Since its humble beginnings as a hobbyist website hosted on Geocities in March 1999, the year 2000 saw the tremendous growth of www.sgboy.com
as Singapore's pioneer gay portal. Its busy forums saw up to 1,500 new postings everyday and its IRC chat room #sgboyclub (later renamed #sgboy) was packed with more than 700 online chatters during peak hours. It celebrated its first anniversary with a sold-out bash at the niche (now defunct).
Gay Singaporeans ushered in the year 2000 with parties at gay discos. Realising the unmet need for well-organised outdoor events and venues which could accommodate enormous numbers of gay partygoers on special occasions, and an Asian version of a pornographic website like Gay.com
to more intimately serve an exclusively Asian gay community, U.S.
-returned pharmacy doctorate
-holder Stuart Koe
worked to set up fridae.com at
the turn of the millennium. In the years to come, Fridae
(inspired by man Friday
from Daniel Defoe
's novel Robinson Crusoe
) would go a long way towards achieving its goal of 'empowering gay Asia' by becoming 'Asia’s leading media & events group; the business community’s primary conduit to the Asian gay community; and a respected voice in our advocacy for equality and freedom of choice.'
Church of our Saviour banner
In November 2000, the Anglican
, fundamentalist Church of our Saviour
) which runs the Choices
ministry, a branch offering religious counselling for homosexuals seeking to change their sexual orientation, put up a large banner outside their church in Queenstown
. It read, "Homosexuals can change". (See: Ex-gay
.) The sign was visible to everyone travelling on the MRT
. It caused a furore within the gay community as they felt that it denigrated their worth and depicted being gay as something to be ashamed of and which merited "changing". To date, there had been no scientific evidence that a change in innate sexual orientation was possible and that much psychological harm and denial had befallen those who underwent such "therapy". They feared it would lead to more discrimination and homophobia
. E-mails and petitions were sent to the church in protest. The media also took up the newsworthy lead and publicised the issue with press articles and radio interviews (
). After several months, the church succumbed to widespread dissatisfaction and removed the banner.
SGBOY Second Anniversary Bash at Venom
In March 2001, SGBOY.COM
held its second anniversary bash and inaugurated the SGBOY '01 male pageant at Venom. It became one of the first major gay party ever organized in Singapore with queues stretching from Pacific Plaza to the American club. According to Time magazine, "Rather than pressure the state for their rights, many Singaporean gays prefer the Internet's anonymity. At websites like SGBOY.COM
and numerous online forums they can interact with like-minded surfers. You can leave personal ads, rent an apartment, or find fellow gay schoolmates at SGBOY.COM
's many forums. The site's popularity was underscored earlier this month, when it held a beauty contest at Venom, one of Singapore's largest discos: hundreds of men signed up to strut the catwalk and thousands more queued up on the street outside for a chance to ogle at them."
AfA's Riding for Life
In June 2001, Actions for AIDS
(AFA) organised a charity bike ride called 'Riding for Life 2001
' which raised S$50,000 for the AIDS Medicines Fund
set up in 1999 to help financially-strapped people with AIDS
)s meet their costly drug bills, which could amount to $2,000/- per month. 28 cyclists, including straight celebrity adventurer Khoo Swee Chiow
, peddled 900km over 5 days from Kota Baru
in the northeast of Malaysia
First "Nation" party
On 8 August 2001
organised Singapore's first large-scale LGBT
private commercial event at Sentosa
's Fantasy Island
' was dubbed by the foreign media as Singapore's 'coming out
party'. Over 1500 paying gay revellers celebrated both the eve of National Day
, as well as their sense of community. Many flew in from Sydney
, the U.S.
and Hong Kong
. The venue was divided into three zones: the Centro Boyz
zone where the Miss Divastating drag competition was held, the Womyn
's zone where no men were allowed for most of the evening, and the Chill Out
area where guests could mingle and booths were set up to sell food, drinks, toys and to distribute flyers. 8 to 10 uniformed Police officers made their obligatory visit at around 11:30 p.m. to check that everything was all right and left without incident after 15 minutes. The mega-do also raised funds for local safe-sex group Action for AIDS
(AfA) who received a portion of ticket sales.
