The Singapore LGBT encyclopaedia Wiki

Pre-British era (before 1819)[]

Cover of a novel telling the ancient story of a sexually fluid Javanese princess, Galuh Candra Kirana, who cross-dresses to become the warrior prince, Panji Semirang.

The Hikayat Panji Semirang (Tale of Prince Semirang), an epic poem which dates from the 14th century and tells of the adventures of a sexually fluid hero, Panji Semirang, was well known and beloved throughout Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Anthropologists like Michael Peletz note that between the 15th and 18th centuries, Southeast Asia was characterised by gender fluidity, egalitarianism and considerable female autonomy. Furthermore, there were culturally sanctioned positions for transgender individuals all across the region where one finds a tradition of cross-dressing and other forms of gender-transgressive behaviour. Associated with these is a rich local lexicon and a variety of rituals. A vast corpus of works by colonial civil servants, missionaries and travellers in the 19th and early 20th centuries yielded accounts of the natives' sexuality, which in many instances shocked the Judeo-Christian morality of their Western colonial masters.

The Hikayat Panji Semirang (Tale of Prince Semirang), an epic poem which dates from the 14th century, tells of the adventures of a sexually fluid hero, Panji Semirang. It was well known and beloved throughout Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. Another traditional Javanese literary work, Serat Centhini, written in 1814, is the Southeast Asian version of India's famed Kama Sutra. This stylised sex manual has detailed descriptions of sodomy, fellatio, mutual masturbation and transvestism. The poem shows that male homosexuality was an unproblematic, everyday part of a highly varied traditional Javanese sexual culture.

A modern-day Singaporean mak nyah.

Singapore and Malaysia lie within the Austronesian region where gender diversity was traditionally well accepted before the advent of European colonialism.

Effeminate men are derisively called "bapuk" or "pondan" (see main article: Singapore gay terminology), but apart from being teased and regarded ceteris paribus as having a lower status than their more masculine counterparts, there is no hatred directed against them, as is so often the situation in the West. "Third gender" or transgender individuals, who are called "mak nyah", have their own niche in traditional Malay society which acknowledged the existence of alternatives to heterosexual practices. They were recognised, tolerated and even incorporated into community life, occupying a stable, albeit marginalised position within society. This situation is similar to the traditional cultures of the larger Malayo-Polynesian and Austronesian regions, as well as throughout Southeast Asia. Such traditions were a function of age-old indigenous belief systems that portrayed the gods as androgynous, or comprised of male-female pairs. Given this view of divinity, people who embodied both masculinity and femininity in their gender and/or sexuality were believed to be closer to the divine and uniquely capable of mediating between the spirits and humans.

Prime examples are seen in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province. When the Europeans first visited the region in the 16th century, they were shocked by what they saw. Portuguese missionary Antonio de Paiva wrote a scandalising letter to his Catholic bishop in 1544 about his observations of the Bugis people[1]:

“Your Lordship will know that the priests of these kings are generally called bissus. They grow no hair on their beards, dress in a womanly fashion, and grow their hair long and braided; they imitate [women’s] speech because they adopt all of the female gestures and inclinations. They marry and are received, according to the custom of the land, with other common men, and they live indoors, uniting carnally in their secret places with the men whom they have for husbands...”

He concluded the letter with his amazement that the Christian god, who had destroyed "three cities of Sodom for the same sin," had not yet smited such "wanton people" who were "encircled by evil." The European colonial powers mocked Southeast Asia's tolerance for gender and sexual diversity, perceiving their attitudes as evidence the region needed “redemptive civilisation. The bissu tradition, which considers these individuals as neither male nor female, dates back to the 13th century. They are a “fifth gender” within the Bugis' gender system, which comprises also male men (oroané), female women (makkunrai), male women (calabai) and female men (calalai). A similar culture is shared by the to burake tambolang of the Torajan people from the same region[2].

Elsewhere in Austronesia, one finds the palopa and kwolu-aatmwol of Papua New Guinea, the sistergirls of the Tiwi Islands, the palao'ana of the Northern Marianas Islands, the fa'afafine of Samoa, America Samoa and Tokelau, the fakafefine or fakaleiti/leiti of Tonga, the whakawahine of the Maoris, the takataapui of Aotearoa New Zealand, the akava'ine of the Cook Islands Maoris, the fakafifine of Niue, the mahu of Hawaii and the mahu vahine of Tahiti. In the past, transgender religious leaders amongst both the Torajan and Bugis people played important roles in their communities. Bissu and to burake led spiritual ceremonies or harvest rituals in villages. The people would admire and honour a village with a to burake.

