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The first substantial mention of the existence of an LGBT community in Singapore was made in a groundbreaking 4-part feature by the evening newspaper, New Nation, entitled "THEY ARE DIFFERENT..." It was published on 4 consecutive days from Monday, 24 July 1972 to Thursday, 27 July 1972. A single-article sequel to the series was printed the following week, on Monday, 31 July 1972.

The seminal exposé was the result of 4 months of extensive investigative research by reporters Yeo Toon Joo, Betty L. Khoo and Lee Chiu San. Colleague Pang Guek Cheng contributed to the sequel.

Inside story[]

Photo of first page of chapter 6 of Cheong Yip Seng's memoirs.

In 2012, Cheong Yip Seng, former editor of The Straits Times, revealed on the first page of chapter 6 of his book of memoirs, "OB Markers: My Straits Times Story" that in July 1972, when New Nation was still a broadsheet aiming to be a quality newspaper, it assigned the team of senior writers mentioned above to investigate the topic of homosexuality in Singapore. It was then a taboo subject and never before explored in the press. New Nation aimed to cast a critical eye on a serious issue. Homosexuality was a crime and homosexuals suffered from society's unforgiving glare, if not contempt. They were taunted, shamed and driven underground. Even 40 years later, the government still refused to decriminalise homosexual acts between adult men, arguing that Singapore remained too conservative a society, though it had become more accommodating of them. In 1972, New Nation had trouble getting authoritative data about the subject, and homosexuals were not prepared to speak openly for fear of public condemnation. Nevertheless, New Nation persevered.

The result was the series of exposés featured in this article. For the first time, the general public got a close look at the lives and challenges of this group of Singaporeans, many of them talented, especially in the creative fields. There were firsthand accounts though interviewees were not named. New Nation treated the subject seriously. There were no exploitative headlines and photographs. The writers struck neither a disapproving nor approving tone; they did not campaign against the law. They attempted only to capture a little-discussed slice of life in Singapore, in line with New Nation's mission of tackling issues of concern to its targeted upmarket readers. Cheong conceded that it also hoped to raise circulation which, to the disappointment of its owners, The Straits Times and the Melbourne Age, was languishing way below break even despite an expensively assembled newsroom with highly paid expatriates.

Scans of articles[]

(The following scans are of a sufficiently high resolution for the text on them to be read. To save each image to your computer, left click its thumbnail to view the scan in its full resolution and then right click to download.)
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Editable text of articles[]

NEW NATION, Monday, July 24, 1972[]

Page 9


New Nation special report by Yeo Toon Joo, Betty L. Khoo and Lee Chiu San

Who are Singapore's homosexuals? Our investigating team reveals their lives, problems and attitudes after a 4-month inquiry.

People who lead very secretive lives[]

Photo: Two of Britain's homosexuals who belong to the Gay Liberation Front.

Existing within society, but little known to the rest of it, is a group of people different from the rest in their sexual preferences.

Those are the people who practise homosexual love, or sex with a partner of the same sex man with man, woman with woman.

Their sexual pursuits and predilections are often ironclad secrets, usually unknown to friends, colleagues, families and, In some cases, husbands and wives.

Secrecy, furtiveness, loneliness, concealment, anxiety. and fear of discovery usually characterise their lives.

The number of people belonging to this "fourth dimensional" world is not known as it is almost impossible to count them. But it is believed to be quite substantial. According to some researchers. one in 20 males in Britain is homosexual or has such tendencies.

The Kinsey report puts it higher. It says 50 per cent of American males are homosexual or can respond to erotic stimuli from other males, although many of them do not practise homosexuality.

This percentage (by Kinsey) Is said to be widely applicable throughout the world. These people are referred to by various names, some of them derogatory and derisive gay, queer, drag, round, kytai, kedii, ah qua, poofter, fairies and faggots.

The seemingly glamorous side of this society is found in the roadside display of transvestites (kedii or drags, men dressed in women's attire in Bugis Street, but they are only one category of gay people.

The more seamy side dwells in the slums of Johore Road where hundreds of men jostle nightly through beehived cubicles looking for sex with transvestites.

Not apparent is the secret world of the exclusive homosexual , or a person who can enjoy sex with only a partner of the same sex, or the double life of the bisexual who can have sex with both man and woman the people whose mode of dress is not unlike any other male, except for some who affect a flamboyant style.

To be discovered as what is commonly regarded here and elsewhere as "a deviate," or "abnormal," can often bring persecution, ridicule, contempt, disapproval, and in some cases even physical violence.

Thankfully, unlike some western societies for example Britain and the United States, "queer bashing" or baiting and beating up people who indulge in homosexual love is not a widespread practice here.

No real study has ever been made of the subject in Singapore, A New Nation team spent four months on this investigation first seeking out gay people and then making excursions into their world to find out what goes on among this segment of Singapore's population.

We were unsuccessful in the time at our disposal in penetrating the world of female homosexuals, or lesbians.

It Is believed that no gay society as such exists among them although groups of female ' homosexuals do gather.

Also, they tend to be more secretive than male homosexuals. We had some measure of success with our survey on male homosexuals.

After skirting the fringes of their society for 2 1/2 months, we managed finally to enter their world and had illuminating conversations with them on their lives, their problems, their attitudes towards society, and the fact that they were different.

A major discovery is that there are more gay people in Singapore than we realised.

Friends, acquaintances, public figures, teachers, lawyers, admen, clerks, blue-collar workers, students, artists, secret society toughs, waiters, people not normally suspected of being inclined this way are among those we found to be gay.

Family men, or people with wives and children, are also among them, a few marrying as a masquerade and cover-up of their homosexual tendencies, and many effectively bisexual.

Because of their need for concealment, many of them find great difficulty in making contact with other homosexual males.

A few, we suspect, go through life without sex unable to enjoy sex with a woman, and not able of knowing how, to find a male homosexual partner.

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.

Among these three are the male prostitutes, those men and boys who sell their sexual favours.

The transvestites who have become prostitutes frequent Bugis Street where they usually solicit after midnight and Johore Road, in foul-smelling, oppressive hovels, honeycombed with box-like cubicles big enough only for a double bed and standing space for one or two.

At these places, they ply their trade at prices ranging from $3 to $20 or more for a quick time, often fleecing European tourists or resident expatriates.

Their clients: Male homosexuals as well as men who also enjoy normal heterosexual relationships and do not regard themselves as homosexuals. The Bugis Street homosexuals often cater for Europeans or tourists, and the Johore Road group for the locals.

A few of them sometimes also walk the streets in the city, hovering in the shadows, waiting for a pickup. Orchard Road is a "popular" area for them. In recent years, many of them have* resorted to hormone pills and bust operations, to build up artificial bosoms to look more like the women they feel they are, and of course to make themselves more attractive commercial propositions.

But their smaller male hips are often dead giveaways.

There are also the non-prostitute transvestites, the effeminate males with a compulsion to dress as females and slip out of their homes in female attire. Most transvestites lead wretched lives. Those who have become prostitutes are usually worse off than their female counterparts.

Apart from having to pay off secret society "protectors" they have to suffer the scorn of a society more tolerant of female prostitutes than "queers."

Not infrequently stones are hurled at them when they walk through housing estates, by children as well as adults.

Often, too, they are picked up by men who derive sadistic pleasures out of beating them up.

Discovery of their transvestism by their families often results in ejection from home and disowned by parents unless they "reform."

Living and thinking as women, they sometimes "get married" to their male boyfriends and live with them as "man and wife."

There are a few lucky ones who have successfully passed off as females. Some have had sex change operations. One even won a beauty queen title. Another is a successful mannequin.

Other gay males, who dress normally, live an entirely different existence, usually having very little or nothing to do with transvestites.

Many of them regard transvestites as too extreme, too soft, or just like women, in whom they are not interested.

It is usually difficult to tell them apart from "straight" or "square" males. The gay male is not necessarily effeminate in appearance. There are very masculine men, or toughs, who are gay.

They often lead a very lonely existence without any means of meeting other homosexuals in whom they can be emotionally interested.

There are several bars and at least one public park In Singapore where many of them meet and socialise, but many others stay away because they do not know, or for other reasons.

Because gay people often look no different from other people, such a gathering may be obvious.

In fact, one of us had visited such a bar many times for a drink before we began our probe without noticing the different people there, or that the crowd was predominantly male.

Company executives students, office workers, lawyers, old men, boys as young as 14, males of all degrees of masculinity and femininity, people of all races meet in their own world here.

The only people absent are women and transvestites.

Conversation pieces and what goes on here are no different from any male-female gathering, except that some of the men play female roles.

Friendships are sometimes forged, alliances made, and love affairs begun.

Prostitutes also solicit into the gay life at such here. Hitherto straight males sometimes get drawn into the gay life at such bars.

Some of these gay bars are known internationally, and homosexual tourists flock here.

There are many restless young males who are there almost nightly. Unable to fit into the straight world outside, they congregate there to be with their kind.

Some among the younger set in these gay gatherings often sport fanciful ornaments to identify themselves as gay a big ring on a certain finger and chain round the neck.

But there are many gay males who do not frequent, or even visit, these bars. Like social life elsewhere, the company or atmosphere may not appeal to them. Some fear that coming out so openly might increase the risk of detection.

There are others who may not have heard of these places at all. Their circle of homosexual friends is hence limited, and sometimes non-existent.

