midnight, but no coterie of raucous queens or circuit party boys. Most of the patrons were straight revellers drawn by DJ Mentor Chris Ho’s Shameless night which was held in conjunction with S.A.D.’s (Singapore Affective Disorder) AlieNation.
The S.A.D. team who put together this year’s do was largely the same as last year’s, headed by artistic director Nick Charnley. The only change in the line-up was a new feel-good dancing girl from New York who stuck temporary red-and-white “Made in Singapore” tattoos on willing disco-goers.
The video footage to accompany the performance was thankfully shown this year due to the proper functioning of all the equipment (the projector broke down at CoccoLatte last year). It was not exactly Hollywood blockbuster material, mainly showing the organisers roaming Singapore in a large, marshmallow-like alien head after an introduction of the National Day ditty “Stand up for Singapore”.
The performance consisted of the organisers cavorting on the dance floor in fancy costumes like a pair of red swimming trunks, a platinum-blonde wig and the alien head featured in the video. It was enough, though, to pump up the mood and entice the crowd to get down and shake their booty.
Celebrity DJ Chris Ho did not merely remain behind the console but mingled with the crowd and engaged in some PR work, to the delight of the patrons. The mix of music was, similar to last year’s - an eclectic melange of indie, dance and R&B. Groups of straight boys, lesbians, straight couples, the organisers and others continued the partying until the wee hours of the morning, obviously satisfied with a good night out.
Review by Roy Tan
It was full house at Mox Bar as poetry lovers sauntered in at a leisurely pace for the eagerly anticipated sequel to last year’s IndigNation hit, “Contradiction”.
This year’s event was billed as, what else but, “Contradiction 2: Queer Words spoken in IndigNation, 3 August 2006". Painstaking effort went into the production of a booklet to accompany the performances, with Shaun Soh’s (Soh Ee Shaun)“lovely little creatures that fill and festoon” the pages of the booklet as well as the advertisement poster for the event.
The entire presentation was co-ordinated by poets Ng Yi-sheng, Dominic Chua and Sabrina Koh. Ng gave the introductory address and launched into performance poetry renditions of 3 of his works, “Adam’s Apple”, “Boogie” and “Threnody”, replete with gyrations and staccato flourishes of his body. “Threnody” stood out as it engaged the audience, who were urged to participate by chanting 2 lines of the poem. The latter itself was sung as a simple hip-hop-esque melody rather than merely read out.
Next up, straight female poet Ruby Pan and activist Sha Najak read 2 oeuvres by Sabrina Koh, “why ask when you need to ask why” and “Opposites”.
The most splanchnicly gripping segment of the evening was delivered by NUS undergraduate Jabir bin Mohd Yusoff who sat down and read out a graphic eulogy to his surgically removed prepuce entitled “i remember the day it was cut from me”.
Ruby Pan and Sha Najak took to the stage again for a reading of oncologist-cum-poet Geraldine Toh’s pieces “Between Breaths” and “Enough”.
Acclaimed poet, pianist and classical singer Cyril Wong provided a refreshing change of scene as he accompanied Dominic Chua’s reading with chords and arpeggios on the grand piano in a performance of his work “before the afterlife”.
Bilingual poet Yen Feng strode onstage to read his poems “24? and “A Wandering Sombrero” in the seated position, remarking that the sofa and stage set-up reminded him of his bedroom.
Subsequently, Sha Najak performed her works “Aphrodite’s Dilemma” and “S.H.E.” solo.
A musical interlude of 3 songs, including one by gay UK group the Pet Shop Boys, was performed by duo Leon and Blade, providing vocals and guitar accompaniment respectively. This was the only non-literary segment of the evening.
Ruby Pan read a short story as a tribute to one of the women she loved most in her life, her Filipina maid, followed by another about 2 lesbians on holiday.
Dominic Chua presented an innovative rendition of his poem “Night Prayer” using projected slides of IRC conversations involving gay cybersexual solicitation. This was followed by “Something Amiss”.
Playwright-poet Alfian Sa’at could not be present as he was recalled for the premiere of a play by director Ivan Heng, so his short story about the relationship of 2 gay Singaporean boys was read out by friend Dong, to the accompaniment of slides of typical Singaporean scenes.
The evening was capped by poet Koh Jee Leong, whose sonnet "Come on, straight boy" was the only work banned by the Media Development Authority. He performed “Brother” and a gruesome aural depiction of life in Chinese hell entitled “Hungry Ghosts”.
