Category: City: Singapore

Jenabi, Architect, Singapore

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
JNB, the Gay Men Project, photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Jenabi, in his own words: “At the age of 23, I accepted an offer to study in Krakow for a term and that turned my world upside down. I had never felt freer in my life – I knew no one and no one knew me. I allowed myself to be myself and uninhibited which went a little overboard at that time.

All my new friends were probably more shocked by the way I introduced myself as queer then the idea of me being gay.

Imagine, a conservative Asian man who came out with his eyes wide open, not blinking and whispered when I’m about to say the word ‘gay’.

However, it quickly struck me that this whole gay thing wasn’t going to be an issue as I thought! No one treated me or judged my abilities any differently. They probably love me more and are happy that I’m comfortable with myself. Lotsa positive vibes. My time in Krakow was magical and it was then I felt that I finally lived for the first time.

That was the first gift I gave myself after 23 years of living. I like to think I turned 1 y.o. that year ☺ It was my first step of self-acceptance.

When I turned 2, I was given another chance to study abroad in Copenhagen. I wasn’t as excited as last time but this trip I met a guy.

I’m usually very analytical and practical by nature, but with him, with his piercing baby blue eyes, his openness, and humor I could not resist this charming Viking descendant. Knowing that I had an expiry date in Copenhagen I still let myself fall deep into it. My time in Copenhagen was more like a fairy tale, lost in time, exploring the snowy city with him, on the bike by day and in his arm by night.

He was the second gift I allowed myself to fall into.

Cheers to uncertainty, spontaneousity and love.

We decided to make a trip to my hometown when my term ended, as a ‘best friend’.

Before going home, I planned a trip to Germany over Christmas knowing that he would be celebrating it with his family and I should not intrude. Something about Christmas in Hamburg, the Christmas markets, couples holding hands; the snow evokes a strong sense of loneliness in me. I saw Starbucks from a distance and immediately in my mind Starbucks = free wifi, I thought talking to a familiar voice would help until halfway through the conversation I blurted out.

Sis, u know the friend who is visiting next year? ya mum told me about it.

He is more than just a friend.

Dead silence. She was lost of words. What have I done? I assumed that she would be able to accept it. Everything from thereon went downhill and the news spread like a wildfire within my family. I was nowhere near to explain and was left no choice to leave it suspending mid-air. Nobody was happy about it and it was nerve breaking.

So it was official, I came out at the age of 3. Well to be fair, it wasn’t my plan to come out to the whole family. Thanks to my sis, I didn’t need to do it myself. However, coming from an Asian family, we are best in not talking about the issue and it became the taboo topic of the house that thou shalt not speak of!

I had a choice then. Either I could chose to turn away from my family and continue my solitary living or I could put my head down, be there until the wave past. Tough times … We all of us have a choice. But being gay..nope! Not a choice.

Unfortunately not all fairytales have a happy ending. My relationship with the Viking ended before I turned 5. We’ve been through a lot, up and downs, our silly travels and hygge-ing around. Thank you for all the unconditionally love, happy memories you left me with. Thanks for shaping me into a better man and making me believe in same sex love.

I’d experience love and being love.

I matter to someone and respected .

We built a life together in each other’s warmth and embrace.

The only thing is I share all of this with a man.

I am 6 years old now. Now that I am out on the other side, I’m glad I came to terms with myself. I can see the dark times in my early life, the utter confusion, the crippling self- hate moments. I was so upset and wanted to end it all. All is good now and will get better.

I long for the day when my family will accept me for who I am but we shall not linger on that thought too rigidly. We are not defined by our sexuality. We are much more than that; it’s just our natural attraction to a currywurst over a pink taco. Things will come into places over time. Don’t rush it.”

Alexander, Coordinator, Singapore

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Alexander, in his own words: “Being a gay transgender man in Singapore has its challenges. When you’re younger, people don’t take you seriously. They just think you’re a ‘tomboy’ and that it’s just a phase. You have complete strangers staring at you sometimes, and your identity as a gay man who was assigned female at birth is questioned when you come out, and then dismissed as something that you’re “too young to know for sure”.

As a child, I would adamantly refuse to wear dresses and remotely ‘girly’ clothes and would cry at the idea of wearing them, but I was forced into them regardless. When introduced to my parents’ friends, I would correct my them when they told their friends I was their daughter by saying “I’m your son”. I remember being lectured by my mum when I was ten, and I was told not to call myself their son because it hurt their feelings.

