Issue 01 / Aug 2020
A publication by NTU Kaleidoscope
EDITORS Damon, Abigail
from the editors On behalf of NTU Kaleidoscope and the students and alumni who submitted their works, we are excited to bring you a publication thatâ€™s the first of its kind. NTU Kaleidoscope has existed since 2013, but for many years operated largely under the radar. As an independent group, Kaleidoscope is run by a group of dedicated individuals who deeply care about the LGBTQ+ community in NTU, who put in their time and energy to run Kaleidoscope without expecting to place it on their resumes or Linkedin profiles.
MAIN WRITERS Parth, J, Spriha, No Name, Moon, Hui Ying GUEST WRITERS Andrew Kirkrose, Andy Winter, Gary Fong, t, Amirah, Anon DESIGNERS Gwendolyn, Ethel, Jessie CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Vanoha Chiam, Jaya Khidir CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Khairul Ameer, Sandhaya Pillai, Goh Sze Kei
This publication is an effort to amplify the voices of NTUâ€™s queer students and alumni, when for so long, even given the progress the LGBTQ+ movement has made in the past decade, queer topics remain an uncomfortable one for many, especially on campus. We hope that through this publication, we can provide a space for queer voices to share their opinions, interests, personal concerns, and messages to the community, or simply express themselves through art. We have received submissions from NTU students spanning different faculties. Though we are all diverse in our lived experiences, we are bonded in our shared experience of queerness. Art is universal, but so is queerness, and we hope that something in our publication will speak to our readers regardless of your own life experiences. We hope that you will share in our communityâ€™s concerns, whether youâ€™re on the LGBTQ+ spectrum or not. It can be disconcerting, if youâ€™ve never had any experience with our community before, but weâ€™re always happy to welcome and include individuals with a concern for our place in society. Love, Abigail (she/her) Damon (they/them)
NTU Kaleidoscope "Giving voice and visibility to the LGBTQ+ community by championing inclusivity, education and discussion ď¸? "
LGBTQ News Around the World by Spriha
It’s safe to say that the first half of 2020 has, for the most part, not been great. But while we’ve all (hopefully) been busy quarantining and washing our hands, there are some things to celebrate. A lot of countries have made strides when it comes to LGBTQ rights. And on the other hand, there have been some steps backwards, too. It’s a mixed bundle, as with all things this year, and it’s hard to keep track of all of the news. So, here’s a quick look at the most noteworthy developments, starting with Singapore:
Singapore’s Current Status The divisive Section 377A of the Singaporean penal code is a law that essentially criminalises consensual sex between adult males. The section reads:
Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years. Three challenges were brought up against the section in High Court. On March 30, Justice See Kee Oon upheld the law as constitutional and rejected the arguments against it, stressing that the law “serves the purpose of safeguarding public morality by showing societal moral disapproval of male homosexual acts.” Mr Ong, one of the three men who challenged this law, intends to appeal the decision in the future.
Source: Pink Dot SG 02
Legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage in Northern Ireland
After a process that began in 2019, same-sex marriage was finally legalised in Northern Ireland. Belfast couple Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards were the first to tie the knot on February 11. Source: CNN.
Switzerland bans Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation
Switzerland conducted a referendum to decide on legislation to specifically outlaw hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. About 62% of voters favoured the legislation, despite opposition from the right-wing Swiss Peopleâ€™s Party. Offenders will now face up to three years' imprisonment.
Germany bans Conversion Therapy
Source: Yahoo! News.
The German parliament passed a law banning conversion therapy for minors. Parents and legal guardians can now be punished for putting their children through the practice, whether through deception, coercion, or threats.
Source: Deutsche Welle (DW).
Brazil Lifts Restrictions on Blood Donation
The Brazilian Supreme Court overturned rules which imposed restrictions on gay and bisexual men's ability to donate blood. This move scraps former guidelines which required men wait a year after having sex with a man before donating blood.
26 MAY Costa Rica Legalises SameSex Marriage
Hungary Votes to End Legal Recognition of Trans People
Brazil's Supreme Court minister, Edison Fachin. Source: The Guardian.
American Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers
A ruling from the Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in Costa Rica. The process to scrap the ban began in August 2018.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. Employers can no longer fire someone on the basis of being homosexual or transgender. The decision is a major loss for the Trump administration, which had previously sided with three employers in court.
Source: Orissa Post.
Source: Mother Jones.
The Hungarian parliament voted to end legal recognition for transgender people, passing a bill that ties gender to chromosomes assigned at birth. As a result, previous provisions where trans people could alter their gender and name on official documents will be scrapped. Transgender rights activists have denounced this discriminatory law.
Rightwing Prime Minister Viktor OrbĂĄn. Source: The Guardian
F O T S THE BE
C I S U M Q T LGB 0 0 2 0 2 9 1 0 2 by Parth
The previous year turned out to be one of the best years in music. LGBT artists gained significant visibility due to their astounding innovation of futuristic music. In particular, SAWAYAMA and Flamboyant broke prominent barriers and attained critical acclaim, while also discussing the present state of the world through an inward-looking queer glass.
#1: SAWAYAMA – Rina Sawayama (POP/ALTERNATIVE/ROCK/METAL)
Rina Sawayama embraces her identity as a queer Asian through this album. Rina was born in Japan but grew up in a conservative Japanese household in London. The difficulties of her adolescence are embedded in many parts of the album and were a major reason she created catchy songs about finding strength and believing in herself, in her late teenage years. “Chosen Family”, the next big queer anthem, highlights that although people of LGBT+ identities don’t live in same household, they belong to a globally interconnected family – “So what if we don’t look the same, we been going through the same thing”. Rina is one of the few Asian artists in English pop music with metal and rock influences. She makes her listeners believe that trusting yourself a little more leads to magical results. With never a dull moment, SAWAYAMA is currently the most critically acclaimed pop album of 2020. Listen to SAWAYAMA here.
#2: Flamboyant – Dorian Electra (ART-POP/TECHNO/ELECTRO/EXPERIMENTAL)
Gender-fluid artist Dorian Electra discusses a diverse range of social themes on this album including masculinity, heteronormativity, and gender politics in the current society through satirical lyrics, futuristic production, and colourful visuals. Their music provides a queer perspective as their songs have mix of femininity and masculine tones, while at the same time questioning the toxic masculinity. The album is definitely a fun ride and the memorable hooks may give you ear-gasms. The entire album travels through gendered identities and will leave you stunningly informed about the existence of gender as a social construct. The fast-hyper-neon vibrancy of the songs make this album simply iconic. Listen to Flamboyant here.
#3: Sing to Me Instead – Ben Platt (FOLK-COUNTRY/POP)
Heartfelt and emotional, this album is for the ones who find comfort in ballads. In ‘Sing To Me Instead’ he also provides new hope for modern love relationships in the age of online swipes and likes. Love, according to him, grows as people grow both physically and emotionally as seen in “Grow As We Go”. The “Ease My Mind” music video from this album is adorably cute and deserves more attention. Listen to Sing to Me Instead here.
#4: IGOR – Tyler The Creator (HIP-HOP/R&B/COUNTRY)
Critically acclaimed queer hip-hop artist Tyler The Creator becomes more reflective on ‘IGOR’. The usually ingrained beats, biting lyrics, and the feeling of animosity that surrounded his previous albums are replaced with slower beats and charming soul hooks on this album. This change in both tone and pace continues as the album progresses, allowing you to really get into it and vibe with this new Tyler. Releasing this album in the genre of hip-hop and country, which has historically snubbed queer artists, is ground-breaking. We are finally starting to see queer black men celebrated in this genre, as even Lil Nas X topped charts globally the previous year. Each year, more gay rappers like Tyler continue to challenge and revolutionise hip hop’s homophobic culture. Listen to IGOR here.
#5: Sunshine Kitty – Tove Lo (ALTERNATIVE/ELECTRO-POP)
Tove Lo delivered an eclectic fusion of dance pop and heartbreaking ballads that the queers can both dance and cry to, every single night. Often immediately recognised by murky party anthems, her music videos are a creative departure from her pop counterparts. Tove Lo discusses how she, as a bisexual, has been left heartbroken by both men and women in “Glad He’s Gone” and “Bad as the Boys”. Tove Lo has described Sunshine Kitty, which she called “a play on pussy power, but it’s a happy, positive way of seeing it”, as her “most vulnerable record” to date. The album ends with “Anywhere U Go”, a track interlaced with imagery and lo-fi beats, and showcases that Tove Lo can find her inner self while being vulnerable to her lover. Listen to Sunshine Kitty here.
Nudging Hindi Films Forward by Anon
It's clear from the onset that Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (transl. Be extra careful of marriage) is a film that hopes to normalize onscreen LGBTQ+ relationships in Bollywood: to make them more “accessible” or “easy to grasp” for an audience familiar with the ubiquitously heteronormative films the Hindi film industry churns out. The film excels at telling the story of Kartik and Aman without ever stepping away from what constitutes the grammar of a typical Bollywood film - a massive, colourful wedding, two characters in love, disapproval from the family, a grandiose wedding, protagonists breaking out into song and dance and finally, a dramatic reconciliation. With any heterosexual onscreen pairing, this would be an overdone Bollywood cliche, but this cliche works out in Kartik and Aman’s favour. Whether it’s the iconic chasing-after-a-train scene inspired by cult classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, or one hero wistfully watching the other get married to someone they don’t love (*cue the gay yearning*), this gay couple’s narrative indeed lends them the happy ending they deserved, and we watch it all play out the same way the narrative of any straight couple in mainstream Bollywood would.
