Issue 03 / Aug 2021
A publication by NTU Kaleidoscope
from the editors Hello friends! This issue marks the end of an era. We’re excited to announce that NTU Kaleidoscope has been handed over to a new EXCO, and look forward to what fresh blood will bring in Kaleidoscope’s next chapter. Although we’re sad to leave KALEI behind, we’ve greatly enjoyed bringing content from our community to you, and helping to amplify voices to make sure that you feel heard. Although the production of this issue saw similar circumstances of pandemic-enforced distancing as the last issue, we must admit something feels different lately. Although physically distanced, we’ve seen many instances of the community coming together in the face of discrimination and exclusion, banding together to present a front of strength against mindless hate. Kaleidoscope has strived to continue standing by our community through releasing counterstatements to the MFA (‘A Year in Review’) and calling on NTU to aid us in providing a safer environment for queer students (‘What Does It Mean to be Trans in College?’). We stand in solidarity with everyone who faces discrimination and violence, whether on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity, or on their race, ethnicity, nationality, class or background. We are stronger together when we realise our struggles are interlinked, when we aim to root out the prejudices within our own communities, and when we reform or dismantle structures (‘The Failure of Ingrained Systems; Yes to the Protest’) that keep us from forging a more just world. We call on educational institutions such as NTU to step up and recognise their position in creating a safe and welcoming environment for its students regardless of their identity. And we’d like to call on you, too, dear reader, to recognise your part in making our world a safer and more loving one, in any way that you can, big or small. In the final days of compiling this issue, we saw large swaths of the NTU student population come together to write petitions, liaise with media outlets, create mutual aid spreadsheets, and mobilise in numbers we’ve never seen before. The housing issue shows that we can come together to solve common issues, that there is power to collective mobilisation. The path to change lies in community and connection, and it’s a path we must all take together. Love, Abigail (she/her) Daemon (they/them)
EDITORS Abigail, Daemon, Andrew, Khairul, Kieran, AI CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kerry, Kieran, Khairul, Daemon, Andrew, Jonathan, Kishore, Abigail DESIGNERS Gwendolyn, Mun Cheng CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Francesca
Kaleidoscope "Giving voice and visibility to the LGBTQ+ community by championing inclusivity, education and discussion ️ "
CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Khairul, Meghan, AI, Gwendolyn, Charmaine
A Year In Review... AUG '20 -
What do you do when you can’t meet in person and you’re restricted to Zoom? Do an online social event! Participants were put to the test on their knowledge of queer trivia. Can you answer the questions (below) our participants faced?
Identify the queer icons in the mosaics:
AUG 2020 In groups of 5, we explored the Foot Beneath the Flower exhibition at the ADM Gallery, which explored themes of gender, identity, negotiating societal conventions and subversion through kitsch and camp. With a small activity booklet for each group, we took a deeper look into the artworks, many of which were investigations into queerness and the queer identity in Southeast Asia.
Answers ( from left to right): Vanda Miss Joaquim, Alfian Sa’at, Preetipls, Ivan Heng (as the leading lady of Emily of Emerald Hill)
Top: "The Rubble", mixed media assemblage by Khairullah Rahim. Bottom: Three gouache paintings from a series of five paintings, "Dream of an Indian Ocean", by Ritchie Htet.
New year, still Covid. To welcome our community back to school, we held a socially-distanced picnic and stargazing session at Nanyang Garden.
JAN 2021 MAY 2021 Kaleidoscope and other student organisations released a joint response to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) reminder to the US embassy that foreign missions here are “not to interfere in [Singapore’s] social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy” in the wake of a webinar co-organised by Oogachaga. The response highlighted the government’s reluctance to have an open and informed discussion on public policies concerning sexual orientation. The statement was co-signed by the Inter-Uni LGBT Network, QueerNUS, and tFreedom. Read the joint statement here.
AUG 2021 Kaleidoscope hosted our orientation event to welcome freshmen to our NTU community with the help of a team of seniors. For most of the afternoon, we got to know each other through games like 2 Truths 1 Lie, This or That, and playing uQuizzes. After a break for dinner, we had a screening of Bo Burnham: Inside. Come join our Discord here!
Mayle Kor's Skeletons in the Closet:
The Ups and Downs of Making a Film Addressing Taboo
The crew setting up for a shot at one of their outdoor locations. (Source: Brendan Mayle Kor)
A Director's Love for Mahjong
The heart of
Skeletons in the Closet
The past decade has been a significant one in the world of queer film. Award-clinching movies such as Call Me By Your Name (2017), Moonlight (2016) and Carol (2015) have not only garnered triumph and recognition for their cast and creatives but moreover, helped the queer community feel seen and represented. For local audiences, film student Brendan Mayle Kor (he/him) noted it is necessary for voices that were too often unheard to be given a platform. Thus, the inspiration to write a script entitled Skeletons in the Closet. In the final week of an incredibly challenging semester, I managed to find the time to sit and have a chat with him on the process of creating a queer film, the support it received, and, unfortunately, the backlash against it. At its heart, writer/director Mayle Kor wanted to address the unspoken issues that occur behind the closed doors of student university hostels. How people residing in a shared space explore taboo relationships, while at the same time paying homage to hall customs such as the playing of mahjong, social drinking and bonding with friends, complete with the security officer knocking on doors to inspect a noise complaint.
The story follows Casey, a student residing in a university hostel, and his complicated friendship with his roommate, Russell. A game of mahjong and the meanings behind certain tiles act as a conduit to bring us through the film. Mayle mentions drawing heavily from his own experience: “When I write dialogues, my personal experiences have to be drawn, especially when it’s about mahjong. I freaking love mahjong.”
Concealing & Discovering Personal Truths
Despite the premise being set within the walls of the student hostels, the film’s genesis was far from that. “The original story was held in an army camp,” said Mayle. According to him, the original inspiration for Skeletons in the Closet was the experience of homosexual men having to lie about their sexual identity when entering the National Service. “Can you imagine the number of people who have lied?” His film explores if the invasive question for pre-NS recruits was placed in the hostel application system. Would a queer person who had self-declared to so not be able to share a room with a heterosexual person? Mayle mentions that both the film’s main characters grapple with the idea of truth-Casey, with discovering his truth, and Russell, with denying it. “I think writers/ directors inevitably write themselves into their dialogues as they see a bit of themselves in their characters,” the Year 3 film student added.
The Ups and Downs
As with any creative endeavour, Skeletons in the Closet faced its fair share of obstacles. A few weeks after the film’s casting call was released, NTU’s School of Art, Design & Media received an email from a “concerned parent” questioning the film faculty’s decision to greenlight an LGBTQIA+ themed film, expanding on the “negative” impact the film would have on younger generations. “It was an interesting experience. To think that someone took their time off their day to send such a report is reflective of how such conservative minds still exist in Singapore,” Mayle said. “What if the film project had to stop production?” Fortunately, the faculty dismissed that concern and wholly supported the film. “In a way, this experience became a source of motivation for the entire crew and it reminded them and myself of why we wanted the film made in the first place,” revealed Mayle. In addition to that gnarly email, Mayle received a direct message on his Instagram from an anonymous user, telling him to stop the film’s production. He laughed this off and said: “The more people tell me not to do it, the more I will do it.”
The Film's crowdfunding crew photoshoot. (Source: @skeletonsthefilm, Instagram)
Pulling off the film was no easy feat, requiring a full film team and crew, which Mayle made up by roping in his schoolmates. To finance the project, Mayle sold limited edition embroidered T-Shirts on their film’s Instagram account: @skeletonsthefilm at $30 per piece (he is happy to note they are all sold out.) At the time of the interview, Skeletons in the Closet has just reached their “picture lock” stage, which means that the visual cut of the film has been completed, leaving only the post-production processes such as colour grading, audio mixing, sound design and polishing up the visual effects (VFX).
¹ The NYFA is a film awards programme organised by *SCAPE Singapore which seeks to provide a platform for Singaporean youths with a passion for filmmaking. SGIFF is a film festival held annually in Singapore and is regarded as one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. Cannes Film Festival, on the other hand, is an international film festival held in Cannes, France which previews new films from all around the world.
“I am looking into submitting the film to the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) and the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). Possibly Cannes Film Festival¹ as well,” said Mayle. ***** Skeletons in the Closet is currently unavailable to the public. Supporters can follow ‘Skeletons in the Closet’s journey on their Instagram: @skeletonsthefilm for future updates and their journey before and during the film’s production. As of June 22nd, Skeletons in The Closet’s Instagram page uploaded a trailer of the film with an exciting announcement that their short film has been nominated for SCAPE*’s National Youth Film Awards 2021. As of July 24th, NYFA has announced that Skeletons in The Closet has clinched Best Sound Design, awarded to the film’s Sound Designer: Heng Jing Yu, Billy (Find Billy on Youtube). The Skeletons in The Closet team thanks all those that have supported them in their journey thus far.
people residing in shared spaces
paying homage to hall customs
exploring taboo relationships
Renee Ng on Directing a Weird Short Film A Tepee Sits Down,
and the Importance of Writing Queer Characters
A 'Weird' Film
It is not unusual to watch movies with eccentric and uncanny characters. However, being told the characters in the script she wrote were ‘weird’ was enlightening for director Renee Ng (she/her). That has been the general response from actors that came to audition for her short film entitled A Tepee Sits Down. “The actors that came in for the auditions all said the script was something they had never come across before,” said the Year 3 Film Student from NTU’s School of Art, Design & Media. She noticed that some found the film’s story and characters refreshing, while others perceived it as more unearthly. “Either way, I take them as compliments. I was very flattered,” she revealed. According to Renee, one actress emailed in to express her interest to audition for one of the protagonists but backed out after receiving the script. “It was too dark,” said the actress.