My parents never brought up the subject of LGBT people, and LGBT issues weren’t discussed in school. The only source of information we had in secondary school was the internet, and at the time, mainstream media still had limited portrayal of queer people, which was largely based on stereotypes. I navigated through my early teenage years trying to conform to heteronormativity, but deep down I knew that something wasn’t right. I hated what puberty was doing to me, and each day in the shower served as a reminder that I wasn’t male. When I started being attracted to other boys, I was even more confused, but came to the conclusion that it would be easier to just try being a girl instead.

After finishing my GCE ‘O’ Levels, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with another trans man. We both worked part-time in the same restaurant and were of the same age. He came out to me one day over a text conversation, and I realised that his life growing up was very similar to mine. The only difference was that he liked girls, and I liked boys. That alone still made me question my identity, but after thinking about it for a while, I realised that if there were gay cisgender people, gay transgender people could exist too. Thrilled at how I had finally discovered my identity, I came out to my close friends and classmates in the polytechnic, but the thought of coming out to my parents and their potential rejection still frightened me. One day, I knew I had to stop hiding from them, so I came out to them that year, two days before I turned 17. Needless to say, they were shocked and distraught. They weren’t ready to accept me as their son, and they said that I was too young to know what I wanted. They still thought that it was just a phase.

Of course, the journey of transitioning still wasn’t smooth after coming out. There have been times when I felt that life as a trans man wasn’t worth living, and I had contemplated suicide. However, in the recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet people that have been so open-minded and accepting, and their support has brought me through the hard times to a better place in life. However, I know that there are trans youth out there who do not have proper support in their circle of friends, which is why I started volunteering with The Purple Alliance and helped to start a casual support group for trans* people in Singapore. It’s been almost two years since I started volunteer work, and I have grown a lot as a person in this period of time.

The LGBT community in Singapore is more diverse than one might think it is, but it is still largely segregated. When people think of LGBT rights, most tend to think about Section 377A of the penal code and marriage equality, but in reality, there is so much more work to be done. There is still discrimination within the LGBT community, and some people are still not educated on issues transgender people face. Hormones for trans people are hard to acquire and surgery is expensive and not covered by insurance. However, recently there have been more people speaking out for the transgender community. Things are changing, and as the years go by, the LGBT community will be closer to becoming one.

I recently turned 20, and looking at how far we have come as a community and how much more we can and will progress, I’m glad that I didn’t decide to end my life. If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would say, “Stop poking your head out of the big window and calculating how long it will take for you to hit the ground. Things will fall into place in time. You’ll witness plenty of great things in the years to come, and you will be a part of it.”

Mona Kee Kee, Drag Queen, Singapore

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Mona Kee Kee, in her own words: “I find that being gay adds an intensity and a depth to what I do as a drag queen. Because I share so many common experiences with my mostly gay audiences, I am all too familiar with the beautiful and poignant stories of our lives. This shared narrative reads very clearly when I am on stage; gay men respond to my performances because, as they are entertained, they realize that we, as gay men, share the same scars that map our common histories.

In my job as an international relocation professional, I help expatriates move into and out of Asia. It is a very demanding and time-sensitive role, and there are days when the tasks really take their toll on my personal life. I find it a triumph that, even with these demands on my personal time, I can become the drag queen that I want to be at the end of the day. (In a corporate environment that values blending in and not rocking the boat, it can be interesting how a flaming, high-heeled drag queen can hold a highly visible and professional post.)

While I have been living in Singapore for around 5 years now, I am originally from the Philippines. In our culture, we are not very comfortable with confrontations; I guess this is one of the reasons why my parents and I never really talked about me being gay. We just went on with our lives (having the occasional passive-aggressive jabs at what we think about my sexuality), until, one day, we just found ourselves chatting for hours about my partner and which sequined dress will go well with my Shirley Bassey number.

The Singapore gay community is in the pink of health; the diversity of the community here, I feel, vibrates pretty much like the gay communities in any other cosmopolitan environment. There are unmistakable groups of twinks, muscle Marys, bears, young professionals, drag queens, etc.; there are, of course, hordes of others who shuttle across and through these spectrums. Singapore society, like many of its neighbors in conservative Asia, is maturing very quickly in understanding the global landscapes of being gay.

Given the chance to speak with my younger self, I would say, “Skip that additional order of fried chicken; your skin-tight dresses will thank you when you become a drag queen in your thirties. Have a lot of sex, and stay safe. You will eventually find the man with whom you will spend the rest of your life, and you will be glad you stayed healthy all this time.”