In East Java, the traditional dance performance Reog Ponorogo depicts intimate relationships between two characters, warok and gemblak. The main male dancer, or warok, must follow strict physical and spiritual rules and rituals. Under these rules, a warok was prohibited from engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman. But he was allowed to have intimate relationships with young boys’ characters, or gemblak, in the performance. Although warok and gemblak were engaged in same-sex acts, they did not identify themselves as homosexuals. In other Javanese traditional drama performances like ludruk and wayang orang, a man playing a woman’s character or vice versa is not unusual.

In the Philippines, pre-colonial communities were religiously led by babaylan who were women healers and shamans responsible for mediating between the gods and people. These roles were also open to assigned male at birth individuals (asog, bayog) so long as they comported themselves like women. A 16th century Spanish manuscript described asog thus: “Ordinarily they dress as women, act like prudes, and are so effeminate that one does not know them would believe they are women... they marry other males and sleep with them as man and wife and have carnal knowledge.”

In Vietnam, there are similar records kept by European priests of “men” who acted as spirit mediums and who wore “women’s clothing and completely pull out their beards.” Even today, the tradition of feminine, assigned male at birth mediums who channel feminine spirits lives on in Ð?o M?u temples that worship the Mother Goddess belonging to an indigenous religion of the country.

Myanmar has a rich pre-Buddhist tradition of “nat kadaw,” literally translated as “wife of a spirit.” While there are historical records of assigned male at birth nat kadaws, some of whom resisted the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War, today nat kadaws are known as assigned male at birth individuals who dress as women during the ceremonies and perform important blessings. They typically have sex with men, and some also identify as women outside of a ceremonial context.

Other salient examples of the traditional tolerance for gender diversity in neighbouring Malaysia have been quoted by academic Julian CH Lee in his book, "Policing Sexuality", published by Zed Books Ltd in August 2012[3]. There are records from as early as the 15th century of gender fluid Malay priests or courtesans called sida-sida, who served in the palaces of Malay sultans. These people were typically “male-bodied priests or courtiers” who undertook “androgynous behavior” such as wearing women’s clothes and likely “engaged in sexual relationships with individuals of the same sex” or “both sexes.” In the 19th century, the manang bali were gender fluid Iban shamans of Sarawak. They were assigned male at birth individuals who adopted the mannerisms, clothing and lifestyle of women, even taking on men as husbands. This was undertaken in order for them to become healers, mediators between spirits and people, village leaders and intermediaries. Not only were they tolerated but even celebrated and looked upon with great esteem because of their contribution to society. So accepted was gender diversity in Malaysia that as late as the 1960s, known "specialised homosexual villages" existed in Kelantan, with one even abutting on the Sultan's palace.

Up to as late as the 1980s, the Malaysian government offered gender-confirmation surgeries — the only country in Southeast Asia to provide such operations apart from Thailand and Singapore. Transgender health was so widely embraced that even the government contributed funds towards the Mak Nyah Association. Unfortunately, everything changed in 1903 when a fatwa was issued by the National Fatwa Council banning such surgeries and the hospital that undertook it was shut down, marking the beginning of a repressive, anti-LGBT chapter in Malaysia’s history.

Cross-dressing in Peranakan plays[]

In Peranakan or Baba culture, male-to-female cross-dressing was often indulged in for fun or for performances, especially stage plays as women were traditionally not allowed to take part. It enjoyed community support and was not frowned upon[4],[5],[6],[7],[8]. William Tan Wee Liam was a pioneer Peranakan actor, playwright, director and producer, well known for playing female roles during the 1950s and 60s. Vestiges of this tradition continue to this very day in the theatrical productions of the Gunong Sayang Association[9] and Peranakan Siblings (see main article: Singapore gay theatre).

