The first to get the chop was this writer's photo exhibition, titled Kissing, and comprising 80 photographs of volunteers in same-sex mouth-to-mouth kisses. The Media Development Authority, in refusing the licence for the exhibition, declared that it would "promote a homosexual lifestyle."
Associated Press did a story immediately, which went around the world via the International Herald Tribune (IHT), the San Francisco Chronicle, the Guardian (UK) and other newspapers. The following day, IHT carried the story a second time, with a longer write-up by its own correspondent from Singapore.
The next to be hit was Ng Yi-Sheng's work, titled Lee Low Tar, a hilarious farce based on a fictional rejection letter by a certain censorship body. This fictional letter explained that the censors found the work, about a young man with a fetish for old men, to be "a specimen of the most degraded pornography known to man."
The real-life Media Development Authority in their real-life letter to Ng, told him that the fictional letter was "beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers."
A case of reality imitating art.
This time it was Agence-France Presse that was first off the starting gun. They sent the news of the ban worldwide via Yahoo News and France24. There were probably other channels I don't know of.
The third to be banned was Professor Douglas Sanders. The police had earlier approved a permit for his public lecture, titled "Sexual orientation in international law: the case of Asia," but then succumbed to pressure from a well-known ex-cabinet minister and Christian fundamentalist, and cancelled the permit at almost the last minute. Prof Sanders was also denied a visa.
The reason the police gave for the cancellation was that the event "is unlikely to be held in the public interest," with the suggestion that he would be interfering in domestic politics. This even as they had neither seen his paper, nor spoken with him about the contents of his talk.
Associated Press got the prize again, and the story made headlines in USA Today, the Washington Post and others. "Singapore bans gay rights forum," they both said.
Then the Pink Picnic took centre-stage. Originally planned for Aug 9 at the Botanic Gardens, it was blocked by the National Parks Board after a well-known anti-gay crusader, Professor Thio Li-Ann from the National University of Singapore's infamous law school, complained to the authorities.
Following that, I fielded calls from Associated Press (again), Asian Wall Street Journal, IPSnews, and later tonight, I am expecting a phone interview from California.
Why this madness?
All these bans expose the hypocrisy of the Singapore government, although even saying that may be giving them too much credit, since that presupposes a stable dual-track course. It is entirely possible that what we're witnessing is just a shambles of conflicting policies coming out of different ministers and departments, some more sympathetic to the crazed Religious Right than others, but none with any clue as to how much damage Singapore's reputation is suffering abroad.
In April this year, elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew spoke of "an inevitable force of time and circumstance" in referring to the need for accepting gay people. He underlined his views a few days later to Reuters: "Let's not pretend it doesn't exist," he said, adding that he saw "no option" for Singapore but to decriminalise homosexual sex.
But how does one square this with ban after ban this month? Or for that matter, with the thriving gay scene? As one journalist to whom I was speaking asked, "But Singapore has gay bars and saunas, doesn't it?"
"And wasn't there a gay play recently?" He was referring to Alfian Sa'at's Asian Boys Vol 3 - Happy Endings, staged by Wild Rice Theatre.
To get anywhere near understanding what is happening, it is important to see the distinction between entertainment and speech, although sometimes the two fuse together (as in a play). So long as entertainment is low key, e.g. a bar that doesn't advertise itself widely, the government allows it to exist.
In this, they are living up to Juvenal's advice to the Roman emperors - to ensure that the people are fed with bread and circuses - lest they revolt. Thus the Singapore government's obsession with economic growth while granting some allowance for entertainment. Everything else is dispensable.
Gay equality is a civil rights issue, and civil rights is seen as an obstruction to efficient government. Thus the paranoia with respect to Gay Pride.
Yet Lee, in his characteristic high-profile way, has pointed to the direction that Singapore must move - towards decriminalisation and tolerance. Why did he do that? It is clear from his prefacing remarks, that it had everything to do with economics. "If this is the way the world is going and Singapore is part of that
interconnected world and I think it is, then I see no option for Singapore but to be part of it."
But the schizophrenia is evident from the next few lines: "If we want creative people then we got to put up with their idiosyncrasies. So long as they don't infect the heartland."
This suggests a desire to give the appearance of acceptance to the outside world, at the same time to fence the "idiosyncrasies" off from Singaporeans.
Can that ever be realistic? It's not a question that anyone seems to be asking.
While clear thinking is in short supply, furious reaction from the Christian fundamentalists isn't. Letter after letter has been written to the newspapers. Appeal after appeal has been made to ministers and senior civil servants to "take action." Given the large number of Christians in government and the civil service, such appeals enjoy much sympathy. In any case, once the gay activists are painted as a threat to national security - the euphemistic phrase being "contrary to the public interest" - many government officers switch onto autopilot.
Ban, ban, ban.
