Archive of The New York Times article, “Singapore’s Gay Community Holds First-Ever Rally” (16 May 2009)

This is an archive of The New York Times article formerly located at this URL:

but which has since been removed.


Singapore’s Gay Community Holds First-Ever Rally

Published: May 16, 2009

SINGAPORE (AP) — The gay community in tightly controlled Singapore held its first-ever rally Saturday, taking advantage of looser laws on public gatherings to call for equality.

About 2,500 participants wore pink clothing, played music and sang songs at a park known as Speaker’s Corner, said organizer Pink Dot, which represents Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

”This is a great opportunity for us to make our pitch for the equal treatment of the LGBT community in Singapore,” said Roy Tan, a Pink Dot spokesman.

Singapore’s government has become more tolerant toward gays and lesbians in recent years, but sodomy is still illegal, Tan said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told the state-owned New Paper on Friday that gay people ”have a place in our society” but warned they must ”not assert themselves stridently as gay groups do in the West.”

The government eased a ban on public demonstrations last year, encouraging Singaporeans to air grievances at Speaker’s Corner as long as they don’t discuss race, language or religion. The government says public discussion of those subjects could enflame passions and create instability in the multiethnic

Last year, Singaporean investors met at the park after losing money on structured notes issued by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

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Archive of The Straits Times article, “Survey shows young people have conservative view of gays” (22 June 2000)

Survey shows young people have conservative view of gays

The Straits Times
22 June 2000

Reaffirming traditional sex roles, most say they will be upset if
their child, brother or sister is homosexual


MOST young Singaporeans hold negative attitudes towards homosexuals
and are generally quite conservative on the matter, according to a
recent academic survey.

In the study, most students polled said that they would feel upset if
they discovered that their child, brother or sister was homosexual.

The survey, which involved 413 students aged 17 to 35 from three
educational institutionshere, was conducted last October by Dr Vivien
Lim, a lecturer at the National University of Singapore’s department
of organisational behaviour.

Almost nine out of 10 said they would be disappointed if they
realised their child was homosexual. Eight out of 10 agreed with the
statement: “I would be upset if I learned that my brother or sister
was homosexual”.

Dr Lim said: “The prevalence of anti-homosexual sentiments generally
reflects the strong support for traditional sex roles.”

It also suggests that, generally, youths in Singapore are still quite
conservative in their attitudes towards gender roles and

Dr Lim found that, in general, women reported they were comfortable
in working closely with male homosexuals, whereas men said they were

Her study, which is based on scientific survey methodology, is titled
“Gender differences and attitudes towards homosexuality”.

It has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Homosexuality,
a US-based quarterly devoted to scholarly research on homosexuality.
It is published by Haworth Press.

Other recent research projects by Dr Lim include managing job loss
and job insecurity in Singapore, and managing Aids at the workplace.

Her study on homosexuality in Singapore represents an initial attempt
to examine attitudes towards homosexuals in a non-Western context, as
much of the existing research on the issue focused on samples
obtained in the West.

She sent her findings to The Straits Times after reading its feature,
“Do gays have a place in Singapore?” published on May 27, which she
said she found “very thought-provoking”.

The feature had examined a range of public attitudes towards
homosexuality. It followed the Government’s rejection of an
application for a permit by gay activist Alex Au to hold a forum on
gay issues.

Explaining its decision, the police had said the forum would advance
and legitimise the cause of homosexuals in Singapore. As the
mainstream moral values of Singaporeans are conservative and
homosexual acts are unlawful, it would be contrary to the public
interest to allow the forum, it said.

Interestingly, in contrast to Dr Lim’s findings, another recent
survey by a team led by Mr Au had found that 46 per cent of
streetside respondents and 74 per cent of Internet respondents felt
that they would be able to accept a gay sibling, if not immediately,
then after a while.

Also, 41 per cent of streetside and 66 per cent of Internet
respondents said they would be able to accept the fact that their
child was gay.

Mr Au’s survey was conducted by volunteers and did not claim to be



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Archive of the Asian Wall Street Journal article, “More Casual Office Structure Helps Gays’ Coming Out in Singapore” (16 June 2000)

AWSJ June 16, 2000

More Casual Office Structure Helps Gays’ Coming Out in Singapore

When Singaporean Web site entrepreneur Shenzi Chua realized he was
gay two and a half years ago, he didn’t hesitate to come out of the
closet to his colleagues. “Because in the Web business, people I’m
dealing with are very yuppie, not old and traditional; I’m not
worried at all,” he said.