National Service[]

National service was implemented in 1967, whereby all 18-year old males were required to train full-time for two or two-and-a-half years, depending on their educational attainment. Transgender was listed as a condition in a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) 'Directory of Diseases' and recruits who outed themselves to the examining doctors at the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) at Dempsey Road had their 'deployability' denied in sensitive positions. They were classified as snigger-attracting Category 302 personnel, downgraded to a Physical Employment Status of 3 (PES3) and assigned only clerical work at army bases. For more details on how transgender people are currently managed by the SAF, please see the following section under the main article Gay men in the Singapore Armed Forces:[11]

Early sex reassignment surgery[]

Main article: Sex reassignment surgery in Singapore

As Singaporean gynaecological surgeons became more skillful, leaders in the field like Prof. S Shan Ratnam were authorised to perform male-to-female sex reassignment surgery (SRS) at Kandang Kerbau Hospital. He later trained other surgeons like Assoc. Prof. Arunachalam Ilancheran and Dr. C Ananda Kumar to undertake the procedure. The first such operation in Asia took place here in July 1971. However, before patients could go under the knife, they first had to subject themselves to an exhaustive battery of tests and be given a clean psychological bill of health by chief academic psychiatrist Prof. Tsoi Wing Foo.

Straits Times journalist Chua Meng Choo provided an exhaustive account of the first sex change surgery done in 1971 on patient who later agreed to have her name revealed to the public as Shonna[12]:

"The first sex change surgery in Singapore was successfully performed on 30 July 1971 at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital. The operation involved a 24-year-old man and was the first procedure of its kind performed in Singapore and in Asia. There had been previous “sex change” operations performed in Singapore, but these mostly involved patients who had both male and female genitalia (hermaphrodites) and the removal of one set of genitalia. The 1971 operation was regarded as a first because it involved a surgical conversion aimed at functionally changing a person’s sex.

Patient and diagnosis

The patient was a 24-year-old Singaporean citizen of Chinese heritage. Her name was kept secret, but her background was later made public in a book. The eldest son in a family of five with two younger sisters, her father was a dentist who was often physically violent with his wife, which caused the patient psychological trauma. As a child, the patient was raised by her grandmother, who dressed her as a female. In her teenage years, she associated with other cross-dressers before frequenting the transsexual and transvestite scene at Bugis Street as an adult.

From the age of 16, she worked as a sales assistant, a housemaid, in a bank and as a public relations officer. She later won second prize in a beauty contest and became a model. While working as a part-time model, she joined a cabaret and was known as “Mama Chan”. She also ran a social escort service.

Having lived as a woman for some time, she first consulted Professor S. S. Ratnam, a senior lecturer in the University of Singapore’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, in 1969. She had been suffering sexual and emotional problems, which had led to two suicide attempts. Ratnam explained to her that he had no experience in sex change surgery, but she continued to visit his clinic weekly. After researching the subject of transsexualism and sex reassignment surgeries, Ratnam familiarised himself with the surgical techniques by practising on cadavers.

The patient underwent a psychological analysis by a team of psychiatrists who confirmed that she was a transsexual who required surgery. A diagnosis of transsexualism requires that the patient possesses a continuous sense of inappropriateness about his or her anatomic sex, a desire to discard his or her genitalia and live as a member of the opposite sex, and the absence of physical intersex symptoms or genetic abnormalities. As well, his or her gender confusion (gender dysphoria) must not be caused by other disorders such as schizophrenia. The patient was also cautioned that the surgery would be irreversible, potentially involved a number of complications and required a prolonged follow-up period.

Legal clearance for the operation was then sought from the Ministry of Health and granted. After consideration of the patient’s psychological profile, the medical expertise involved and the approval of the Ministry, the decision was taken to proceed with the operation.

Operation and impact

The operation was performed by Ratnam and two other surgeons from the University of Singapore’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Associate Professor Khew Khoon Shin and plastic surgeon R. Sundarason. Photography of the operation was not permitted. Ratnam later described the three-hour operation as a success, with an uneventful post-surgery recovery. He later founded the Gender Identity Clinic specialising in sex change surgeries at the National University Hospital.

After her successful operation, the patient went on hormone treatments and was functionally a woman, with the exception of being unable to conceive or menstruate. She later married a French man and owned a travel agency in Paris, before moving to England.

The July 1971 operation paved the way for sex change surgeries in Singapore and in the region. Singapore’s first sex change operation on a woman took place three years later, between August 1974 to October 1977 (female-to-male conversions are a more complex process and involve several surgical stages). In the 1970s and 1980s, hospitals in Singapore accepted numerous sex change patients from other Southeast Asian countries, with foreigners making up around half of all surgeries performed."