And then we get headline after headline flying around world. No kissing, no humourous story telling, no speaking by professors, no picnicking in the park.
Meanwhile, as part of the city-state's National Day celebrations, the slogan on billboards all over the city say "Singapore - a city of possibilities". Yeah, right.
i will reply them then that i am human, and the land is just too holy for me to stay any longer, and thus i am here...
Correction: I'll ABSOLUTELY join you.. & thousands more like you before me...& never look back.
I don't want to offend anyone here myself, but even as a gay man, i feel many other gay men exclude the lesbians unknowingly. Please, Alex, as you were at the discussion youself, do keep your eyes open for the others who are in the same "banned" situation as you are facing. They, too, deserve to be mentioned. We are supposed to be an all-inclusive community, after all.
'Singapore - A city of possibilities'... I laugh to myself every time I see this slogan. These words are a joke to me, both as a Singaporean gay man and as a contributing member of this society. How do I keep my pride for this nation if it can't accept me for who I am? Guess I won't be waving the flag or repeating the pledge..."We the citizens of Singapore...to build a democratic society, based on justice and EQUALITY..." - anytime soon. In my travels around the world, I will continue to be a good 'ambassador' and civil Singaporean for the world to see and know. But I won't hesitate to speak of the continued archaic policies of exclusion and discrimination against the LGBT community.
1. We can finally market the Chingay Parade properly. Imagine the consternation of a clueless tourist who thought he was here for the Chinese Gay Parade: "..and why did they promote using the colour pink?!"
2. The police's job will be easier because the gay bars will not have any brawls. Who ever heard of gays punching and spilling blood over quarrels and jealousy? These brothers and sisters are here to make love, not war.
3. It gives religious people and other moralists purpose in life: to 'save' genetically variant people. Without gays, would their lives be as meaningful?
4. Gays are the nation's natural population control. Sure, we need more people now but who knows after a while we would need to control population like the "stop-at-two" campaign in the 70s?
5. They are the best experimental guinea pigs to see how old singles survive. How do old gays survive without spouses and kids to take care of them? We can steal ideas from them since there are increasingly more straight old people with no kids or kids who do not or cannot take care of their aged parents.
6. Since gays do not go for females, straight men will have an easier time finding mates. Already, straight men here have been criticized as unattractive so females do not want to marry them. How can these men even compete if the well-groomed and sensitive gays suddenly turned straight?
7. So as an extension to the earlier point, gays can serve as consultants (both physical appearance and emotional support) to the straight men, especially as a bridge to communication with the females since gays can empathize with what women want.
8. Gays make good movie plots. So if Singapore wants to make it big in the media world, they need its own "Brokebeck Mountain", but you cannot make a credible movie on Singapore gays if you eliminate them, right?
9. The gay issue also trains students' thinking process. Can we think of any other issue in Singapore that encompasses everything from religion to science, human rights to economics, emotions to logic? We do want our students to think critically and even debate eloquently about this in competitions to win, right?
10. Last but not least, discussion on the gay issue sells newspapers and other publications. So once in while if the newspapers run out of things to publish, bring up the gay issue again. Sales are always good for profits.
There should also be a ban on ginger-haired people picnicking in groups in the botanical gardens too. This is because heartlanders cannot be trusted with exposure and would be infected by the red-hair gene, and, like in Resident Evil, they will start copying these mutants and eating sausage and mash instead of chicken rice.
People would also start dyeing their hair red, and copying the mutant's bad taste in clothes (it may already be too late!). Before you know it, it will be the end of Singaporean food and culture as we know it. Stop this menace now!
I liked Singapore in many ways, too many to mention here, and hope to return someday. But there is no doubt that conservative policies have had their effects, even on the most personal levels, on gay life. I wish my gay Singaporean friends the best in turning it around, and will do what I can to support that.
god that made me laugh.
spore is definitely not getting my pink doller.
However, the events of Indignation could be made a lot more interesting and quite honestly the overall quality of the event needs to be improved . . . regardless of the cancellations, Indignation provides little interest to those of us with good taste and good manners and who are exceptionally gay!
anyway, turn out to those events seems quite low, even if they were not banned-- who actually goes to the events? not even enought people to fill the bar on a good Saturday night!
what does one actually learn or take away? it just makes us out to be whiners . . .if you actually sold tickets to see Kissing, would anyone consider it art? New Yorkers would most be disappointed and want their money back!
why not have events that actually celebrate the acheivements of Great Gay Men: invite successful people like gay Army Leaders, Astronauts, Bankers, Doctors,Fireman, Airline Pilots, Religious Men, Architects, Sportsplayers, Mountain Climbers-- men of substance, character, who have actually accomplished something and are respected by Homos and Straights alike?