A Tepee Sits Down is a story about a curious relationship between a Girl, and her father, known as the Impresario. They are charlatans who live in a tepee, a conical tent made up of badly sewn patches of cloth, draped over bamboo poles. They survive on the money the Girl earns from giving false prophecies to clients; prophecies which the Impresario has to physically fulfil later. As the plot progresses, their relationship turns dissonant when tensions begin to arise within the confined space. “The inspiration behind A Tepee Sits Down comes from a film I watched a while back called The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, a horror/silent film made in the 1920s,” Renee said. She was inspired by the character, Dr Caligari, who shows off a somnambulist, aka a sleepwalker, who resides in his cabinet and can predict the future. “The idea to bring my characters inspired from this movie into a tent under a void deck, while staged in Singapore in the 1960s, came naturally to me,” she added.
Renee Ng speaking with the actress for Girl, Agnes Goh. (Source: A Tepee Sits Down)
Renee Ng watching the monitor during a take. (Source: A Tepee Sits Down)
A First-Time Film Director and Her Future Plans
This is the first film Renee has directed. Before this, she has directed small scale shoots or shor t scenes for school assignments but none as big as A Tepee Sits Down, which took a 3-day shoot, about 15 hours per day. “Before the shoot, what I thought would be a struggle, turned out to not be a struggle. While things that I did not worry about, I ended up worrying about,” she said. “I thought by day 2, I would be dying but it was thankfully still alright.” Part of the reason was the great team Renee had on board. “There are times when it gets chaotic but there were also moments when I thought we were well prepared. Prior to the shoot, we built the tepee close to 5 times,” she chuckled. A Tepee Sits Down is one of the films that takes place in a unique setting or location. Depending on the production budget, the imagination is practically limitless. It can be an underwater circus with dolphins and narwhals, set in a dystopian future or even inside a garden owned by a man named Dimitri Vyacheslav who has a fascination with bougainvillaeas and winged kangaroos. You get the idea. In the case of this film, the crew had to sew and build a tepee about 2.5 metres high and 3 metres in diameters to accommodate the props
within the tepee, the actor’s movements, and the camera crew. The interior of the tepee had to reflect the character’s lifestyle, whilst the exterior had to exude the 1960s Singapore vibe. I would know, since I was blessed to be a part of the crew as the Production Designer. At the time of the interview, A Tepee Sits Down was in post-production. This process comes after the visuals have been approved, otherwise known to film creatives as the picture lock stage. Presently, Renee is watching a Turkish Netflix series entitled Ethos, a story about several people in Istanbul whose fates and circumstances intertwine. “It’s a full-on human drama with a simple concept,” says Renee. The series begins with one lady from a religious background going to therapy for the first time and building a relationship with the therapist. Slowly, the narrative branches out to more and more people they are related to, introducing new subplots. When asked about her future works, Renee mentioned a story idea she pitched to the school, entitled Vanilla Cream, for her Final Year Project (FYP). The story includes a queer main protagonist. Shortly after this interview, the film faculty selected the film as one of the films to be produced next year.
the Sweet Middle for Queer Films
“Writing in characters who are queer invigorates me. It is really silly but I realise straight characters in the media are the little things straight people get to enjoy, something we haven’t had to,” Renee said. According to Renee, in a separate script for a screenwriting module, she wrote a story set in a Girl’s Brigade in a secondary school, centred around a lesbian infatuation. “Writing such stories allows me to experience, for myself, the silly, romantic stories and fantasies that I think straight people take for granted,” Renee said. She added: “For queer people, the stories we see currently are either very discreet or over-sexualised. We don’t have the middle ground.” The middle ground is what Renee hopes to achieve with her art and encourages queer stories “touching every base.” “I want to see queer films that are both bad and trashy as well as good ones. I want to see films that are okay and not okay. I think we have yet to hit the full spectrum.” Renee said.
The crew of A Tepee Sits Down for a crowdfunding photoshoot. (Source: A Tepee Sits Down) ***** Readers can find the journey of A Tepee Sits Down on their Instagram: @a_tepee_sits_down, to find more information on the film as well as a fundraising campaign link on their bio.
An Escape from the Mundane, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is a Visual, Authentic Experience for Wanderers by Khairul Ameer
Surviving this pandemic has been tumultuous for many. Having no choice but to adapt to the new normal, being spontaneous has been one of the few new characteristics I’ve recently discovered and embraced. Life is short, you never know what might happen. And as Finnick Odair said in the second Hunger Games films, “If we see something sweet, we better grab it.” That sums up my decision to grab tickets for Nomadland, a film by Chloé Zhao. Being in a film school, you’re never far from a schoolmate who decides to organise an old school excursion to the movies. When this event popped up last-minute, I had no plans and was in need of a short escape. So just like Jim Carrey in Yes Man (2008), I said yes. I am one to watch trailers and do immense research before watching a film, despite the possibility of stumbling across spoilers, which I do not mind at all. However, this wasn't the case for Nomadland. For once, I entered the theatres with a clear, unbiased conscience. Truthfully, I was underwhelmed for the first 10 minutes. The pacing was much slower than most of the high grossing, action genre films I’ve watched with short and succinct cuts, but just when I was close to disassociating, I found I had gotten used to the quietness and visual language. Nomadland follows a woman named Fern, played by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand. After losing close to everything in the
Fern (Frances McDormand) watches the sky outside her van. (Source: Searchlight Pictures)
winner Frances McDormand. After losing close to everything in the Great Recession, she lives in a van, shifting around the United States and essentially becoming a nomad. Along the way, she discovers new friends and finds odd jobs to make money off while she temporarily “sets up camp” in an area. If there’s one thing I can say about this film, it’s that the screen I watched it on is not big enough. The array of blues, purples and oranges my eyes were blessed with throughout the movie derived from Zhao’s decision to hold long shots on the sunrise or sunset. These landscapes that we see as Fern travels down the road were not only mesmerising, but reminded me of the beauty we too can enjoy should we take a breather and look to the sky;
a beauty we so easily have access to but too often forget. One of the distinct characteristics of Nomadland, I think, is the creative decision to hold their shots for quite some time. “Holding shots” is a technique applied in films when a director chooses to let the camera record for as long as it possibly can. To those whose eyes have been conditioned by countless action genre films, Nomadland may come across as draggy or, for a lack of a better term, boring. I also noticed how most, if not all, of the camera angles and movements seem as though they were derived from the shaky hand-held technique of cinematographer Joshua James Richard.
This technique pushes the realism that Zhao is going for. The long shots allowed more time for me as a viewer to scan my eyes around every inch of the screen and appreciate every pigment and visual wrinkle. It makes sense, how the long shots and camera technique correlates with realism. Allow me to elaborate: With our eyes, we often see long shots coupled with our ever-moving vision acting as that shaky, handheld camera. The director in our minds (us) only yells “cut” when we either fall asleep or pass out after being blackout drunk. Once I was able to understand the visual language, it almost felt like I was there, submerged in the narrative. I wasn’t able to quite put my finger on the film’s dialogue and characters: they seemed too naturalistic and real. Thanks to Google, I learned that some of the nomads that Fern stumbled upon and made friends with are actual American nomads who were cast to play a fictionalised version of themselves, which I found quite fascinating. At some moments, I felt that the dialogues were too real to be fiction and I thought silently to myself: “Is this a documentary? Or maybe a fiction documentary. So a mockumentary? But it’s not comedic... Maybe it is a pseudodocumentary?”
Sometimes I wish my mind could shut up. Nevertheless, that coupled with the long shots made up for an even more realistic experience.
Nomadland (2020) Poster (Source: 20th Century Studio)
Chloé Zhao and her cinematographer, Joshua James Richard, on the set of Nomadland. (Source: Searchlight Pictures)
Screencap of Marvel's Eternals Trailer, directed by Chloé Zhao. (Source: Marvel Entertainment)
One of the things I love most about this life is that there's no final goodbye...
The film talks about how these nomads sometimes stumbled upon each other and had great moments with each other but at some point in life, had to part ways for whatever reason. In a way, that is life for most of us. We all walk on our unique, individual paths, bump into people along the way whom we learn from and vice versa but realistically, not all relations are permanent. Sometimes, people grow apart. A line that stuck with me was one by the character Bob Wells, an actual nomad playing a more fictionalised version of himself:
“One of the things I love most about this life is that there's no final goodbye... I've met hundreds of people out here and I don't ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, ‘I'll see you down the road.’ And I do. And whether it's a month or a year, or sometimes years, I see them again.”
During this pandemic, I am sure I cannot possibly be the only one who oddly feels trapped and yearns for a chance of escape. During Phase 1 and 2 of the circuit breaker period, I would go for runs at the nearest park near my house just to admire the sunset or sunrise and even opt to walk from the MRT station back home instead of taking the bus, just so I can spend more time outdoors. Even now, the new normal of Phase 3 may still be challenging especially with travelling overseas being far from our reach. This film somehow was able to feed that longing. As we went on a journey with Fern on the road in her van, the naturalistic creative direction of the film was somehow able to mentally and emotionally bring me into the film. For the fleeting duration of the film, it felt as if I had escaped and crossed beyond the screen. I am excited to watch Chloé Zhao’s brilliant directing in the upcoming Marvel film Eternals, starring numerous A-listers such as Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek. In early May this year, Marvel released a showreel for all the films to come, including the release date for Multiverse of Madness and the sequel for Black Panther. The showreel displayed
a fleeting 15-second clip of Eternals and I was happy to see Zhao’s similar visual language from Nomadland in Eternals’ cinematography.