In a groundbreaking and extremely graphic documentary entitled "Shocking Asia" produced in 1974, transgender women in Singapore revealed the most intimate details about their lives and sex reassignment surgery done by pioneering surgeon, Prof. S Shan Ratnam who also granted an exclusive interview. The operation itself was shown in great detail[13]:

Increasing visibility in mainstream media[]

The first substantial mention of Singapore's transgender community was a groundbreaking 4-part feature by the New Nation entitled, "They are different..." It was published on 4 consecutive days from Monday, 24 July to Thursday, 27 July 1972 (see main article Singapore's first newspaper articles on the LGBT community).

In the 1970s, two well known transsexual models were occasionally featured in Her World magazine. The first was Shonna, the first Singaporean to undergo a sex change operation in 1971 (see main article: Sex reassignment surgery in Singapore). Another was named Christine. Both emigrated out of Singapore several years later. Iconic transgender model Amy Tashiana was too overbooked with appointments to accept the projects.

Legal reform[]

National Registration Identity Cards[]

In the years following Singapore's first sex reassignment operations, a number of legal issues arose for transgender individuals who had undergone a sex change. In 1973, Singapore legalised sex reassignment surgery.

In a move which saw Singapore rise to be one of the world leaders in transgender rights, the Government instituted a policy directive at the National Registration Department to enable post-operative transgender people to change the legal gender stated on their national registration identity cards (NRIC) (but not their birth certificates) and other documents which flowed from that, such as their passports. It was hitherto unknown to the LGBT community and general public what prompted the highly conservative People's Action Party to do this.

It was not until 2012 that pioneering sex reassignment surgeon, Prof. S Shan Ratnam's protege, Assoc. Prof. Arunachalam Ilancheran, revealed during a television discussion forum on thirunangai (திருநங்கை), or Tamil transgender women that it was due to the efforts of Ratnam who lobbied the Government quietly behind the scenes to achieve this groundbreaking right for his patients on compassionate grounds[14]:

To change one's name and gender stated on one's identity card, one requires:

The deed poll is a legal document which must be prepared by a lawyer. The cost ranges from SGD$60 to $100. There are many lawyers who will do this and a popular site which lists them is Other lawyers may provide higher or lower rates so if one is really strapped for cash, one can consider cheaper options.

After obtaining the deed poll, one must go down to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building currently located next to Lavender MRT station. There, one must go to the NRIC (Identity card) level and approach the counter. One must tell the staff that one is there to change one's name. After queueing up, the new identity card should be ready within the hour.

There are stiff penalties in Singapore for providing false information on the NRIC. So if one is unfortunate enough to receive a new card with incorrect information on it, the onus is on oneself to point out the mistake. Of course, you can also accept the mistake at one's own risk. One may regard it as fortunate to have one's sex changed on one's IC without the SRS letter of certification.

Marriage certificates[]

See also: Lim Ying v Hiok Kian Ming Eric

The Registry of Marriages implicitly recognised marriages involving a sex change patient, as it required only an identity card to prove the different genders of the couple. There was no specific provision in the statutes which allowed the Registrar to do this, so it existed probably only at the level of a policy directive. However, for over 20 years, this policy seemed to have operated smoothly.

However, on 13 June 1991, a female Malaysian babysitter named Lim Ying, then aged 30, created legal history when her application to the High Court to have her marriage annulled succeeded. Lim claimed that she did not know her husband had undergone a sex-change operation. Judicial commissioner K S Rajah declared her marriage to Eric Hiok Kian Ming null and void. Lim discovered her husband's secret, that he was assigned female at birth, only on their wedding night when they attempted to have sex. Hiok, who appeared very masculine, disagreed, arguing that Lim knew beforehand that he was a transman. They could not have penetrative sexual intercourse because he had not been fitted with a penile implant. Judicial commissioner Rajah ruled that a person's sex was fixed at birth in the eyes of the law. The legal poser that the High Court had to tackle was whether the marriage was void right from the start, or whether it was just voidable. Rajah's judgment declared that the marriage was void from the very beginning.

It was only in 1996 that the Government amended the Women’s Charter to allow transsexuals to legally marry (see below).

First transgender character in a local TV production[]

The Purple Killer, the first transgender character to appear in a local TV production

In 1991, a Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) Channel 8 Mandarin fantasy period TV serial entitled "最后一个大侠" (literally "The last knight") featured a man named Sima Qinyun who could transform his gender to become an evil villain named 紫罗刹 (the purple killer) and also revert back at will (see YouTube video of theme song[15]). This was groundbreaking, even though the storyline is thought to have been adapted from a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha), and even pre-dated the well known Dongfang Bubai (东方不败) played by Lin Qingxia in the eponymous hit Taiwanese film.