Such openness, especially in Singapore, where homosexuality is still
illegal, was unheard of a few years ago. But the New Economy has
loosened much more than dress codes and job titles. Diversity —
whether in hairstyle or sexual orientation — is part and parcel of
the office culture at many technology companies. Even at more
traditional firms in Asia, a skilled-labor squeeze is forcing the
adoption of more antidiscrimination policies.

“It’s a very nascent trend,” said Russell Heng, a gay activist in
Singapore. The vast majority of gays are still closeted in the
workplace, and workers still run a high risk of being penalized for
their sexuality. Asian countries for the most part have no legal
protections for gays, and so nothing, in theory, prevents a company
from firing an employee for his sexual preferences.

But Mr. Heng notes that a growing number of gay professionals and
managers are opting for disclosure. A handful are even coming to work
functions with their gay partners, and introducing them as such. Of
course, there are degrees of being out. Most still prefer discretion,
stating matter-of-factly that they are gay when asked, but not going
out of their way to introduce the topic. And there are still many who
go to extremes to hide their sexuality from their co-workers, even
avoiding altogether public appearances with their same-sex partner.

Clearly, certain industries are much more receptive than others. One
expatriate lesbian executive at a U.S. investment bank describes her
industry as one of the more homophobic. She says she wouldn’t be open
about her sexuality even if she were working for the same company in
the U.S. The “old boys club” atmosphere makes it hard enough for
straight women to get ahead, never mind gays, she said.

At the other end of the spectrum is a company like Intel. In
Singapore, the chip maker last year set up a gay corporate social
club, at the instigation of one of its gay executives. In the U.S.,
according to Intel’s Web site, it has “formally sanctioned” employee
groups that provide “networking, integration, development and
outreach activities” to “African-Americans; Latinos; Native
Americans; Asians; Indians; Christians; Muslims,” as well as “gay,
lesbian, bisexual or transgender employees; women and others.”

In the U.S., the buzzword for this trend is “inclusiveness,” where
companies, in their quest to attract and retain employees, provide
perks like social clubs for everyone from lesbian single mothers to

The change is far subtler in Asia. Mr. Chua was working for Global
Knowledge Network, a U.S.-based information-technology training
company, when he disclosed his sexual orientation. “The hierarchy is
quite flat, with no competition, so people don’t use your
homosexuality as a tool to bring you down,” he said. Because most of
his work was outside the company, and he didn’t have much contact
with senior management, he felt there was less to lose by coming out.

Not that Mr. Chua, 29, stood on the desktops and proclaimed his
sexuality. He chose instead to tell a handful of colleagues with whom
he socialized, allowing the information to come out in the natural
course of conversation “about life and everything.” Far from
alienating his colleagues, his revelation improved his relationship
with his co-workers, mostly Asians in their 20s and 30s. “People get
used to you the more you tell them about you — they take it as
another level of friendship,” he said.

For Alex Au, disclosure was a matter of leadership. At the time, Mr.
Au was a senior manager at a Singapore-listed paint manufacturer,
which he declined to name. “It was important to reassure them [other
gay employees at the company] that they shouldn’t feel threatened,”
he said. It was easier for him because “there weren’t many layers
above me that could put the screws in,” said Mr. Au, who recently
tried to organize a gay and lesbian forum in Singapore, only to have
it squashed by the government. (Mr. Au declined to identify his
current company or position, saying he wants to keep his professional
affiliation separate from his comments about homosexuality.)

Mr. Au, now 47, had become exasperated with one of his male
colleagues, “who kept going on about girlie bars,” and dragging Mr.
Au to his favorite sleazy nightclubs. He finally told the colleague
he wasn’t interested in the subject. When the co-worker asked why, he
told him outright that he was gay. Far from being shocked, the co-
worker simply said, “Ah, that’s why you wanted to leave that bar
sooner than I did,” Mr. Au recalled. He soon let others in the
company know, although he found it difficult to get the word out.
“People were so honored that I confided in them that felt they should
keep my secret for me,” he said.

But without a boss like Mr. Au, the constant threat of a glass
ceiling silences the vast majority of gays. A junior marketing
executive at a major American computer company had high hopes for his
future when he first joined the firm, which was very explicit in its
antidiscrimination policies. But within weeks he overheard colleagues
making cruel remarks about the homosexuality of a gay senior manager
who had left the company. “At that point I decided, no one must
know,” said the executive, who is 24. “It’s always easy to justify
promoting someone else if they don’t like a gay.”