How about gay men that actually contributed something to society and Singaporean heros for Singaporean modern times? Where are all the good cowboys and super heros out there?
a play about a letter getting rejected by a banning board? Double YAWN-- who really can get excited? What is this suppose to teach me? I could not even stay awake -- poorly written and if an actual theater critic reviewed it, it would get fired.
Pardon me, but indignation sounds tacky and boring, and a great big yawn . . . (except for the picnic, yep)
My standard for gay men means the bar is really high-- the league of extraordinary gentlemen . . . guys that are educated, with class, unsung heros from everyday, gay men saving babies from drowning, etc.
I am Jewish and for centuries people looked down on us and banned us and persecuted our people for centuries.
It wasn't until our people gained a reputation for our leadership, strength and substantive contributions in medicine, teaching, art, science and industry that we actually got respect. Economics does bring respect but underlying it is competency and a pursuit of excellence.
As LBGTs we will be measured by our merits and great works, not by shocking old ladies and really tasteless photographic exhibitions. (my point is it shouldn't be banned, but nonetheless the pics are there to shock, the actual artistic value belongs in a high school exhibit, not even college level!). Kissing of no importance to the arts community-- please ask Sotheby's. Just because its gay, doesn't mean its good.
The gay community needs articulate leaders who lead by example with their works and who are chosen to lead because they have unique skills and gifts to contribute.
Gay men need to hold each other to a higher standard and need to condemn bad taste and tackiness and bad behavior when we find it. We need to police our own community instead of blaming the Christian right.
Ticky, tacky, crappy, and down right uninspiring is what I call Indignation. Can't someone next year with good taste and good manners plan the event?
Too bad Brooke Astor in New York just passed away, but someone please summon her ghost of good taste. The money built museums with works of art that will last for centuries. If a artist has something of merit in the Museum of Metropolitan Art-- whether Jew, Gay or whatever-- that is lasting respect and real PRIDE!
the Mercedes C class is real art, not the Kissing Exhibit tacky photos with the grainy bad developing
A Gay Man driving this thing with boy friend in tow will be great fun.
By Christmas, I declare I will buy one for my friend in Singapore and buy the way, I will tell the Dealer I saw it on Fridae!
Great Art gets notice because it is Great Art! Not because it is GAY, ticky tacky.
Zoom, zoom, zoom, Great men press on!
why not instead of calling it Indignation, which has a negative meaning from the start, why not next year call it ExceptionalNATION-- if this is really about PRIDE, then why not celebrate the achievements of outstanding people and their craft, who just happen to be gay?
For example, I would try to invite the following people, who I am sure would never be denied a visa, plus people would actually turn out to see them-- Ellen (talk show host, entertainer), Alan Gilmour (retired Vice Chairman Ford Motor Company), Tom Ford (Founder Tom Ford, Inc/ Good Taste and Manners by the way), Barney Franks, (US Congressmen), Jeffrey Eugenides (author Middlesex/ Winner of Pulitzer Prize), BD Wong (Tony Award Winner, Madame Bufferfly/ Same Sex Daddy) . . . and the list goes on and on-- so many great people and great role models! Or invite the Whole Cast from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to come to Singapore . . . . think BIGGER, Think more positive, think BETTER.
PRIDE Should not be tasteless and tacky!
Why does Singapore events always get so political, border line porn,tacky sex, tacky, tickey colors at picnics--(would Tom Ford show up wearing PINK??, heavens no!)
TRY Better next year if you really want the world's respect.
Good manners get us everywhere!
If you need my help, I will gas up the corporate jet and fly right in to help you guys!
just to say, i think IndigNation is so much nicer than exceptionalnation. seriously, seriously.
I am also very disappointed with Singapore government as they always praise themselves for able to attracted smart and capable ppls to serve with their very huge attractive salary package....yet all these smart ppls in the GOVERNMENT cannot understand that HOMOSEXUAL is not a lifestyle but sexuality and homosexual lifestyles cannot be impose or influence non homosexual ppls to become one!
Gosh, as if my straight best pals will give up their beloved pussies for dick because I like dick. Nonsense!
But can somebody explain to me why the singapore govt is so resistant to gay rights ? Is the christian influence so strong ? Is it ? Or is it more? I really feel so much for my singaporean brothers and sisters, you have suffered enough. BUT, I have a feeling the tide will eventually turn.
Dont give up !
Because the government also has no answer to everything lor. On one hand, the community is growing, they want to please. On the other hand, the conservatives are still there, they also want to please.
When MM Lee discussed the inevitable route to repealing the Penal Code for gay people, and not long after a by spirit support in constitution was observed by an MP during a gay discussion held and reported here, guess wat? There suddenly appeared a wild card of a phantom "infected HIV man" going around deliberately infecting people. The authorities refused to release any details under investigation. Then this was followed by newspaper reports that HIV rates are at an alarming all time high in the country. To fan this absurd paranoia and panic, condemning articles by some journalist suggested and concurred with myopic ministers of implementing compulsory HIV testing for everyone in the country, starting with hospital admissions. Public opinions to the newspaper forums further revealed the kind of society we live in with their primitive fears of the gay lifestyle being dangerous-of course, expressed as "conservative & concerned" citizens of morally upright pro family heterosxual christian Singaporeans. Yawn....zzzz...
