Keegan is a Singaporean trans man who was invited by People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Baey Yam Keng to share his transitioning experience on Baey's Instagram live chat on Saturday, 26 September 2020. The MP posted the following message on his Facebook accompanied by a photo:
Several months ago, I did a shoutout for residents to join my IG Live Chat to share something interesting about their life, passion or experience. It was courageous of Keegan to approach me offering to talk about his journey of becoming Keegan.
Join us at 10pm tomorrow (Sunday).
- livechatwithbyk #Tampinesresident #LGBT"
In the comments section below the post, Baey clarified that Keegan had approached him several months prior, requesting to be on his Live Chat because he wanted to talk about his experience. Shortly after the session was over on Sunday night, 27 September 2020, Baey posted the one hour-long recording of it on his Instagram account. Also invited was Dr Tan E-Ching, who spoke about how parents and children could communicate better and the resources available to help with youth mental wellness.:,.
In the interview, the duo discussed the struggles that the teenager, identified only as 19-year-old Keegan (with no surname provided), was experiencing due to the procedure. Baey went on to express hope for a better future for LGBT residents in Singapore, where male gay sex was still banned and there were hardly any laws to protect the community. However, he noted: “Now, we have counselors in every school, so there are resources available, and I think counselors are well-trained to be able to give sound advice, and in Keegan’s case, refer him to the gender clinic. And there are professionals there who are able to advise him and eventually even advise his grandmother and parents to accept him for who he is. I think it’s important there’s help.” He said it would take more time for society and governance to change, though he noted the latter is bringing resources to bear. “Let us take a step at a time,” he added.
Baey’s show was watched by more than 3,000 viewers and included a discussion with Hallmark Health medical center director Dr Tan E-Ching, a former schoolmate, about improving communication between parents and children. Asked about the gay sex law, he straddled a both-sides position of acknowledging those who wanted change and those who did not. “I’m hopeful that things will change, but let us give time for policymakers also to be able to find a way to have a good conversation,” later adding that “ultimately, we don’t want the society to be divided.”
It was the first time that the 50-year-old MP had featured someone from the LGBT community on his Instagram live chats that had showcased interviews with figures from the worlds of the arts and sports since they began in May 2020. He said that he had known Keegan, who was transitioning to male, since before the hormone treatment began, as the teenager and his grandmother often attended community centre events Baey hosted. But it was Keegan who responded to Baey’s open call in June 2020 for people to share their stories about their gender transformation journeys. Keegan’s began when he was 16, starting with a trip to the school counselor. Keegan said that his family was reluctant to accept his decision but became more accepting after receiving advice from a doctor, who required their consent as Keegan was underaged. His father was helping to pay for the therapy, Keegan said. His next goal was to undergo breast removal. “As a father, I think it’s not easy for parents to come to terms with it,” Baey told him in the video. “You should really be grateful to your dad. I think that is a very strong show of support for you.”
Baey’s interview with Keegan drew mixed reactions from viewers. Some thanked Baey for taking a rare, progressive stance by leading such a discussion while others questioned whether he was trying score political points. Model Andee Chua wrote in the comments on Instagram: “Thanks Mr Baey for opening up such a platform for Keegan and for being inclusive. We need more open discussions and conversations like this. It’s not easy talking about such a sensitive and hard topic – thanks for taking the step forward to understand and listen.” On Facebook, user Jeff Law questioned Baey’s sincerity, penning: “You just lost my vote here trying to be a populist! A PR man as usual!” While Wake Up, Singapore gave Baey credit for expressing “somewhat pro-LGBT views” and showing sensitivity to the community, it pointed out that the MP can do much more,. It added: “However, as an MP and a member of the ruling party, Baey has a lot more power to push for change. Simple tokenistic gestures are not enough to alleviate the struggles of the LGBT people. They face very real issues and discrimination which call for substantive action.” Wake Up, Singapore also invited the MP to “table a motion in Parliament to repeal 377A” as well as to “interrogate the rationales behind archaic laws and policies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people”.
- Transgender people in Singapore
- Baey Yam Keng's views on LGBT rights
- Singapore politicians' views on LGBT rights
This article was written by Roy Tan.