He has found ways to fend off the curiosity of his colleagues without
isolating himself. When a co-worker once accused him of being gay
because he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he joking responded that yes,
he was gay, and then shot the question back. “Ironically, no one will
believe it in the future if it were to come out,” he said. Most of
his colleagues don’t probe further when he offers evasive answers to
personal questions.

The executive also plays it cool when a co-worker catches him in the
street with his partner. He refuses to lie, but finds if he just
introduces his lover as a “friend,” and doesn’t act surprised or
guilty, people don’t jump to conclusions.

Down the road, though, the marketing executive said he is unlikely to
stay in a job where he feels he has to skirt basic questions about
his identity. He has a lot of friends who are older, farther along in
their careers and apt to remain closeted at work. He doesn’t wish for
that for himself. “In the end, it’s just a job and it’s not worth
it,” he said.

Write to Samantha Marshall at sam.marshall@…


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English translation of the Lianhe Zaobao article, “Talking about Ah Kua shows” (9 June 2000)

Talking about “Ah Kua” shows

By Cui Jun

Starting from this month, Sentosa’s Fantasy Island would be bringing in the
Simon Dance Troupe from Phuket where men will be performing song-dance items
dressed as girls. In doing so, the authorities have hoped to attract more
tourists to Singapore which itself is devoid of any natural beauty.

In spurring our economic growth, tourism undoubtedly occupies a paramount
position; it brings recognition and revenue to the country. But are the no
more better, no more prettier performance

1) What’s the Real Reason Behind This?
This “art” troupe originates from Thailand when it is a indispensable tourist
attraction. Everyone thinks of such “indigenous performance” when talking
about tourism in Thailand. While it is true that it brings revenue to
Thailand, does Singapore which is not facing any recession and having huge
reserves need to rely on such performances to increase the tourist revenue?

According to statistics, tourists coming to Singapore is rising, this shows
that we still have our attractiveness. For example, our cleanliness, us
being a food paradise, our multi-cultural society, safe nightlife, just and
uncorrupt leaders and an advanced transport system.

2) A Prelude to the Renaissance of the Arts?
I believe a renaissance of the arts must be premised upon high art and not
some salacious art forms. In our quest for a more gracious and refined
society, bringing in the Simone Dance Troupe clearly is a step backwards.
The authorities have spent a lot of time and effort to push for a more
gracious society, let’s not let such performances derail this path.

3) To Encourage a More Open Society?
While reports have stressed that the performances will not be sexual in
nature, surely it cannot mean that the performers will be fully dressed in
traditional Thai costumes? Moreover, one doesn’t have to take off another to
have a salacious performance. Everyone knows that visitors there will be
there to largely because they are attracted to the enticing figures of these
pretty “Ah Kuas”. There must be something particular about this performance
for the authorities to restrict viewers to those above 18 years old. The
ramifications brought about by this troupe is tremendous:

a) These performers of the “Third Sex” are generally psychologically and
morally unbalanced but yet they can be cheered and admired by viewers,
making their performances no less popular than real artistic performers. I
fear that this would encourage such people towards this goal- believing that
what they are doing is a fine job. If this is so, in years to come, we would
not need to bring them from overseas because our local “Third Sex” people
will also be able to “bring honour to the country by earning revenue”.

Furthermore, while our local homosexual problem at the moment has not caused
the nation and citizens great harm; with the advent of liberal thinking and
once such performances gain in popularity, there will surely be an increase
in homosexuals in Singapore. This is a social problem that cannot be
ignored.[NB: OK, I can’t stand it anymore, I have to say something: the
preceding paragraph is the greatest piece of illogical crap I have read in a

b)To attract tourists to such performances, there will have to be overseas
advertising to promote the troupe. This would indirectly imply that
Singapore is promoting salacious activity.

c)As everyone know, homosexuals and AIDS are “comrade in arms”, growing by
leaps and bounds in recent years. AFA have been unyielding and tirelessly
educating the public about AIDS to stem its rapid growth. Bringing this
dance troupes will contradict the efforts of the government and waste the
efforts of AFA.

I have always tolerated and accepted and not condemned homosexuals-
themselves mentally unhealthy. The most important is to base our attitude on
facts and a even/moral heart. It was proven in “The Truth About
Homosexuality” written by Egbert Walton and translated by Yi Ping that homosexuality is not
in-born but caused by later socialisation. Thus we must accord homosexuals
with forgiveness to help correct them so that they can go back to the right
path and live a new life.