Some resort to newspaper advertisements to make contacts with other gay males. One method is to advertise the fact that a male (or female) is seeking male (or female) friends "with similar interest."

In the ensuing correspondence they sound each other out. Once convinced of each other's homosexual interest, they make personal contact.

Those exclusive homosexuals or the people who rate five or six, at the top of the Kinsey heterosexual - homosexual continuum of zero to six (zero being the bottom of the scale, or exclusively heterosexual, and six the other extreme, or exclusively homosexual are often very lonely people particularly the older ones.

Unmarried, with no family ties, and often living alone, their lives revolve around their jobs and empty homes.

The younger among them may still have family ties, and find greater ease in starting new affairs with other males after breaking off with one.

The older males find it more difficult to do so. Often they have to pay for sex. Rates for a quick time range from $10 to $300 (one I spoke to said that was the price mentioned by one male prostitute.)

Both the young and old among them are also inhibited in finding other males to live with. The frequent arrivals and departures of different males are sure to arouse the suspicion of neighbours.

Attention is what these people dread most because of the complications it often brings in its train.

Such males sometimes have house parties, but they are limited because an all-male gathering can lead to gossip.

One exclusive homosexual I spoke to, who does not frequent these bars, lamented on his "utter lonesomeness."

A "professional man of 31, who loves music and the fine arts, he complained of his great difficulty in finding male partner who could be compatible intellectually and emotionally.

He said: "I want to share my house, my life, with someone, but that someone must be sincere, not one who wants to fleece you.

"Many of the men I have met often turn out to be mercenary.

"It is far easier for a heterosexual man to find a woman who is compatible because of the wider circle of choice. But if I discard a man, it will take a long time to find another one."

He said he often wenfc through months without a homosexual partner: "I won't call it lonely, but lonesome. When I feel low the only thing I can do is pray. Who can turn to?

The close-knit community of local transvestites[]

Bugis Street is Singapore's popular rendezvous tor transvestites and tourists. The main areas of homosexual prostitution are in Johore Road and Bugis Street.

Here the casual visitor will do well to bear in mind that among the bosomy beauties he sees, the prettier ones are usually boys.

These are the transvestites also known as "sisters" who all want to dress as girls. But not all of them want to be girls.

They form a very close-knit community, one paradoxically filled with an incredible amount of jealousy, back-biting and general bitchiness.

I, one of the transvestites, said: "Most of the 'sisters' start the same way. In school they realise that they are different. The boys tease them, then they start seeking the companionship of their own kind.

"Paradoxically they discover that they like boys.

"Then they start hanging around places where homosexual contacts are made. They experience sex and like it. Then they get more daring, dressing in women's clothes, the first few times in borrowed dresses and with haphazardly applied make up.

"Later they get bolder, and dress more stylishly, and accompany men on dates to nightclubs and cinemas. The men give them presents, and from there it is only one step towards accepting money.

"By this time the 'sister' will have left school, and will experience difficulty getting a job. He will start loitering around Bugis Street and Johore Road more frequently, becoming semi-professional.

"His family will grow suspicious of his staying out at night. One day he will be caught in the act of soliciting. There will be terrible quarrels at home, and a promise to behave more like a man in future.

"This promise will be almost impossible to keep, because he feels that he is a woman at heart. He will persist in behaving like one. Family disapproval will grow stronger. He will either leave home or be thrown out.

"He has to live, so he will turn to prostitution. Since he does not care about his family any more he will try to become fully a woman.

"He will take hormone pills and undergo plastic surgery and soon will have a female figure. It will now be impossible for him to live the life of a man.

"Then boyfriend trouble, gangster trouble, and with the police will start. Gangsters tend to leave most male prostitutes alone, but those who look like women and who have nowhere to turn to are victims of the gangs.

"Such male prostitutes find it extremely difficult to rent accommodation from decent, normal people, "So they stay in brothels, and pay exorbitant rents ($130 a month for an unfurnished cubicle 10 ft. square) and pay the gangsters $3 to $5 per day in 'protection money' and give the gangsters sexual pleasure too.

"They also run the constant risk of being arrested by the police for soliciting or for picking pockets. I know that some of us sometimes steal from our customers, but can you blame us when we are desperate?

"Then there will be trouble with boyfriends. Living such lonely lives female impersonators are desperate for real love and sometimes fall victim to conmen.

"Anyone who shows signs of love can have a transvestite wrapped around his little finger.

"One 'sister' lost her life savings of over $7,000 to a conman, and now she is almost 30, with very few years left In this business, and with a curvaceous figure which would bar her from taking any normal job.

"There will also be trouble with honest boyfriends. Some boys do fall in love with transvestites and treat them as girls, but many transvestites are so insecure and possessive that they make jealous wives seem mild in comparison.

"Sometimes the boys just give up because of the constant naggings they get. In other cases social disapproval and family quarrels force the boy to give up his transvestite girlfriend, leaving her heartbroken.

"Of course there are some transvestites who have established fairly long lasting relationships with their boyfriends for four or five years. But in their cases, they are still pretty.

"I have not known any of the old transvestites to have boyfriends.

"In yet other cases we meet very nice boys, very independent, who do not care what society thinks and they date us, and treat us well, and we enjoy ourselves tremendously when we go dancing, water skiing and shopping with them.

"But such boys are always terrible flirts, and even real girls cannot tie them down. We know that they visit us merely for a thrill, and for a bit of spicy variation.

"So we enjoy them when we can, but dare not let ourselves fall in love with them because they have reputations as heartbreakers.

"Many of us hope to change sex, but still we have this fear that we will not be accepted by society.

"Besides, most of us have no skills to hold down a woman's job, like being a secretary, though two of those who changed sex recently .are doing well as fashion models.

"For the rest, we live from day to day, organising frantic parantic parties, going shopping, sightseeing and to the cinema, trying to push the thought of growing old to the back of our minds.

In our way of life we are over the hill once we pass 30, and every morning we look into our mirrors, trying to ignore the increasing wrinkles, and wondering what tomorrow will bring."

Tomorrow: Case studies and Christian views First of a four-part series

NEW NATION, Tuesday, July 25, 1972[]









Homosexuals are misunderstood by society. Many of them also misunderstand their own physical and mental make-up.

Influenced by Christian (Old Testament) and by the censure of people around them, condemnation of homosexuality, or sodomy, quite a few also believe themselves to be abnormal, and are plagued by shame of their different sexual preferences (which they often cannot help).

Often described as "sick people," abnormal, unnatural. many tend to believe the things said about them, and have a sense of guilt about their condition. But many others have not been affected by this at all.

Many of the gay people we found are well adjusted individuals, not "mentally sick" by any definition.

They are not unlike heterosexual people in many ways. They do not think there is anything wrong with them.

"We are just different," said one.

None of the male homosexual (apart from transvestites) interviewed had experienced physical violence because of their tendencies.

Some said they had heard of other males who had been beaten up, or blackmailed. Those who were suspected by colleagues or friends were often teased, and sometimes ridiculed.

Everyone of them keeps his homosexual tendencies a close secret.

In fact, it was only after much persuasion, and in some cases after many meetings, did they admit that they were gay.


A few who phoned us in the office were quite forthcoming because their anonymity was assured. A few complained of being fleeced of their money by men.

One of them, a 31-year-old professional who loves music and the fine arts, says he has often found men mercenary.

He believes his homosexual tendencies are congenital.

"I refused to be called abnormal, just different," he said.

"A man must lead his own life it is completely up to him. Nobody should interfere as long as he does his work and is not indiscreet.

"I don't think anybody has the right to point a censuring finger.

A 23-year-old decorator who is effeminate said friends and colleagues teased him, sometimes cruelly.

"Some say I should see a psychiatrist, that I am mentally sick. I often feel people are looking down on me." he added.

"I sometimes feel there is no place for me in this society. I wish 1 could go away from them."

A's emotional responses are very much like those of a girl's. Sometimes going out in female attire, he said he would like to be a girl if he had a choice.

One of those I spoke to at a gay rendezvous was B, a 31-year-old company executive. married five years but childless.

At the age of 11, he experienced his first homosexual act with a cousin six years older. He was living with the cousin and his family, and shared a double-bed with him.

The cousin taught him to masturbate and other matters of sex gleaned from books. Then they began to masturbate for each other as "we found it more fun than auto manipulation."

A year later he returned to his own family. That ended his homosexual relationship with his cousin.

He said: "At that time, in fact until recently, I did not think there was anything homosexual, or unusual about what we did. I was too young to find sex with a woman.

"What we did for each other was a substitute for sex with a woman.

"Besides, as I discovered a few years later, it was not unusual for adolescent boys to Indulge in this type of acts with one another, but were normal later as adults.

"I did not relate my earlier sex play with my cousin with homosexuality at all. It was only after reading and hearing something about homosexuality as an adult that I realised I had participated in homosexual acts."

He led normal heterosexual life, and was quite successful with women. In fact, friends called him a rogue with women.

Then at 28 he married. One day, late last year, he met a handsome boy of about 15 while drinking at a hotel bar in town. He found himself being irresistibly drawn to him.


"He was so gentle and fair," he said. "I felt this protective urge in me. He was like a younger brother I loved very much."

He sought the boy's company more and more, picked him up from school to bring him out for lunch.

They went swimming together, to the cinema. Sometimes he hugged him.