Bollywood d e h c t a w o has scene Anyone whuld know the train came classics wo l and SRK (above) that bein the between Kajoost defining moments elow) one of the my of Hindi films. SMZS (b-GAY. recent histor DDLJ but make it Jayen basically said 06
But I do think the film’s screenplay falters sometimes: for instance, Kartik’s rather contrived revision of “Jack and Jill”, and a scene where Aman’s cousin googles about sexuality and explains to their family that sexuality is a spectrum of attraction ranging from male to female. It is reasonable that the subject matter of sexuality and gender perhaps has to be simplified to educate North Indian families about it within a span of two hours, but this confusion could easily have been avoided.
I’m going thr ough it!!!!
It is, however, worth noting that Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan tells the story of a middle-class man from a rather conservative, Hindi-speaking family living in smalltown Allahabad. Its characters don’t flaunt luxurious and liberal lifestyles that the average viewer cannot relate to but that appear in every quintessential Bollywood film (K3G, Dil Dhadakne Do, SOTY, Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara… the list goes on). Neither does this film feature “star kids” - products of the nepotism that makes the industry so obnoxious - instead starring a cast of skilled actors from various backgrounds.
While this indeed calls for a celebration, it’s also important to note how the brown LGBTQ+ community is in no way monolithic - and hence there are plenty of other stories we need to tell, apart from Kartik and Aman’s tale. I sincerely hope Bollywood doesn’t lean back in complacency now that it has produced a film that makes the cut for brown queer representation, and instead continues to produce well-written scripts that highlight the narratives of the country’s economically and culturally diverse queer population. This prompts me to ponder over the future of representation in Bollywood. Actors and film directors must ask themselves if they’re putting out “gay content” just for the sake of it - if they’re simply digging for praise like the “poster boy for woke cinema” epithet that critic Anupama Chopra has bestowed upon Ayushmann Khurrana. And do we, the brown LGBTQ+ community, really just need this kind of representation? When we get representation or even fragments of it - especially when it comes so sparingly in the mainstream, do we just take it blindly and does it suffice? For me at least, I hope to see more representation that is accurate, comprehensive, and convincing.
set. A cultural re
Local Queer & Queer-friendly Businesses to Check Out by J
With the onslaught of brands commercialising Pride by throwing a rainbow sticker on their merchandise, it can be difficult to tell who your real allies are in this capitalistic world. Still, there are a couple of local businesses you can count on to be the real deal; here are four queer/queerfriendly local businesses you should know about, so you can #supportlocal AND support the LGBTQ+ community too. NOTE: This article is not sponsored, we just really like these people. Also, this is not an exhaustive list—if you have any suggestions, hit us up in our Instagram DMs and we might include them in future spotlights.
QUEER LOCAL ONLINE SHOPS HECKIN’ UNICORN Heckin’ Unicorn is a Singapore-based brand with products—from enamel pins and stickers to tote bags and notebooks—all designed by a queer Singaporean artist. The designs are simple enough that other queer folk would recognise them as identity markers, while others may just think your jacket pin of two interlinked scissors looks really cute. The brand is big on inclusivity. Its new series of medal-style pins include a wide (and still growing!) range of pride flag colours, including those of the pansexual, asexual, genderfluid, and intersex flags. Plus, all the proceeds from this gorgeous butterfly pin goes to The T Project, a Singapore social service organisation for the trans community. Source: Heckin’ Unicorn’s official website. KOSMIC KULT Kosmic Kult is a soon-to-be-launched Singapore-based gender-inclusive bodywear label. It focuses on making safe and high-quality chest binders, in a variety of colours and prints, accessible for all. The binders will be swim-friendly, made of recycled polyester from plastic bottles, ethically and sustainably produced, and size-inclusive. As of now, the binders have yet to launch, and the first prelaunch fundraiser has recently ended. However, the team is working on bringing more products into the store, and their IG page provides updates and other fun content, such as their Human of the Week series. So watch this space!
Source: @kosmickult on IG. 08
The Moon Bookstore. Source: The Moon
QUEER-FRIENDLY LOCAL ESTABLISHMENTS
Edit: At the time of publication we believed The Moon to be a queer-friendly space, but given recent developments, we are no longer comfortable with higlighting it as such. THE MOON The Moon is a bookstore and cafe which values diversity and inclusivity and often acts as a venue for local queer events. The bookstore highlights books by female authors and writers of colour, and has a selection of queer reads in their ‘gender and sexuality’ category. As for the cafe, it offers options for a variety of dietary requirements and choices. The Moon hosts monthly sessions for the Queer Women’s Book Club, and has opened its space for other queerfriendly events in the past. These include self-care and mindfulness sessions, as well as workshops for tarot reading, zine making, and bullet journaling. IULN Self Qare Day @ The Moon. Source: Kevin Tew.
Source: Unapologetic Yoga FB
UNAPOLOGETIC YOGA Founded by an NTU alumnus, Unapologetic Yoga holds inclusive yoga classes especially for people with marginalised identities. Classes are beginner-friendly and focus on trauma healing. Besides private and group sessions, they also host sessions specially for LGBTQ+ couples to engage in together. In light of Covid-19 restrictions, Unapologetic Yoga has moved online and is holding 1-on-1 Accessible Online Movement & Meditation Sessions. These 20-minute private sessions are held on Skype so you can continue to practice mindfulness and healing at home, with a pre-session form for you to fill out so that the session can be tailored to your needs.
Kaleidoscope’s Mindfulness Yoga Session with Unapologetic Yoga 09
The Projector also hosts a variety of film festivals, such as the Singapore International Film Festival, the Women Make Film Festival in celebration of female directors, and Pink Screen, which features LGBTQ films as part of Pink Fest during Pride month. Their Intermission Bar also sometimes serves as a space for other queer events, such as Prout’s Queer Trivia Night. While cinemas remain closed from Circuit Breaker and beyond, business has continued online, with films available for rental, online screenings and virtual quiz nights. If you want to support them, you can buy their merch, which includes these cute tote bags.
Source: @theprojectorsg IG
Source: The Projector on FB.
THE PROJECTOR The Projector is one of Singapore’s most prominent indie cinemas, and calls itself “a safe haven for cinema lovers, the LGBTQ community, and wokeass individuals”. They hold screenings of films that would typically fly under the radar of bigger mainstream cinemas, including a fine selection of queer films, such as Paris Is Burning and Hedwig And The Angry Inch.
WELL DRESSED SALAD BAR & CAFE Queer vegans, behold. Well Dressed Salad Bar is a fully vegan restaurant that’s queer-friendly too. Just last year, they hosted an event for Unicorn Ale, a limited edition vegan ale created as a collaboration between Oogachaga, Heckin’ Unicorn, and Trouble Brewing. Part of the proceeds went to Oogachaga to help support the local LGBTQ+ community. WDSB is currently open for takeaway and deliveries, so you can support them and treat yourself by checking out their plantpowered menu!
Source: Well Dressed Salad Bar FB 10
a purple malaysian by Gary F., 2018/19 student
Hi! My name is Gary, and this is my experience as an international student who is LGBTQ+. When I grew up in Malaysia, going overseas to study was a big thing for post-secondary students. However, I distinctly remembered I wanted to leave Malaysia for a community more welcoming of my homosexuality. I was determined to slay as an LGBTQ+ international student. I announced that my traffic light colour was purple at orientation camps (i.e. code for “I’m gay!!!”). Fortunately, when I came out to my Singaporean friends, they were accepting of who I was. But sexuality was a topic barely present in our conversations. At times it felt like I was the only purple person I knew. Though it wasn’t conventional, I kept putting myself out there to different people that I’ve met here. Maybe I just happened to not be surrounded by anyone who is LGBTQ+, until I saw many familiar faces on gay dating apps here. It was a stern realisation that the conversations with the LGBTQ+ community take place online and behind the scenes. I was in a community where people were more private with their sexualities, or just didn’t feel they needed to speak up. I started reading stories and consuming Singaporean LGBTQ+ media, and it was comforting that I wasn’t the only one who felt… excluded somehow. A phase of confusion and frustration with myself ensued. I doubted whether I should have continued putting myself out there even though no one else was really doing the same. I felt like I put myself into ‘the purple spotlight’ while everyone else stood by and watched. I stayed silent about myself until I was given an opportunity to write about what I experienced here in Singapore. I hope anyone reading this can relate that sometimes you feel like you don’t belong, and that is okay. You will be fine. I wish for all of us that one day, no one will be afraid or ashamed to have their own traffic light colours. A world full of love is still waiting for us to be there. Thank you for reading my story! :)
Green has been associated with paradise in the Quran and Iâ€™m sure for all Muslims, seeing that spectrum in the afterlife is oneâ€™s ultimate goal. In a world of cherry-picking followers overcomplicating our simple religion and misconstruing individual faith by policing personal sins that are none of their concern, I prefer believing that being a good, kind, and loving person triumphs all ignorance and hate. Giraffes are not only endangered, but are the few animals known to display queer partnerships. I thought they are a great representation of myself and my other half, as well as my queer Muslim brothers and sisters, when we cross that bridge to the emerald garden.