This article was first translated and posted on SiGNeL by Rave Yeh:

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Archive of The New Paper article, “Shower Shocker” (7 June 2000)

Shower Shocker

The New Paper
Jun 7, 2000

The Vice-Principal of Thomson Secondary School was yesterday jailed
three weeks for touching the penis of a youth in a public bathroom at
Sentosa. Here are the different accounts as read in court.


SO big, so manly.

Ng had allegedly complimented Ravi (not his real name) when both men
were naked in the male toilets on Central Beach.

Ravi, 23, had gone to Sentosa for a three-day camp with six friends.

They arrived on Friday, Nov 6, 1998, and planned to stay until Sunday.

At about 7am on Saturday morning, they went to Central Beach for a

After an hour, they came out and Ravi walked over to the male
bathroom to wash up.

The toilets were empty, so Ravi put his wet shorts on a nearby bench
and went into a shower cubicle.

The Shatec student had forgotten to carry an extra pair of shorts, so
he had to wring out his wet pair.

As he was drying off, he noticed a man at the other end of the

It was Vice-principal Ng Tiat Seng, 51, also naked.

Ravi sensed that Ng was gazing at him.

Then Ng allegedly complimented him on the size of his private parts.

Ravi was shocked.

But he continued towelling himself, so that he could leave quickly.

Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

As Ravi swivelled around, Ng touched Ravi’s penis for a second.

Ravi pushed Ng’s hand away, and told him not to try anything funny.

Again, Ng allegedly remarked about Ravi’s penis and asked him not to
be shy.

But seeing Ravi’s outraged face, Ng dressed quickly, grabbed his bag
and rushed out of the bathroom.

Ravi chased Ng and cornered him near the monorail station. He seized
Ng’s bag from him to keep him from running away.

Ng then allegedly offered Ravi $20 to $50 to keep the matter quiet.

But Ravi got the attention of a group of teenagers nearby. He then
shouted at Ng to tell them what he had done.

Just then, it began raining very heavily.

Ravi insisted that Ng go to the campsite – he wanted to take down
Ng’s particulars.

Ng refused, a struggle ensued and Ravi punched Ng on the forehead.

Seeing Ng bleeding, Ravi felt sorry and returned the bag, from which
Ng took his towel to stem the blood.

Ng pleaded with him, and offered him $50 or $100 to drop the matter.

Ravi pulled him back to the toilet area and finally reported the
incident to the lifeguards.

He accompanied Ng to the first aid station, and then made a police


IT was Ravi (not his real name) who made the first move,
vice-principal Ng Tiat Seng, 51, maintained.

Ng had gone to Sentosa on Nov 7, 1998, to swim at Sijori Club.

After sending his daughter to Tanah Merah MRT station at about 7 am
that morning, Ng drove to World Trade Centre and took a shuttle bus
to the resort.

But the clubhouse was noisy so he headed for the beach instead.

After walking for about 30 minutes, Ng felt sweaty and wanted a

It was about 8.30 am when Ng entered the toilets.

The first thing Ng claims he saw was a naked Ravi towelling himself
on the bench.

Ravi spoke to him first, Ng claimed, talking about his camping trip.
Ng ignored him and proceeded to bathe.

While showering, Ng turned around to get soap from his bag on the

But Ng alleged that Ravi blocked his path, pointing to his own

Ng tried to ignore this.

After showering and dressing, Ng claimed that as he walked away Ravi
snatched away his bag.

He thought Ravi wanted to rob him. To get his bag back, Ng said he
offered Ravi $100.

But in his initial statements, Ng had denied offering Ravi any money.

Ravi didn’t take the cash.

Here, Ng became confused and only remembered that Ravi had punched
him on the forehead.

He didn’t realise it was Ravi who escorted him to the First Aid room.

He denied being a homosexual.


In court on June 6, Ng Tiat Seng was sentenced to three weeks’ jail
for committing gross indecency.

He will be appealing and is out on $10,000 bail.

He could have been jailed for up to two years.


AT least three months’ jail for Ng. This was a serious offence
committed in a public place, argued DPP Toh Han Li.

“In cases where it is consensual and done in a private place, the
minimum sentence is a few weeks,” he explained.

But there was no consent in this case.


JUST jail him for a day, Ng’s lawyer, Mr Yang Ing Loon, pleaded.