Then one evening, while bidding him goodnight outside the boy's home, he kissed him in the car.

"I felt this strong urge to kiss him. He was like a baby to me, almost like a girl. I kissed him on the lips. I was shocked at myself.

"I drove home, bewildered, and revolted at myself,, and lived in misery for the next few weeks.

"I was tormented for days. Was I a homosexual? Was something wrong with me? Maybe, I had been one all along without realising it.

"Would I lose Interest in women, in my wife? These doubts raged in me."

He stayed away from the boy for weeks after that, scared that his "strange" interest in the boy might lead him into a homosexual life. Then, unable to resist the great urge to see the boy again, he sought him out.

"I kissed the boy again and we went further. We had intercourse. I liked it. I knew then I was a homosexual. I was frightened and very disturbed. How did I become one?

For the next few weeks, he continued to live with these anxieties and doubts. He found his desire for his wife waning.

He continued to have sexual relations with his wife, but preferred the boy.


There have been boys since, but he continues his bisexual life without the knowledge of his wife.

He keeps his homosexual activities a closely guarded secret, fearing discovery and what it could do to his marriage, his reputation, and his family.

He said: "I wish I were normal. It is terrible to have to behave so furtively, to hide this part of my life."

C is a 22-year-old dress designer, slightly effeminate in appearance, handsome and flamboyant in dress.

C does not think he is abnormal or there is anything wrong with his homosexual tendencies.

"I think I was born like this. I can't help it. I feel funny and repulsed when girls touch me." he said.

He had his first sexual experience at the age of 14. His school principal invited him to his office. There the principal hugged him. He did not protest.

He said. "I did not really feel anything. I did not really mind it, but I was shocked."

The principal stripped and stood bare before C for some minutes, and masturbated. The experience ended there.

Not long after, while still In school, he was seduced by a middle-age man.

"We met at a bus-stop near his house. He invited me to his place and I went. He made love to me. It was nice."

This went on for two or three years. Then the middle-age man moved house without telling him. For the next year or so then about 17 years old, I did not have a male companion.

"I really did not mind it, because I don't need sex that much," he said.

Then one day he was picked up by another man while waiting at a cinema lobby for the next show.

"A man approached me and asked me whether I was going for the show and was alone. I said yes, and he suggested we should sit together.

"In the theatre he caressed me. I knew he was homosexual. We had an affair after that."

From this man, he was Introduced to others. Eventually he got on the gay bars circuit.

D is a highly-paid blue-collar worker, now in his early twenties. His friends agree that he is trustworthy and reliable, but all say that he lacks social grace, and tends to be very much a rough diamond.

Stocky and muscular he seems the personification of aggressive masculinity. He has never been known to back down from a fight. But in the presence of girls he is shy and reticent, talking in monosyllables.

But in male company he speaks freely, using colourful idioms to express himself. He has had affairs with two girls. Each time they complained that he was too rough and rude. He said: "It is not that I dislike girls, but I do not know how to converse, how to dance and how to behave in high class nightclubs and restaurants.

"Girls complain that I am crude, but no one has taught me otherwise, and anyway, it is in my nature to be tough. I find that effeminate boys do not worry about my roughness, and even admire my toughness.


"As a result I have made friends and enjoyed sex with a number of effeminate boys."

E is another blue-collar worker who roams the streets at night after work. He will not say much about his family life, but will talk for hours about girls and transvestites.

'Many girls and boys have swooned over his good looks and dashing manners. But his heterosexual love affairs never last long. Girls have complained that he thinks too much of himself.

His friends also tease him for paying too much attention to his appearance. He usually dresses stylishly, and walks with a distinct swagger, flexing his muscles for all to admire.

E said: "I I can hit it off with girls I won't be bothered with these queers, but I don't have a steady girlfriend and these queers offer themselves to me all the time.

"I don't enjoy going to female prostitutes because such girls are usually cold, while the transvestites are very passionate.

"Anyway, they feel exactly like girls."

E, who is in his early twenties, has a reputation among friends as a happy-go-lucky man.

To any casual observer he looks like any extrovert. He is cheerful, and does not care who sees him with his transvestite girlfriends.

But very close friends tend to treat E with a degree of caution. He has a violent temper and has been known to have inflicted serious injury on people who insulted him.

He has been a patient at Woodbridge hospital.

F is, it anything, more of an extrovert than E. Well educated, from a fairly rich family, he has a streak of fierce independence and tends to drift away from his family.

He is a young man out for a good time, and is willing to try most things for thrills.

Generous by nature, he is popular with girls, and dates them. But girls have to be home at a reasonable hour, and girls also have to be treated with a fair measure of decorum.

F at times believes prowling around till dawn, and in being uninhibited. So, after sending his girlfriends home around midnight, he continues the evening's fun with transvestites. He has a regular transvestite girlfriend.

G is a professional in his late forties, married to a teacher. His wife knows of his gay life. He "confessed" shortly after their marriage when he had difficulty making love to her.


He had a long history of homosexuality, but combined it with heterosexual contacts. But, after his marriage, he found it, increasingly difficult to have sexual relations with his wife.

After the wife had got over the initial shock of his confession, they had a frank discussion.

They decided that he should be allowed to have love play with a man before having sex with her.

It was a bizarre arrangement which placed a great strain on both husband and wife. Gradually, it became an acceptable and natural thing for them, and their married life actually improved.

Gradually, too, he was able at times to be sexually stimulated without the aid of a man.

An odd happening ...

He now does not depend on men in his relations with his wife, but continues his homosexual affairs.

G says his wife accepts things as they are, and his marriage in all other respects appear no different from others.

H is an executive with the local branch of an international firm. He is also fairly well known in local sporting circles, having won awards in major sporting events.

Among his friends he has a reputation for being a little eccentric. One of his eccentricities is that he often escorts a transvestite to dances and to shows H explained his reason for doing so. He said: "To say that my parents do not get on well would be the ultimate understatement. Yet they persist in staying together for the sake of 'keeping up appearances'.

"I would have moved out long ago but my mother asked me to stay home.

"Anyway, living in a 'war zone' can be pretty taxing on the nerves, so I started roaming the streets when I was a teenager. Today, 10 years later, I am still roaming the streets.

"I have come to enjoy this independent existence, and now I can say that I roam by choice, not because I am forced to.

"I had several fleeting relations with girls, and one rather more lasting one, but each time the relationship did not last, partly because I suppose the girls considered me too wild, and partly because I myself was not happy with some of the girls.

"I think I am ultra critical when it comes to choosing a life partner I do not want to make the same mistake my parents made.

"In the course of my nocturnal wanderings I met many transvestites, and I just treated them as girls. Some I liked, some I disliked.

"In the end I settled into a fairly long lasting relationship with one of them. I call him my girlfriend, and refer to him as her.

"I think that I started this relationship partly because I was lonely. Sure, I have lots of fun, but there are nights when all my friends are tied up with plans of their own.

"I then go to her flat and spend the evening there, listening to her talk, her problems or sometimes sharing jokes.

"I feel very sorry for her and in some ways treat her as a pet. She has had hormone treatment and really looks like a girl, and would find it impossible to live the life of a man.

"She is bullied whenever her disguise is penetrated.

"On the other hand I have a fairly bright future and a fairly good career, and nobody has dared to bully me physically.


"But sometimes I feel the normal frustrations which every working man feels. At other times tension at home becomes unbearable.

"Then I am grateful for her company. She makes me feel welcome to stay at her home, and treats me as an honoured guest.

"Every man likes to have his ego boosted and I am no exception.

"In return I try to be nice to her, to take her out to enjoy the things she likes, to dances, shows and cinemas.

"I know that some of my friends consider me a little odd, but most of them are very, understanding about it, and, anyway, I myself see nothing wrong with our relationship.

"I keep up this relationship because it is very free one, I am not bound by any ties, and can walk out anytime I want to. For that matter, so can she.

"She is happy with my company, but has told me that she expects me to leave her one day, and for the time being she just enjoys life from day to day.

"I myself do not know where the future will lead. I enjoy the company of girls very much, and spend a lot of time with them, and she does not mind.

"But girls have to be home by a reasonable hour, and I am an all-night roamer, so she and I spend a lot of time together, usually after midnight, when I have sent my female date home.

"I really don't know what I shall do in future. If I meet the right girl, I will settle down in marriage, if not I may just keep flitting from girl to girl, enjoying her company in between."

I is a clerk, aged 20. He is single and lists his hobbies very normal as movies, music outings friends and games.

He says he has difficulties finding a partner because he does not belong to a gay group nor does he attend gay parties.

Although he fears detection of his homosexual tendencies he has so far had no problems with friends, family or the police.

Local transvestites


He has quite decided views on homosexuality. He said: "Homosexuals like myself are "born this way. We did not ask for it. People like myself are really frustrated and miserable so we should be given our fair share of sexual enjoyment, in the privacy of our home."

He feels that the Singaporean's view of sex is quite conservative.

J is an executive, aged 28, and single. His interests are varied, ranging from night clubbing and parties to sports and reading.

A graduate from one of the higher institutions of learning, he is uninhibited and says he has no hangups about being bisexual.

He does not fear detection but prefers his bisexual inclinations to remain a secret. However, his first sexual experience was with a girl a classmate when he was 18. Now he has sex regularly with both males and females.

This usually happens at private parties and he experiences no inhibitions or guilt.

If ho marries, he will marry a girl who understands and accepts him for what he is.