***** Nomadland (2020) clinched 171 wins and 127 nominations including Winner of 2 Golden Globes (2021) - Best Picture Drama & Best Director (Chloé Zhao), and 6 Oscar Nominations - Best Motion Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand), Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. As of 25th April 2021, Nomadland has won Best Picture and Best Director at the 93rd Academy Awards. Following that, an Eternals trailer was released on Marvel Entertainment’s YouTube account on 24th May 2021, stating the release of Eternals to be in November this year.
Number 1 Keeps Its Queerness Away From the Spotlight CW: Mentions of homophobic violence, slurs, suicide. Spoilers abound.
When the leading man is cishet. (Source: mm2 Entertainment) Ever since I watched Saving Face, a lesbian rom-com that takes place in the Chinese-American community of Flushing, New York, I’ve craved a gay movie that depicts queer life in Singapore. I want queers huddled together over brunch gossiping about their love lives a la Sex and the City, gay couples strolling through IKEA Alexandra picking out furniture. Number 1, despite being set in the local LGBTQ drag scene, featuring local drag queen Kumar in a cameo, and containing a delightful Hokkien rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” by Mark Lee in full drag, is not that depiction. The movie is told from the perspective of Chee Beng, an upper-middle-class straight Chinese man (yes, really) who I will henceforth refer to as Mark Lee, because everyone who watched this movie, including me, forgot the name of his character in the first 5 seconds. The 40-somethingyear-old PMET is retrenched but doesn’t want to tell his wife they have to downgrade their 5 Cs lifestyle (complete with car and bungalow), and the only job he can find with
a salary high enough to fund his lifestyle is one managing a gaggle of drag queens, which supposedly earns them a fat roll of banknotes each night. Eventually, he is dragged into performing himself, and his getai-sequel renditions of Mandarin and Hokkien classics make him a smash-hit. Not sure what drag-themed nightclub in Singapore offers only Mandarin and Hokkien performances, but this is a movie helmed by the cast of almost every Jack Neo movie. Make no mistake, this is a movie for heterosexual, cisgender Chinese people. The works in an accounting firm, is married with two kids and lives in a 4-room flat in Bishan type of heterosexual. I get it. As much as the phrases “pragmatic resistance” and “Pink Dot is a picnic” send shivers up my spine, I get the need for this kind of movie. If Mark Lee playing the audience surrogate gets middle-aged voters from Bishan to view queer people sympathetically for once, I am all for it. And this movie really tries to hammer home its “let’s not discriminate against the gays” message.
Jerkass Redemption At the beginning of the movie, Mark Lee sings the Hokkien (and General Election) favourite “ai pia cia e ya” (爱拼才会赢), improvising on one of the lyrics to “Got to be a man, not a chao ah gua”, which tells you the kind of casually-homophobic guy he is. When he first starts the job as an “AGM”—the joke is it stands for “ah gua manager”— he calls drag “low class”. Like the grinch, however, he gets put on the fast track to growing a less-homophobic heart. One night, he passes out after too many drinks and spends the night at the home of our head drag queen, Pearly, played by Taiwanese actor Kiwebaby Chang. There had been hints that Pearly used to be in a relationship with the former, now deceased, owner of the nightclub. Mark Lee awakens the next day in a sparsely furnished room, where Pearly is leaning by the window, face framed by wisps of smoke and the soft light of the morning. In a vulnerable moment, Lee and the audience learn that Pearly moved into the apartment with the aforementioned lover after being chased out. When Mark Lee asks what happened to him, Pearly replies, “not all of us are so lucky.” You can almost feel the filmmakers ticking off checkboxes: mental illness, family rejection and suicide. Tick, tick, tick.
When even the Straits Times calls your movie “cautious”, you know you aren’t exactly pushing the line here. (Source: mm2 Entertainment)
If that wasn’t enough, when Pearly’s landlord catches sight of Lee, he assumes they had sex and makes disparaging remarks. We see Mark Lee’s conscience seem to prickle him as he contemplates perhaps for the first time in his life the effects of LGBTQ discrimination, before he escapes back to his bungalow.
Still from the movie. (Source: mm2 Entertainment)
After weeks of performing with the queens, Mark Lee seems to realise that The Gays are people just like him. That’s when the director and scriptwriter really dial it up, with an intense, unblinking look at homophobic violence. The queens head down for supper after a performance, still covered in makeup, when one of the queens is recognised by an old classmate¹, who laughs derisively that, “Zhu Li De (the character’s name) has become Juliet”. There is a physical confrontation, where we finally see Mark Lee finally stand up for his friends. The classmate hurls the word “homo” and AIDSrelated insults at the group, until Mark Lee throws a chair at him and chases him and his buddies off. This part of the film marks a turning point in Mark Lee’s journey from casual homophobe to Straight Ally, but it also gets me really confused. Alongside the slew of insults Zhu Li De suffers, the classmate character accuses Zhu of using the girls’ bathroom instead of the boys’ when they were in school together.
Queer? It’s Ambiguous For a movie of maybe seventy per cent queer characters, this movie, to my recollection, does not contain a single use of the terms tong xing lian (同性恋) meaning “homosexual”, or tongzhi (同志), “gay”. There is no real confirmation of anyone’s sexuality. The only queer terms we get are the multiple uses of the local slur “ah gua”, and also “homo”, spluttered by an angry man literally assaulting them in public. It seems that the audience is supposed to assume that all drag queens are played by gay men. Then came the girls’ bathroom comment. Okay, sure, we can come up with alternate explanations for why Zhu would use the girls' bathroom. Maybe he was tormented by the other boys and was trying to avoid them. Maybe, and I really hope this isn’t the reason why, the filmmakers linked being gay with “effeminate” behaviours or wanting to be female in some way. However, what first came to my mind, as I’m sure it was for many people, is that Zhu Li De might possibly be trans. Except the movie seems to be about gay men. Even the title nan er wang (男儿王, lit. Boy Kings) implies that all the characters are meant to be men. Li De is a masculine name, and we get no other indication he might not be cis.
Actress Kiwebaby Chang, who plays Pearly in Number 1. (Source: @kiwebabychang on Instagram) While Pearly is a feminine name, my friends and I distinctly remember the character being referred to by the masculine pronoun (他) in the Mandarin subtitles. I find it baffling why the movie would take a wellknown trans actress and make her play the role of what many would interpret as, a cis gay man. Especially since, as Director Ong Ku Sin has shared, the team discovered Kiwebaby through recommendations from Taiwan, who presumably knew her because she was so publicly trans. Perhaps I just wasn’t perceptive enough. After all, even the Straits Times review that called the movie “cautious” called Pearly’s character trans. But could it have been so hard to go more in-depth with the
More damning is the movie’s treatment of its Kiwebaby’s character Pearly. After my friends and I walked out of the cinema, still eagerly debating the gay tension between Mark Lee’s and Kiwebaby’s characters, we discovered that while Pearly’s gender is left ambiguous in the film, Kiwebaby is an out trans woman, and one of the few recognisable trans people in Taiwan.
character’s backstory, such that her identity was explicit? Perhaps this stems from the director’s tentative attitude going into this film, which he describes as “tak[ing] a very gentle step. Not to provoke, not to antagonise, but to suggest a conversation.” Unfortunately, the movie seems to think this entails hiding their character’s sexual orientation and gender identity, which is disappointing because I think genuine representation better fosters understanding, but also because I think it made for a less interesting movie. The movie eschews delving deeper into the side character’s struggles and stories. Instead, it unfortunately does what many local films do when they
run out of ideas, which is to go off on a side tangent that doesn’t make much sense. This time, it’s a bizarre conflict between Mark Lee, who wants to incorporate live, getai-esque singing into the performances, and Pearly, who seems to think it is antithetical to how drag is done “traditionally”. Later on, we realise Pearly has a terrible singing voice, and the conflict is reframed as a matter of Pearly’s ego, which she has to let go of in order to let Mark Lee, who has become the most popular performer at the club, take centre stage. Seeing as the film already passes up the entire posse of queer characters’ stories for Lee, having the straight man upstage the queer characters left a bad taste in my mouth.