“It’s not easy for a man of his status and reputation to find another
job of equal status and salary. It is certain that his teaching
career will come to an end,” Mr Yang said.

Ng was suspended from his job in December 1998.


District Judge S Thyagarajan said before passing sentence:

“I have considered his suspension, the possible disciplinary
proceedings against him and the loss of his career.”

Ng was acquitted of one charge of masturbation.

But he was found guilty of committing gross indecency on his victim.



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Archive of Asiaweek article, “Showing ‘Greater Humanity’ Family values trump a tough stand on HIV” (9 June 2000)

June 9, 2000 VOL. 29 NO. 22

Showing ‘Greater Humanity’ Family values trump a tough stand on HIV

In Singapore, swift reversals of policy are rare. So it was noteworthy when
the Home Affairs Ministry announced on May 27 that 12 foreign spouses of
Singaporeans, who have been or were about to be repatriated because they
have the AIDS virus, would be allowed to return or stay in the country. The
11 women and one man had been asked to leave under laws that prohibit
HIV-positive immigrants. The cases came to light recently when the local
Straits Times newspaper reported how some of the expulsions had separated
children from parents. The story sparked public support for the families
and opposition against tough application of the rules.

Singapore’s leaders took notice. “The law cannot just apply without
thinking of the consequences to the family,” Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
declared publicly. Within hours, the Home Ministry made known its decision.
Later, in a letter to the Straits Times, the ministry insisted that there
had been no policy reversal. The law, it explained, was never intended to
affect people with family roots in Singapore.

Still, many Singaporeans saw the move as an about-face that underscored the
government’s more open attitude — even on an AIDS-related issue. It “shows
a greater sensitivity and humanity than expected and also accords with
public sentiment,” says legislator and lawyer Simon Tay. But he quickly
adds that authorities remain firm that HIV-positive visitors be kept out.
In no way does the u-turn signal any softening of Singapore’s hardline HIV
policy, says gay-rights activist Alex Au Wai Ping. The initial decision
indicated how “the bureaucracy seems to be completely out of step with
public opinion.”

Au says that a similar gap exists between bureaucrats and citizens on the
treatment of homosexuals. On May 23, the police refused to approve an
application by Au to hold a public forum on gay and lesbian issues. The
reason, said the rejection letter, was that such a meeting would “advance
and legitimize the cause of homosexuals in Singapore. The mainstream moral
values of Singaporeans are conservative, and the Penal Code has provisions
against certain homosexual practices. It will therefore be contrary to the
public interest to grant a license.” In late 1996, Au and others applied to
register an informal group called “People Like Us” so it could meet to
discuss gay and lesbian issues and circulate a newsletter. The application
was denied. Three appeals, including one to Goh, were turned down. In April
this year, authorities explained that the law indicated refusal if a group
“is likely to be used for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to
public peace, welfare or good order.”

Au and his colleagues say that getting the government to cite reasons for
the rejection is a tiny step forward. But they remain perplexed. The
treatment of gays, they argue, is a litmus test of the authenticity of the
official drive toward a more open society. To promote civil society, the
government is, for example, launching a “speaker’s corner” in a local park.
There, Singaporeans will be allowed to speak their minds without having to
register beforehand.

While the authorities say that citizens aren’t yet willing to accept
homosexuals, Au and his colleagues counter that attitudes have changed.
They recently released a survey which they say shows that citizens — even
in the supposedly more conservative housing-estate heartland — are more
tolerant toward gay activity than expected. For example, 46% of streetside
respondents and 74% of those replying on the Internet said they could
accept a gay sibling. “It’s an indication that Singapore is not the
monolithic, anti-gay society the government says it is,” Au concludes.

Yet in recent years, authorities have softened their stand on gays — at
least unofficially. “We leave people to live their own lives so long as
they don’t impinge on others,” said Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1998.
“We don’t harass anybody.” Indeed, Singapore has several widely
acknowledged gay hangouts, and local homosexuals are especially active on
the Internet. Police have largely discontinued their sting operations to
flush out gays. And officials consult more with groups with homosexual
members, such as Action for AIDS. Gay themes are often tackled in plays,
while movies with homosexual scenes are permitted. In a recent
breakthrough, the debut show of a Chinese-language TV drama serial had a
gay storyline.