Hmm...the spin doctors are really hard at work. Get the nation all up in arms and sweep the focus and repeal of the Penal Code for gay sex safely under the National Flag.
You can invite Mother Teresa, resurrected from the Heavens to attend all our gay pride events, but if she just so much were to broach on the topics of homosexuality, pretty damn sure no visa will be issued through these rusty gates.
Singapore runs by its own laws and it's public knowledge.It insulates itself with its own legal system. It believes that as long as its citizens continue to be a source of labour supply to MNCs, sucking the citizens of every possible dollar for just existing, so wat if there are violations of human rights. As a government, salaries are high, powers are certain, wat else matters? As long as a citizen is economically able to pay and pay, u can stay here. But once u r sick or old or incapacitated, support yourself. The government will not take care of you.
However, I believe the tide is slowly but surely turning, not just for gay people in the country. Those enlightened enough will see that they have had been screwed at every opening since birth (I rule out caesarian), enough is enough.
Why do gay people need the approval of st8 people?! We have as much right as the next st8 person. We pay taxes, contribute, observe rules and the law...etc, so why do we set ourselves up to pander for acceptance. If a st8 person dun accept us, tough. Be yourself. Eventually the laws of karma will turn.
Throughout history, the powers that be tried to eliminate the Jews, suppress women, enslave blacks, burn "witches" (pagans) and batter gay people all around the world and all these came back with a vegeance. Just u watch, history will repeat itself. Till then, like they say in the Pirate movie, "Welcome to Singapore!"..>:P~~
Dear Government, open your eyes wide and see the colours of the rainbow yeah? Easy right?
And to Thio Li-Ann, what's your problem with us? From your academic/career profile at NUS Law website (and yes, I checked it), it is incredulous to think that having studied and obtained admirable qualifications in international law and civil rights (read: studied too much and missed out the best things in life), you would actually go and complain to the police over a small, trivial matter. Silly. KAY POH lah. Go away and count your wasted blessings.
Oh gosh, I am becoming more and more heterophobic. Sigh.
E.g.s The U.S. politician who after being exposed as having using a male gigolo for 10 yrs still denied that he is gay or bisexual.
The monk who in the face of scientific evidence, insisted that the Buddha molar in his temple is real and said: 'They can say all they want, I don't care what they say. If you believe it's real, then it's real.'
Established academic or not, if what he says or does makes no scientific sense, then he has something to hide or really not so good an academic after all.
Anybody know who is this well-known ex-cabinet minister and Christian fundamentalist? Interested to know!
- - - - - - -
Now that we know NUS Law school's Thio Li-Ann is behind the botanical garden ban, shouldn't we know who is this "well-known ex-cabinet minister"?
Wouldn't knowing "who is on whose side" make our life better?
Remember the restaurant restroom scene from Fight Club where Brad Pitt and gang kidnap a police commissioner "...Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on: we cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep. Do not **** with us."
I am not advocating a Fight Club response - going head-on will only give the government more excuses to clamp down on us. Instead, we "out" the antigay names for a very simple reason - let them know we exist, we vote, we think, we decide, we sway matters, that we ARE.
There is a Chinese saying of being disadvantaged when "we are in the light, they are in the shadow." I say we shove the antigay profiles out of the "antigay closet" (ironic eh...). As being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, does it make any sense then, even to the average Joe or uncle/aunty on the street straight or not, that the antigay ones are sneaky or allowed invisible protection? Are they ashamed???
I say we level the playing ground - know who we have on our side and who we need to "get to know better." For all we know, by establishing a dialogue with the antigay ones once we know who's who, we might even convince them simply because they can specifically see us as we ARE - that we are human and fellow citizens every bit flesh and bone just like them.
Well too bad. I suppose all this publicity may not reflect very positively on Singapore. I'm reading the articles on Associated Press right now...
In internet age, thing always forgotten quickly, and I posted the message 5 days ago. I mean few people even read this news again, and someone call me VINDICTIVE! Now who's the VINDICTIVE one?
Seriously - who IS this "well-known ex-cabinet minister and Christian fundamentalist?"
I mean, come on - the headline article on Fridae at this moment is Jesus Camp.....
I agree with Post #36 & 37. I dun see how any vindication exist by knowing.We all have the right to know who is this so called ex minister. Aren't we supposed to know who's our friends and who's not? Keep enemies closer right?
Geez...how come we protecting the identity here? No wonder gays dun get far when our own kind dun stand united...pity...:(~~
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