Book launch: SQ21 - Singapore Queers in the 21st Century
Date: Wednesday, 23 August 2006
Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: Mox bar and cafe, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road, #04-21
"What is it like for men and women to grow up here, to come out their families, to find love and work and meaning? What are their stories? For the first time in Singapore, the book “SQ21 - Singapore Queers in the 21st Century” answers these questions.
Fifteen men and women including a mother of two gay sons and a hearing impaired gay man share their stories, and their photos (yes photos - this is a real coming out book), showing their true faces and celebrating their against the odds of living full lives as gays and lesbians in Singapore. Written in a light, readable style, these inspirational stories will touch the hearts of everyone, young and old, single or in love, Singaporean and otherwise.
SQ21 is published by Oogachaga Counseling & Support and will be sold at a discounted price of $20 at the launch."
The book SQ21: Singapore queers in the 21st century was not just a first for Singapore, but a first for all of Asia. A compilation of personal stories by 15 individuals, it spoke of self-discovery, rejection by family, coming out, love...and much more. It was the ‘much more’ that was much, much more. In a country where homosexual sex is still a criminal offence, where the state policy, particularly over the media, is that homosexuality should be cast in the most negative light, and where stereotype, social prejudice and job discrimination are seldom checked, the 15 people ran considerable personal risks by agreeing to be featured.
As Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh (founders of one of Singapore’s most popular websites, Talking Cock) said in their foreword,
"...while we recognise the stories in this book as ordinary accounts of human beings with flaws, we were also struck by the sheer courage displayed by the contributors - the real names, real photographs, real stories, and perhaps the real cost that must be paid for such candour. We feel outraged and saddened by the tragic irony: that to be accepted as ‘ordinary’ requires an act of superhuman bravery."
The 15 individuals featured included men and women, spanned different ethnic and age groups, and also included a straight mother of 2 gay sons. Each provided a little vignette of his or her life, always touching, and somewhat frustratingly, leaving the reader wanting to hear more.
The book was based on interviews by Ng Yi-Sheng conducted in 2005. Even transcribing the interviews was a transgressive endeavour, undermining a lifetime of social courtesy. Yi-Sheng recalled an encounter from Chinese New Year with an 80-something year-old widow and neighbour.
Neighbour: These are nice pineapple tarts.
My mother: Yes, why don’t you tell Mrs Gan about the nice book you’re writing?
Yi-Sheng: Yeah, um, it’s a book on homosexuality in Singapore.
Neighbour: Oh my. Is it rampant?
SQ21, published by Oogachaga, was launched on 23 August 2006. It was available from leading bookstores in Singapore such as Kinokuniya and Borders. It was also avilable via the online store of Fridae.com.
We the Citizens - Talking Cock in Parliament
Review by Russell Heng
Without a doubt, this was the mother of all Indignation events. The old Parliament chamber was standing room only, which is something that never happened in all the years when the real politicians were holding court there. Eat your hearts out, PAP MPs.
IndigNation organizers expected the crush and handed out 350 plastic cups as tickets. Those who came after the cups ran out had to be turned away. A full house and turning away audience! That’s an Indignation first into the second year of its existence.
Another first was the demographic profile of the audience. This was not just a GLBT get-together to embrace our own pet cause. The straight folks were there in droves. By my estimate, it was half and half.
Gay or straight, they were lured by the promise of raucous political comedy, the hallmark of the popular TalkingCock website. Since TalkingCock was joining force with IndigNation, most probably thought there would be some funny camping about, the hallmark of gay divas.
As it turned out what they witnessed went beyond the comic. Sure there were side-splitting moments: Alex “Yawning Bread” Au dressed as the most senior politician in the land spoofing three PMs in a row; the two bloggers Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi turning a snippet from PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech into a rap; Ruby Pan demonstrating with such virtuosity the range of accents Singaporeans put on when they speak English; and Hossan Leong showing how the entire Singapore history can be sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. But strangely enough what made the evening so memorable was how it was very moving in its entirety.
It moved because the line up of speakers took us to issues that had engaged “we the citizens” for so long: the subtle class and race divides in our schools, the loneliness of growing up gay in Singapore, etc; issues that never had a chance of surfacing in that very room when it was a real Parliament or else presented as so much lifeless political-speak. The stark contrast pointed you to the grim reality that continued to exist outside the Indignation event. With this reliazation, the mirth of the evening gave way to a daunting sadness with just a little lingering hope that things may improve. Or else we would not be talking cock in Parliament.
