Singapore: Gay pride, state shame

When Singaporean lesbian Eileena Lee sought peer support after a painful relationship experience in the 1990s, there weren’t many local platforms available for gay women.

“I was looking for support [but] there was no support,” Lee said. “And in those days, it was dial-up modem. It was in the ‘90s and all I could find was mostly porn.”

Times have changed but challenges remain. The evolution of Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism reflects both how much has improved in recent years and how much remains the same.

One need only go online to find multiple LGBT resources, from established counselling centers like Oogachaga, to media content on blogs like Dear Straight People, to Singapore’s first LGBT legal guidefor couples and families.

Offline, Pink Dot, Singapore’s de facto gay pride event, draws thousands each year. Even new state-imposed regulations that require organizers to erect a barricade around the park—so as to prevent any sort of participation by foreigners—didn’t stop Singaporeans and permanent residents from completely filling the park this July.

In Singapore’s universities, LGBT student groups are some of the most active and organized. Determined to create safe spaces for LGBT students at college campuses, student organizations like ‘The G Spot’ at Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS), ‘Out to Care’ at the Singapore Management University and ‘Kaleidoscope’ at the Nanyang Technological University provide opportunities to form support groups.

Although it’s a sea change from the previous generation of activists who describe growing up gay as “feeling very, very alone”, LGBT equality is still a long way off in Singapore.

The government continues to retain Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sex between men. The law is sandwiched between codes that ban sex with corpses (Section 377) and sex with animals (Section 377B) in the Penal Code, indication of official attitudes towards homosexuality in the wealthy city-state. Convictions under 377A allow for two-year prison terms. Read more via Asia Times