Illustration and Write-up by Khairul Ameer (@ _lameer.studio)
a battle between faith and sexuality by Amirah
Hi! I thought of writing this as a letter to all of you because every one of us has our own personal journeys and I would love to tell you mine. A preface: I am a Muslim. I wouldn’t say I am the most devout of followers but I am a strong believer of the faith. I am also bisexual. I flirt with both men and women and I am not afraid of telling others that I have crushes on them. However, I would not go out of my way telling people that I am bisexual. I think you might know why. Anyways. The journey to discovering my sexuality was introspective really. I discovered that I had crushes on people of both genders and I even went as far as to imagine what my life would be like married to someone special. When I voiced it out to my friends, they asked why “someone special” instead of a husband? That was when it clicked that maybe they were onto something.
One day, I sat down and analysed all the evidence I had and came to a conclusion: I can do both. Nowhere did it explicitly say that having feelings for all genders is a sin. Humans interpreted it that way. Instead, the act of committing extramarital sex is a sin. So what if I like both men and women? It doesn’t change the fact that I am still a believer of my faith. So what if I am a believer of my faith? I am entitled to my own feelings and I am entitled in? this life to do what I know is right. And I know that if I reject myself, I will live with regrets for my entire life. Why would I want to live a life with regrets? My sexuality isn’t something for me to be ashamed of.
It wasn’t easy. I questioned myself a lot. I believe strongly in my religion. Isn’t it wrong for me to like women? (Yes, I lean more towards women). But I tried not to hate myself for this. God knows I hate myself a lot already. Instead, I questioned my teachers about my faith. What did the religion say exactly about my sexuality? I tried coming to terms with both my sexuality and my faith.
Now, I just want to live this life accepting myself. I spent years denying myself happiness. Perhaps I will marry a man. Perhaps I will marry a woman. I wouldn’t know. That is something that the future holds. No one knows. I am glad that I am educating people around me, especially younger Muslims, that recognising yourself is important, and that perhaps we may have centred our fixation on sin quite shrewdly. Many are accepting, many are not. But that’s fine. The LGBTQ community is getting much more visible now, thanks to social movements. We have to continue this message. Now that I have accepted myself, it is easier to show my love towards both genders (well, women more, but you get my point).
The journey took years. I didn’t want to accept that I am bisexual because I thought that meant betraying my faith. But I wanted to accept it at the same time because I know that it is part of me. I can’t stop my feelings of love and like just with the snap of a finger.
I don’t tell others that I am a bisexual but I don’t deny that I am one. One day, I hope to be able to be open and proud. Conservatism is still something prevalent in religion, and I want to be able to change that one day. The process may take a while, but starting something new is never easy.
The Need for Intersectionality by Spriha
‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar to detail how Black women face overlapping discrimination, an experience “greater than the sum of racism and sexism.” According to MerriamWebster, intersectionality is defined as: “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” While the term originated in a predominantly feminist context and focused on mapping out the relationship between myriad systems of oppression, today the concept of intersectionality has evolved to encompass a wide range of identities and their intersections. For
example, in Singapore, a gay Malay man would most likely have a different experience with oppression than a Chinese gay man, or an Indian gay man. If any of the people in this example were women, they would have an even wider range of oppressive experiences. We can keep adding layers to this example by tweaking factors such as race, economic status, religion, and culture to see how the nature of oppression might react, change, and expand in scope. The reason intersectionality has become a controversial term is due to more than just its widespread misinterpretation. There are hierarchies of privilege and degrees of stigmatisation even within minority groups. Conservatives see intersectionality as an attempt to
impose a new social hierarchy — one that puts the most oppressed at the top and the most privileged (straight white cis men) at the bottom. This view of intersectionality stems from a fear all oppressors share. Throughout history, whenever an oppressed group advocates for their rights, the oppressors see this change of status quo as an attempt to take away their rights. In reality, rights are not a zero sum game.
The concept of intersectionality is highly relevant to the LGBTQ community. Globally, much of the conversation in the LGBTQ rights movement is centred around the narratives of white gay men. Historically, this group was at the forefront of the movementâ€” again, this can be majorly attributed to the social privilege this group enjoys over other identities within the LGBTQ spectrum. While nuanced spaces for overlapping identities do exist, they are a rarity. The needs of LGBTQ people in diverse contexts and varied spaces are equally important and must be considered when advocating for any type of reform. As a result, activism is inherently flawed when it does not take into account different systems of oppression. For example, in Singapore, straight Chinese men enjoy the most privilege. In order to have fruitful change, it is not enough to dismantle one type of privilege (straight, or male privilege). It is equally important to have conversations about Chinese privilege, and how this affects minorities, such as Indians and Malays, in Singapore. The consequences of ignoring intersectionality are numerous and far-reaching. In America, the systemic oppression that black women face has often slipped between the cracks by treating them as purely women or purely black. The outcry after the George Floyd incident has likely educated a larger audience about these facts. Legal protections are very dependent on how the system perceives a group, and this process is usually reductive and hence,
... whenever an oppressed group advocates for their rights, the oppressors see this change of status quo as an attempt at taking away their rights. In reality, rights are not a zero sum game.
ineffective. But this same attitude extends to individualistic prejudice, which then spills over to the lives of minority groups. For example, a trans Indian woman looking for a therapist in Singapore would f ind it much more diff icult to f ind someone equipped to help her with the mental health issues and fatigue arising from the types of oppression she faces. The first step towards change is facilitating an awareness of the concept of intersectionality, which has already been happening on a global level for the last few years. All of us need to use whatever privilege we have to support the voices of the more oppressed, who can easily slip through the cracks. It is their narratives that we must now push to include in the more mainstream discussions regarding LGBTQ rights and identities.
Kaleidoscope's Allyship Workshop Recap On the 17th of March, Kaleidoscope conducted an allyship workshop, where participants learned more about the necessity of allyship and how to be better allies. Allyship is the utilisation of privilege to support others from less-privileged groups.
What is privilege?
How can we be better allies?
We all possess privilege in different forms—privilege can arise from being heterosexual, part of the majority race, able-bodied, or any other qualities that confer unearned and unchallenged advantages and rewards upon a group of people on the basis of their identity. It is important to realise that these systems that accord such power often overlap, which forms the basis of intersectionality, where a person may benefit from privilege in one way but suffer from marginalisation in another way, eg. a disabled Chinese woman may face ableism and sexism but benefit from being part of Singapore’s majority race. (Read our article The Need for Intersectionality for more information on this topic!)
An ally is a member of a privileged group who stands against oppression, and advocates for social change.
Naturally we do not choose these aspects of our identity, and are not expected to feel guilty on the basis of possessing privilege as a result of our own identity. However, it is necessary to recognise the privilege that we each benefit from, and use it to amplify the voices of the marginalised.
Consider the spectrum below, which moves from active opposition of marginalised groups to active allyship. Where do you stand on this spectrum? It is not enough to merely take a neutral stance on issues of oppression; neutrality often supports the oppressor and takes few, if any, steps to help reduce oppression. An active ally is well-informed about issues of oppression and committed to routinely and proactively championing inclusion. That may seem like a daunting and uphill task, but think of the marginalised groups who have to live with their oppression every day—if you can take a minute out of your time to correct and educate, why not do so? That being said, do remember that it’s not productive to burn yourself out in the process!
O p p
tion posi Op
Activ eA llie s
Pa ss iv e
ive ct A
e iv ss
es lli A
on ti si o
Some situations that we discussed with our workshop participants included: • • • •
Responding to a parent threatening to kick their child out for being LGBTQ+ Responding to someone being bullied for effeminate behaviour Responding to someone’s refusal to use a transgender person’s name or pronouns Responding to a transgender/gender non-conforming person being harassed in a bathroom
Here are the main steps to becoming a better ally:
Learn about our struggles (which go beyond 377A); unlearn problematic language and aassumptions.
Listen to understand, not to react. Solutions and suggestions should be centered on the needs of the individual. Sometimes just listening is enough.
This does not have to be money. It can be giving your time to LGBTQ+ organisations to help them in the fight for their rights, or donating your skills such as photography, design, accounting, etc.
Make a stand by educating others and calling out offensive language or actions. Many times, we are complicit when we stay silent and allow jokes and remarks to be made at the expense of LGBTQ+ people.
A person-centred approach is key to helping others; consider the person as an individual and work with them to develop appropriate solutions for them. For instance, confronting the harasser in the last scenario may be less effective than supporting the marginalised party and removing them from a situation where they are facing aggression. Compassion and respect is a key focus in being a good ally.