Further developments in sex reassignment institutions[]

Later, the more technically demanding female-to-male sex reassignment surgery was also offered at Kandang Kerbau Hospital and at Alexandra Hospital, performed by gynaecologists such as Dr. Ilancheran. A Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) and Gender Reassignment Surgery Clinic were set up at the National University Hospital two decades later. It was headed by Prof. S Shan Ratnam until his retirement in 1995, after which leadership passed to his nephew, Dr. Anandakumar. In fact, for 30 years, Singapore was one of the world leaders in SRS, performing more than 500 such operations. This gave a new lease of life to the many transgender individuals whose bodies did not match their gender identity. As one consequence of this, Bugis Street and Johore Road started to become populated with a range of transgender people from transvestites to iatrogenic intersex individuals to fully transitioned women.

In the 1970s, a well known transsexual model was occasionally featured in Her World magazine.

Legalisation of transgender marriage[]

See also: Women's Charter (Amendment) Bill: transgender aspects

Since the mid-1970s, post-operative transsexuals, aided by Prof. S Shan Ratnam, had been discreetly lobbying to be given the right to get married to opposite-sex spouses. In 1996, a Bill was presented before Parliament to amend the Women's Charter to read[16],[17]:


Avoidance of marriages between persons of same sex.[19]

12.-(1) A marriage solemnized in Singapore or elsewhere between persons who, at the date of the marriage, are not respectively male and female shall be void. [30/96]

(2) It is hereby declared that, subject to sections 5, 9, 10, 11 and 22, a marriage solemnized in Singapore or elsewhere between a person who has undergone a sex re-assignment procedure and any person of the opposite sex is and shall be deemed always to have been a valid marriage.

(3) For the purpose of this section

(4) Nothing in subsection (2) shall validate any such marriage which had been declared by the High Court before 1st May 1997 to be null and void on the ground that the parties were of the same sex.

Abdullah Tarmugi.

Minister for Community Development, Abdullah Tarmugi, who moved the bill argued that since 1973, the Government's intention was for people who had changed gender/sex to live a life according to their new gender, including the right to marry. Through an oversight, the law relating to marriage had not been re-aligned with the official policy to recognise sex reassignment surgery. Now that the courts had illuminated this inconsistency after a landmark case in which a wife sought and won the annulment of her marriage to a transman (Lim Ying v Hiok Kian Ming Eric), it was necessary to amend the Women's Charter to ensure that the original intention was not undermined. Transgender people were officially granted their wish on 24 January 1996. On 2 May 1996, during the debate following the second reading of the amendment Bill, Abdullah Tarmugi made the following announcement in Parliament which did not give rise to much public fanfare or opposition[20]. He said:

"The Government's stand is very clear: it is not a move to encourage or promote lesbianism, homosexuality, transvestism or sex reassignment among our people. We do not believe the amendments will result in our people reassigning their sex in droves. The Bill basically seeks a practical and humane approach to address the problems faced by this group of people and the families they have set up. It is to allow these individuals to lead a life according to their new status, as recorded in their identity cards, as we have all along used the NRIC to verify identity. It is practical. It is sensible."

Closure and reopening of GIC[]

In April 2001, the Gender Identity Clinic at the National University Hospital, the last hospital in Singapore where sex change operations were performed, closed without any fanfare. The clinic was an offshoot of the original subsection of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Kandang Kerbau Hospital and helped to build Singapore's reputation as a top destination for sex reassignment over the past 30 thirty years[21]. The official explanation was that the gynaecologist in charge had left for private practice, and without him, the clinic did not have the skills to perform SRS. However, as early as 1987, the Ministry of Health had been directing hospitals to stop doing such operations on foreigners. It also discouraged them for Singaporeans, saying 'the increased danger of AIDS with such patients poses unnecessary risk to hospital staff'. However, some believe that the increasing number of Christian doctors filling the administrative ranks of Singapore hospitals over the past decades had a part to play in its shutting down as cross-dressing and sex reassignment are proscribed in the Bible.