The religious views[]

All the major religions here with the exception of the Buddhist faith roundly condemn homosexual practices.

Islam comes out very strongly against homo -sexuality. It says people who practise homosexuality are damned forever.

Passages in the Koran tell the story of Sodom and Gommorrah, and the destruction of the cities and their citizens by fire and brimstone as punishment for the perverted behaviour within their walls.

Hindu teachings also specifically condemn homosexual practices, which are considered disgraceful and distasteful.

Fifty to 100 years ago, homosexual Hindus were excommunicated. Today they are less harshly treated but are still regarded with contempt.

Buddhism can perhaps be said to be most tolerant of homosexuality.

There is nothing about homosexuality in the Buddhist scriptures. However, one of the five moral precepts says that Buddhists are to abstain from misconduct.

Although homosexuality is not specifically mentioned as a misconduct, one of the Buddhist leaders said: "Homosexual practices can be regarded as coming within the scope of misconduct."

The Christian faith previously spoke out most strongly against homosexual practices, but there is now a change in its approach to the problem.

According to a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church, there is growing sympathy and understanding.

Some Catholic churches outside Singapore have approved of marriage between homosexual Catholics.

In some Catholic countries legislation has been passed permitting homosexual relations between consenting adults.

Though the Catholic church does not approve of the law, it does not condemn it strongly either. This is because, even within the church, the clergy are not of one mind and differ in their approach to the problem.

The spokesman here said: "Previously homosexuality was seen as some thing completely unnatural and the Christian attitude and way of dealing with it was very severe."

In the Bible it was spoken of as a cult, a deliberate perversion.

Since then the church's approach has become far more sympathetic and understanding. mainly, as a result of the realisation that some people just can not help their homosexual tendencies.

But in Singapore the subject has not emerged as a specific topic of discussion because it is not thought of as an urgent problem.

The Catholic clergy here still tends towards a conservative viewpoint on homosexuality.

The Protestant churches here have a similar view on the subject.

They too have felt the winds of change sweeping the West and are aware that some Protestant churches in America view the homosexual movement there with sympathy.

But they certainly would not welcome the gay movement in Singapore. They also feel that what is happening in the West is quite remote.

Rev. Yeow Choo Lak of Trinity College said that, as far as he knew, neither the college nor the churches here had discussed the problem in public.

This was because they felt that it had not become an important social problem.

There might have been a few pastors whose help had been sought by homosexuals.

But they had not considered it serious enough to refer to Trinity College for debate and direction, Rev. Yeow added.

Rev. Yeow said that church leaders would always regard homosexuality as unnatural, and it would be a long time before the subject could be mentioned publicly without some people being offended.

Second of a four-part series.

Tomorrow: Homosexuality and the law

NEW NATION, Wednesday, July 26, 1972[]

Page 9

This 4-month probe revealed some startling facts about homosexuality in Singapore. It also showed that sociologists, social workers, psychiatrists, the clergy and the police, with a few exceptions, knew little about the subject.


The law in Singapore comes down heavily on persons caught engaging in homosexual acts.

According to section 377 of the Penal Code, "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine."

This is the law we Inherited as part of the Indian Penal Code more than a 100 years ago. And it has remained unchanged.

In Britain, however, and in many other Western countries including Catholic countries like Spain the law in recent years has been changed to permit homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.

However, though the law here deals so severely with homosexuals, In fact there have been only 14 cases of homosexuals brought to trial In the last 10 years.

Last year no homosexuals were charged in court. In 1970 there were three, and the year before that only one.

And these are not consenting adults charged with homosexual offences, but cases of minors being seduced by homosexual adults, which few, however sympathetic to homosexuals, would condone.

But why have there been so few cases of people brought to book for homosexual offences?

According to Mr. E. O. Thompson, Superintendent Administration and Specialist Division, CID, homosexual acts are performed in the privacy of homes or hotel rooms.

It is difficult to detect and harder to catch offenders in the act.

He said: "The law is such that you have to get evidence that both were performing the act. And you get the evidence either from the aggrieved party who makes the report or from the evidence of a witness."

Because most homosexual acts are carried out by consenting adults, there is no question of an aggrieved party making a report.

And, as the participants ensure that these acts take place in the privacy of their homes or hotel rooms, there are hardly likely to be witnesses around.

In any case, even when a witness makes a report the police only act when they "have very good evidence that such an act happened."

Another reason why so few offenders are caught is that the police here unlike some other countries do not use agents provocateur to lure and trap offenders.

Mr. Thompson said: "The agent provocateur provokes the offence. This is frowned upon by our courts and rightly so."


Therefore, unless a policeman happens to be propositioned by a homosexual, he does not on his own volition seek out such people.

And, because few homosexuals are caught and brought to trial, homosexuality is little in the news here and is hardly talked about.

So when New Nation tried to find out about homosexuality in Singapore, hardly anyone in authority could talk knowledgeably on the subject.

Sociologists, social workers, psychiatrists, the clergy and the police, with a few exceptions, all admitted knowing little about the subject.

The general consensus is that it is not a social problem here.

Neither the Sociology Department nor the Social Studies Department of the University of Singapore has made or intends to make any in-depth study of the subject.

However, the inquiries we made indicate that there is an unobtrusive homosexual sub-culture.

This is not to be confused with transvestism a different category of sexual deviation quite apparent In certain areas like Bugis Street.

The transvestites, because most of them are "male prostitutes," are a social problem. And because there is so little attempt on their part to cover up their feminine characteristics and way-of-life, we do know much about their habits and problems.

What we know little about are the latent or even, the overt homosexuals here. The fact that there are about 300 transvestites in Singapore indicates that there are a sizeable number of overt homosexuals who patronise them.

They hang around on the fringe of the transvestite world. The more daring among them go on dates with their transvestite "girlfriends" to the cinemas or nightclubs.

There is also a male homosexual sub-community who congregate and make contact In certain bars and at gay parties in private homes.

There are no transvestites at these gay bars. So any heterosexual male wandering in may not notice anything strange unless he gets propositioned.

Very likely, however, the people who frequent gay bars are only a very small minority of those who possess homosexual tendencies.

Some homosexuals we met were either unaware of the existence of gay bars and gay gatherings, or do not dare go to them.

They are frustrated and repress their desires because they fear that indulgence in homosexual activities would jeopardise their jobs or embarrass their families. So they go through life as lonely, confused individuals. There are also the homosexuals who give free play to their tendencies but do not attach themselves to any gay group because they already have a regular "partner."

They may or may not live with the partner, but it is often a relationship with strong emotional ties.

Most people tend to shrug off homosexuality as being neither widespread here nor a matter for concern.


We only get a hint of what goes on the problems homosexuals face-when one of them becomes desperate enough to seek help. Then he becomes one of the rare cases for the psychiatrist or the social counsellor.

A doctor who has had some experience in dealing with student problems said he has come across cases of homosexuals in institutions of higher learning here.

Such cases usually surface during a new term when a new student may be inducted into homosexual practices by an older student. These cases, however, are rare.

One case the doctor remembers well because the student tried to commit suicide.

He had quarrelled with his partner and the quarrel had so upset and depressed him that he tried to take his own life. The student later dis-closed that he was also mentally plagued by the life he was leading. He was subsequently referred to a psychiatrist.

The homosexuals meet in bars which the heterosexual males also frequent without knowing that they are in the midst of a secretive sub-community. Somehow the homosexuals unerringly spot their kind and strike up what they call sincere friendships.

The doctors had no information on his partner they only knew that he was not a fellow student. He was someone from outside whom the student had been living with.

One of the leading psychiatrists here has treated a few homosexual cases. These are the people who were unable to cope with their sexual deviation and decided to seek psychiatric help.

From them, the psychiatrist said, he has been able to learn something of the homosexual sub-culture here.

However, his experiences appear to be confined to the overt homosexual. Those he has encountered, though they may be quite high up the social strata, would hang around the gay haunts and make pick-ups at car-parks and bars.

He said: "Although these people feel that they are not accepted by society, they seem to accept the social order. Most of them seem to operate quite adequately even though there are some social restrictions."

But what has come to light on the psychiatrist's couch in Singapore appears to be only the tip of the iceberg.

New Nation's excursions into the shadowy world of gay bars and parties revealed that there are a lot of homosexuals who do not intend to seek help, or feel that they need help.

Some of these are apparently quite happy and well-adjusted people, secure in their jobs.

They know that society would snigger and frown on them, but are confident that they can live as homosexuals without fear that their secret would be uncovered.


The doctor said that she has come across such people.

Others are not so well adjusted and live in constant fear that their homosexual practices may be found out.

However, it is believed that the majority of homosexuals here are insecure, lonely individuals who feel alienated and outcast in this heterosexual society.

These people generally have no contact with others of their kind and do not dare to reveal their inclinations.

Most of these people would not seek help simply because they believe that nothing can be done for them.

It is true, doctors say, that not all homosexual cases are treatable. Those who feel that they are born homosexual, or those who don't want to give up being gay, are very difficult to treat.

In any case, homosexuals who think this way would hardly be likely to seek treatment.

The overt homosexual who indulges in excessive homosexual practices would be also very hard to treat.

It is only those who are normally heterosexual, who have a relationship with the opposite sex, who would respond to treatment.

Others who would also more readily respond to treatment are those who are unhappy about their way of life and seek psychiatric help.