Despite initial concerns that there would be Government resistance to another gay Nation party
, more than 2500 paying red-and-white dress-themed people gathered at the Fountain Gardens
and Musical Fountain
on Thursday 9 August 2003
for Singapore’s 37th birthday and 2nd pride party. Nation.02
, co-organised by Fridae
and Kinemat Productions
was sponsored by Qantas
and other corporations including Pepsi
, Planet Fitness
and The Gallery Hotel
. Partygoers had a choice of 2 dance areas and were treated to a specially-produced laser show by Oracle Lasers
, percussion by Idham Budiman
, and visual effects by Fake from Kinemat. Attendance by regional visitors was even higher than the previous year's bash, drawing close to 500 partygoers, mainly from Hong Kong
3rd Singapore AIDS Conference
From 22 to 23 November 2002
, the Singapore AIDS Conference
, a biennial meeting since 1998, was held for the 3rd time at the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Centre
. The theme of the year’s conference was 'Change- Attitudes, Behaviour- the Future'.
Minister's first public scientific statement on homosexuality
On 1 December 2002
, the Sunday Times
printed an extract of a speech made by Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan
, an ethnically Indian neurosurgeon
who was fluent in Mandarin
. He said, 'Research has also shown that the brain
is structurally different from heterosexuals
. It is likely therefore that the homosexual tendency
is imprinted in the brain in utero
and homosexuals must live with the tendencies that they inherit as a result of the structural changes in their brain. Within the moral and cultural constraints of our society, we should be tolerant of those who may be different from most of us.' This was the first time a Cabinet Minister had publicly quoted scientific findings about homosexuality
Prime Minister Goh's landmark statement
The 7 July 2003
issue of Time Asia
magazine carried a feature article entitled The Lion in Winter
which examined Singapore's prevailing bleak economic climate against a wider backdrop of Asian NIE
malaise at the time. In it, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
, unprompted and of his own volition, was quoted as saying, 'So let it evolve, and in time the population will understand that some people are born that way. We are born this way and they are born that way, but they are like you and me.' He also stated that gays would now be allowed to serve in 'sensitive positions' in the Civil Service
. This unleashed a media frenzy with both brickbats and bouquets tossed up by the general public. The gay community was elated.
The comment however, caused a strong reaction from anti-homosexual fractions of Singapore, resulting in heated debate and campaigning in the mass media. Reporter M. Nirmala of the Singapore Daily, The Straits Times, covered this in her article in July 23, 2003, titled "Gay Backlash.". The debate and its political implications are also documented and discussed in the article "Imagining the Gay Community in Singapore" whose abstract is reproduced below:
Through an analysis of public responses to two separate but related events in contemporary Singapore — a church’s claim that “homosexuals can change” and a former prime minister’s published comments about openly gay civil servants in his administration — this article explores how a “gay community” has been imagined in Singapore, where homosexual acts remain illegal and where a “conservative majority” has been ideologically mobilized by the state and moral-religious entrepreneurs. A close reading of the debates within SiGNeL (the Singapore Gay News List) and the local mass media reveals ideological struggles — and, in particular, gay activists’ role in these struggles — surrounding a basic contradiction between Singapore’s exclusionary laws and practices, and official state rhetoric about active citizenship, social diversity, and gradual liberalization. This rhetoric is aimed primarily at attracting foreign talent and retaining mobile Singaporean talent in a globally integrated economy that is increasingly dependent upon creativity and innovation.
PLU's second registration attempt
Within an hour of reading Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
’s, activist Alex Au
decided to rally the gay community in launching a second application for the registration of People Like Us
). A pre-registration meeting was held at the Blue Room of The Substation
. Owing to an unexpectedly large turnout of over 100 people, including members of the press, the party had to adjourn to open ground outside. Membership application forms were snapped up with gusto. However, in view of media hoopla going overboard in July and August 2003, People Like Us
decided to delay the application because it felt that the government might be unable to consider the application rationally when the issue was under an intense spotlight. After a few months of dormancy, the application was finally submitted to the Registrar of Societies
the following year, on 25 February 2004
's Nation.03 extravaganza
expanded to become a 3-day event in 2003, attracting an estimated 4500 paying attendees intent on celebrating Singapore's 38th National Day
. It included a welcome party at Why Not?
bar on August 7
and a poolside recovery party on August 9
at the water-theme park Big Splash
and Tunnel Club
, also located on the same premises. This year's major corporate sponsor was Subaru
represented locally by MotorImage Enterprises Pte Ltd
. An estimated 1000 partygoers were visitors from Australia
, Hong Kong
and as far away as Canada
and the U.S.