Pink Dot 12 Comes Out of the Closet and Into the Heartlands by Abigail
This June, Singapore’s annual LGBTQ event took place, not in its usual spot at Hong Lim Park, but in people’s homes instead. With Covid-19 restrictions in place, Pink Dot organisers had to get creative this year. Apart from following the event online, participants were asked to fill in a virtual map in place of the yearly “light up”, as well as physically light their windows in pink in solidarity. As much as I missed the cheerful volunteers hyping you up as you queue to enter the park, the sweaty bodies gyrating to Lady Gaga and enthusiastic cheers from the crowd during the speeches, I think this year’s Pink Dot benefitted from its intimate setting away from the crowds. While Pink Dot 12 lacked the palpable excitement and energy that comes with being at a physical event, it gained the chance to sit down with the queer community to talk about where the local LGBTQ movement has been, and where it is going, which it executed admirably. Changing With The Times Last June, Indignation - Singapore’s annual, month-long pride season that organises talks, workshops and events - asked Pink Dot-goers at their booth: “What issues does Pink Dot not address for you?” This is just one example of the reckoning Pink Dot has gone through in recent years. Event organisers toed the line from the very start. What LGBT activist Roy Tan had originally envisioned as a protest march - which failed to gain much support for - was eventually re-conceptualised into a non-political event focused on gaining broad-based appeal. Pink Dot was a product of the local political climate and attitudes of its time. It was
designed to look as non-threatening as possible - after all, the regulations at Hong Lim Park had been relaxed to allow demonstrations just a year before in 2008. Its first promotional videos featured cisgender, straight allies sharing stories of LGBT people they knew; Pink Dot’s strategy to attract non-LGBT participants was in part to assuage queer people’s fears that they would be outing themselves simply by attending. For years, Pink Dot stuck to its branding as a family-friendly “picnic” and it worked. But as the event was nearing a decade at Hong Lim Park, and with the inroads the LGBTQ movement have made both overseas and - partly due to the success of Pink Dot itself - locally, the queer community began to demand more. When people started paying attention to the topic of commercialisation of Pride overseas, Pink Dot, with its long list of sponsors such as Google, JP Morgan and Barclays, inevitably drew flak for courting corporates while not doing enough to address issues faced by the community. This was coupled with criticism from people who found the event dominated predominantly Chinese cis, gay men - something that can still be said of the local LGBT movement as a whole - and ignoring issues like intra-community discrimination and intersectionality.
Of course, the most well-known moment from this period was Tosh Zhang’s controversial departure from his position as a Pink Dot ambassador in 2019. The incident was widely regarded as a case of “cancel culture” gone too far, but it was also a reflection of queer people’s frustration at Pink Dot’s focus on non-LGBT allies - in essence, the “soft” approach to activism the event had been sticking to for the past decade. Perhaps Pink Dot was conceptualised as just a picnic, but as Singapore’s largest and most visible queer event, that was no longer enough. Championing LGBTQ+ Voices To an extent, Pink Dot and other LGBT groups responded to their critics. In 2018, Pink Dot came up with a list of ten demands for their tenth year, ranging from positive media representation to legal protection from workplace discrimination. The Ready4Repeal movement launched its petition that year and Pink Dot 11’s iconic light up message “Repeal 377A” was splashed across the newspapers the next day. Less focused on by the media was that year’s focus on highlighting discrimination faced by the community, as well as celebrating local LGBT grassroot leaders. Pledging to “put in the work” as allies, Pink Dot ambassador Subhas Nair ceded the stage to local activist Irie Aman, whom he introduced as “someone from the community who’s both brown and queer and has been doing incredible work on the ground.” As Irie, a young activist who has organised events like Queer Zine Fest, stressed the need to amplify minority voices within the queer movement, it felt like Pink Dot catching up to the progressiveness of the younger queer generation.
This year’s event continued in the vein of last year’s Pink Dot in drawing from community voices. Featuring interviews with queer activists like Bryan Choong, who filed a challenge against Section 377A in 2018, and clips from last year’s anti-discrimination video campaign, this year’s Pink Dot was like a crash course in the past three years of the local LGBT movement.
... it felt like Pink Dot catching up to the progressiveness of the younger generation.
The event also featured a skit with Preetipls and Singapore’s Top Intern, and a series of animated videos featuring stories from @myqueerstorysg. @myqueerstory, a instagram page that shares the experiences LGBT people here, is one of the newer LGBT initiatives for and by the younger, social media generation. As Tay Yi Ting, the founder of the page and currently a student in junior college, most submissions come from secondary school students. It’s no surprise then, that the animations covered topics like homophobic bullying, discrimination from teachers, and parental rejection, among other things.
Source: Pink Dot 12 Livestream on YouTube
#LoveLivesHere: From Tiong Bahru to Choa Chu Kang Compared to the past two year’s slogans “We Are Ready” and “Repeal 377A”, “Love Lives Here” seemed like a return to vague overtures of pre-2018. So I was pleasantly surprised by how potent this year’s message was. Perhaps the most impressive move by Pink Dot this year was the call to light up one’s windows with pink lights. Given that many LGBT people here choose to stay closeted for fear of discrimination, I admit I had my doubts about whether people would be willing to signal their support for the LGBT community so publicly. And yet, in the weeks and days leading up to Pink Dot, I watched as Pink Dot’s Instagram was flooded with images of lights hanging from people’s windows and balconies, in the shape of a heart, or spelling out “L O V E”. In the live chat of the live streamed event, participants peppered the chat with their locations, from Punggol to Boon Lay, from Tampines to Jurong West. And when the virtual light up was revealed, every neighbourhood was lit up in pink.
I searched the virtual map for people in my neighbourhood, and the block opposite mine for other pink windows. Pink Dot came up with the initiative after organisations like Sayoni reported on the many queer people trapped in non-affirming environments due to the Covid-19 lockdown. To signal to anyone who saw them, there are people out there who support you. But it also signals to the neighbourhood: hey, a queer person - or someone who supports their queer friends and family - lives here. Visibility is powerful. The American gay rights activist Harvey Milk declared in a powerful 1978 speech, “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends, if they are indeed your friends. “Once they realise that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.” The politics of coming out and queer visibility are complex. Of course, coming out is a personal decision one must make for oneself, but it cannot be denied that the more people are publicly out, the more we are unabashed and unashamed of our queerness, the less the public can demonise us, and the more they will realise we are just regular people, just like them. So, what does the future hold? With the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) stating Pink Dot’s livestream is permitted, it is likely that future Pink Dots will continue to be livestreamed for those unable to physically attend the event - foreigners, closeted teenagers, Singaporeans living overseas. And I, for one, am keeping my pink lights for next year.
And when the virtual light up was revealed, every neighbourhood was lit up in pink. Source: Pink Dot 12 Love Lives Here Webpage
Here's how some of us lit up in June...
Shu Ning Enji
A Year in Kaleidoscope...
Our very first event was held last year at the start of the semester in August. It was a cosy queer mixer, with a couple of icebreakers and a chatty hang-out session to round everything up. We were so excited and surprised by the turn-out, and we were left buzzing long after the event, grateful for everyone who came down that Friday night.
OCT It was a cool, light evening when we had a wonderful picnic and potluck session at the Marina Barrage. We shared grapes, nuggets, and Milo packets under the setting sun, snacking and chatting - there are few things that can beat good food and good company.
Duri organ at the drizz heart snac brow lovely
NOV We were ecstatic when Leanna, an NTU alumni reached out to us about her yoga practice, and a collaboration for a mindfulness session (and at a discounted price too!) It was a great way to decompress before finals, and we are grateful to Leanna for guiding us and creating a safe space for all.
Starting off the new year with a bang, our first event of 2020 was a collaboration with the Inter-University LGBT Network (IULN). Hosted by the lovely Miss Chinatown, we held a charity fundraiser in conjunction with The T Project's Live Your Fairytale Campaign. The event, held over two days, saw performances, art stalls and thrift shops, all in support of the trans community in Singapore.
ing the winter break, we nised a little picnic, this time e Botanic Gardens. The light zle didn't stop us from having a ty time with music and lovely cks (including homemade wnies!) brought along by our y friends!
MAR In March, we held our first allyship workshop in NTU, adapted from the Inter-University LGBT Network's (IULN) workshop material. Prior to the workshop, we had a little refresher course from members in IULN with members of other student queer groups to equip us with the necessary knowledge for the workshop. For a quick recap of the material covered in the workshop, do refer to Damon's article on pages 18 and 19!
We started off the semester with a queer mixer! We were glad to see some familiar faces, but also some new ones. We certainly weren't feeling the back to school blues after a fun night in with new friends, snacks, and games.
We held our first movie screening and an impromptu post-film talk where we discussed one's consciousness and other... existential issues. It was a great way to relax and rewind after a long day of school with a chill night over snacks and a movie.
JUL Due to the COVID-19 situation, we had to hold our first Qrientation since our hiatus online, but hey, thank God for Zoom right? The orientation was held online, with icebreakers on Zoom and a mass activity with station games on Habbo Hotel! It would not have been possible without our wonderful facilitators and of course, our enthusiastic freshies!
(Above) Our freshies' Habbo characters hung out in a special room with pride flags, balloons, a pool and disco. (Left and right) Some of our freshies' masterpieces from our Picture Charades icebreaker.