¹ Funnily enough, this character is played by the former Mediacorp actor, Daren Tan, also a former bartender at Taboo. He was a Pink Dot ambassador in 2015. 17
At the end of the day, the movie’s gay and trans characters are cast aside. Unfortunately, this treatment doesn’t seem to be new for Kiwebaby, who has appeared on Taiwanese television referred to as a 偽娘 (lit. fake woman) or nisemusume, a Japanese word meaning "pseudo-girl", and asked to do rather dehumanising “before and after” segments. In an interview with Refinery29, when asked if she ever felt marginalized for entertainment value, she pins it on the “entertainment ecosystem” in Taiwan. “Every programme you see on TV is lighthearted and driven for laughs. If I want to discuss the hardships trans people face, the only possible outlet would be a documentary." While her performance in Number 1 was wellpraised, even by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, Kiwebaby stated that other roles have not been forthcoming, likely because she is trans. I just wish our side-characters were given more time to shine, especially in the movie’s second half. In one scene, Mark Lee switches out “woman” for “ah gua” in the lyrics to the classic song “Woman Flower” (女人花). In contrast to the previous scene where he mocks them, he affirms their beauty and humanity. While it is a nice moment, I wonder if this moment of reclaiming could be better given to a queer character. Reforming the Ah-Beng: A New Singapore-Chinese Movie Given the decade-long dominance of Mark Lee’s longtime comedy partner, Jack Neo, in local cinema, I must say I was skeptical of the local Chinese cinema scene’s ability to tell progressive, let alone queer, stories. But despite the movie’s missed opportunities and straight-man centred narrative, I must say it signals a welcome change. Number 1 is not the first Ong Kuo Sin-directed film to touch on queer themes. His 2013 movie Judgment Day has a character who wishes to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Ong seems somewhat of a social reformer, even if his view of social change seems very PAP-lite (in an interview, Ong states a desire to reconcile, what he called, “the extreme left where the
Kiwebaby at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2020. (Source: @kiwebabychang on Instagram) ‘woke culture’ comes in” (yikes) and “the extreme right where there is conservative reluctance to talk [and have discussions].”) Some background about local Chinese films: Prominent local sociologist Terence Chong has identified Jack Neo films as part of a “third cultural-political impulse”² or an attempt to manufacture authenticity in Singapore. The first was the Malay anti-colonial literary movement of the 1950s. The second, the push for Chinese Singaporeans to return to Confucian ethics discourse, prompted by the government’s fear that Singaporeans were becoming too individualistic (yes, this is how we got the term “Asian values”). This attempted return to high-brow culture wasn’t that successful at managing Chinese identity however, which is how it evolved to local “heartlander” discourse we still see a lot of today. Number 1 fits into the mold of every other Jack Neo movie; we have the “heartlander” or “Ah Beng” precariat, the face of economic anxiety, the luckless everyman left behind in the fast-paced city. In the regular I Not Stupid-Money No Enough-Just Follow Law movies, the character gets into scrapes but usually gets
out in one piece, having learnt some lesson such as “don’t gamble”, and often, “appreciate what you have, like your family”. He (it is always a ‘he’) is ultimately affirmed as one that is worthy and has value in the community, even though he is not as economically mobile as his highlyeducated, cosmopolitan, Englishspeaking counterparts (it is touched on in Number 1 that Lee’s inability to speak English played a part in his retrenchment). As then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in his 1999 National Day Rally speech, while cosmopolitans are “indispensable in generating wealth for Singapore”, heartlanders “play a major role in maintaining our core values and our social stability.” This treatment of the heartland mirrors that of the rural kampong as “hinterland” in the Malay literary movement of the 50s. But while the prior defended self-subsistent, communal and co-operative modes of living in the countryside from alienated, hyper-capitalist and moneyobsessed urbanity, the modern vision is very much defanged. Our character’s troubles are only ever analysed at the individual level, or at the level of his family. While he criticises the system, it is he who is ultimately at fault, the film implies. He changes himself, not the system.
Chong observes that Goh’s romanticisation of the heartlander “commodifie[d] him into a stereotype such that his individuality is transformed into a generic phenomenon that complements state interests”.¹ Number 1 reinserts the format with radical potential.
extend solidarity to our relations because of “family values”. When Lee comes to see the other queens as people, when we recognise each others' humanity, we cannot help but extend our respect and care to each other. It’s the Kampong Spirit™ re-politicised.
Mark Lee hides the fact that he is working as a drag queen from his family, not only because of the stigma in doing drag, but because he feels he must hide the fact that he lost his job from his family. His role in the family has been reduced to a breadwinner, the provider of an affluent lifestyle. Natural family ties of love and affection have been perverted by money.
Mark Lee’s character is the Ah Beng reformed into a man of principle, who stands by equality and justice. Where past main characters receded back into private life, he steps forward to be counted, hinting at a shift at a more just, humanitarian vision of Singapore society. But it is just a hint.
While Lee’s relationship with his natural family is strained, he finds camaraderie with the other drag queens, who make up a kind of non-traditional found family. Having faced bullying, rejection and discrimination in their lives, the drag queens treasure the relationship they do have with each other, and with the family members who accept them, and even extend their friendship to the elders at the local old folks’ home financially supported by the nightclub. At the end of the movie, when Mark Lee is discovered by his family, he refuses to disavow his friends and the nightclub. When his wife accuses him of setting a poor example for their son and says she hopes he won't be like him, he replies, “I hope my son will be different from me. I hope he will learn earlier than I did not to discriminate against those who are different from him.” Number 1 rejects the limited, self-centered, and ultimately alienated view of past ‘heartlander’ films that says we
...when we recognise each others' humanity, we cannot help but extend our respect and care to each other. It's the Kampong Spirit™ re-politicised.
The old folks at the night club. (Source: mm2 Entertainment)
² Chong, Terence. “Manufacturing Authenticity: The Cultural Production of National Identities in Singapore.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 45, no. 4, 2011, pp. 877–897. 19
What Makes A Queer Film? Given the seemingly irreconcilable differences between Mark Lee and his wife, I was half expecting him to get a divorce and run away with Pearly. (That would explain the weird sexual tension. Why is Mark Lee lying on the bed, wearing Pearly’s shirt, while they talk about her past lover? Why the ethereal wisps of smoke encircling Pearly’s languid, delicate frame?) But, of course, we end on a typical family reconciliation scene, all things tied up neatly in a bow. Queer found family provides a template for the love and acceptance required to rescue the heterosexual family unit from the grips of capitalist alienation and perversion of family ties. The Gays™ are the moral centre of the movie. Oh, how the turns have tabled. This movie is really the epitome of local Chinese film, which is a limitation. I do wish this movie reflected more of the queer history of drag in Singapore, or better reflected what actual drag here is like. That it has multi racial performers and isn’t made up of Chinese people. Additionally, his movie doesn’t have a single reference to Bugis Street, or that the history of drag has always been tied to transgender people. Vanda Miss Joaquim on Drag Race Thailand Season 2. (Source: LINE TV)
Two gay men and a trans woman on a cross-country roadtrip captured the hearts of Australians in 1994. (Source: Allstar/Polygram)
Glitz and glamour, neon and techno: Royston Tan’s 2007 film 881 embodies camp. (Source: Netflix Singapore) Number 1 is an ostensibly queer film, with queer characters and subplots, but it just didn’t seem very queer. It reminds me of Love, Simon, which was hyped as Hollywood’s “first” mainstream gay teenage film, but felt a lot like Gay Acceptance 101 for white, middle-class America. For a movie about drag queens, where’s the revelry? The irreverence? The disregard for authority or boundaries? Perhaps it is simply impossible for a movie targeted at mainstream, heterosexual audiences to not be watered down. But then Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a movie about the cross-country roadtrip of three drag queens, managed to capture the hearts of mainstream Australian audiences when it was released in 1994 without hiding the queerness of its characters, or inserting a straight-man audience surrogate. Unfortunately, Number 1 never took that chance. If you’re craving a camp local movie, let me recommend Royston Tan’s 2007 getai-drama 881, which somehow manages to be utter outlandish, shimmery, sequined, camp, despite not having drag queens (except in the background of some performances) or explicitly queer characters (though I have always interpreted the relationship between the three main characters as an unfulfilled polyamorous triad). I’m glad Number 1 did well at the box office, that we finally got a movie with queer themes rated NC16 here (though
the team was gunning for PG13). I’m glad that Cathay (the cinema arm is owned by mm2), unabashedly outfitted its theatres with cardboard backgrounds from the movie, that audience members were treated to a special “put your phones on silent” message where the cast of Number 1 strut across the screen in drag (I remember during this scene the theatre was pindrop silent). If this movie could get the typical Ah Boys To Men-watching audience to sit through LGBT Acceptance 101, it would have done infinitesimally more to make the world a better place than me griping about it. But I’m still holding out for more.
***** Number 1 made its debut in Singapore cinemas in October 2020. Mark Lee was nominated for Best Leading Actor for his performance at the 57th Golden Horse Awards. The film was also awarded the Golden Horse Award for Best Makeup and Costume Design (Raymond Kuek, Azni Samdin).
“Is That Okay with You?”: Examining Desirability on Gay Twitter by Jonathan and Kishore
“Hi,” the conversation begins, “I’m ch 22/166/89 u ok?” (Chinese, 22 years old, 166cm, 89kg). I leave the question hanging, looking at the Twitter profile with the unknown but defined torso that had found its way into my inbox. As a content creator on Twitter, my inbox is often filled with messages just like that. As my fellow gay and bisexual men would know, hooking up is a prominent part of life in the gay community. Grindr, Tinder and, surprisingly, Twitter are the most popular avenues that guys go to to look for hookups. Often when we look for a hookup, we are assailed with questions such as “Got a face pic?” or “Can show your full body?” These questions are laced with prejudices and preferences – for a certain type of body, age or race that the other person is looking for or avoiding. The gay community sets unrealistic standards for the appearances of casual sex partners; by and large, tops must be hunky, hairless, handsome daddies while bottoms must be almost-infantile twinks with a bubble butt to boot. But, of course, not everyone can (or does) fit into that idea of “perfect”. Everyone has their own personalised insecurities that plague them. I recently ran a poll with 402 votes from gay and bisexual men on Twitter, asking them what their biggest insecurity was. 69% (nice) of them were insecure about their weight and body shape, 20% their dick size, and 6% each their race and age. If you can relate to any of these, I just wanna let you know that you are not alone. Personally, I’m insecure about my weight and body image too. Some of us hide behind cropped pictures of ourselves to appear appealing to the hookup community. I know how this feels. The main reason I don’t meet many people from Twitter is because I don’t want them to be disappointed
Illustration by Charmaine Kok (Charmaine's Behance)
when they compare the real me with what I portray online. Their potential disappointment is always bugging me at the back of my mind and it’s really frustrating that I cannot put myself out there. How can I expect others to accept me, if I don't even accept myself? Our family, friends and even strangers tell us that we are beautiful and perfect the way we are. For most, that's enough to keep them going, but for some of us it is a temporary distraction from a much deeper issue. In a milder case, standards from the community can push
us to work out and get the body we want. However, if we face rejection after rejection, our insecurities will start to grow and end up swallowing us. We start to hate our looks, personality, age, etc, creating an endless downward spiral. Our inner hater pops up and throws the ugliest insults at us, says horrible things that no one in real life would ever say. This is enough to absolutely destroy anyone’s self esteem and confidence. Some of the responses I had gotten from that survey I mentioned earlier include:
Being seen as fat and feeling pressured that I must look like the Ideal Gay Standard™ or else no one will love me ✓ Delivered 12:05PM
Getting old, and no one interested in me anymore... ✓ Delivered 2:03AM
I’m no longer as fit as I was before my injury. Now no one is interested. ✓ Delivered 7:10PM
How are we supposed to accept ourselves for who we are when everyone keeps rejecting us? How do I even start to love myself? Is there a solution to this? Unfortunately, love scientists have not found a solution yet. Learning to love yourself, despite the degrading messages thrown at you from literally everywhere, is a long and arduous process. I believe this: Work on the things that you can change to fit into your standards; not the standards of others or some random horny dude on the Internet. Our lives as gay people shouldn't revolve around sexual desirability or hookups. Your self-worth doesn’t depend on how desirably someone else, especially not a complete stranger, sees you.