Such loosening is one thing, says Tay, but granting a license to a
homosexual group is another. “To allow a society or a public meeting can be
likened to ending the ban on Playboy,” he notes. “It’s a question of
symbols, of what is officially allowed. Singapore society has a strong
conservative streak that will back the government decision on this issue.”
In other words, don’t expect a major shift on this hot-button topic anytime

Write to Asiaweek at mail@…



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Archive of The New Paper article, “Gym Horrors” (5 Jun 2000)

Gym Horrors

The New Paper
Jun 5, 2000

Some gyms are becoming notorious for strange goings-on. Like men
playing hanky panky with… men.

three male gym goers about their up-close-and-personal surprises


HE was concentrating on his bench press exercise when he felt someone
touching him.

The man began pushing Mr Alex Ang’s arms upwards, and said: “Not bad.
You can do quite a lot.”

After that, he patted the 18-year-old student’s back, just above his
buttocks – and pretended to show him how to use the exercise machine.

All this while, the muscular man in his 20s stared straight into Mr
Ang’s face.

“I was utterly shocked,” said Mr Ang, who is clean-cut and

“I never expected someone, especially another man, to just come up
and touch me. And it wasn’t a normal touch, but more of a lingering
touch, gently caressing my arms.

“He didn’t ask if he could touch me, like some personal trainers do
when they want to show you an exercise. I had gone to the gym to
exercise, not to make friends, but some see the gym as a social
meeting place.”

Mr Ang works out regularly at another gym. But it was the first time
he had been to this one. He was there around 6 pm on a weekday,
wearing his usual work-out gear, a dark blue singlet and shorts.

There were about 35 people in the gym, mostly young men in their 20s
or 30s.

The men worked out in pairs – or groups. There were only two women in
the gym.

“I had noticed this man staring at me as I did my work-out, but I
ignored him, thinking I must have been mistaken,” said Mr Ang.

“Half an hour into my workout, he came over, just like that. He
started to touch me and made small talk. I was too nervous to reply
or smile back. So I quickly went on to another area in the gym.”

Still feeling nervous, Mr Ang decided to take a shower and leave the

But in the changing room, he was again approached, this time by a
tall man with a well-toned body.

“After my shower, as I was about to put on my clothes, I saw him
looking at me. So I decided to go inside a cubicle, but he followed
me in as well,” said Mr Ang. “I quickly went to another cubicle, and
left. I did not want to stay even a minute longer.”


NATIONAL Serviceman Jackson Tan, 21, was at the same gym late last
year. He found a pair of eyes following him wherever he went.

While he was exercising, he noticed a well-built man looking intently
at him, as though scrutinising every ripple of his muscle.

The man started following Mr Tan, his eyes never leaving him.

“I got frightened. From the way he behaved, it was like he was trying
to pick me up. Just as a guy would pick up a girl,” said a flustered
Mr Tan.

To make sure that it wasn’t just his imagination, Mr Tan decided to
test the well-built man.

“I turned my head, looked straight at him and smiled,” said Mr Tan.

The man immediately smiled back, and became more daring.

When Mr Tan got up to go to the toilet, he followed him. He even hid
behind the door and peeped at Mr Tan when he was changing.

Mr Tan had worked out at the gym in the past, but this unnerved him.

Not wanting to be approached by the man, Mr Tan cut short his
work-out and left.

He has not gone back to the gym since.


HIS friends had warned him that this gym was “different” but he still
chose it because it was near his workplace.

Mr Remy Ahmad, 36, has been working out at the gym since October last
year, and his account of what goes on was similar to Mr Ang’s and Mr

“When these guys stare and smile at you, you must not smile back,
otherwise it will mean the ‘green’ light for them!” said the office
administrative assistant.

He also said that it was quite obvious that some of the men were not
there to exercise. “They go there to talk or stare at others from top
to bottom. They are really not serious about their workout. Some of
them are not sweating at all.”

Serious gym-goers seldom have time to sit around to talk or stare.

“There should also be some kind of a sequence and you tone one part
of the body at a time. For them, there is no sequence. They just
exercise one part and suddenly change and do another thing, it’s like

“Sometimes, they just hang around the person they are interested in.”

Mr Remy said the guys would hang around the men’s toilet, too.

“Some of them will pretend to be fiddling with their bags when they
are actually looking at you.

“Some of them can be really muscular and tough-looking.”

He related an incident involving a “good-looking guy”.

“One of these guys went over to him to help him out. I overheard him
inviting the guy to workout together the following Saturday.

“The good-looker declined and his ‘helper’ left the gym around 9 pm.

“But as I was leaving, around 10 pm, I saw the same man waiting at
the gate for the good-looker and they chatted. I guess it was about
the invitation again.”