The Sijori Resort Sentosa
, located a few minutes from the party grounds and Hotel 1929
, the official hotel for the party, reported a 100 percent occupancy rate during the period. Nation.03
marked a milestone in that it was the first time in Singaporean television
history that a local gay event had been reported in a positive light, accompanied by snippets of bare-chested men dancing on podia
. The following day, Channel NewsAsia
and its sister station MediaCorp TV Channel 5
can be seen as a gauge of Singapore's tolerance.'
The 7 July 2003 issue of Time Asia magazine carried a feature article entitled The Lion in Winter which featured Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, saying that though homosexual acts remain illegal in Singapore, his government is now open to employing homosexual individuals, even those with open lifestyles. While this was greatly welcomed by the homosexual population of Singapore, it also drew strong response from self-proclaimed conservative individuals of the nation. Foremost amongst all were the National Council of Churches of Singapore who issued a statement that homosexuality would remain incongruous with the scriptures of Christianity, and an independent group of 20 Christians from different denominations, voluntary organisations and professions, led by Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong, of the Cornerstone Community Church.
In particular, the second group conducted a meeting to discuss a strategy and plan of action for Christians to tackle what they termed as a "volatile situation." The meeting supposedly ended with a decision to draft an immediate plan of action that every pastor and church can adopt in a battle against homosexuality. In particular, Yang called for Christians to "express their concern" to their Member of Parliament, through letters or during Meet-the-People sessions, and send their views to the Feedback Unit and write letters to the media.
Though Yang subsequently varied the details of the meeting, and also denied being the main organizer, the website of his church did publish a statement on July 20 titled "Don't Keep Silent." In it, the statement wrote "We cannot stand idly by. Homosexuality is a sin and it is far more rampant, militant and organised than most of us actually believe it to be. The battle lines are now drawn and it is time for the Church in Singapore to rise up and make a stand."
This meeting was subsequently followed by repeated letters to the forum of Singapore's daily, The Straits Times. Most prominent of all was a letter signed by eight persons, including Dr (Mrs) Thio Su Mein, the Dean of the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore. The letter itself was heavy with various claims, prominent ones including that the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association is due to lobbying and pressure by gay activists, that citizens should enjoy the civil liberty of viewing homosexuality as repugnant, perverse, immoral, and undesirable without being termed as bigots, and that a homosexual agenda would threaten the integrity of the family of racial/religious harmony.
The events of the above were summarized in an article by M Nirmala on July 23, 2003 titled "Gay Backlash. This was published in the local daily, The Straits Times.
Several prominent members of the Singaporean Christian community disagreed with the stance taken by the National Council of Churches of Singapore. These include Reverend Yap Kim Hao, the former bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore, and Catholic Theresa Seow, President of the (Singapore) Inter-Religious Organisation. Interviews of the Reverend and Sister Seow were also included in Nirmala's article.
Ban of film, "Formula 17"
In July 2004, Formula 17
), a Chinese
-language teenage romantic comedy and Taiwan
's highest-grossing film of the year was banned because of its gay theme
Singapore's Films Appeals Committee said that its panel members thought the movie "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected...It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society".
Rising incidence of HIV in MSM
In September 2004, Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan
voiced his concern about the rising numbers of HIV
cases in Singapore
. He noted that about one-third of cases were occurring among Men who have Sex with Men
, and that cases in this subgroup were increasing quite rapidly. He called for greater efforts and fresh thinking to halt the spread of HIV
Community response to rising HIV incidence
In November 2004, a partnership between Action For AIDS (AFA)’s MSM Resources and SGBOY.COM
was announced in November 2004, volunteers from MSM Resources will be participating in SGBOY.COM
’s online forums and IRC chat room - which are the region’s busiest for gay Asian men. The move follows stinging criticism from the Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan this month in which he said the homosexual community was mostly to blame for an "alarming AIDS epidemic" in Singapore. (Source: AFP).