On my end, I’m trying to eat healthier and work out more to get to a body that I feel more comfortable in. Bottom line: I’m doing it for myself, not for anyone else. There is a fine line between using self-acceptance as an excuse to not improve yourself and actually accepting and loving yourself. Knowing your own self worth leads to confidence and that is your armour. You will be unstoppable. You are loved much more than you know by more people than you think.
You are loved much more than you know by more people than you think.
The Dangers of Apathy in Society by Kieran
Consider this: in the 2020 US Presidential Elections between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, more than 159 million votes were cast, roughly 81 million for Joe Biden, and roughly 74 million for Donald Trump. Joe Biden won the most votes ever cast for any US president in history. Even then, voter turnout was only 66.7%, as more than a 100 million people did not vote. During last year’s local general elections, I was excited to have fruitful conversations with my friends when I realised that none of them knew anything about politics. They did not know how the electoral system works. They did not know who was running for what position. They had no idea what the current issues were. It was incredibly disheartening. There I was trying to figure out the candidates I should vote for to ensure my human rights were secured, while my friends, who all had an equal vote to mine, had no idea what was even going on. No matter how educated my vote was, it would have been overruled by their votes. Much of this phenomenon can be attributed to political apathy. But what causes political apathy? Why are people disinterested in politics? Almost everything is political. The issue of gay marriage in Singapore is a political issue. The problem of homelessness is a political issue. Even the idea of “every school is a good school” is political. Perhaps some people are privileged enough not to be affected by any problem directly. Perhaps some people may not be in any minority group. But a quick look around your surroundings will show that it is easy to see the issues that exist in this country. Walk around a shopping mall and you can find old people trying to make a living because they do not have the money to live a peaceful old age. Speak to enough people and you will find so many horrible tales of sexual harassment. Talk to any racial minority group in Singapore and you can find many stories of casual racism. It is not hard to see these issues, one just has to pay attention.
Illustration by Gwendolyn Say (@saydrawings)
That’s the thing, we’re not used to paying attention to political issues, in fact, we are often conditioned not to.
On the surface, it might not seem that bad. Contact tracing is an important step in helping curb the pandemic, and the data can only be used for criminal investigations. Both of these seem like positive uses of the SafeEntry data. But the issue here is not how the data is used, but that it is being used at all. The data was meant only for contact tracing. Nothing more.
Consider another controversial local topic—SafeEntry. When first introduced, it was made clear that the data collected would only be used for contact tracing during the pandemic. But it later emerged that the data could actually be used by the police for criminal investigations. Now, further stories have come about regarding more privacy breaches, but the above example is sufficient here.
Consider the reactions by the public. How many people knew about the breach in our privacy by the government? How many people around you spoke up about this? How many people read the government response? How many people knew about the debate about it in parliament? Personally, the friends I had were mostly nonchalant about it. Why?
“Because there was nothing that could be done.” “Because it was already done.” “Because it was the government.” These are manifestations of political alienation. People are alienated from the political system and feel that nothing can be done to change things. When elections come around, they do feel compelled to vote but also feel that their vote is of no significance. In Singapore, we are often told to leave the politics to the politicians. Students are taught from a young age that the only thing they should concern themselves about is their grades. In fact, in 2020, Hwa Chong issued a statement to its students to refrain from discussing the upcoming election on social media. How can people learn to care if they are told not to? Furthermore, consider the competitive nature of our society, where many of us are too caught up in the rat race to learn to care about social issues, or even each other. Back to the 2020 US Presidential Elections, where 1 in 3 people did not vote. Imagine that. If “I didn’t vote” ran as a candidate in the 2016 US Presidential Elections, it would have won by a landslide, with nearly 2 times more votes than either candidate. What kind of president would “I didn’t vote” look like? Would it safeguard your interests and livelihood? How would it help the country in a global recession? What policies would it introduce to reduce global carbon emissions? Consider a scenario where a politician wins an election with high voter apathy. How bad could it be? For one, that election is unlikely to be representative. If the majority did not vote then they will simply not be represented appropriately. Instead, a minority of the population would have more political power. They are able to push through policies in their favour, no matter how unpopular they might be. They get to decide the fate of a nation for the next few years. What does it say of a society that allows for such an election to happen? Ridden with apathy, not only are a majority unrepresented, but their lives are also unlikely to improve. The government would be focused on the people who voted for them, ignoring the apathetic masses. Furthermore, combined with other factors, this can lead to an even greater amount of voter apathy. It is a vicious cycle. What kind of government would be formed with such an election? The people in power would face little to no accountability and have a low risk of being voted out. With little accountability they are more able to misuse public resources or implement discriminatory policies.
So what can be done to combat political apathy? If you don’t read the news, don’t know how elections in Singapore work, or for any other reason feel you fall into the “politically apathetic” camp, here are some suggestions. Find a problem that interests you. Don’t have anything that interests you? Find one. Consider the issues that exist in our society. Global Warming. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Transphobia. I don’t know, just pick one. Read about it. Talk to someone about it. Do something. The problems of the world will not disappear if we let someone else fix it. The problems of the world will continue to plague the world if you do nothing about them. You don’t even have to do anything big. Start small. See someone not recycling something? Talk to them about it. Hear a bigoted comment? Ask the person to be more considerate. To those people who say that there is no logical benefit to themselves: not everything in this world needs to be about you. Not everything in this world has to benefit you. Not everything in this world needs to have a tangible reward. That line of thinking is not only extremely disgusting, it is frankly sociopathic. If that is your reason for not wanting to help others of the world then you need to take a deep hard look at yourself and ask yourself why you are even on this planet. There are also the people who feel alienated. People who feel like nothing can be done to change the situation. I empathise with these people because it can be hard to feel like something can be done. But it can. The 2016 US Presidential Elections did not go according to expectations. And while most people resigned themselves to fate, others took action and tried their hardest to turn the next election around. And against all odds, they managed to turn some solidly “red” states into a “blue” state in the 2020 elections. This was enough to give Joe Biden a victory. Change can happen. But it is difficult. And I’m not saying it is easy. Putting yourself out there to try and care about the world is hard. It can hurt. It might not feel like it is worth it most of the time. But we are also at the point where something must be done. Global warming is not going to wait for people to care. Injustices will not stop happening just because you don’t acknowledge them. I never imagined that I would be met with such crushing apathy from so many people in university. I expected a campus with diverse political opinions, both for and against my own beliefs. But instead most people I know do not care. How can you not care when the people around you are suffering? What kind of person are you if you can walk past someone in pain and decide to do nothing? Standing by, watching a crime being committed, and not doing anything, is as heinous as committing the crime yourself. The people who knew about the holocaust but did nothing about it are just as complicit as the people who engineered it.
Resource Page Don’t know what a GRC stands for? Is Pink Dot the only thing you know about LGBT activism? Here are some resources to get you started:
Political Education The Community for Advocacy and Political Education, or CAPE SG (@cape.sg) is a student group at Yale-NUS and NUS which produces resources on political processes, civil society and other current issues. You can find an “essential reading list” on their website.
Explainers on CAPE's Instagram
Political Education Environmental Issues
SG Climate Rally (@sgclimaterally) is a youth-led group pushing for climate justice. You may know them from the die-in at Hong Lim Park in 2019.
The Singapore Climate Rally was held at Hong Lim Park in Sept 2019, with a turnout of 2,000 people. (Source: The Straits Times)
Eating Chilli Crab of essays that exam an ecocultural lens to Tiger Beer. You Ethos Books, Books
b In The Anthropocene is a book mine contemporary Singapore through s, looking at topics from sand mining u can purchase the book online at sActually or Epigram Bookshop.
Minority Voices (@minorityvoices) is an IG page that aims to share stories of racial minorities in Singapore. Academic Writing Lily Zubaidah Rahim (1998). The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community. Chua Beng Huat (2003). Multiculturalism in Singapore: An Instrument of Social Control.
LGBTQ+ Rights Founded and frequently updated by long-time gay activist Dr Roy Tan, The Singapore LGBT Encyclopedia documents various facets of queer history and life in Singapore. From the queer practices and non-cisnormative identities in precolonial Southeast Asia, to the history of Bugis Street and the early days of Pink Dot, this Wikia site has it all. Even Kalei gets a shout out. Academic Writing Lynette J. Chua (2014). Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State. Audrey Yue and Jun Zubillaga-Pow (2012). Queer Singapore: Illiberal Citizenship and Mediated Cultures.
The Trevor Project has resources on various topics from coming out, how LGBTQ+ youth can cope during the Covid-19 pandemic, and approaching intersectional conversations (specifically race and LGBTQ identities).
