Celebrating Pride Month Singapore: More than just "Tolerance"
Over the past month, many major cities around the world have been celebrating Pride. Officially, Pride month is celebrated annually in June to commemorate and honour the 1969 Stonewall riots as well as works to achieve justice and equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning ). However, “the global struggle for LGBTI transcends any single event”. Over the years, the community has fought hard and won many battles. Some pivotal changes in world history include:
- The American Psychiatric Association’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses a few years after the Stonewall riots
- The state-wide legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US in 2015
- The legalisation of same-sex marriage in Germany in 2017
- The decriminalisation of consensual gay sex in India in 2018
- The renaming of four central squares in Paris to honour LGBTQ+ rights: The Stonewall riots square (formerly the Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie square)
(Source: World Economic Forum)
While it is heartening to see more progressive spaces opening up around the world through constitutional changes, there is still much more to be done in terms of social inclusion and truly embracing our LGBTQ+ friends. The first step we can all take is to try having an open mind, educating ourselves on the matter and developing a genuine curiosity about what it’s like to be queer - the struggles and the beauty of it. I decided to ask two of my friends, Nicole and Ivan, who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore about Pride. This was what they had to say.
Nicole, 20, Sociology Major at NTU, loves her fish (it's a fighting fish!)
Ivan, 23, Literature Major and Anthropology Minor at Yale-NUS College, has 6 distinct accents up his sleeve
What is pride month to you?
Nic: “Pride month to me is a celebration of identity and a month to raise awareness for everyone namely cisgender people who have yet to fully grasp the struggles and identities of those in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Ivan: “Pride month to me is about authenticity and celebration.”
How far do you think SG has come in terms of accepting the LGBTQ+ community?
Nic: “SG has come far in terms of tolerance - where people adopt a 'I don't support them but I don't mind being around them if they don't harm me' kind of mindset. This is less than ideal but it is generally what we have to appreciate as we are far from being completely accepting. The fact that there are so many heteronormative laws in place in our central institutions that have no intentions of letting up prove that we are far from an accepting society, although it looks like we have made progress due to large scale events i.e PinkDot (held one day a year, requires so many permits and only SG citizens can participate)"
Ivan: “I don't think Singapore is particularly progressive with its views toward the LGBTQ community. Whatever assurances the government gives about accepting queer lifestyles is moot - given their ministers pandering to christian fundamentalist groups and using the throwaway 'conservative majority' instead of actually working with queer peoples.”
What are some struggles you’ve faced in your daily life that you think is due to your sexuality?
Nic: “Not really struggles but sometimes I find difficulties expressing myself for fear of rejection - i.e being fearful of coming out to people in uni hall in the event that they are uncomfortable with sharing the space with me (toilets etc), people invalidating my sexuality because I have had romantic relationships with both genders - most commonly remarked by cisgender people saying I’m not actually gay/a struggling straight and then demanding a justification or explanation when I seem to tend to another gender, people using my sexuality as my identifier - as if it is my only personality trait when it is in fact the least of my personality.”
Ivan: “I don't think I have that many and that’s really down to having had the privilege of mostly existing in very progressive spaces. But I suppose getting to know new people is always tentative and hedged against not knowing how they’ll react to your sexuality, I think also relationships with some family members really just don't exist after you come out. Yeah they’re not really unexpected, feels like a lot of gay people run into the same roadblocks when it comes to family relationships. Systemically, a whole bunch more, everything from education to health insurance to housing is experienced differently by LGBTQ+ individuals.”
What are some casual homophobic comments/jokes that you think people should stop saying?
Nic: “Ones that I've come into contact with recently:
- girls who act very close to themselves using captions like “omg we’re so lesbian eh” - why does lesbian have a negative connotation/why is it used as a behaviour type?
- straight people thinking (even jokingly) that all their LGBTQ+ friends (of the same gender) will develop romantic feelings for them
- making fun of someone for clarifying their pronouns even if you cannot understand why”
Ivan: “I guess my peeve with language is that most people don't use inclusive language - and that boils down to education (we all slip, I definitely do). But I think it would be great if we could start using more neutral, unmarked terms. It creates a more open and progressive space I think. I think all over language is inflected by gender whether using diminutive terms like waitress/actress instead of waiter/actor or using terms with masculine suffixes: Chairman/Freshman/Congressman or Chairperson / Freshperson ( or first-year ) / Legislator or even just referring to your partner instead of using gendered terms: 'my partner and I' instead of 'my bf/gf and I.' Language is powerful in shaping realities, no? And by leaning away from hard binary language, we don’t necessarily change the world overnight but we do create space for alternative identities/marginalised identities to share space in a masculine world, to take part in conversations without being excluded from the baseline.”
What are some absurd, homophobic comments you’ve heard/read/received?
Nic: “Luckily there are no homophobes in my life & 'Gen Z' is more and more aware about LGBTQ+ issues - some of the most homophobic things I’ve heard are from religious people, particularly Christians, which are pretty general, i.e God will not forgive you for this, we are dooming ourselves to life in hell.. etc. People have also compared LGBTQ+ community to that of pedophiles and necrophiliacs which severely villainises the community by placing them in the same category as criminals. Casual homophobia is more insidious because it is not recognised immediately.”
Ivan: “We all have AIDS, or STDs, have some form of mental illness, are sexually deviant, going to hell. The usual 🤡”
Who are some figures of the LGBTQ+ community that you look up to?
Nic: “MaryV and Chellama, a couple who advocate for both LGBTQ+ rights and the deaf community, educators about intersectionality
Rupaul, made drag more socially acceptable while promoting self love and appreciation”
Ivan: “Carol Ann Duffy, Ocean Vuong, Jericho Brown (all queer poets whose works I think lend beautifully to the Queer). Michael Warner is an academic who writes beautifully about queer politics).”
Jericho Brown, American poet who wrote The New Testament,"written in a spirit of tense lamentation, urgently addresses what it is to be gay, black and living in the US today"
Source: The Guardian
How can I help you feel more confident/comfortable/vouch for you?
Nic: “Just think twice before speaking - try to be understanding and respectful before commenting about someone else’s sexuality and gender. You don’t have to be the most supportive but just be respectful and treat them as human. If they prefer something ie. pronouns, just go the extra mile to use them. If they don’t want to casually be called 'gay/lesbian', make sure you don’t.”
Ivan: “Back to using inclusive language, and also being open to listen to queer voices. I think ,of course, actively calling out misogynistic and homophobic practices is difficult in real life, but being able to reach out and check in with your LGBTQ+ friends is more than enough. Being willing to educate yourself/have perspectives challenged are of course integral to anyone’s growth, so having an open mind already sets you up to be an ally.”
Engaging in conversations with Nicole and Ivan gave me fresh and insightful perspectives on the LGBTQ+ community that I could not have learnt about from just researching on the internet. Furthermore, I'd say it was a rather organic and authentic way to express my love and support for them. I'd also like to take this opportunity to honour them as kind-hearted and beautiful individuals who are much more than just their sexual orientation and have so much to offer. Therefore, I encourage you all to speak to your LGBTQ+ friends - today, tomorrow or whenever and let them know you're listening! Be an ally.
Here at the WYLD Shop, we believe in living wild and free, being comfortable with your true self and spreading love. Most importantly, we believe no one should be able to dictate who you choose to love. Love wins, always.
With love & on behalf of the WYLDcrew,