A Glance at Queer Lit by Moon & No Name
For fu rth e
c.630 - c.570BC
Not much is known about Sappho’s life for certain. She was from the island of Lesbos and born around 630 BC. She spent most of her life on the Island of Lesbos when she ran an academy for unmarried young women, which was devoted to the cult of Aphrodite and Eros. Sappho was considered one of the greatest poets and even Plato hailed her as the “tenth muse”. She was honoured on coins and with civic statuary. However, conservative traditions during her time attacked her for what they assumed were her sexual preferences. Many details in her life have been changed to serve the beliefs of the author and readers. She was looked down on and parodied by the poets that came after her for her assumed promiscuity and sexuality. This chracterisation has survived until today and even the very term “lesbian” is derived from the name of her home island. Her reputation would eventually cause Pope Gregory to burn her work in 1073. The history of how society has received and reacted to Sappho is part of her significance. Even though Sapphos wrote 9 volumes of poetry, only fragments survive today. Despite being hailed as a icon for lesbians, it is actually unclear whether Sappho fits the narrow definition of a lesbian being a woman who has sex with other women. Although she has displayed non-sexual love for women and has placed the lives of women as the focal point in her poetry, she did not explicitly confess a sexual preference for women in the fragments we have today. This definition ignores the social constructs and historical environment of her world back then, including the values and culture that existed in Lesbos. As such, we cannot know if Sappho herself would have identified with the term “lesbian”, which only came into existence as an adjective in 1890.
th fur For
er rea ding, try
ing, try ead rr
Sappho of Lesbos
William Shakespeare 1564 - 1616
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and was an English poet whose works consist of 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses. His plays have been translated into almost every major language and are performed more than any other writer’s plays. His sexuality has been disputed for years and he is widely assumed to be a bisexual poet. His first 126 sonnets (out of 154) are addressed to a male character known to Shakespeare scholars as the Fair Youth. At the end of his 156 sonnet cycle, a woman called the Dark Lady appears and Shakespeare writes about having sexual affairs with both of them, although he does make it clear who he prefers between the two. Historically, his sonnets have been altered, censored, or removed completely from publications because of the beliefs of its editor. George Stevens famously admitted that he had removed these sonnets from his 1793 edition of Shakespeare’s works because the homoerotic content supposedly “filled him with disgust and indignation”. Some people have even tried to reason that Shakespeare was merely good friends with the Fair Youth and these types of verses were normal for people to write during his time. Others have pointed to the sheer number of sonnets over a hundred - dedicated to the Fair Youth, as well as the language used to describe his beauty and sexuality. Even CS Lewis admitted that he found "no real parallel to such language between friends in 16th-century literature".
y g, tr din
Gertrude Stein 1874 - 1946
Gertrude Stein is an American novelist, whose works are seen as early feminist writings. She was born in the city of Allegheny, yet spent most of her adult life in Paris. Here, she played hostess to important modernist figures in literature and art, such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway. “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” is one of her well-known quotations. The early 18th century were prominent years in modernism. People began to question the purpose of perceived social conventions. Stein’s works which actively displaced societal institutions contributed heavily to this discourse. In Tender Buttons (1914), she destroys the conventional uses of language in order to express dissent towards patriarchy’s treatment of gender and sexuality. Other titles written by her include ‘The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas’ (1933), ‘Q.E.D’ (1903), and ‘The Making of Americans’ (1902-1911). Tender Buttons was published in 1914. The book consists of three chapters titled “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms” respectively. The text is highly experiential, with passages that appear highly confusing to the average reader. In “Objects”, Stein displaces nouns that cause reader discomfort. She is purposeful in rejecting the conventions of the English language and in igniting society's consciousness towards ingrained social constructs that would have otherwise been involuntarily accepted. This created discourse towards other societal conventions such as sexuality and gender constructs.
ng, try adi e r
1973 - Present
Born in Morocco, Abdellah Taïa is a writer and filmmaker based in Paris. Taïa's novels are heavily centered around his experience living in a homophobic society. He also explores the social lives of young Moroccans in the 1980s and 1990s. His books have been translated into 10 different languages and are well-known for their take on prominent societal issues. Since coming out in 2006, he remains the only openly homosexual Moroccan author and filmmaker. Although Taïa’s coming out caused him to be heavily ostracised from his society at home, he remains steadfast in affirming his identity. He has used his prominence in the arts to bring about more LGBT representation in his society. His coming out carved a passage of hope for many Moroccans, as he remains successful and proud of his sexuality in a country where homosexuality is illegal. This has allowed discussions regarding the treatment of homosexuals in Moroccan, and by extension Arab communities. His 2012 novel Infidels is a coming of age story about a young gay Muslim growing up in a conservative society where same-sex love is outlawed. It is situated in the twentieth century, hence issues covered in the text are still highly relevant. Deeply moving and rich in dramatisation, Taïa’s novel is praised for its radical take on the treatment of homosexuals in Islam. Taïa’s personal experience allows the novel to take on a honest and sincere voice, creating an in-depth exploration of religion, identity, and values which are not generalised in most politically driven discourse. His novels are currently available on Book Depository, which can be accessed via the link here.
For furt he r
You can find the book on Book Depository by clicking on the link here.
No Straight Answers: Who Does the Femme/Butch Identity Belong To? by Hui Ying
Femme/Butch: Who can claim it? For those who have actively identified as LGBT+ for many years, we might be familiar with the debate over the reclamation of terms within the LGBT community. As the struggle for acceptance moves on in the public eye, conversations among ourselves on our collective history and our labels are starting to bloom. What are we okay with being referred to? What labels have we claimed for ourselves? The opinion varies widely from person to person. One such hotly contested subject would be the usage of femme and butch identities within the bisexual and pansexual community. While these terms are typically used by lesbians, some bisexual and pansexual women also use these identifiers. However, some lesbians have stated that they are uncomfortable with non-lesbians using these historically lesbian-identified terms. But to better understand the controversy behind these terms, we have to look at the history of these queer identities. As described by Daniel Rivers in his book Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States Since World War II, butch/femme identities originated from “a specific historical lesbian culture” that was founded in the working-class lesbian community during the 20th century.
These identities meshed with “American concepts of masculinity and femininity” in unique ways and had “distinct cultural values” that separated them from heterosexual gender roles. In particular, butches valued their ability to give their femme partners pleasure and femmes treasured their butch partners’ toughness. Rivers writes of how butch/femme couples would often risk violence and harassment through public displays of affection, resuming to pass as straight. Their sexual orientation and gender presentation shaped the way they could interact within society, both in and out of the workplace. In short, butch and femme identities were special to women who loved other women and “performed their lesbianism and gender in a culturally specific way”.
“erotic experimentation” rather than a legitimate sexuality, as described by Steven Angelides in A History of Bisexuality. As a result, women who experienced attraction to both men and women were mislabelled as lesbian. Bisexual history was erased and became synonymous with gay or lesbian history. This shared history blurs the line between who can claim the femme/ butch labels. On one hand, femme/butch identities were crafted specifically to decenter men from the narrative of women who loved women exclusively. On the other, if bisexual history has been so tied to lesbian history, who are we to deny them the femme and butch labels when they have identified as such since the 20th century?
However, some sources claim that the femme identity was first used by Anne Lister, “the first modern lesbian”, to describe her bisexual lover, Marianne Lawton. If true, this would suggest that the femme identity had always included bisexual women. However, few sources can verify the first usage of femme as an identifier, due to its French origins.
There is no denying the contributions of bisexual folks to queer history and the erasure of their identities from the same. As a bisexual woman, I can understand both perspectives. Biphobia has resulted in the unfortunate perception of bisexuality being “half-and-half”; people rarely regard bisexuality as its own individual sexuality, but as an amalgamation of gay and lesbian identities.
Furthermore, during the 20th century, bisexual wasn’t a common identifier that was used among sapphic women. Bisexuality only started to gain recognition as a distinct identity in the 70s and even then it was seen as
That is what happened to so many bisexual women during the 20th century. We were misidentified as lesbians, despite our attraction to men. And we still see this mislabelling of bisexuals happening today.
(Freddie Mercury, anyone?) Personally, I had never been comfortable using butch/femme terms. And after reviewing the literature, it is clear to me that femme and butch identities were meant to be specific to those who loved women and women only. Identifying as a femme or a butch meant loving and being intimate with women in a way that gave the middle finger to heternormativity and the patriarchal expectation that womenâ€™s lives had to revolve around men. Bisexual women who are attracted to men will experience these identities differently and cannot understand the connotations of the identities in full. While the shared history of the bisexual and lesbian community cannot be ignored, it is time for bisexual people to come to a common understanding that we need to respect the boundaries set within the LGBT+ community, and start carving out a concrete place of our own. It will not be as easy as deciding that a Canadian tuxedo is the hallmarker of bisexualityâ€”after all, sub-identities tend to be born out of strife, rather than a casual jokeâ€”and it will certainly take a much longer time than anyone can predict, but the acknowledgement that our own place within the LGBT+ community is desperately lacking and in need of a Queer-Eye worthy revamp is as good of a first step as any.
Illustration by Goh Sze Kei
Self Portrait As Animal Crossing
Today’s gender is a turnip covered in ants after being left out for a week. Today’s gender is a message in a bottle. The potential to hold space across seas. Today’s gender is a wasp nest shaken from its branch; flights of anxiety in arid air. Today’s gender is sprawled on flooring. Doing absolutely nothing. Today’s gender is sculpting waterfalls & cliff faces, turning cedars into homes, hardness into soft. Today’s gender is a balloon bringing bells on the breeze. Today’s gender is a seaplane landing in new horizons.