The Split Attraction Model by AI
Dead Name by Kerry You might think I'm fine now, and I guess that's fine too. You see a new personality in a corpse She is already dead. She made me want to kill myself. I killed her instead. I feel new. But am I well? Everyone believes I am. He doesn't blame you for believing that. He doubts himself. He doubts he is real The emotions. Debilitating fear. It all went out of control She couldn't control it But I can. Kill her. Some gods exist on pure belief You believed he was fake. Well so was she and she's dying, dead but your names cut him down you kill him inside so please, kill her too She was a mask he put on so you wouldn't laugh at him. But he never realised you'd laugh at him anyway What a silly little thing to be worried about. Me? Who am I? I am a god who exists on pure belief My own belief. I am him, not her she is already dying don't use the dead name.
au sommet de Leucate against Baudelaire's "Lesbos"
Every ship a new story, and still not the one you want to hear. Charles, I am with you on this cliffside. We sit with our feet hanging off the edge. You have made yourself comfortable; unlaced your shoes. The waters are too far below us and far too alive for our reflections to reach. The wind is braiding a song with the air that leaves our lungs, whipping the ends together so no one knows where one breath or another began. Or so that no one would know. I remember your words. I was here to hear them, before the tails of your thought were spun straight from your lips. Echoes linger in places other than the moving air. Charles, you asked si la mer est indulgente et bonne. It was unkind of me, but every time you spoke of the sea I wondered if you weren’t just calling on your mother’s name; if you were one of those people who still think of a woman as little more than a central node in a small system of relations. I wondered if any woman in your life had ever been anything to you other than indulgent, good. I will tell you, since you are here, that I have asked your question too. I am still asking. But the tenses aren’t the same. Who the sea will indulge; whether she will be good to those who entrust their bodies to her. If she will be kind to my body too. You have been looking for traces of disaster already past; I anticipate the next. Do you ever think of jumping? Of testing the waters’ grace for your own, all outstretched arms and floating ribs? You could learn the currents for yourself if you only let them carry you. If you let go of your distance; became one castaway of many. They say the void calls most clearly to those who really want to live, but surely there is better evidence than the phone I don’t pick up. Trust a body to want what it must turn away from. But that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Charles, you are looking at the face of the waters. I can read it in your inclined neck, your hands gripping the edge of abyss and solid ground. Do you see it yet? Do you see yourself?
Illustration by Khairul Ameer (@ _lameer.studio)
Parallel Motion for Phan Thao Nguyen’s “Tropical Siesta” by Andrew cw: abuse
your brother’s white dress is cleaner than Father’s, but perhaps not cleaner than his conscience after that last dip into the holy inkwell left on the parish secretary’s desk the dust of it clings to the fabric clings to your skin still unaware of the wingweight it will one day bear how long until you’re the one bearing all the heat and the burden the sun is beating down and your mother has been beaten down and you are being beaten down right this moment so who cares whether this is a ladder or a yoke call this a wish? his fingers are so rough anyway abrading instead of braiding you the way you wanted call being left easy? call it light when the wind gets to floating? the air carried your laughter away but it was all earth that carried your body there under the unbridled sky, in the uncropped fields singing a song of immoral bounty your smiling mouth is stand in for some faraway goddess type ever since your brother left his lipstick out and you took it since no one knew he had it anyway this is just another knot in the string of your family’s secrets, your quiet larceny, your admiration under newspaper wraps, the things you dream about since Father why worry about this change in particular when it’s all been change for so long? you are here and he is here, your bodies moving together down the outstretched dirt path
Illustration by Meghan Poh (@meghpohpohpoh) your father’s white dress fell asleep on the rack it hasn’t dried yet hasn’t stopped dreaming yet the stains on it have faded but are still not gone the tracks on the dirt path haven’t started to go you know how to roll your body down the hill so that the dirt strokes down your sleeves just until your body finds the ditch that fits it, until your parents notice your absence at dinnertime none of this is light none of this is easy none of this ought to be yours should be resting above your thin shoulders carried by the patient other you should have been patient with the others the other day back before your brother braided beads into his hair and refused to do anything with yours, Father drove out onto the dirt road with nothing touching the hemline of his skirt water goddess with a notorious lifestyle your hair is splayed out your hands are splayed out receive the bounty of this fertile land hope that they sing of you only and with only admiration your friends admire your lips, they admire the way your smile looks like some distant lamp so you sit in a circle and they paint them red while you wonder if your mother will notice it knots your insides up to think that this could be as far as it goes that the dirt path must end in some place your legs can’t bring you to that hiding is the only way to find something new stop expecting deliverance to come in with the deliveries, unwrapped smile and sunlit stupor of some boy who dreams the way you do, who lifts the yoke from your shoulders like it’s easy
初戀 (First Love)
2020 Photobook (Shot on 35mm film)
初戀 (First Love) is a desperate attempt to confront my deeply rooted
uneasiness during separation and explores how photography has been betraying my identity. Violently questioning the act of documentation, the purpose and its credibility of interpreting the past in the present, as I yearn to live with the absence of experiences. First Love gives me the opportunity to grief over moments I will forget.
不在乎天长地久，只在乎曾经用有。we happened. Sontag (1977, 15): to take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.
***** Francesca Soh is a final-year Photography major at the School of Art, Design and Media in Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Illustration Articleby Khairul Ameer (@ _lameer.studio)
The Failure of Ingrained Systems; Yes to the Protest by Daemon
On 26 January 2021, five individuals held a protest outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) headquarters calling for an end to the discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ students from MOE schools, “so as to uphold the fundamental right of all students to education within a safe and supportive school life” (quoted from their press release). The protest was reported live via Twitter by journalist Kirsten Han (@kixes), who later wrote a more comprehensive rundown on the protest on We, the Citizens, a newsletter focused on local events. If you’re looking for a report on the protest, you can read the linked article. I’m not writing this to give yet another distanced account of how five people stood outside MOE headquarters holding signs calling for change. I’m not writing to be objective. I’m writing this article as a trans person who was profoundly moved by the protest’s show of solidarity for our trans youth, and I’m here to tell you why it was important to me. I’m reluctant to rely on a model introduced by history, especially because it’s often models introduced by history—especially colonial— that dictate the terms of our oppression. But whenever the issue of the protest is brought up I’m always reminded of how open activism for gay rights is often considered to have started with the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots demonstrated open resistance against the social and political discrimination that the gay and transgender communities faced, allowing our predecessors to take a stand against the systems put in place for the purposes of oppressing the queer minority. It is these systems, instituted by those in power, that are responsible for creating the framework of oppression that we, and the generations of queer people that came before us, are fighting to overcome. Am I condoning, even encouraging, violence from the queer community in the fight for our rights? The short answer is no, I do not stand for violence for its own sake. However, the journey to seek the rights and dignity that we should—must—be
afforded has always been fraught with conflict, an element inherent to the act of standing up against our oppressors. The unfortunate reality is that no one has ever overcome oppression by asking nicely, with our hands folded behind our backs and our eyes downcast. In the struggle to speak to those in power and overcome the systems instituted by them, it is inevitable that we must come into conflict with them, and inevitable that this conflict will be labelled by the unsupportive masses as “inciting unrest” or “creating unnecessary trouble”. But as the protesters noted, there are no “other successful avenues” for us to seek justice and recognition; and of course “successful” implies peaceful, non-confrontational measures. The issue here, then, is the way that societal oppression is formed through a trickledown structure. In a country like Singapore that relies so heavily on its government for cues on how to behave, the oppression of the queer minority always begins with the government’s refusal to acknowledge us as individuals who deserve the rights that any other cishet citizen is afforded. Refusing to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, preventing transgender students from transitioning, refusing to allow queer-focused media a space in the public sphere; these are all actions that convey to the public that it is perfectly acceptable to deny queer folk our dignity. The challenges to 377A in 2019 did not lead to repeal, with the Attorney-General Chambers saying that status quo “struck the correct balance between the majority conservative view on the one hand, and recognising that homosexuals are part of and have a place in Singapore society on the other”. How should that logic be received? How is it possible to say that queer folk are recognised within society, then turn around and maintain the criminalisation of sexual acts between two men? This is nothing more than lip service attempting to pacify the queer minority while refusing to take the necessary actions to allow us our rights.
Returning to the protest; I found it important in revealing the latent problem with the system of bureaucracy that Singapore insists so strongly upon. You may know about the specific case raised by the student “Ashlee” about how her school and MOE prevented her from transitioning by blocking the process of hormone therapy, and subsequently misgendering her in their official statement. Ashlee’s narrative revealed the flaw in Singapore’s system of bureaucracy that requires trans individuals to meet certain requirements and gain official permissions in order to transition physically and legally; although she had obtained an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a doctor’s referral for hormone therapy, Ashlee was ultimately prevented from proceeding with hormone therapy by the combined efforts of MOE and her school’s administration. The message is clear, then; despite the system of bureaucracy that Ashlee obeyed, it is still possible for those in power to step in at the last minute to prevent the process from being completed. And let’s not even talk about the various students who lack the ability to access IMH resources like Ashlee did. The system says, as long as one jumps through the requisite bureaucratic hoops, everything will turn out “right” in the end, but that’s exactly what Ashlee did, and it was the system itself that failed her.
The protestors and their signs outside the MOE building. (Source: Kirsten Han)
The system says, as long as one jumps through the requisite bureaucratic hoops, everything will turn out “right” in the end, but that’s exactly what Ashlee did, and it was the system itself that failed her.