This dismayed transgender people seeking to have their operations performed locally. The online edition of the now-defunct newspaper Project Eyeball carried out a survey in June 2001 asking, "Should sex change operations be resumed in Singapore?" 39% of respondents said, "Yes, they are people with valid medical needs, like infertile couples" and 35% said, "Why not? It is legal here, as are transsexual marriages". The results showed that Singaporeans were generally quite supportive.

In June 2001, a petition organised by Jael[22], the founder of the transgender group "FTMs in Asia", urging the re-opening of the Gender Identity Clinic garnered 60 signatures[23].

The transgender community's petition was successful, with the clinic discreetly resuming it services in 2003, helmed by Dr. Ilancheran. However, owing to the discrimination against transgender people in Singapore even within some segments of the medical community, the high financial outlay involved and the necessity for psychological clearance, many preferred to have their operations performed sans the hassles in Bangkok, which had by then become the premiere centre for sex-reassignment surgery (SRS).

In early August 2001, Singapore's pioneer sex reassignment surgeon and co-author of the book "Cries from within", Prof. S. Shan Ratnam, passed away from pneumonia[24].

Beautiful Boxer[]

See also: Singapore LGBT films

In November 2001, Singapore-based Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham announced his intention to produce a film entitled "Beautiful Boxer" on the life of Thai male-to-female transsexual kickboxer, Parinya Charoenphol[25].

Evidence of British sailors' visits to Bugis Street in the 1960s[]

See also: Bugis Street: transgender aspects

In November 2002, newly declassified UK naval documents revealed that possibly 50% of its servicemen had indulged in homosexual sex at some time in their naval service life and many had visited brothels in Singapore's then legendary Bugis Street in the 1960s as soon as their ship docked. A document written by the navy's medical director general in 1969, described Singapore's transwoman prostitutes as "very beautiful" and who "dress well and smell delicious" He added, "They perfect the female walk, stance and mannerisms and some even undergo surgery to complete the illusion"[26].

First pictorial documentary on transwomen[]


In April 2003, Select Books released Singapore's first pictorial documentary on transsexuals in Singapore and Thailand entitled, "My Sisters, their Stories", written by male-to-female transsexual, Leona Lo[27],[28].

First TV programme featuring local transwoman[]


On Friday, 7 January 2005 at 8:30pm Channel U broadcast Singapore's first television programme to feature a local transwoman entitled "Sense of Being". It interviewed 38-year old post-operative Malay male-to-female transsexual Amy Tashiana[29]. Tashiana talked about her life as a former model with Carrie Models and performer at the defunct cabaret club Boom Boom Room.

Joint report on transgender issues for UPR 2021[]

See also: Universal Periodic Review: Singapore LGBT issues

In October 2020, TransgenderSG, in collaboration with Sayoni and APTN (Asia-Pacific Transgender Network), submitted the first joint civil society report from Singapore to focus exclusively on transgender issues.[30]. This was for the purpose of Singapore's third Universal Periodic Review scheduled for May 2021 at the United Nations. The report referenced data from the first nationwide survey of Singapore’s transgender community, conducted by TransgenderSG, and a research study done by Sayoni, and addressed the following key areas of concern:

  • The difficult process of legal gender recognition (LGR), including the prohibitive cost of required genital surgeries that can go up to SGD$150,000 for transgender men; such surgeries being unavailable in Singapore; requiring an invasive genital examination for surgical confirmation; the significant medical risks of surgery; the lack of Medisave or insurance coverage; and the violation of bodily autonomy in pressuring transgender Singaporeans to undergo major surgeries they may not want, need or be able to afford at the time. Transgender persons with incongruent legal gender documentation face heightened vulnerability to harassment, discrimination and violence. Lack of LGR is associated with negative mental health outcomes. Only 9.7% of surveyed transgender Singaporeans had managed to change their legal sex, including 53.8% of those who had transitioned more than 10 years ago.
  • Discrimination, abuse, and restrictions facing transgender students. 77.6% of openly transgender students in TransgenderSG’s survey reported negative experiences in school ranging from bullying to sexual abuse. Less than a third agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe at school, and only 24% said they had a staff member they could go to for support. School administrators had implemented unreasonable demands that pressured even high-performing transgender students to drop out of school, or sought to prevent them from transitioning or pursuing HRT, sometimes by contacting their healthcare providers without the student’s or their parents’ knowledge or consent.
  • Discrimination against transgender persons in the employment sector. A joint research study by APTN and Curtin University found that transgender job candidates in Singapore faced the worst discrimination compared to Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. TransgenderSG’s survey revealed an unemployment rate of 23.5% among transgender people not presently studying, including 14.3% of university graduates. The overall unemployment rate in Singapore was 2.9% over the same period. This affected transgender persons’ abilities not just to provide for themselves but to financially support their parents and other family. It was also a mismanagement of resources for a segment of highly educated Singaporeans to be persistently unemployed or underemployed.
  • Discrimination and harassment in healthcare settings that discouraged transgender persons from seeking necessary general healthcare, particularly in areas of sexual and reproductive health; and limited access to transgender healthcare, including restrictions for those under 21 that have driven transgender youths to dangerous and unregulated avenues to obtain the hormones and surgeries necessary for their well-being.
  • Access to marriage, decent housing and shelter. Transgender Singaporeans who have transitioned but are unable to change their legal sex end up in a legal limbo where they are unable to marry anyone of any sex. This and restrictions against same-sex marriage lock the majority of trans people out of public HDB housing before the age of 35, and force many in abusive home environments to either tolerate domestic violence or become homeless due to a lack of alternative housing options. To date, only one homeless shelter openly accepts transgender residents.
  • Violence against transgender or gender non-conforming adults, youths and children including physical, emotional and sexual violence from family members, the public or officials; immunity for actors promoting and practising “conversion therapies” known to lead to lasting psychological harm; and barriers to reporting and gaps in service provision for victims of such violence to seek relief or redress.

The submission also proposed key legislative, policy, and programmatic actions to ensure that the human rights, safety and dignity of transgender people in Singapore were upheld by both State and non-State actors.

Drag queen music video during Pink Dot 2021[]

A slick and sophisticated music video of some of Singapore's best drag queens was featured during the live stream of Pink Dot 2021, officially called Pink Dot 13, which took place on Saturday, 12 June 2021[31].


Pink Dot 13 - Singapura Queens


  • Director: CHOĀNN
  • DOP: Kelvin Chew
  • Producer: Maryann Chan
  • Art Director: Karen Thien
  • Editor: Meghan Dwyer
  • VFX Supervisor: Cody Amos
  • Executive Producer (Production): Martin Hong
  • Executive Producer (Post): Charu Menon
  • Drag Queens: El Nina, Opera Tang, Salome Blaque, Sapphire Blast, Vyla Virus, Becca D’Bus, Femme Fatale, Vanda Miss Joaquim, Ambika Raichand
  • Dancers: Syazwan Rahmad, Haiky Zulkifli
  • Kopitiam Man: Ryan Yong Thanakan
  • 1st AD: Brenda Ong
  • 2nd AD: Chew Ying Xuan
  • Gaffer: Fuad Huat
  • Key Grip: Ghufran Jasni
  • 1st CA: Leslie Tan
  • 2nd CA: Rahul Radhakrishnan
  • Data Wrangler: Imran Shafie
  • Grips: Afiq Aris John De Souza Lee Shao Ming Aylwin Ho Clarence Chow
  • Assistant Art Director: Joanna Teo
  • Art Assistant: Lynette Tan
  • Production: Abundant Productions
  • Post-Production: Heckler Singapore
  • Post Producer: Charu Menon
  • CG Artists: Ruiting Wang, Cody Amos
  • Colourist: Billy Wychgel
  • Compositing: Azreena Ahmad, Keith Seah, Abi Santos
  • IO: Johnson Lim
  • Online: Meghan Dwyer
  • Production Assistants: Dominic Ng Giang Nguyen
  • Graphic Designer: Warren Tey
  • Title Sequence: Jawn Chan
  • Wardrobe for Supporting Talents: Josiah Chua
  • Make-up for Supporting Talents: Marie Soh
  • Assistant Producers: Debbie Wu Yana Gagarin
  • BTS Photographer: Yana Gagarin
  • Sound Design: Fuse Adventures In Audio
  • Music: Diana Boss - “Give Me Life” feat. Quanah Style
  • Remixed by: Vanda Miss Joaquim
  • Special Thanks: Wild Rice, Ben Siow, @3 Cafe, Yarshini Sivanathan, Xinmin Ng, Boo Junfeng

Samsung Singapore's video of Muslim mother's support for drag queen son[]

On 22 November 2021, Samsung Singapore uploaded the following video to its YouTube channel[32]:

See also[]

External links and references[]


This article was written by Roy Tan.