Illustration by J Sandhya Pillai (@san_.dhya)
முகமூடி அணிந்து உழல்பவர்க்கு முகவரி என்பது உண � ்டோ? அங்கும் இங்கும் அலைவ�ோர்க்கு அடையாளம் என்பது உண � ்டோ? “ஆண ் நண ் பர்கள் இத்தனையா?” என்று அம்மா முகம் சுழிக்கும�்போது காண ் பவர் என்ன நினைப்பர�ோ? என்ற அவர் கவலை எனக்குப் புரிகிறது. இதற்கே பதறும் ஈன்றவர்கள் இருக்க - அவர்களிடம் எதைச் ச�ொல்லி என் இதயத்தைப் புரியவைப்பது? வ ீட்டில் எழுப்பும் வினாக்களுக்கு விடை என்ன நான் அளிப்பது? “அவள் என் த�ோழி” என்று ச�ொல்லித்தான் அறிமுகப்படுத்தியாக வேண ் டும். என் காதல் த�ோழியை. Do those who wear masks Have an address to call their own? Do those who wander here and there Have an identity to call their own? When my mother asks, eyebrows raised, “You have so many male friends?” Perhaps I understand her worry about “What will people say?” But how do I make them - my parents who worry about even this Understand my heart? How do I provide answers For the questions asked at home? “She’s my friend” - I’ll just have to say, Introducing to them She who is more than that.
btch with a blowtorch
I haven’t found a dictionary to which my name and gender identity are legible, and yet I am told repeatedly that both are improper nouns. There is no holy writ more beautiful than angry transgender love for angry transgender lover, no parity of parities more pure than a room with no room for people who have never asked for change. Write me a concordance of the songs of Sappho before the fragment. Sex was different back than. Archaic lyric flowed like honey from the mouths of lyres, the truth with all its teeth on. There is nothing more beautiful on this black earth than the black earth themself the black earth herself the black earth themselves the black earth rising up to shape our selves, red clay moving undernail, underforge. ... you burn me ...¹ You burn us² ... you burn me ...³ Thou burnest us.⁴ you roast us,5 You scorch us6 You set me on fire.7 you burn me8 and so and so and so it goes ¹ Sappho trans. J. M. Edmonds ² Sappho trans. Willis Barnstone ³ Sappho trans. A. S. Kline ⁴ Sappho trans. Henry T. Wharton 5 Sappho trans. David A. Campbell 6 Sappho trans. Diane J. Rayor & André Lardinois 7 Sappho trans. Julia Dubnoff 8 Sappho trans. Anne Carson
Andrew Kirkrose email@example.com
Gay Bathhouses of Singapore (Mid to Late 2000s)
Towel Club, Blue Heaven, V-Club, Raw. The Box, One Seven, Rairua, Absolute. The memories comingle and permute Into a single labyrinthine floor Where darkened, frightened fingers might explore Our nakednesses, freshly bathed and brute. Towel Club, Blue Heaven, V-Club, Raw. The Box, One Seven, Rairua, Absolute. Itâ€™s said we should not speak of what we saw; A nameless kiss should leave a lover mute. Yet I grow old and heavy and hirsute, And cherish now that twilit corridor Where first I dared to learn I might adore The self, the body, sweet as honeyed fruit. Towel Club, Blue Heaven, V-Club, Raw. The names mean next to nothing anymore.
These photos are part of a hypothetical fashion brand named Sopan (modest in the Malay language) that my classmates – Wahidah Sofia, Jane Chong, Nafhah Noor Tijany – and I worked on. I think it is my favourite work because of the themes that hit close to home and how they intersect with one another. The visual language of the work is an intersection of modesty, queerness, and ethnic tradition – these are three issues minority communities face, as to how they should present themselves through dress and fashion, especially here in Singapore.
Photographs and Write-up by Jaya Khidir (@jaya.khidir)
The idiom â€œtruth is stranger than fictionâ€? is something that I probably subconsciously use as a rule of thumb when approaching new works that are yet to be created. To always make the effort to be informed (and sometimes be entertained), be it through the news, a film, an art book, or a nonfiction book. To then reflect and understand upon the issues, themes, or shared truths that these mediums have explored. In real life, to be observant and thoughtful to what is going on around me. However, being informed is just not enough, as one would need to take all this information into practice â€“ interpret, deconstruct, and translate them into one way or another (with thoughtfulness, care, and effort). I then try to distill and put together these reinterpreted, deconstructed, and translated ideas into a visual image.
“The noises I heard turned into whispers that consoled me; its rhythm, lulling me further into the abyss of my consciousness...i was convinced that I had been there, in that moment, all my life. I no longer had a name tied to my soul, and my hands, they were no longer mine. Suddenly, I just was.” – abstract from a journal entry written in 2012.
For as long as I can remember, my body and my soul have not felt like a singular entity. I do not feel at home in this body, and therefore I do not feel at home in the world. I know I cannot exist without either, but there are days where I feel like i’ve woken up on another plane of existence. I am so absorbed within it that connection with anything real is impossible. If i’m not careful, I fear I may allow myself to float off somewhere else entirely. To be is an attempt to make tangible, what is so intangible, what I sometimes think perhaps i’ve made up in my head. It is an attempt to find unity with my inside self and my outside self, to feel present, to remind myself that I am real.
Photographs and Write-up by Vanoha Chiam (@vanoha.jpg)
The Past, Present and Future of NTU Kaleidoscope We follow NTU Kaleidoscope through its seven years of ups and downs; from being Singapore’s first LGBTQ varsity group, to losing its Co-curricular Activity status, to going on hiatus and its recent revival.
In 2013, a brand-new club burst onto the scene at NTU’s annual Co-curricular Activity (CCA) fair waving a big ol' rainbow flag. The booth’s signboard, propped next to a pile of LGBTQ-themed Singlit books, introduced the club as “NTU Kaleidoscope”, a student organisation advocating a “discrimination-free and inclusive campus”. Today, there are a bevy of LGBTQ varsity groups, both official and unofficial, but when Kaleidoscope was first formed, there were few of its kind. When Kaleidoscope first gained its status as a Tier 3 Non-Constituent Club (NCC), it was the first official LGBTQ student organisation among the local universities.
not right. It’s unnatural. It’s not in line with our Asian values and so on.” She didn’t necessarily see it as a bad thing, however. “At the end of the day, that was the point of having that session, to allow a platform for these people to come and say what they want to say, and giving us the opportunity to engage in what they say. Like, okay, you think that this is not in line with Asian values. Why do you think it’s not in line with Asian values?” “Making them think, and us engaging there and then, that was one of the, I would say, more impactful things that we got out of that coffee session.”
They came in trying to hijack the session, telling us that, you know, we need to stop what we are doing. It’s not right. It’s unnatural.
This fact gained it plenty of attention - over 160 student sign ups and news coverage by Today newspaper and the school paper, The Nanyang Chronicle. (See full clippings on Page 46.) Early Days (2013) Not everyone approved of the group, though. Dhanashree Shelgaonkar, who was Kaleidoscope’s president, shared that they had “a couple of people come into the coffee sessions,” a weekly activity that was open to the public, “who had pretty opposing views.” “They came in trying to hijack the session, telling us that, you know, we need to stop what we are doing. It’s
Dhanashree Shelgaonkar President, NTU Kaleidoscope (2013-2014)
NTU Kaleidoscope booth at NTU CCA Fair during Welcome Week 2013 (Source: NTU Kaleidoscope Facebook)
Kaleidoscope is Out (Sept 2014) Unfortunately, the group would be thrust into uncertain waters soon after. Kaleidoscope was missing from the roster of booths at the NTU CCA Fair next year. The club, which had been given in-principle approval to register as a society, was under review by the NTU Student Affairs Office (SAO) after a year’s run. In September of 2014, Kaleidoscope announced on Facebook that it would run as an “independent group” - the group has lost its status as an official CCA. When asked about the decision, thenDirector of Students at the SAO, Associate Professor Lok Tat Seng, said that, “The activities proposed
by the students are already being organised by existing student clubs, but we respect the students’ decision to pursue similar activities and fulfil their objectives.”
“Why it was heartbreaking is because we actually did everything by the book. We actually went through them for everything. There was no event that was held without their approval.”
Some former Kaleidoscope members, however, painted a different story.
“Other CCAs were evaluated based on their events, based on logistical factors, based on budget, based on attendance,” added founding member Abha Apte. “The reasoning behind this was outside of all those processes, which, like, by definition is discrimination.”
Arpit, a founding member, shared that he felt the office “gave us very vague reasons.” He had already graduated in 2013, but returned to assist the group which was engaged in meetings with the SAO. “What we could gather was that [they felt] this is not aligned with the values that Singapore represents,” he said. “They felt that the reach or the momentum that Kaleidoscope was gaining at that point would not correctly reflect the image of NTU, or they did not want to align themselves with that sort of conversation.” Dhanashree described the news as “heartbreaking”.
While the disbandment cut off the group’s access to school facilities and resources, Dhanashree said this made them “even more determined to continue what we were doing.”