So, who else can homosexuals here turn to when they want to reach out and discuss their problems and dispel their anxieties?

Few of them bring their problems to the church. This is partly because such a small proportion of the population are Christian, and probably also because the church here has always been known to come down severely on homosexual practices.

But the attitude of the church has changed. It does not condone homosexuality, but it has come to take a more sympathetic view.

Some homosexuals have gone to the Churches Counselling Centre for help.

The general view that homosexuality here is not much of a social problem appears to be true, but this does not mean that homosexuals do not have their private hell, victims of hang-ups, frustrations and fears.

They have not asserted themselves, as they are doing in America for instance, demanding that they be recognised and not condemned by society and persecuted by the law.

This may be because some homosexuals here succeed happily or unhappily in curbing their urges, while others are able to give rein to them discreetly and in utmost secrecy.

Another reason is that as people here do not believe that homosexuality is a problem, two men who are bosom pals or who stay together are not generally suspected of being homosexuals.

So male homosexuals and, in particular, lesbians who are even less suspect can live together and carry on a homosexual relationship without being talked about or asked to move house by landlords instigated by disapproving neighbours.

But the most cogent reason is that though the law is harsh towards homosexuals and unlikely to be unchanged in the foreseeable future homosexuals here are not hounded and hunted down.

The transvestites, however, tell a different story. They have given free rein to their feminine urges and make no attempt whatsoever to conceal their female tendencies nor their activities.

This makes them vulnerable to public censure. They are the butt of scorn and jokes. Many unfeeling young hooligans do not hesitate to ridicule them right in their faces.

They are hounded and ostracised by people in the neighbourhood where they live.

People just do not like to have them as neighbours, so they write in to complain.

Although most of the complaints on investigation are found to be groundless and malicious, the transvestites are still asked to move.

Many of them, because of their low level of education and the ridicule of society, turn to prostitution.


The police are especially concerned about them because they are constantly breaking the law by soliciting. Some of them even operate in first-class hotels in Orchard Road.

The police are aware of this and are keeping a close watch. If they get sufficient evidence that the hotel management and the transvestites are working hand in glove, the hotel could be charged with managing a place of assignation under the Women's Charter.

The male homosexual and the transvestite caught having homosexual relations would both be charged. The male homosexual would be charged under section 377 of the Penal Code.

The transvestite would also be charged under section 377 as well as under section 109 of the Penal Code.

Though the transvestites are more obviously a social problem, the psychiatrists say their problems are more easily solved than those of the overt homosexual.

Practically all the 300 known transvestites are believed to be waiting to undergo sex-change operations, After the operation, with help from psychiatrists. they hope to lead a normal life as women.

Their rehabilitation would be greatly helped if people were prepared to accept them as people and not as freaks or deviates and show sympathy and understanding instead of scorn and ridicule.

Comforting those in desperate need.[]

The Churches Counselling Centre and the Samaritans of Singapore service probably have more experience in helping homosexuals here than anyone else with the exception of a few psychiatrists.

But their experience Is limited to several cases mainly male homosexuals plus a few lesbians.

Some homosexuals have approached the Churches Counselling Centre direct but more usually they ring up the SOS service.

The counselors at the SOS will talk things over with distressed callers and invite them to the office for further discussion of their problems.

After they have been to the SOS office they may be referred to the service's own counseller or to the Churches Counselling Centre.

A spokesman for the Churches Counselling Centre, an inter-denominational organisation, said that most of the homosexuals they encountered were latent male homosexuals whose main problem was relating to members of the opposite sex.

According to him, these homosexuals are overawed by women. Women frighten them because they feel Inadequate and uncomfortable In their presence. They do not know how to act or behave and so fail totally in forging warm and close relations with any woman.

On the other hand, the latent homosexual does not have any compensating relationship with a man either.

This inability to relate to anybody man or woman is extremely bewildering and frightening.


We do not know how many latent homosexuals there are In Singapore, much less how many suffer such agonising trauma. What we know is that a few, desperate for help, have gone to the Counselling Centre.

The overt homosexual Is not without his problems either though they are probably less painful and terrifying than the latent homosexual's.

Still, the Counselling Centre has encountered a few of them.

Though the practising homosexual can relate with his own sex, he feels that society has let him down. He feels that people do not approve of him and he is constantly living in the shadows, afraid of detection.

Among the encounters the Counselling Centre has had with practising homosexuals is the fairly typical problem of the homosexual and his partner breaking up.

This normally happens after a quarrel and for any of the reasons which cause heterosexual relationships to split.

A spokesman for the Counselling Centre said: "The homosexual I talked to was frantic because his partner was moving to another city. He was, emotionally, completely dependent on the partner."

These relationships are often closer than that between a man and a woman because homosexuals tend to feel that society is hostile to them so they cling to one another for security.

The Counselling Centre has also observed that lesbians here from the few who have approached it for help are not so emotionally dependent on their partners as the males.

This is probably because lesbians can live together with no suspicion whatsoever of their sexual inclinations.

And, without the pressure or censure of society, there is less need to cling together.

So far the majority of those who have appealed to the Counselling Centre for help have been the English-educated, ranging from the lower-middle to the upper-middle class.

This does not mean that most of the homosexuals in Singapore fall into this category. What is probable is that the image of the Counselling Centre, its association with the church, "attracts" a particular section of the population.

However, its approach to the problem is radically different from that of pastors and priests.

It does not believe in "reforming" the homosexual or making him give up his homosexual practices.


Neither does it believe in just playing Freud and holding sessions to delve Into the homosexual's past and uncovering whatever deep emotional traumas afflicted him.

The spokesman said: I would spend many sessions with a latent homosexual, helping to restore his trust in people, starting with myself.

"I would be willing to talk with him on any of his thoughts or fantasies, and would be able to accept whatever he says without laughing, criticising or judging.

"Then I would help him to decide on ways in which he could improve his relations with people. I would make him face up to what he Is but I would never set the goals for him.

"What I would do is sit with him and examine the various choices open to him and what would happen to him if he accepted one of the various options.

"But I would never make decision for him. It is entirely up to him. I believe in making people more responsible for their own lives."

The Counselling Centre feels that this is one of the most difficult problems it is called upon to solve.

Although there are various theories on what makes a person homosexual, the spokesman said that in Singapore environmental factors play an important part.

It is not uncommon for families here to dress up and treat a girl as a boy and vice versa. One case the spokesman knows of personally concerns an Indian family who had twin boys.

This was considered bad luck so one of the boys was brought up as a girl until adolescence.

He is now a teenager and the spokesman is convinced that he will encounter problems of sexual identity and relationships.

Once a person has grown up under such environmental conditions it is unfortunately very difficult for the Counselling Centre or the psychiatrists to sort him or her out.

Third of a four-part series

Tomorrow: Homosexuality from the Greeks to modern man

NEW NATION, Thursday, July 27, 1972[]

Page 8


New Nation special report by Yeo Toon Joo, Betty L. Khoo and Lee Chiu San

Homosexuality is as old as ancient Greece[]

The homosexual has been a significant part of human sexual activity ever since the dawn of history, primarily because it is an expression of capacities that are basic in the human animal." — Albert C. Kinsey on Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male.

People have been castrated or burnt at the stake because of homosexuality, yet one of the greatest civilisations revelled in it.

To the Greeks it was very much a part of their life of refinement. To the Christian and Jewish churches It Is abnormal and immoral. But homosexuality is not unique behaviour. Above all, it is not new.

Neither is it confined to a small minority — more people than we realise are homosexuals, or have practised homosexual acts at some time or other in their lives.

People with homosexual histories are to be found in every age group, on every social level, in every conceivable occupation in cities and on farms, and in the most remote areas in the country.

Homosexual men are not necessarily effeminate, nor are effeminate men necessarily homosexual.

According to American behavioural scientist Kinsey, up to 50 per cent of American males are homosexual or are responsive to erotic stimuli from another male. A similarly high proportion of women are also prone.

Only 50 per cent of American males are exclusively heterosexual throughout adult life. Only four per cent are exclusively homosexual throughout their lives.

Nearly half, or 46 per cent, of the population engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities, or react to people of both sexes.

This percentage can be generally applied.

It is easier to understand homosexuality if we relate the responses between two men or two women in a homosexual relationship to those between a man and a woman in a heterosexual relationship.

The feelings between partners in a homosexual relationship are usually identical to those a man has for a woman, a woman for a man.

They experience the same loves, emotion, jealousies and affections that one sex feels for the other in a heterosexual relationship. Just as exclusively heterosexual males are unable to respond to another male, an exclusively homosexual male is unable to respond to a female.

Homosexuality is perhaps one of the least known subjects in the world despite the fact that it is one of the most pervasive phenomena in human life.

Discussion on this subject, particularly in Singapore, has been very limited. One homosexual we spoke to thinks Singapore society's attitude towards the subject is Victorian.

Only in recent years has homosexuality become a topic for public discussion in the West.

There are many theories on how a person becomes a homosexual, some way off the mark.

One theory is that it is congenital. But it is congenital, it seems. only to the extent that most people have the capacity for homosexual responses.

Psychologists blame it on family environment, a boy or a girl becoming homosexual because of a weak father or weak mother, or a strong mother or father image.

Some attribute it to parental upbringing — parents who bring up a boy as a girl because they wanted a daughter, or vice versa.