But Mr Remy does not care about all this. “I like this gym because
it’s convenient. The equipment is very good and the rates are
reasonable,” he said. He concentrates only on getting a serious



I HAVE been going to gyms and fitness centres for seven years.

I have worked out at all kinds of gyms: Big ones with expensive,
flashy equipment, smaller, more intimate hotel gyms, and fitness
centres run by the Sports Council which are good value for money.

I had always been at ease in gyms – until I stepped into this one.
Somehow, I felt I did not belong.

It was rather crowded on a Tuesday at 5.30 pm. There were more than
30, generally well-built guys, and only five women, including myself.

Most of the men were dressed in tight singlets and shorts. Typical
working-out attire.

What struck me was not what they were wearing, but how they behaved.

They would gather in groups, stand around and talk among themselves.

They would preen in front of the mirror, flick their hair and make
exaggerated movements when walking.

When exercising, they would give each other “support” in areas like
the buttocks. And they would look hard at each and every guy who
walked in.

Me? I felt I was viewed with hostility. It was like I was a threat to

I overheard a conversation between two well-built men. One looked
like he was in his 30s, bald and wearing a singlet. The other was
tanned, had short hair and was wearing a black T-shirt.

“Where are you going? Why have you not been here recently? I missed
you,” the bald man said.

I bumped into an acquaintance who said he had been working out there
for two months.

He said: ” The men here are mostly out to make friends with other
men. I was chatted up by many of them, but once I made it clear that
I was not interested, they would steer clear of me. I just ‘act
normal’ and carry on with my work-out.”

I thought the equipment in the gym was great. But I made a mental
note to give the place a miss after this because I felt I didn’t fit



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Archive of The Straits Times article, “Pre-U Seminar issues: From gum to gays” (31 May 2000)

Pre-U Seminar issues: From gum to gays

This year’s Pre-University Seminar kicked off yesterday with Mr Lim Swee
Say talking to 500 students about Realising the Renaissance Spirit in
Singapore. During a lively 40-minute question-and-answer session, he
fielded questions ranging from the chewing-gum ban to the cancelled gay forum.
Q (from a student): Do you agree the Government should relax its control
and allow Singapore to truly realise the Renaissance spirit? Some examples
of control are the ban on smoking and chewing gum, and the gay forum which
was denied a permit.

A (by Lim Swee Say): Well, regarding the ban on smoking in public areas, I
am all for it.
I have had a sinus problem for 20 years now. The moment I smell cigarette
smoke, my nose begins to run. Since the ban, my allergies have stopped.
So, in terms of the Renaissance spirit, which is also about raising one’s
quality of life, the ban on smoking is good for me.

As for the chewing-gum ban, when I was with the Economic Development Board,
I visited Disneyland in the United States as part of a team sent to study
the possibility of bringing it here. I was amused to find that chewing gum
is not sold anywhere inside the park because the management, like our
Government, knew what would happen to the machines if gum was allowed. So,
in a way, Singapore works like Disneyland and no one complains about too
much control in Disneyland. Also, there is nothing which says that to be
creative, you have to chew gum.

As for the gay forum, I do not believe that a single group of people in
Singapore has the right to publicise its lifestyle and impose it on others.
I am an avid golfer, but I do not hold a forum on golfing to say how much I
love golf and convince others it is good.

Lim Swee Say is a Minister of State.



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Archive of The Data Lounge article, “Singapore Denies Gay Group Permit to Meet” (25 May 2000)

Singapore Denies Gay Group Permit to Meet
Thursday, 25 May 2000

SINGAPORE — Authorities in Singapore have turned down a request for
a public forum forwarded by a fledging gay and lesbian group ,
saying it would “legitimize practices considered unlawful” in the
city-state, the South China Morning Post reports.

In a statement, authorities were quoted as saying they “cannot allow
the holding of this public forum, which will advance and legitimize
the cause of homosexuals in Singapore.” The gathering would have been
the first of its kind in Singapore.

Alex Au, who is becoming the most prominent spokesman on gay and
lesbian rights issues in Singapore, made the request of police in
early May, “It’s a tip-toe into the water, so to speak, because this
will be the first time anyone knows of where we will apply for
a public entertainment license for an event with gay and esbian writ
large in the theme,” he said at the time.

All public gatherings of more than eight people require a police
license and authorities in Singapore are under no obligation to
explain their reasons for denying applications. All attempts made
since 1993 to register gay and lesbian organizations in Singapore
have been rejected.