Top: Publicity post for the #FixSchoolsNotStudents Solidarity Event hosted by the Community Action Network (CAN) following the protest. Right: Some of the participants on the livestream. (Source: CAN Singapore Facebook)
The MOE protest similarly unveiled the flaw in Singapore’s systems when it comes to queer rights. It seems counterintuitive to require that protests be approved by the legal system, when protests by their very nature are meant to speak up against systems of power—including the legal system. This law is why Pink Dot is also considered a protest.* The way that these systems of power are structured ensure that, at the end of the day, we remain at the mercy of this power held over our heads, and our freedom as individuals continues to be dangled just out of reach. It’s completely impossible to rely on these systems to help us overcome our oppression when it is the very same systems that are forming the basis of our oppression. Even while adhering to the system’s structures, Ashlee faced resistance from people in positions of power who were put in place to help her, exemplifying the way these systems of power repeatedly fail LGBTQ+ individuals; this is the reason it was absolutely crucial for the protest to be staged outside of the law as the law had already shown itself to be inherently flawed in the way it was carried out.
At this point, I think it’s clear that it’s no longer enough simply to say that one accepts or supports the LGBTQ+ community; I think these events, and particularly the MOE protest, have highlighted that it’s crucial to put actions to our words and do what we can to further this movement. Even if it’s writing an article in a student publication to talk about how deeply moving the MOE protest was. The time for silence is over. *The very nature of Pink Dot as a protest for LGBTQ+ rights in a country that maintains a colonial law criminalising consensual homosexual acts means that it cannot be raised as an example of why the local government does not discriminate against the gay community!
The news of the protest struck me hard by demonstrating that there are people who are willing to put themselves out there to incite change on a level like this. Personally, despite the work I do with Kaleidoscope and on social media, and my interest as a queer individual in fighting for our rights and creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth, I acknowledge that I have felt afraid to really put myself out there in the public view due to a number of factors, including concerns about my future career, economic status, and personal relationships. But reading about the protest, about Ashlee’s experience, and about all the things that other Singaporeans were saying about these two events (both in support of and against), re-ignited my passion for the creation of new conversations around the issue of LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore. It led me to better examine the power structures that we are subject to, and helped me to speak more freely to my close friends about issues of gender and perception and my own identity as a trans person. And conversations are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fighting for queer-friendly spaces and queer rights, but I think that these two events are important to our history and shouldn’t be swept aside as just two other failed attempts at getting Singapore to pay attention to and really listen to what we have to say for ourselves.
What Does It Mean to be Trans in College?
by Daemon with special thanks to Abigail, Enchi, Karn, Kieran, and IULN cw: transphobia
Trans* in College is a resource booklet for trans* students in tertiary institutions in Singapore first published by the Inter-University LGBT Network (IULN) from 2018. In 2021, a new committee came together to make an updated version of the booklet, which included surveying a greater number of transgender college students as well as contacting college administrations to understand the situation on campuses and highlights the concerns raised by students. Together with members of Kaleidoscope’s new executive committee, IULN reached out to NTU’s Associate Provosts
to discuss how NTU could be a safer and more welcoming environment for transgender students. This is an abridged copy of the report we submitted this June. This report is released with the intent to inform readers the issues faced by trans students on the ground as well as what was communicated to school administration. This should not be taken as open, unconstructive criticism of NTU’s administrative and housing systems.
Issue 1: Access to on-campus housing aligning with gender identity Many students shared their difficulties with being assigned rooms that align with their gender identity. With cases of successful room transfers, most students were placed in a room with an attached toilet in a hall within the Saraca cluster, but still on a floor based on their legal sex rather than gender identity (e.g. transgender female student on male floor). To our knowledge, there is only one successful case of a student being allocated a room with an attached toilet on a floor that matches their gender identity. Access to on-campus housing that matches one’s gender identity is a necessity, not a privilege. From a safety standpoint, transgender students who are forced to use the wrong spaces may face hostility or even violence from other students. (i) Lack of clear process for room transfer From the account of Student A, who met the Office of Campus Housing (OCH) to request a room transfer, OCH has admitted that they lack any formal policy or guidelines in place on how to process such requests despite having handled multiple such cases. In the same meeting, staff stated explicitly that OCH is unwilling to create guidelines due to the small number of transgender students in NTU, as the policy was created
in mind for the “majority”; implying that it was acceptable for the policy to not have minority students in mind and that OCH would only deal with minority students on an out-of-policy basis. This point of view runs counter to NTU’s commitment to create an inclusive school environment. Minority issues should not be ignored because they are only experienced by the minority. The fact that multiple transgender students over the years have had to approach OCH to a request a room transfer demonstrates that this is a recurring need that should be dealt with via a clear process. The fact that each transgender student’s request is only handled on an completely arbitrary case-by-case basis also leaves each case open to the to the possible individual biases of the particular OCH staff in charge of their case. (ii) Lack of care by staff involved in room transfer process Another transgender student seeking a room transfer, Student B, reported that OCH and other departments had been handling their case very differently from Student A’s In this case, the admin staff have been unresponsive and introduced unreasonable delays in the process. There has been no clear reason given for the lack of updates. This has made the process extremely stressful for the student. Regardless of the type of request or case submitted
to the school, the student who opened the case should be given a clear timeline of the process and be provided with timely updates. It should go without saying that if the delay was deliberate, it would be extremely unprofessional, demonstrate a clear breach of duty, and may border on bullying. OCH staff also failed to consider the safety of the student. In Student A’s case, the staff in charge seem to focus on the student’s ability to “pass”, rather than their safety and wellbeing. The staff member also reportedly referred to the request as a matter of “convenience”, and asked how much the student was “willing to pay for the additional convenience” despite repeated clarification by the student that this is an issue of safety and wellbeing. We are concerned that the staff involved did not seem to understand the importance of access to housing for the safety of the student, as well as the undue financial burden placed on transgender students by making an ensuite room in the Saraca hall cluster the only option open to them. (iii) Reference to legal gender marker We understand that a room with an attached toilet is the only option given to transgender student requesting a gender-affirming room, and that NTU currently only allows transgender students who have changed their legal gender on their identity document to stay on a floor according to their legal gender, which has now aligned with their gender identity. We would like to raise some concerns with regards to this practice of strictly following students’ identity documents, given: (1) For Singapore citizens: The prohibitive financial cost of a gender affirmation surgery required for legal gender change and the lack of local medical providers. To our knowledge, Singapore no longer has a surgeon specifically trained in gender affirmation surgery. This forces students seeking gender affirmation surgery and legal gender change to go overseas for the surgery(ies). This puts significant financial strain on the student and often requires disruption of their academic plan. The current pandemic has also made it near impossible for transgender students to go overseas for gender affirmation surgeries. Many students are also unable to afford gender affirmation surgeries at this stage in their lives. (2) For international students: the vastly different legal provisions, recognition, or lack thereof and even criminalization, of transgender people in their country of citizenship.
As a result, to use legal gender, or the implication that the student’s genitals have been surgically modified in line with Singapore law, as a basis for assigning transgender students in halls of residence is an extremely flawed, unfair, and dehumanizing process.
Recommendations (i) Lack of clear process for room transfer Implement a clear and transparent process regarding hall room transfer requests, including what documents are needed, which departments will be involved (e.g. OCH, the student’s faculty), and what meetings with staff are required. The timeline of the process should be made clear to the student once the process is initiated and/or the case is opened. IULN and NTU Kaleidoscope are open to consultation in the process of drafting any guidelines. Include clearly in all hall applications a section for students to declare any new special consideration requests. This should be included in forms for both firstyears and seniors, as circumstances may change over the course of the students’ university life. The section should be accompanied by a statement committing to treating all special request cases in a timely, respectful, and sensitive manner. In cases where the student was already staying in one hall but is being recommended to switch to another hall, keep the cost of renting the new hall room to the cost of previous hall accommodation in order not to penalise transgender students. (ii) Lack of care by staff involved in room transfer process Put measures in place to ensure the process is carried out in a sensitive and respectful manner. We would recommend NTU staff undergo mandatory training in order to address LGBTQ+ students and their needs appropriately. (iii) Reference to legal gender marker Transgender students seeking a hall room transfer should not be limited to rooms with attached toilets on the basis of their legal gender marker, but also given the option to stay in other halls on a floor that aligns with their gender identity.
Transgender students from a number of Southeast Asian countries, e.g. Thailand, are completely unable to change their legal gender regardless of their medical transition.
We also note that the NTU hall form and rules currently use “gender” and “sex” interchangeably. This means that transgender students may be put in the position where they are inadvertently breaking the rules. We recommend that the hall code be rewritten to avoid binary language, this is elaborated in under ‘Issue 4: Non-discrimination and enforcement - Recommendations’.
We further note here that not all transgender people seek gender affirmation surgery.
We are pleased to hear that NTU is currently looking into modifying newer halls to be less binaristic.
Issue 2: Names and Salutations Another concern lies with the university’s online system, including Blackboard and the Office365 systems. These systems are fixed to display each individual’s legal name and gender marker, with no options for personalisation to reflect students’ chosen names and salutations. As a result, there are other ramifications as a result of these inadequacies, e.g. being deadnamed and misgendered by professors, being outed to classmates and potential employers. There has also been a case of a hall office withholding transgender students’ mail/parcels as the name on the address does not match the student’s legal name on record. In Student C’s case, they were asked to turn up in person at the office and repeatedly interrogated about the office’s belief that the student was collecting mail for someone else, as well as asked to verbally confirm that they were authorised to collect the mail on the addressee’s behalf despite the student confirming multiple times that they were the addressee. We also note that some universities here have allowed students the use of an administrative name to accommodate those who have not yet had a legal name change (i.e. completed a deed poll). This administrative name is used in all front-facing university services, is used by all staff members, and in the classroom or other school settings (i.e. class attendance lists, student card, Blackboard).