Although this may be true, it is not the main underlying cause for differences in sexual development.

Another, most prevalent, theory is that a person becomes homosexual through orientation. This appears to be largely true.

Many people have had their latent homosexuality brought out through pleasurable experiments homosexual acts.

One man discovered his homosexual inclinations only at the age of 50, after bringing up a family and having grandchildren.

After his first experience with a man, he became an exclusive homosexual. He left his wife and has not had sex with another woman since.

Quite often, boys and girls experiment with homosexual acts during adolescence.

People who are segregated with their own sexes — as in a boy's or a girls' hostel, army camp, monastery, prison, or on a ship tend to indulge in mutual sexual stimulation, including copulation.

Many come out of this tendency when they return to mixed-sex company. Many others continue both homosexual and heterosexual contacts. A great number confine themselves to homosexual activities.

But one theory, which behavioural scientists and others who have studied the subject in depth quickly dismiss, is that homosexuality is a mental illness which must be cured.

Homosexuals are more maladjusted than other people. There are as many neurotic and psychotic homosexuals as there are neurotic and psychotic "straight" people.

Attempts by psychiatrists or psychologists to "cure" them often result in a worsening of their mental health — they become more confused, and often end up unable to enjoy their homosexual lives and unable, also, to enjoy heterosexual contacts.

Modern misunderstanding of the subject has often consigned homosexuality to the psychiatrist's couch, where it does not really belong.

The Greeks were among the earliest known homosexual lovers. One of the world's greatest civilisations, it was also one of the world's most indulgent in homosexuality.

Poems were written by Grecian men to their boy lovers. The Greek philosophers Aristotle. Socrates and Plato had their youthful male lovers.

It was customary for young boys to be sent to masters like them as disciples and students.

The favourites were also their lovers. These boys, on "graduation," would in turn have their own retinue of boys.

There is no indication that their heterosexual responses suffered as a result. In fact, their heterosexual and homosexual pursuits co-existed side by side.

There was none of the hang-ups about homosexuality in Greek civilisation like the giant ones that exist today.

The Romans, great imitators of the Greeks, were also homosexual lovers. But, unlike the Greeks, theirs was of a debauched kind— just like their other social pursuits, which all seemed to be of a bacchanalian nature.

The Chinese, Japanese and Arabs also indulged. Some Chinese, courts of old, it is said, held many boys as concubines.

If degree of civilisation had any co-relation to homosexuality, then it would seem that homosexuality could be a mark of advanced civilisation!

Persecution of homosexuals begun with the advent of Christianity. There are no records of statutes such acts, nor records of the persecution of homosexuals, until then.

Christianity, with its ultra conservatism towards sex (which decreed that only sex between husband and wife was legitimate, and then only for procreative purposes), preached the sinfulness of homosexuality.

Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, set off the first of the known legislation against homosexual love.

Penalties since then have included castration, torture and burning at the stake.

As with all living things, there is no black or white about homosexuality — only gradations between the two. Kinsey has devised a heterosexual - homosexual rating scale of zero to six, zero for exclusive heterosexuals and six for exclusive homosexuals.

people combine, within their Individual histories, both homosexual and heterosexual experiences and/ or psychic responses.

According to Kinsey's heterosexual - homosexual scale:

ZERO: No contacts which result In erotic arousal or orgasm and no psychic responses to individuals of their own sex. Their socio-sexual contacts and responses are exclusively within individuals of the opposite sex.

ONE: Individuals are rated "one" if they have only incidental homosexual contacts which have involved physical or psychic responses or incidental psychic responses without physical contact. The great preponderance of their socio-sexual experience and reactions is directed towards individuals of the opposite sex. Such homosexual experiences as these individuals may have occur only once or twice, or at least infrequently :n comparison to the amount of their heterosexual experiences, and may be out of curiosity or forced upon them.

TWO: If they have more than incidental homosexual experience and/or if they respond rather definitely to homosexual stimuli. Heterosexual experience and/or reactions still surpass their homosexual experiences and/or reactions.

FOUR: They have more overt activity and/or psychic reactions in the homosexual while maintaining a fair amount of heterosexual activity and/or responding rather definitely to heterosexual stimuli.

FIVE: Almost entirely homosexual in their overt activities and/or reaction. They do have incidental experiences with the opposite sex and sometimes react psychically to individuals of the opposite sex.

SIX: They are exclusively homosexual, both in regard to their overt experience and in regard to their psychic reactions.

By this measure, it would be found that most people rate above zero—that is, most people have at some time or other had some homosexual contact.

From left to right: Our writer, Betty L. Khoo with Sandra, Benise and Jacqui.


A transvestite with an admirer.

Four local transvestites are planning to go into show business in a big way. After more than a year's training, they expect to leave soon for a month's engagement with a Teheran nightclub.

And they will be leaving behind them all the frustrations and humiliation of being "different" and ostracised.

Shapely Denise (we are not using their real names here), 25 is the leader and spokesman for the troupe.

Denise said in their East Coast flat: "We are so anxious to make our debut in showbiz because we see this as our big chance to make a new life for ourselves.

"We want the chance to go away and make a better living as nightclub performers. What kind of life can we have here? There is no future."

So Denise and "her" friends decided to make full use of their natural talent for dancing and singing, and launch into showbiz.

"We had no formal training in ballet or modern dancing," Denise explained. "We just picked it up from watching TV and the cinema. And, adapting here and there, we made up our own routines."

When they happened to meet a show promoter in Bugis Street they had already put a show together.


He saw their talent and potential and readily agreed to promote them. Their photographs were sent to nightclubs in the Middle East and Europe.

Positive response was received from the Bacara nightclub in Teheran and also a nightclub in Amsterdam.

The transvestites have accepted, a one-month stint at Teheran. They will be paid US$125 a day for the group. From this they will have to pay for their own board and lodging.

"We made careful calculations," Denise said, "and after deducting expenses we'll be left with US$15 a day for each girl, which is not bad."

They rehearsed hard for the show until complaints by neighbours forced them to suspend rehearsals two months ago.

However, they have worked so long and so hard to put the show together, they are ready to go on.

They have prepared two programmes of 45 minutes each for their debut. There are some solo strip numbers, but most of the numbers are group acts.

Because they are bringing a Singaporean show to the Middle East and possibly Europe, they have also choreographed what must be the first topless Malay Candle Dance.

The "girls" also designed their own costumes and chose their own musical score. "We spent," Denise said, "more than $1,000 collectively on the costumes."

But to acquire that extra spit and polish, they also spent $1,200 for the services of Australian choreographer Mr. Colin Griffiths.

Some of the numbers, however, were choreographed by Denise and Jacqui themselves.

Everything is ready except for a major hitch. Denise and Jacqui have not obtained their passports yet.

Denise said: "I'm so worried. I, for one, have made so many applications. My parents have been to see the immigration authorities, but so far I have still not got my passport."


This is their second attempt at making a new life by getting into show business. They tried to launch a similar show last year, but they failed because they could not get passports.

"We hope." Denise said, echoing the hopes and aspirations of her friends, "nothing goes wrong this time. We have spent so much money and effort putting everything together."

If their new career does not get off the ground, the "girls" will have to stay on in Bugis Street.

Their many secret experiences will stagger the imagination[]

Many of the "sisters" of Bugis Street can recall experiences which would stagger even the imagination of writers of perverted sex novels.

M is a transvestite, and has a beautifully developed, feminine figure, a real tribute to the plastic surgeon's art.

He has the face of a Chinese film star, and a bosom which makes many Chinese girls envious.

He always dresses in female clothing, yet surprisingly he guards his masculinity jealously. He does not want to change sex, he only wants to look like a girl.

Occasionally he takes hormone pills to give him a smoother complexion, but as soon as he finds his male sexual prowess flagging because of the hormones, he stops taking them.

In homosexual relationships he has been known to play both the active part as well as the passive partner.

A is another beautiful transvestite who prefers to remain as he is, neither male nor female. Slender in build, A looks extremely feminine because all his female characteristics were developed by taking massive doses of hormones and not through surgery.

Now he has large breasts, a very soft skin, and smooth, hairless legs.

But because of the hormones his male organs have atrophied until they are totally unable to function.

Yet he refuses to consider a sex change operation and says that he is happy to continue as he is.

He has been disowned by his parents, and now lives alone. He is quite thrifty and saves most of the money he earns.

He said: "Yes, I keep in this line because I can earn money quickly doing what I like to do best, which is to dress like a girl.

"For the moment I enjoy myself sometimes by going for a dance or to a show with friends. I don't want to change sex, but I want to settle down with a nice boy.

"So far I have not found the right one, even though I date fairly frequently."

E is another boy who flaunts a figure which would make many girls envious. He has led the life of a girl as long as he can remember, and he says that his parents accept him as he is.

He said: "Some of the stories you read about in racy sex novels happen right here in Bugis Street.


"There was a tourist who took me to his hotel and asked me to get dressed in a special costume. The costume was way out - black leather gloves, a broad leather belt, leather boots and a whip, and nothing else.

"I was afraid that he wanted violence, but he didn't. He made me pose on a high chair, waving that whip, while he stared at me and masturbated.

"And one night I picked up this tough looking American. He was tall and muscular, and looked like a soldier or football player.

"On the way to my flat he asked me if I had a blonde wig. I thought he preferred blondes so I said yes.