And then the evening ended with the National Anthem delivered in a very unusual but affecting pokka beat. That too was very moving.
Finally, a big thank you must go to Colin Goh and his wife Woo Yen Yen, the founders of TalkingCock.com, for lending their valuable support to Indignation. Colin chaired the proceedings and Yen Yen also was among the line-up of speakers which included (besides those already mentioned above) Rasull the clarinetist/flautist, Kirpal Singh, Teng Qian Xi, Savita Kashyap, Steve Hogan reading for his wife Denyse Tessensohn, Sam Wu and Imran Johri.
Members of Oogachaga handled the bulwark of the logistics, among whom was Alphonsus Lee (remember the hunky guy in swimwear at the Great Singapore Makeover contest?) who singlehandedly pulled so many loose ends together.
Numerous others helped in so many ways. Thank you all for giving Singapore a landmark event.
1 Response to “Review: Talking Cock in Parliament - We the Citizens”
alex Aug 30th, 2006 at 12:20 am totally brilliant! just seen the 1st part of hopefully many more to come of the indignation at the parliament…imran johri is farrrnny! and patriotic as well..so looking forward to the brown & miyagi revelations…keep on talkingcock guys!
To celebrate National Day, Tantric Bar hosted Paradise 2006 on Saturday 5 August.
With the bar festooned in red and white, customers were encouraged to show their national pride by wearing the national colours too! And to show their gay pride, an IndigNation Cocktail was concocted.
A guest DJ spun the music to get everyone in the mood.
Date: Saturday, 5 August 2006 Time: 10 pm till late Admission: Usual pub custom Dress Code: Red and/or white Venue: Tantric Bar, 78 Neil Road
Singapore’s second gay and lesbian Pride Season, IndigNation 2006, was a great success. What had originally been planned as a 2-week, 9-event festival eventually had 21 events over 4 weeks. One of the events, a dramatised reading of Desmond Sim’s new play Fairy Godfather, was held twice.
Some events attracted unexpected crowd sizes. The opening event, Alex Au’s talk "The general election and the gay issue", was standing room only, with 150 -180 participants. "Be who you want to be: The great Singapore makeover", had 200 - 300 squeezing into Mox Bar and Cafe. Likewise, the book launch of "SQ21: Singapore queers in the 21st century", had 200 -300 people too, snapping up all 245 initial copies of the new book by Ng Yi-Sheng.
Finally, "Talking Cock in Parliament" attacted well over 350 people. Unfortunately due to the limited size of the old Parliament chamber, beyond 350, people had to be turned away.
Some of the gems of the Pride season were in the smaller events. There was a first-ever panel discussion by transgenders, a well-received panel discussion by lesbians, an intimate story-telling by writer Christine Suchen Lim, and fine poetry in ContraDiction II.
The art exhibition "Sama-sama" ran for 2 weeks showing some truly intriguing works by young artists.
People Like Us thanked all the organisers and helpers of the various events for their selfless contributions and efforts. Without them, IndigNation 2006 would not have been possible.
PLU also thanked all sponsors, particularly 72-13 for letting them have the use of the space for 2 weeks, and media sponsor Fridae.com, and all those eager folks who made their way to the events, gay, straight, bi, trans and whatever else in-between.
- IndigNation: Singapore's first gay pride month
- IndigNation 2007
- IndigNation 2008
- IndigNation 2009
- IndigNation 2010
- IndigNation 2011
- IndigNation 2012
- IndigNation 2013
- IndigNation 2014
- IndigNation 2015
- IndigNation 2016
- IndigNation 2017
- IndigNation 2018
- PM Lee Hsien Loong allows indoor talks to be held without a police licence, 22 August 2004
- IndigNation SG's Facebook page:.
- IndigNation SG's Wordpress site:.
- A playlist of videos of past IndigNation events on YouTube: .
- IndigNation Sg's YouTube channel:.
- PLU's IndigNation website. (now defunct)
- The older IndigNation Facebook page:. Its name was changed to plu.sg in July 2016 by Jun Pow so as not to clash with the official IndigNation SG Facebook page.
This article was compiled by Roy Tan.