Recommendations Allow use of preferred names and salutations for everyday usage. This should include but not be limited to: student ID card, class attendance lists, school email and systems (Microsoft Outlook and related Office365 services), and online classroom portals (Blackboard). We are happy to note from a meeting on 15 June 2021, that a revamp of NTU’s online systems is underway and that students will be able to amend their salutations. We urge the school to take this opportunity to make the online systems more inclusive to all, and to continue to engage with IULN and NTU Kaleidoscope in further consultation.
Issue 3: Lack of LGBTQ+ and Trans-affirmative counselling Some students have reported negative experiences in regards to the counselling they received, namely that many of the counsellors are not equipped to handle LGBTQ+ issues. We were happy to learn in the meeting dated 15 June that the University Counselling Centre (UCC) is looking to hire more LGBTQ+-affirming full-time staff.
Issue 4: Non-discrimination and enforcement Currently, NTU’s University Code of Conduct explicitly makes reference to gender and sexual orientation, but not gender identity, although we understand from the meeting that it does extend to transgender students. However, many students have still brought up uncomfortable experiences due to a lack of enforcement of the non-discrimination clause in school-sanctioned events. (i) Inappropriate orientation camp activities Specifically, multiple students brought up two highlygendered and otherwise inappropriate orientation camp activities: (1) “Traffic light” game, or “red light-green light” activity Students are asked to share their relationship status with a color. LGBTQ+ students are asked to identify themselves with the color purple or black. This is threatening and distressing to LGBTQ+ students, who are being asked to publicly identify themselves. It is also offensive as it contains the implicit attitude that being LGBTQ+ is wrong or that LGBTQ+ people are abnormal and hence a separate category from “single”, “attached”, etc. (2) “SP” or “Special partner” activity A “dating” game where two or more students are matched together, which may include making them go on a “date”. Usually, only boy-girl heterosexual pairs are formed. This activity can be highly uncomfortable for LGBTQ+ students, who may be placed in heteronormative pairings. From our meeting on 15 June, we understand that both the “traffic light” and “special partner” activities are banned from orientation camps. We would encourage the school to take more concerted action to prevent such activities from being played at camps. (ii) Respect for pronouns We further note that the use of appropriate pronouns and names for transgender and non-binary students in classroom and beyond remain inconsistent. In particular, since NTU IT systems do not include an option for pronouns, staff often misgender students and use inappropriate pronouns. In addition, there is no system in place to ensure NTU staff address students correctly even if the students have already informed them of their pronouns.
Recommendations At time of writing, IULN is in the process of reaching out to NTU UCC to offer to place some of its resources at the UCC office and CozyHub (can be found here).
Recommendations In an effort to avoid ambiguity and ensure inclusiveness of the policy, we recommend that the University explicitly includes mentions of gender identity, gender, and sex, as protected traits in all relevant codes of conduct and policies, including but not limited to: The University Code of Conduct | Trust and Respect The Student Code of Conduct | Part II, Section 5(h) The Faculty and Staff Code of Conduct Anti-Harassment Policy (Student) | Section 4.6
Review existing policies to have clear and inclusive definitions on “gender” and “sex”. Consider replacing the use of generic masculine (“he” for any student regardless of gender) or binary pronouns (“he or she” to refer to the entire student population) with gender neutral pronouns (“they”) or without using pronouns altogether. In particular, consider rewording the policies to be unambiguously inclusive, equally protective, and nonpenalizing for transgender and non-binary students.
Rules & Regulations Governing Residence in Hall | Paragraph 2(d)
Conduct mandatory orientation briefings which explicitly mention the games that are banned from orientation. The centralised whistleblowing portal should be shared during this briefing. Provide all teaching and non-teaching staff with guidelines for interacting with transgender and nonbinary students. In particular, all teaching staff should invite students to inform them of the students’ names and pronouns. One possible way would be to send out an email in Week 1 asking students to reply with:
The student’s preferred name and pronouns
The name and pronouns the student prefers the staff member to use to refer to them in class
The name and pronouns the student prefers to use on assignments
Any other requests the student might have
Additional: Education and Sensitivity Training We encourage NTU to take greater steps to educate the school community on diversity, inclusion, and discrimination. As noted in ‘Issue 1: Access to oncampus housing’, transgender students here have had uncomfortable interactions with staff where it seemed staff members lacked an understanding of transgender issues. We agree that greater tolerance and understanding among the school population would be needed in order to improve the experience of transgender students here. We are happy to note that NTU has recently introduced a new Minor in Gender and Diversity in 2019, which is a step in the right direction. However, we note that the minor mostly contains higher-level modules in courses like English and Sociology, with a reach that would likely be limited to CoHASS students. As mentioned in ‘Issue 3: Lack of LGBTQ+ and Transaffirmative counselling - Recommendations’, we aim to reach out to NTU UCC to offer resources for LGBTQ+ and trans-affirmative counselling. We would also like to work with NTU to help provide a guide to teaching staff on how to support transgender students in a classroom setting. IULN and NTU Kaleidoscope have both conducted Allyship workshops in the past and would be happy to hold one for NTU staff if the school would publicise the event to its staff members.
Recommendations Mandatory sensitivity training for all NTU staff, teaching and administrative, in an effort to ensure a safe environment for all students. In particular, emphasis should be placed on the use of appropriate pronouns and the harm of outing LGBTQ+ students, and the harm of deadnaming and misgendering transgender and nonbinary students. Inclusion of LGBTQ+ topics and discrimination at the level of the core curriculum of non-humanities students. For instance, the common core module ‘Ethics and Civics in a Multicultural World’ would be a good place to introduce all incoming students to such topics. Work with IULN and NTU Kaleidoscope to: (1) Provide staff with opportunities for learning and discussion on how to support LGBTQ+ students (IULN Allyship workshop) (2) Provide a guide to all teaching staff on how to support transgender students in a classroom setting
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)
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Abigail (she/her)
Abigail is a Certified GayTM with a penchant for, among other things, cat videos, cucumber sandwiches, the soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Show, soft flannel shirts, and political philosophy modules that send her into spiralling into despair. She constantly craves bubble tea and gets angry about things.
Daemon is an English major whose sense of self is not yet solid enough for them to commit to one fixed spelling of their name. They enjoy purchasing rings and iced coffees, and have been published in two anthologies, EXHALE: An Anthology of Queer Singaporean Voices and Keluar Baris II.
Andrew Kirkrose Devadason (he/him/his)
Andrew is an impending grad student who won Star Wars enough times to acquire an undergrad major in Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, a second major in English Literature, and minors in Creative Writing and Gender and Diversity. He is a genderfucking bisexual transgender writer whose work has been published in journals including Cordite Poetry Review and PERVERSE, and anthologies including EXHALE: An Anthology of Queer Singaporean Voices. For more on his work, find him at andrewkirkrose.wordpress.com.
Kishore is an English major with a penchant for talking about writing more than actually writing. When they do write, they channel the spirits of talented confessionalists – or at least, try to. They enjoy long walks in nature, contemplating life and its idiosyncrasies or simply enjoying decent pastries whenever time allows. Writing is the one time they don’t stutter (because you can’t stutter in writing), and their works have been published in Anima Methodi: The Poetics of Mirroring and Seven Hundred Lines: A Crown of Found//Fount Sonnets.
Khairul is a final year film student whose passions include capturing portraits of his friends, modelling for genderqueer themed photoshoots and singing with what limited two-octave vocal range he possesses. He is currently in the pre-production phase as a Production Designer for two short films entitled: ‘Mokhtar’ and ‘Dirty Laundry’. For more of his creative works, you can find him at tinyurl.com/lameer96/.
Once described as Schrodinger's girl, Kieran needs soft cuddly things to distract her from the evils of mathematics and programming. In an incredible stroke of irony, she spends her free time making software and video games (which angers her to the point of yelling at her laptop all the time).
Jonathan is a straight-acting bisexual who doesn’t know what he wants in life so he chose to be an engineer. He can be seen bending over and shouting loudly “SKSKSKSK” all around school looking for the next pussy to pet. He also loves the Xiao Long Bao stall.
Kerry is a very queer kid who likes to dream big, play obscure video games and write all sorts of strange things. If you see him wandering around aimlessly, he's probably thinking about something way deeper than he has to, like a really good web novel he read or an elaborate world he's imagining in his head.
Meghan is an animation student who is very fond of expensive crayons. She’s illustrated for Junk Asia and the Singapore Queer Oral History Archive. In her spare time, she sews toys and makes bread. Currently, she is working on an experimental short combining stop-motion and (you guessed it) crayon. You can find more of her work on Instagram at @meghpohpohpoh.
Al isn’t very good at writing bios. Or being self-aware, for that matter. What she can do is make crocheted mini hats for cats, attempt to be artistic and dissociate in front of her work. Wonderful talents, Al. She can be found (still) plotting her escape route to the mountains to become a hermit.
Charm is a final year Visual Communication major overextending themselves by taking a minor in Art History. Their big three includes: a Capricorn Sun, Saggitarius Moon and Gemini Rising (whatever that means). ((I don’t know what else to write so here’s a word dump of my interests: Donny Yen, boy genius, Team Jacob, eventually falling in love with a Bee and helping him in the legal fight against Big Honey))
Gwen is currently a fourth-year student majoring in Design Art, with a minor in Photography. She loves illustrating, designing and creating interactive works. She's passionate about the good that design and art can contribute to our world, and is currently on a mission to fill her room with funky furniture and fish trinkets. Check out her other works on Instagram at @saydrawings.
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