"It turned out that he wanted to use it himself. He borrowed one of my dresses and wore it. then asked me to make love to him, all 6 ft. and 180 lb. of muscle, and all the time he kept repeating, "I am pretty, say I am pretty," I couldn't help laughing.

"My parents understand me, and treat me as a girl. They do not like my whoring, but realise that I have to make a living.

"I have four brothers, but three of them can be called my sisters, and we all work in Bugis Street together."

D is a transvestite who is luckier than most. His parents have accepted him for what he is and now he lives with them.

D was always effeminate as a boy, and when he left school he got a job as a telephone operator.

He stayed two years on the job, but had this overpowering urge to be a female. In the end he left, turning to prostitution and taking hormone pills to become increasingly feminine.

His parents were at first shocked, and after a series of family quarrels he moved out. But they later accepted him as a daughter, for he has always been well behaved except for his feminine tendencies.

Now he has returned home to stay, dressed as a girl. It would be awkward tor him to dress as a man, for hormone treatments have given him a beautiful figure and large breasts.

His brothers and sisters have now come to accept him as a girl, and call him by a girl's name.

While at home he behaves just like a normal girl, helping with the housework and the sewing, and taking care of the young children.

His parents would rather have him as a daughter than lose him totally, and he is already making plans to change his sex.

A is a transvestite working as a prostitute in Johore Road. He is a Malaysian, and has devised a way of getting past the immigration officials.

Every two weeks he wraps a bandage round his breasts before putting on his shirt and a thick motorcycling jacket, then goes to the immigration checkpoint at Woodlands and literally sweats it out waiting for his passport to be stamped.

Every year or so he returns to Malacca to visit his parents. About five months before he returns home he stops taking hormone pills, letting his figure return to its boyish slimness.

He then takes the train home. He says that his parents do not have the slightest suspicion about his "profession."

Other transvestites keep their tendencies well hidden. N is a slender boy who is now a sailor but was formerly a male prostitute.


In male clothing there is nothing effeminate about his manner, despite the fact that he does take hormone pills—but not many, only enough to give him a smooth complexion and just the slightest swelling of the breasts.

On the streets his walk is boyish and his manner manly. But he enjoys dressing in women's clothes, and enjoys the attention he attracts even though he says that lie does not want to be a girl.

With his fine bone structure, oval face, smooth, slender neck, and long, slim legs he really looks like a beautiful model.

Swaying along with an uplift bra pushing his breasts over the brim of a low cut dress he attracts wolf whistles from boys who genuinely think that he is a girl.

And he loves every minute of it, not caring that the hormone pills he has taken have made him totally impotent.

Being the boyfriend of a transvestite is not easy, yet some people take the risks.

Firstly, society generally disapproves of homosexual relationships, and such relationships can have an adverse effect on a person's career and family life.

Street-corner bullies and toughs also love to hurl insults and even stones at transvestites and their boyfriends, and even pick fights with them.

As a result most transvestites and their boyfriends tend to avoid public places.

The few who go strolling nonchalantly down Orchard Road hand in hand usually have boyfriends so notoriously tough that street-corner loiterers have learned from bitter experience to leave them alone.

Then there is the threat of blackmail. Transvestites who have turned to prostitution usually have connections with secret societies, sometimes paying protection money to gangsters and sometimes having the gangsters as boyfriends.

An innocent outsider may get himself involved with a transvestite and then be threatened with exposure unless he paid a large sum to keep the gangsters quiet.

Even without the threat of blackmail, dating a transvestite can be an expensive business.

While some of them act like well-behaved girls, there are others who need to be constantly reassured of their own desirability by having a man spend plenty of money on them.

They get their boyfriends to give them the most expensive presents, and order the most expensive dishes in restaurants and nightclubs.

And. in the dimly lit surroundings. the boyfriend is unwilling to raise a fuss because he does not want the waiter to look too closely and discover that his date is not a girl.

From Monday, when this series started, homosexuals have been calling members of our investigation team to congratulate them for being so forthright in their report and to thank them for the sympathetic manner in which they have presented the problem of homosexuality.

Many of those who phoned also used the opportunity to discuss their problems, most of which are centred on what one of them described as "a total aloneness." Another said after a 40-minute conversation: 'I am sorry I wouldn't get off the line. Thank you so much for letting me cry on your shoulders."

Next Monday, we report on the reactions to our four-part inquiry and what the future holds for this sub-society in Singapore.

Concluding a four-part series A sequel next Monday: The reactions, the future

NEW NATION, Monday, July 31, 1972[]

Reactions of those who are different

Sequel to last week's New Nation series on homosexuals[]

The law in Singapore is more tolerant in some respects. Richard Mayes, 25, was fined US$1 in Houston, Texas, last April for wearing women's clothes. It was his second arrest this year. He said he was planning a sex-change operation. (UPI picture.)

Our series on homosexuals in Singapore, written after a four-month investigation, provoked much reaction from readers.

Many of our readers said they were either unaware or only vaguely aware of the homosexual sub-society within the community.

Our writers were also deluged by phone calls from homosexuals, many or whom seemed glad and relieved that they are not alone in the problems they face.

They say they are now less frightened because there are others like themselves. But this realisation has not alleviated their sense of "aloneness".

They still feel desperately lonely and, in phoning New Nation to speak to members of the investigation team, they were reaching out for communication.

On Friday night, a bar posted its security men at all its entrances. Effeminate, or recognisable, homosexuals were refused entry.

Many curious people also went to gay bars on a witch- hunt for homosexuals following our articles. They went to stare and tease, and some to laugh.

We also received reports of effeminate but not necessarily homosexual males being physically molested. One was set on by a few of his office colleagues who wanted to feel if he was physically different.

Some of the people who phoned us just wanted a shoulder to cry on. One actually hung on the line pouring his heart out, refusing to shorten the conversation for some 40 minutes.

Others wanted to reach out and make contact with people like themselves. This last group comprised mainly boys and girls brought up under the strict and watchful eye of protective parents.

They sensed that they were different, but they had been tied to their parents' apron strings for so long they knew nothing of the gay bars and party circuit.


G was one of those who phoned. He said, "I am desperately lonely, how do I reach others like myself?"

He is a 21-year-old shop assistant who earns a small wage and stays with his parents, on whom he is still financially dependent.

His parents suspect that he Is a homosexual and have curtailed his movements.

He has no friends among the boys in the neighbourhood. He is slightly effeminate.

He cannot go the rounds of the gay haunts because his parents insist that he should return home early. Since they still hold the purse strings, he has to obey.

G said: "My only solace is to go to church. I'm not deeply religious but It gives me a chance to mix with other people."

There he feels a certain sense of belonging. Despite this, he still lacks group Identification and a chance to mix with other gay boys.

He said: "Everyday I ride home after work in a bus and I see so many rugged, handsome boys. How I wish that they would approach me."

This acute sense of loneliness occasionally plunges him Into darkest despair.

Twice he was driven to contemplate suicide, But each time he rang up the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) and they managed to talk him out of it.

However, they have not been able to give him further help because he does not want treatment.

He is one of those who feel that they Just cannot help their different sexual inclinations.

"I think of myself as a boy who loves men," he said.

S, a student, is in his late teens. He has a boyfriend and describes himself as a "well adjusted homosexual."

He is perhaps fortunate in that he is not effeminate, so he has some girlfriends whom he described as sexy, as well as some close heterosexual boyfriends among his classmates.

He is not bisexual, he gave the impression when he phoned, but his manly appearance helps him keep up a heterosexual appearance. None of his classmates suspect that he is homosexual.

Outside the classroom S has some platonic relationships with girls. They are working girls who know of his sexual preference but accept his company. He also enjoys their company.

It is with his family that he has problems.

"They suspect that I'm a homosexual," S said, "and there is tremendous strain and pressure in my relationship with them."

He comes from a middle-class, English-educated family.

Not only his parents but his brothers and sisters, some of whom are teachers, treat him with scorn.

He said: "Their taunts really hurt. I have reached the stage where I feel like telling them what I am. I want to have it out in the open."

The only thing that holds him back Is his dependence on his family.

"If I break the news, they may drive me out of the house." he said. "I am sure my parents will just not accept me as a homosexual.

"They want me straight, and if I cannot be straight then they would rather not have me.

"I have been treated different from my brothers and sisters ever since my homosexual tendencies showed up at the age of around 10."

What has upset him more is seeing some of his homosexual friends accepted by their parents.

"Those parents know that their sons are different," he said, "yet they accept them and enjoy a close and happy family relationship."

S sees no alternative but to finish his studies, get a job and leave the family. "I would like to go away," he said.


L is a clerk by day and a male prostitute in Johore Road by night.

He was driven to prostitution because all his lovers exploited him by demanding money.

To find the extra money needed to keep their affection, he had to prostitute himself.

He has a boyfriend with whom he is happy. "This boyfriend," L said, "has not asked me for money. But I like buying him presents."

He is afraid, however, that this happiness and relationship will not last. "I am worried. At present he doesn't have a girlfriend, but if he finds one he may leave me." he said.

L is also haunted by the age difference between him and his boyfriend. "I am 35." L said, "and I look my age. My boyfriend is in his early twenties. This embarrasses me."

Though L is an orphan, he is fortunate in having relatives who are understanding and concerned about his welfare.

"I was brought up By my aunt. She knows what I am and accepts me. She often worries that I may get assaulted when I go to Johore Road. My cousins also treat me well." L said.