Branching out with Pink Dot, Qrientation, and a Hiatus (Late 2014-2018) Kaleidoscope continued with coffee meet-ups and movie evenings throughout the year. By 2015, Kaleidoscope had upgraded from an informal picnic mat to an official booth at Pink Dot - which is still a fixture of the Community Tent today. Being an independent group also had its upsides. Kay, a member of Kaleidoscope who helped organise events, told us that “Being apart from SAO meant that we kind of had free rein - I didn’t have to write a proposal to ask SAO if I could show Hedwig and the Angry Inch in a seminar room for a limited number of students. I think it was a good thing.” When other university groups began to run “Qrientation” - orientation camps for queer freshmen - Kaleidoscope “hopped on the bandwagon”. Cut off from official school resources, everything had to be accomplished on what Kay described as a “shoestring budget”.
Spilling the tea at coffee meetups in 2015. (Source: NTU Kaleidoscope Facebook)
“Every single Qrientation - from 2015, 2016, and 2017 - was organised on a budget of less than $200. I think the first one cost us $27 in materials.”
The participants of Qrientation 2016 pose for a photo. (Source: NTU Kaleidoscope Facebook) By 2017, however, Kaleidoscope seemed to be losing steam. “We were definitely more active from 2014 to 2016, and from then on things slowed down,” Kay shared. As seniors graduated or were swamped with final year projects, “it was hard to find people who wanted to organise events and regular things for others for free, without any promise of hall points.” “It’s the lack of manpower that really sunk us, I think.” By 2019, the group was largely inactive. Kaleidoscope’s Back, Alright! (Late 2019-2020) That is, until a Year 2 Art, Design and Media (ADM) student picked up the mantle. After almost two years of radio silence on instagram, Kaleidoscope’s account unveiled a revamped logo.
In the year that Kaleidoscope has returned, the group has held a wide variety of activities - welcome sessions, informal dinners, picnics, a movie night, an allyship workshop, and even a yoga session. This January, Kaleidoscope helped organise and run The Magical Market, a charity art bazaar, in conjunction with the Inter-University LGBT Network, of which it is a member, and The T Project SG. Featuring booths selling everything from art to tarot card readings to secondhand books, a thrift sale, and performances by queer artists, the two-day event raised over $4000 for The T Project’s “Live Your Fairytale” fundraiser.
Evolution of Kaleidoscope logos
So, what does the future hold for Kaleidoscope? Well, Kaleidoscope is still running independently, and working closely with Inter-University LGBT Network and other community groups. But whether or not the group regains its status as a CCA anytime soon, Kaleidoscopeâ€™s varied history shows that regardless of the circumstances, with or without the support of their universities, queer students will always manage to find each other.
Kaleidoscope Makes Headlines A collection of newspaper clippings covering NTU Kaleidoscope from Today newspaper and the school paper, The Nanyang Chronicle.
"Turning pink" The Nanyang Chronicle Volume 20 Issue 2, Opinion Pg. 26 Published on Sep 1, 2013
"New CCA for discrimination debate" The Nanyang Chronicle Volume 20 Issue 2, News Pg. 5 Published on Sep 1, 2013
"NTU students to set up society on gender and sexuality issues" TODAY Pg. 29 Published on Sep 4, 2013
“Kaleidoscope to run independently” Nanyang Chronicle, Volume 21 Issue 03. News Pg. 5. Published on Sep 21, 2014
Seven Years On: A Chat with Kaleidoscope’s Founding Members. Towards the end of 2012, a group of four Engineering students (yes, they were Engineering students) came together to lay the foundation of what would become NTU Kaleidoscope. We talk to Abha Apte, Arpit Malik, and Shourav Yathindranath (Class of 2013) and Dhanashree Shelgaonkar (Class of 2015) about why they decided to create Kaleidoscope, their experiences with the club, and, of course, why “Kaleidoscope”?
So all of you joined Kaleidoscope in the beginning, or did some of you join later on? Arpit: [Dhana was] in second year and we were all in our final year of university. We were all out to our friends and we were comfortable with our sexuality and gender identity. And we wanted to leave a legacy behind as we graduate. Dhana was good friends with us and we saw Dhana as a potential leader who could continue [running Kaleidoscope] once we graduate. We started, I think, end of 2012. And then all the applications and processes to the Student Affairs Office were done by 2013. Could you share a bit more about how you all came up with the name ‘Kaleidoscope’? Abha: We briefly spoke about using the word “Prism” and we ended up discarding it because everybody and their mom names their first diversity society “Prism”. We liked how [Kaleidoscope] represented a lot of our technical backgrounds. We liked how it represented the idea of different colors and different forms, taking shape in different identities, and thought that that would be a catchy and representative name for a newer person to kind of get what the club was about.
Did you have any concerns that things would not get approved or that because of the nature of the club, you would run into difficulties? Dhanashree: I think honestly for me. I wasn't too concerned about getting approval, because we were quite confident. We had covered all the bases. Any issue that someone could raise, we had an answer. We had an explanation for everything. If someone said, this shouldn't be a part of our university, it's not aligned with Asian values or family values, we had proper answers, we had proper discussion points. What were your goals for Kaleidoscope in the beginning? Shourav: I think the biggest thing we wanted to do was introduce a forum where people could talk and discuss all these issues and have a safe space. We noticed that campus life and vibrancy and diversity was something that we wanted to add [to], [and we thought this was] not explicitly being brought out by any club in NTU. Arpit: I think the second goal was, for people who are coming to university and are probably nervous, [to] see people who belong to Kaleidoscope as friendly faces that they can approach. Abha: Yeah, and to add on a third goal, from my perspective over the last few years applying for B-school [Business school at graduate level], applying for jobs. We all make decisions based on competitive differences. For a university to have a gay-straight alliance, or some version of that, to me, is a competitive difference. People would choose a university based on that, just like on the awarding of scholarships, just like on the breadth of the English department, to indicate a kind of wholesomeness and holistic curriculum. And it feels good to, like, add in some way to that or at least help NTU get there, because we all have it on our resumes. That's where we got our degrees from. Dhanashree: I'll just add on one thing that really stood out for me and really made me drive Kaleidoscope. Personally, I'm very passionate about supporting dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. There needs to be a platform for dialogue. There were four issues that we tried to focus on. One was gender. One was sexuality. One was class and race as well, because all of these go hand in hand.
(The full interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
How did you see Kaleidoscope change over the year you were there? Dhanashree: I have pretty positive things to say about it, because even though we stopped being an official CCA, people actually started looking for us. We had people reaching out, we had people texting us personally, saying that, I want to know where all these events are going on. So we maintained our page, we would post updates on the events going on. Everyone who did that coffee session really enjoyed that informal meeting every week. What were the immediate effects of SAO’s decision on Kaleidoscope? Dhanashree: Honestly, after we got over the initial shock [that] we were being disbanded as an official CCA for no specific reason, I think we were even more determined to continue what we were doing. So our events went ahead. We did exactly as planned, but no longer using school resources. If we wanted help from the professors, we would approach them on a personal basis. We were still continuing our coffee sessions. We don't need approval for coffee sessions. We don't need approval for meetings. We don't need approval to join Pink Dot, to help out and being so, to be honest. The only thing that was taken away from us was that platform to reach out to NTU students and NTU faculty as well. Abha: Yeah, and under the principle of a safe space, if you're an 18 year old who is not welcome at home and you're in university and you're scared, you're being bullied. Look, it will be very unlikely for you to join a non-accredited, accepted University body. Like the whole point of making a safe space was to make [it] an accepted safe space where you didn't feel shady about going to a Coffee Bean and talking to other people, which was something that we felt the university took away from from paying students. If you're paying for a service, you get to feel safe and expect it's accepted in your space of study.
How would you describe Kaleidoscope’s impact on the university and the student population? Dhanashree: Giving a safe space to people who need it. That's one. Giving access to resources, that's another one. Abha: Yeah, from my perspective, Kaleidoscope is a resource I did not have when I joined NTU. I think we're all smart people who studied really hard. We could, a lot of us, could get into any university we wanted. We chose to go to NTU. We paid for it, we invested four years into it and that gives you a right to have access to that. We didn’t have access to that in our first year, in our second year, in our third year. We had to create a society like that. Future freshmen now have access to this, they can visit physical spaces in coffee shops, meet like minded people who are of different sexual identities, gender identities. They do not have to exclusively be in online spaces that can be unsafe, unknown. They have a physical safe space. And I think that that [has] a huge impact. Arpit: I would echo the same thing. We left and I mean, as I mentioned, we wanted to leave something behind that would continue and help students directly, indirectly, whether it's one student or like one hundred. We wanted to make sure that something like this continues. I think, for me, that's like the biggest investment, even after I graduated in 2013 and 7 years later, there's still something that is going on. I think you can't really measure it, but it tells you a lot about what has been achieved. Abha: It's a huge deal, you guys. Like, the four years I was in university my queer identity was like invisible, except for like having friends like you guys (speaking to Dhana, Arpit, Shourav.) But after I graduated, I’m married now to a wonderful woman who had those resources in university and I never did. And by doing the work that you're doing, whether it's a small turnout, whether it's an unofficial CCA, like, I think that is a standard of living component. If you're paying for university, [that] you get to feel like you're included and not a third-class member of society and that's huge. Even if it’s an unofficial conversation. It helps foster relationships in university where you can look back and you're like, “You know what, it started out with a cup of coffee, but then we did something great.”