“Mainstream moral values of Singaporeans

Police quoted Singapore’s Penal Code which deems consensual
sexual relations between adult members of the same sex “unnatural,”
punishable by a fine and a sentence of life imprisonment. Any male
abetting or procuring “an act of gross indecency” with another man
can also be jailed for up to two years.

“The mainstream moral values of Singaporeans are conservative,”
the police statement said.

Au, in a provocation to a government that has a low tolerance for
dissent or criticism said on Wednesday, “It seems that civil society
can only operate within the narrow confines of what the authorities
deem to be the public interest.”

Au’s criticisms were echoed by Dana Lam, president of the
Association of Women for Action and Research. She said the statement
by authorities “makes the environment sound very hostile to the gay
segment of the population.”

Said Lam: “If we can deny people their right to an open forum, if
we can threaten imprisonment to their face for what is essentially a
private act, what will we do next?”



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Archive of the PlanetOut article, “Singapore Poll Finds Tolerance” (23 May 2000)

Singapore Poll Finds Tolerance
PlanetOut News Staff

Tuesday, May 23, 2000 / 11:35 PM

A survey by activists proves that the people are
way ahead of the government, especially when it
comes to the family value of unconditional love.

Sparked by a government official’s televised remarks a
year-and-a-half ago that the status of
homosexuality is “a question of what society
considers acceptable,” a Singapore gay and
lesbian group and their non-gay allies have
carried out a first-of-its-kind survey
there that demonstrates a high level of tolerance.

The public may be ahead of the government in judging what’s
considered “acceptable”: a current government program called
Singapore 21 is designed to increase participation
in society bears the slogan “Everyone counts,” yet
two-and-a-half weeks after applying for a public
entertainment permit for a May 28 rally, there’s
still been no response from police to the group
People Like Us, which for three years has been
denied official status.

In April and May, volunteers surveyed 251
Singaporeans on the streets of several different
districts and another 240 online. While the survey
announced May 22 is not entirely scientific, all
respondents were at least 16 years old, and their
distribution among Singapore’s major ethnic
groups (Chinese, Malay and Indian) matches the
national profile. The group estimates the margin
of error at four to six percent. They described their
findings as, “an important threshold providing a
sense of where Singaporeans stand with respect
to such issues. The findings here can be seen as
‘leading indicators’ to the way Singapore social
opinion is likely to evolve in the years ahead.”
First the poll inquired about acceptance of gay and
lesbian family members. Among respondents on
the street, 46% said they would accept a gay
brother or lesbian sister although it might take
some time, while 26% said they never could; 41%
said they would accept a gay son or lesbian
daughter, while 35% said they never could. Not
surprisingly, Internet respondents were more
liberal: 74% said they would accept a gay brother
or lesbian sister, while 9% said they never could;
66% said they would accept a gay son or lesbian
daughter, while 13% said they never could. The
group’s interpretation was that, “Singaporeans
appear to be pragmatic about the issue. These
findings suggest that they value family ties highly
enough to accommodate gay siblings and children
within the fold.”

Then respondents were asked about employment
discrimination against gays and lesbians. It was
opposed by 74% of those on the street and 83%
of those online.

Finally, the survey asked about the current “crimes
against nature” law, which most other former
British colonies have long since repealed but
which in Singapore prescribes punishments as
harsh as life imprisonment. Recently a
heterosexual male was convicted of sodomy
against his former girlfriend, but acts between two
women have never been prosecuted. Specifically,
respondents were asked if they believed that oral
sex between homosexual adults in private should
be restricted. Restrictions were opposed by 39%
of those interviewed on the street and supported
by 29%. Among Internet respondents, fully 78%
opposed restrictions and only 16% supported

People Like Us spokesperson Alex Au, 47, told the
South China Morning Post that, “I am not
surprised. In coming out, I have met nothing but
friendliness and open-mindedness.” His group
attempts to represent the interests of what it
estimates to be “some 150,000 to 300,000
Singaporeans who feel alienated from the state”
on issues of sexuality, and he remarked to Agence
France Presse, “How do we expect gay
Singaporeans to feel passionate about Singapore
if they perceive that they suffer discrimination,
legal and social, in this country?”
Earlier Au observed in a statement that, “In the
thinking cosmopolitan society Singapore aspires to
be, the gay issue cannot be brushed aside.” But it
can and has been suppressed in the media by the
highly censorious national government, including
the recent kiss between two women on Ally


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