But this is apparently not enough. In his bouts of depression he contemplates ending his life.

He attempted suicide in 1967, when a man he loved betrayed him, by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Fortunately his sister found him in time and he was rushed to hospital.

During his week's stay In hospital, doctors tried to convince him to change his way of life.

But he eventually convinced them that the overdose was an accident. Not all homosexuals, however, were happy with the New Nation reports which, some complained brought the glare of publicity.


One who phoned said: "The articles have created a lot of "susah. Many of my friends have slopped going to the gay bars.

"It is an eye-opener but many of my colleagues expressed horror at what they read."

One of those who phoned was a designer who admitted candidly that he was gay. He had gone to a certain bar in town which he frequented about once a week. There he was accosted by two men who asked him whether he was gay.

They had, they told him, gone there to look at the "queers" out of curiosity. He was so upset that he retorted, "What concern is it of yours? I'm gay every night."

He told us: "It was very tactless of them. I'm sane and I'm stable, but they viewed me as a curiosity.

"What I and others like me are worried about is that unfeeling people, instead of going to the movies or a nightclub to be entertained, will go looking for homosexuals."

What the future holds for homosexuals[]

What does the future hold for homosexuals in Singapore?

Life for them is likely to remain unchanged. The gloom that inhabits their shadowy world will linger.

The luckier few with a circle of gay friends may continue to enjoy each other's company, unless something drastic happens.

Some New Nation readers were shocked and dismayed to learn of the extent of homosexuality here. While many advocate greater understanding and more liberal laws and attitudes towards homosexuals, others feel something should be done to "bring them to heel."

One suggests electric shock therapy to condition homosexuals to a heterosexual orientation.

A relaxation of the law on homosexuality is not likely. Several people we spoke to feel it protects minors from seduction by homosexuals.

Consenting adults, they say, can continue their homosexual activities without the fear of being hounded by the police, who do not employ agents provocateur to bait and catch them.

A prominent doctor we spoke to feels that a more liberal attitude towards homosexuals is needed.

He said: "The present law, which is more than 100 years old, should be changed to allow homosexual activities between consenting adults.

"It is almost impossible to correct someone who has such tendencies. So rather than persecute them, society should learn to develop a more tolerant attitude, and accept what cannot be changed.

"On the other hand, the homosexual should not be antisocial. His activities have to be private, and not endanger the morals of young children."

He said homosexuals should be encouraged to seek the advice of doctors or psychiatrists if they have any problems.

Trying to change them could be an exercise in futility.

"In England where a lot of work has been done on this matter, it has been discovered that it is not easy for them to change and develop an interest in the opposite sex.

"Behaviour therapy has been used in other countries, but even then conversion has been very poor, even with the best of psychiatric treatment. What we cannot change, we should learn to tolerate and accept.

"In any case, homosexuality Is not as much a problem here as in some other countries, because of our cultural orientation and background."

One psychologist, however, thinks differently. He advocates one method of treatment, Operant Conditioning, considered crude and cruel by many, to convert a homosexual.

By this method a man or a woman is punished for his or her homosexual tendencies by the application of electric shocks.

"In treatment, a picture of a nude male is flashed on the screen. When the patient sees this, he is given a nasty shock. On the other hand, when a female is shown he will be given a pleasurable feeling. He is thus conditioned to associate unpleasantness with his homosexual tendency."

The sex of the figure is reversed for a woman. This method has been used in Australia and England.

The psychologist said: "I realise that this method is considered by many to be cruel. Apart from this method, however, there is no real treatment.

"My opinion is that counselling is insufficient, and cannot help change the homosexual as his problem is far more deep-rooted."

A student counsellor is confident the law on homosexuality in Singapore would become easier in future. Attitudes towards homosexuals would also be more liberal.

He feels such people are in some way "sick".

"We may not like it, but persecuting them will certainly not help at all. But we cannot allow it to come out in the open as there will be the danger of perverting young people, who may make it an 'in' thing.

"If we are going to help them at all, there must be some setup or organisation that homosexuals will be able to go to for help.

"If a boy wants to talk about his problem, then counselling can help by giving him someone to talk to. Even if the counsellor cannot give concrete help other than listening and talking it over, he can certainly pass him over to some doctors who might be able to do so.

"It is no good closing the only doors through which a homosexual can go for help."

He feels that homosexuality is not right, not natural "but such matters should be discussed as it makes people aware of this problem around them.

"The discovery by a homosexual that he is not the only one like that could be a good thing. It could lead to relief, and finally a way to help."

One other person interviewed says it will take a long time for society to change its views "certainly longer than one generation."

"It is the homosexual who must work out his own problems within the framework of society.

"But the homosexual should not expect society to accept him, because homosexual behaviour is deviant behaviour which cannot be condoned.

"Society should not accept this because then the young, who must be guided might think we are condoning this and be misled.

"I would not like to see society accept homosexuality as,some thing normal, but if the homosexual can live with this in society, I too can live in society without disturbing him."

The law, according to one psychiatrist, should not be relaxed as it could encourage homosexuality. But, he feels, legalising it is only a secondary matter. Society's attitude is more important.

He said: "The future of the homosexual in Singapore depends on the tolerance of society and the law.

"As a psychiatrist, I feel I am not qualified to speak on this subject as very little is known about it. There is no one specialising in the subject of homosexuality."

Photo: The Gay Liberation Front symbol.

Case studies of men who have become women[]

"It is so nice to be a woman", she said with almost delirious pleasure.

Her exultation was not possible till a few months ago, although she felt every bit like a woman. Her male organ had remained a stark reminder that she was a man.

Like three other women, Miss X is still taking her first tentative steps into the world as a full woman, with the female organs Singapore surgeons have given her.

All four had undergone sex-change operations at Kandang Kerbau Hospital between July last year and May.

Miss X, 22, said: "1 have never been as happy as in the last few months. People are now treating me as a girl and not as a freak."

Her elation is apparent in almost every feminine step she takes. Except for her brother, her family has accepted her as a woman.

Hormone pills and medical treatment have added feminine curves to her body. An operation in the near future to give her a woman's breasts will complete her physiological transformation.

Even now, she passes off easily as a woman except for her slightly narrower hips which have grown two inches broader since her sex-change operation.

"I have been dating, and it gives me such joy to know that I am a full woman, not masquerading as one," she said.

"I don't feel as great a need as before to assert my womanhood."

A civil servant, Miss X obtained a transfer to another department after her operation to start life anew. But her new colleagues soon learnt about her sex change as word got round.

She said: "My office colleagues are very nice about it. Some are very curious though and want me to show them my body but I have refused.

"Some of the boys have tried to date me to satisfy their curiosity."

There have been a few unpleasant incidents with some men who know about her sex change.

"One ripped off my clothes when I refused to have sex with him. Some of them just want to experiment with me," she said.

Miss X, who has a steady boy, plans to marry one day. The fact that she cannot have babies does not bother her.

"I can adopt one," she said.

Life for at least two other sex-change women is, however, not on the same even keel.

Miss Y, who was a male prostitute at Bugis Street, finds herself unable to leave her former life. She tried to get a steady job, but found the pay too low.

She said: "I could make in a day or two what some of the jobs offered as monthly salaries."

She still hangs around Bugis Street, but there are conflicts between her and the male prostitutes who used to be her friends.

An irrepressible talker, she has been accused by them of flaunting her new found "womanhood", or leering at the others.

Still unable to break old habits, she often walks around her flat in the nude, not bothered about gawking neighbours.

Her former sex is undetectable. Hormone pills have given her a bustline and figure most girls would envy. A little on the plump side, she is a little thick round the waist.

Miss Y is undecided about her future. She said: "I want to be a model but I have to lose some weight. Maybe I shall join a nightclub as a dancer or stripper, but there are few good agents around and many of them want half your earnings.

"Some, who have found out about my operation, want to bill me as a male impersonator who has changed sex."

A third sex-change woman is still working as a cabaret girl, a job she has had for some years. Unlike the other girls, it is believed she had some complications with her new sex organs, but has not sought help from her surgeons.

The fourth case could not be contacted. Some say she has gone overseas to work in a nightclub. Others say she is still in Singapore, living with an American boyfriend she had planned to marry.

All four have their individual problems of grappling with their new status. New identity cards have helped them along in their new lives.

Except for Miss X, the other three do not seem to have adjusted as well to their new world. Only time will tell.

According to a psychiatrist who was involved in assessing whether sex change was desirable for them, the transformation has reduced the misery in their lives and can help them lead more meaningful lives.

"But whether a sex-change person can lead a normal and happy life later is a matter of selection," he said.

Photo: Rungnapan Sricharoenkul, 20, a Bangkok beautician who sees himself m a woman, poses with cups which he won at beauty contests.

Subsequent developments[]

The success of this journalistic coup spurred principal reporter Betty L. Khoo to persist in her efforts in garnering information about Singapore's more discreet and closeted lesbian community despite her initial lack of success. Her industry bore fruit in the form of Singapore's first newspaper articles on the lesbian community, also published in New Nation 3 months later, in October 1972.

See also[]


These articles were located via a search of the digitised archive of New Nation at the Singapore National Library performed by Jun Zubillaga-Pow, who photocopied the microfilmed articles. The latter were scanned, stitched together and subjected to optical character recognition (OCR) by Roy Tan who uploaded all the information into this wiki article.