LGBT pride season hopes to build bridges. Selene Cheng reports.

Building Bridges: Indignation 2008

Selene Cheng / Sub-editor

Indignation 2008, Singapore’s 4th annual lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual (LGBT) pride season, opened with a bang last Friday at 72-13, the home of TheatreWorks in Mohammed Sultan Road.

About 100 people attended the welcome reception organised by gay and lesbian advocacy and education group People Like Us (PLU). Highlights of the reception included PLU’s launch of a new biennial award for the best research work related to LGBT issues in Singapore, and a $10,000 cheque presentation from gay media portal Fridae.com to PLU – proceeds from a movie screening, the Wilde-Indignation Fundraising Gala Premiere held earlier in May this year. The reception also had a short presentation introducing the upcoming events.

The evening saw PLU launching a biennial award named the Rascals Prize. According to PLU, the award, worth S$2000, is to “promote informed understanding” and “add to a body of knowledge that can only benefit discussion of GLBT issues”. The prize is unique as applicants may submit research projects from a variety of medium – text, video, and/or audio – for consideration. Projects to be judged must be independent work, or work submitted to a university, polytechnic, college, or academic journal in 2006-2008.

Judging will be conducted by an independent jury comprised of well-known academics, such as Professor Michael Hor Yew Meng of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Law Faculty, and Associate Professor Quah Sy Ren, Acting Head of the Chinese Division in the School of Humanities and Social Science from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Jurors will be judging in their personal capacities.

Reception organiser Mr Alex Au noted that this was an improvement from previous years, where people who were approached were afraid to step forward in support of LGBT issues.

In another first, this year’s Indignation 2008 will also have a forum on the often-ignored science of sexual orientation. Previous gay pride seasons had no such event. Other Indignation events include artistic events like film screenings and art exhibitions, forums, and talks on LGBT issues. There is also an auction charity art show for various non-profit organisations by local gay community group TheBearProject, as well as the well-known (Unofficial) Pink Picnic, which was banned last year.

The reception saw notable faces like Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Mr Siew Kum Hong, and current and past presidents from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), Ms Constance Singam and Ms Dana-Lam Teo. Also present were members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Workers’ Party (WP).

Ms Singam, who will be speaking on queer women within feminist Singapore, said that she chose to speak because “as a feminist and social activist, [she believes] in social justice, respect [for] diversity, and individual choice”.

“Those are feminist values,” she said.

Ms Singam said that in addition to supporting “the lesbian movement within the feminist movement”, she hoped that everyone could gain “a better understanding of each other”.

Another speaker, Mr Otto Fong, a former Science teacher in Raffles Institution who “came out of the closet” in 2007, hoped that sharing his story could clear up the myths and misunderstanding surrounding gay issues.

When growing up, one only heard about gays in the newspapers – usually when people got caught, he said.

He noted that in his student years, there was a lack of “positive gay role models”, and because of this, he struggled to cope with his feelings about his sexual identity.

Mr Fong said that by telling his story, he hoped to “address the student [in himself]”, and also to let gay youths know that they are not alone.

Mr Au, who is also a gay activist, said that he hoped Indignation 2008 could “build cohesion and raise awareness among our own communities”.

“We want to use this opportunity to build bridges with non-gay groups and individuals,” he said.

Pictures from Prema Menon, Rupture.