A Collection of Mental Health Resources for LGBTQ+ Students
A leading centre for LGBTQ+ resources, Oogachaga offers counselling for LGBTQ+ clients (including couples and family members of LGBTQ+ individuals), guided by LGBTQ-affirming professional practices. They can also provide referrals to healthcare providers for trans clients. They also offer counselling options that let you seek help from home, such as through phone, Whatsapp, or email. An additional Women on Wednesdays hotline is available from 7pm to 10pm. >Hotline Counselling: +65 6226 2002 (Tuesday to Thursday, 7pm—10pm) (Saturday 2pm—5pm)
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)
A leading organisation in suicide prevention and crisis support, SOS offers specialist counselling for individuals in crisis or who have just experienced a loss through suicide. They also hold a support group for those affected by suicide, as well as hotline and email options for those in distress who require emotional support.
>Whatsapp Counselling: +65 8592 0609 (Tuesday to Thursday, 7pm—10pm) (Saturday 2pm—5pm)
>24-Hour Hotline: 1800 221 4444 >Email Befriending: firstname.lastname@example.org
>Email Counselling form: oogachaga.com/email-counselling
Women’s Care Centre
>Women on Wednesdays hotline: +65 6226 6629 (Wednesday, 7pm—10pm)
Brave Spaces provides counselling for Singaporean women, with counsellors trained to be sensitive to intersectional identities, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Alternatively, LBTQI women in crisis can use the Brave Helpline to receive safe and confidential support and assistance. >Brave Helpline: +65 8788 8817 (Monday to Friday, 10am—6pm)
The Greenhouse is a substance addiction recovery centre for marginalised communities, with a focus on providing a safe and supportive environment. They provide in-house professional counselling, peer support activities, and group chat, as well as referrals to other medical care. >Contact Form
Counselling and Care Centre
AWARE’s Women’s Care Centre provides professional counselling for women dealing with a variety of issues, including sexuality issues in a queer-affirming manner. You can call the Women’s Helpline to set up an appointment, find more information, or speak about a problem. Alternatively, an online written chat service and a call-back service have recently been implemented as an alternative to calling. AWARE also runs the Sexual Assault Care Centre, which offers counselling through in-house sessions, support groups, and Whatsapp chat service. >Women’s Helpline: 1800 777 5555 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm) >Women’s Care Centre Online Chat and Call-Back Service >SACC Helpline: +65 6779 0282 (Monday to Friday, 10am—10pm) >SACC Whatsapp: +65 9781 4101 (Monday to Friday, 10am—7pm)
Heart Knocks Counselling
Heart Knocks Counselling provides LGBTQI-friendly counselling services for individuals and couples. Phone counselling is also available for convenience and discretion.
The Counselling and Care Centre is a queer-friendly nonprofit NGO which offers counselling for a variety of issues, including those pertaining to sexuality.
Students referred by Kaleidoscope can get $30 off their first three 60-minute sessions by quoting “Kaleidoscope” when making an appointment.
>Counselling Request Form
Peer counselling & support groups Alicia Community Centre
Organised by the T Project, Alicia Community Centre provides peer counselling for transgender and genderqueer persons, conducted by professional counsellors. >Appointment Form
Pink Carpet Y
Pink Carpet Y is a resource centre by gayhealth.sg, offering peer counselling for GBQ men below 25.
Besides the helplines mentioned above, here are some places you can call for immediate mental health support. >IMH Mental Health Helpline: +65 6389 2222 (24-hour) >National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868 / +65 6202 6868 (24-hour) >Singapore Association of Mental Health: 1800 283 7019 (Monday to Friday, 9am—6pm)
Women’s Xchange holds support group sessions for LBTQ women every first Saturday of the month.
The IMH Gender Clinic conducts psychiatric assessments for people with gender dysphoria and provides referrals to endocrinologists for hormone therapy. Tip: Getting a referral to the clinic by a polyclinic GP would allow for subsidised fees for Singaporeans.
Lifeline SG is a peer support group for GBQ men in recovery from drug addiction. Programs run on 8-week cycles, hold up to 12 participants per group and are free of charge.
IMH Gender Clinic
The Bi+ Collective SG
TBCSG is an online community space & collective platform for people under the bi+ umbrella. Besides organising offline events and meetups, they have a Telegram group chat for members to provide resources, support, and encouragement to one another.
The Healing Circle
The Healing Circle provides a safe space for queer Muslims to embrace both their spirituality and sexual orientation by hosting weekly group wellness sessions with a professional counsellor.
Jejaka is a youth support group by SGRainbow held for GBQ Malay and/or Muslim men, aged 18 to 35 years old.
Penawar holds peer-led support group sessions for Muslim-raised women and non-men, creating a safe and affirming space to work towards personal and community healing.
On-Campus services NTU University Wellbeing Centre
NTU has its own counselling services located conveniently next to Fullerton Health, free of charge for students and employees. Inter-University LGBT Network received a statement from NTU UWC that their “counsellors have gone through training in LGBT issues”, and one of our writers has had a positive and affirming experience with a counsellor. However, one’s needs and expectations may differ, and you should always feel safe and comfortable, so remember you have the right to request a different counsellor if one doesn’t suit you. >NTU UWC Appointment Form >Office No.: +65 6790 4462 (Monday to Thursday, 8.30am—5.45pm) (Friday 8.30am—5.15pm) >After-Office Hours No.: +65 9721 1637 (for psychological emergencies)
MAIN WRITERS Damon (they/them, ELH)
Spriha (she/her, CSC)
With an identity that is the verbal equivalent of alphabet soup and a decade of experience writing and editing fiction, this is their first foray into serious work. They have a Starbucks gold card and a grandmaster ranking on Microsoft Spider Solitaire (this is not a brag but a cry for help).
Spriha is a bisexual literature nerd stuck in a STEM major body. That doesn’t stop her from crying at emo poetry and at Hozier (are they really that different?). She never exactly got over her teen angst phase but at least now it comes with a sprinkling of self-awareness.
Abigail is a blatant homosexual who wishes to own a cat one day. Find her walking between North and South Spine five times a day and lamenting that NTU has no KOI or Gongcha (though she guesses Chi Cha is not bad).
anonymity. do you really not know me? i go by no name.
Parth is a nerdy environmentalist and, despite having the beneficial trait of walking faster than most others, is always late to lectures. He religiously listens to Weyes Blood, and is mostly approachable for philosophical conversations.
the moo at moon monochrome monologue moonbeam, who are you?
J (she/her, LMS)
Hui Ying (she/her, WKW)
J fulfils all the bisexual stereotypes such as cuffed jeans, striped shirts and an aversion to monogamy. J’s bicons include Frank Ocean and Avatar Korra.
Hui Ying is a bisexual idiot who plays too much Animal Crossing and drinks too little water. She is also the selfproclaimed CEO of cutting her own hair, to the despair of those around her. Her goal is to publish a book one day that is hopefully good.
GUEST WRITERS Gary Fong (he/him, BUS)
Amirah (she/her, History)
Gary is a final year NTU student who’s just trying to be a little bit better than who he was yesterday. Both his academic path and career are very mathematical, so he likes to keep himself involved creatively (singing, designing, or just lying on my soft bed) outside the classroom and the office. Writing, in particular, has been therapeutic to him to keep himself calm at late hours.
An active student who is frequently described as overly flamboyant and flat out too easygoing at times, she brings too much chaotic energy to the people around her. Recently, she’s been slowly coming out to her closest of peers and while some responses are rather lukewarm, the majority are accepting. Slow and steady wins the race after all!
Andy Winter (they/them) Andy Winter is a third year English undergraduate. They are also a poet / a drag artist / a witch. They love cats, video games and tarot cards. They do not wish to be perceived.
Anon (she/her) Anon is a Tamil literature enthusiast who has learnt over time to take pride in being the "token Indian" in her class. This computer science major loves exploring the importance of intersectional identities, and often finds herself doing so through creative mediums such as dance and music.
Andrew Kirkrose (he/him, LMS) Andrew Kirkrose is a fourth year student majoring in Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, with a second major in English Literature. Depending on how badly he loses STAR WARS this year, there may also be a minor in Creative Writing and/ or Gender and Diversity in there. He is a bisexual transgender writer whose work has been published in journals including Cordite Poetry Review and PerVERSE. He identifies as btch. For more on his work, find him at andrewkirkrose.wordpress.com/
Ng Yi-Sheng (he/him, Alumni) Ng Yi-Sheng is a multidisciplinary writer, a cultural history researcher and LGBTQ+ activist, currently working on a Creative Writing PhD at NTU English. His books include Lion City, A Book of Hims, Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience, the best-selling SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century and the Singapore Literature Prize-winning last boy. He spent twelve years as co-organiser of the annual queer literary evening ContraDiction, and has coedited GASPP: a Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose and Sanctuary: Short Fiction from Queer Asia. He tweets and Instagrams at @yishkabob.
“You know what, it started out with a cup of coffee, but then we did something great.”
Let's stay connected! :) @ntukaleidoscope https://t.me/NTUKaleidoscope www.facebook.com/NTUkaleidoscope
Welcome to Kalei, a publication by Kaleidoscope! :) We hope that through this publication, we can provide a space for queer voices to share...
Published on Aug 15, 2020
Welcome to Kalei, a publication by Kaleidoscope! :) We hope that through this publication, we can provide a space for queer voices to share...