Aug 28, 2011

[Technicolor Musings] Singapore Birthday Thinking

Today is my birthday - Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Caley!

Lewis Carroll references aside, it really is my birthday. I'm still "on the calendar" for a few more years, not that this sort of thing really matters to me all that much. But given I'm teetering on the edge, everyone seems to enjoy reminding me of this fact like it's the most important thing in the world.

The timing of this post is pretty interesting - I had not intentionally planned to end up with a Technicolor Musings posts precisely on my birthday. Just another of those coincidences of the calendar I suppose.

Flickr: nonplussed91 - Happy Birthday Singapore!
Happy Birthday, Singapore!
by nonplussed91 via Flickr.

As of the time of this posting, I'm actually in Singapore. Today's the last day of my birthday vacation - but since I'm composing this entry before leaving Manila, I can't really talk about how the trip has gone so far. Maybe I'll take the time to update this post once back in the city, but for now I figured this would be a decent enough post without that kind of real-time data. Besides, I've mapped out a pretty busy weekend and I really didn't factor in a lot of real time computer usage.

But what to write about that's both queer and Singapore-related? Surprisingly, there's a lot to say.

Singapore has become quite the destination for Filipino migrant workers. I've already seen a number of friends who have made the transition to relocate to Singapore for work with varying degrees of success. And I can't blame them - almost all jobs there make more money than their local equivalents and thus the lure of migration most appealing. True, cost of living is pretty high there as well, but then if you live frugally and send most of your money home to your family, they should manage a very comfortable life given the conversion.

But is this truly a desirable destination for the LGBT community? Beyond the money, should we be aiming to head over to live with the Merlion?

Singapore is infamously known for its rather stringent laws originally patterned after the original British laws that managed the city state. That means a lot of rather conservative provisions that somewhat echo the original Victorian ideals to some extent.

Of course when it comes to Singapore, the most infamous legal provisions in effect in the country is Section 377A of the Penal Code - the part of their laws that dictate that sex between consenting adult males is still considered an "outrage on decency", thus making gay sex illegal. To be fair, the original law made oral and anal sex pretty much illegal for everyone and it was only recently revised in 2007 to make it legal for consenting heterosexual adults to do so.
Thankfully the law is only lightly enforced, more to track down male gigolos / prostitutes. But if anything, it does make it a little tricky to hook up with a trick at a bar right off the bat since you might be falling into some random police entrapment effort.

But outside of this law, there also seems to be a thriving gay community that has firmly established itself in the country. Notable examples of this include The Free Community Church, which is a non-denominational church which welcomes anyone regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. There's also the Pelangi Pride Center which hosts a robust library of LGBT literature and hosts monthly LGBT events. And there are major annual events in support of the LGBT community such as Pink Dot SG, which is probably the closest the country gets to a LGBT Pride parade.

Flickr: Stinkee Beek - 4000 people at 2010
4000 people at 2010
by Stinkee Beek via Flickr.

Still, more public events like the old Nation parties organized by have been disapproved by the Singapore government as of 2005, thus no further parties of that nature of taken place. There are still a lot of more private affairs and even bars that cater to LGBT clientele but it seems the country refuses to recognize the segment that publicly as of the present. Since then there's still the IndigNation celebration held in August of every year which is a month-long celebration of LGBT-themed events with an effort to distance itself from just the circuit scene image and thus more about intellectual pursuits relevant to the LGBT community.

Statements by government officials in recent years indicate that Singapore recognizes the existence of homosexuals as part of their society and stresses their right to leading their private lives. The whole "private lives" statement comes up often and it seems to stress the right to live our lives as we choose, just not out in the open too much. Thus Tobie and I have found ourselves wondering if its okay to hold hands in public like we do here.

Given the current legislative environment, I think I'm keeping Singapore on my list of places that are nice to visit but not necessarily places I want to live. But at the very least, I'm sure this won't be the last time we'll visit here. Beyond the usual sights and a queer club scene that many argue to be one of the best in Asia (but I doubt we'll have time to see it), there are also some great musicals that get staged here including The Lion King (part of the reasons for this trip to begin with) and even Wicked this December 2011 - January 2012.

How about you guys? What has been your queer experience in Singapore? I've love to hear more in the comments?
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  1. Pwede bang Queer Dream in Singapore na lang? Dream ko isama si Oreo sa Pinkdot event na iyan :)