Nation party ban
In April 2005, the Licensing Division of the Singapore Police
faxed a rejection of Fridae
's application to hold Nation.05
, which had been held annually since National Day
in August 2001, citing the event to be 'contrary to public interest.' Nation.05
had clinched sponsorship by Fortune 100
global communications leader Motorola
for the second consecutive year and Subaru
for the third. The carmaker was a well-known pioneer corporate sponsor of gay and lesbian athletic and community events in the United States
and was represented by Motor Image Pte Ltd
locally. Dr. Stuart Koe
, CEO of Fridae
said, 'We are disappointed that the authorities have deemed a National Day
celebration by Singapore's gay citizens as being 'contrary to public interest' when it had previously been approved for four years without incident. This is a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity.'
First Wikipedia article
Also in April, the enormous potential of the Wikipedia
phenomenon became apparent to Singaporean gays
. For the first time, disparate pockets of information scattered throughout the World Wide Web
could be consolidated, harnessing the experiences and expertise of thousands of gay Singaporean
surfers. Editorial control now lay in everyone's hands and not just the author's, in the case of individual websites
. The first article entitled ' Singapore gay movement
' was contributed on 12 April 2005
. (It was, however, later deleted and moved to SgWiki
). In the ensuing months, the framework for an encompassing network of information was laid down on the Wiki
site, which rapidly grew to become a centralised, linked, one-stop education centre dealing with Singapore LGBT
history and culture.
Gay teenagers infected with HIV
On 21 May 2005
, the Straits Times
reported that 3 teenagers caught the AIDS
virus in 2004, the biggest in a year since 1985, when HIV
was first detected in Singapore. Before 2004, Ministry of Health figures showed only 1 teen at most per year tested positive for HIV
. Another alarming change was that the infected teens in the past two years were gay. Previously, the 3 teens infected between 2000 and 2002 had been heterosexual. In 2005, the lone 17-year old student who had so far tested positive for HIV
was also gay. He was presumably infected by his older partner who pressured him into having unprotected sex, according to Action for AIDS
programme director Roger Winder
. (Read The New Paper
Bangkok LGBT conference
In July 2005, Singaporean PhD
student (at the University of Illinois
in the U.S.
) Christopher Tan
presented a paper at 'Sexualities, Genders, and Rights in Asia: 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies
The meeting was held in Bangkok from 7 to 9 July 2005
and proudly sponsored by Fridae
. Tan's paper was entitled 'Pinking the Lion City: Interrogating Singapore's Gay Civil Servant Statement
'. In it, he explored the legal basis for discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore and argued that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
’s June 2003 statement, that the Government would employ gays even in 'sensitive' positions provided that these civil servants openly declared their sexual orientation, was not a discourse of tolerance. Data gathered from Tan's fieldwork suggested that while gay Singaporeans welcomed the statement, they also strongly doubted the Government’s sincerity. When civil servants in Tan's survey pool were asked whether their individual ministries or statutory boards had done anything to realise the statement, the answer was a uniformly resounding 'No!'
In August 2005, gay activists, bolstered by broad-based grassroots support organised Singapore's inaugural month-long gay pride celebration called IndigNation
The latter moniker was a clever play of words representing the gay community's displeasure at the unexpected official ban of the annual Nation mega-parties which had been approved and held without incident 4 years in a row prior to 2005. Gay discos like Happy
in Tanjong Pagar also made their own statement by holding a pre-National Day indoor party called DetermiNation and hung an enormous Singapore flag outside its premises. It indicated that they were determined to celebrate the occasion as proud, gay Singaporeans in spite of the governmental ban.
The events that were lined up for IndigNation were an art exhibition entitled "Cerita Budak-Budak" by painter Martin Loh, a lecture on "Same sex love in classical Chinese literature" by Dr. Tan Chong Kee, a gay poetry reading session called "Contra/Diction" organised by poet Dominic Chua, an art exhibition entitled "Solitary Desire" by young talents Ong Jenn Long and Steve Chua, a double lecture "Where Queens Ruled! A history of gay venues in Singapore" and "Same sex love in classical Indian literature" by Dr. Russell Heng and Sheo S Rai, "Sex and the Christian gay person", a forum by Safehaven, "Exploring Paul, homosexuality and the Romans - an intensive workshop on Biblical interpretation" by the Centre for Reflexive Theology, the inaugural Quarterly Forum - "40 years of Independence: The National and the Personal" by Alex Au, a theatre production "Boys" by Richard Chua and the finale, a private gay party called "6iXX! - the sixth annual ADLUS bash" by ADLUS, the gay sports group.
Rejection by Warwick University
In order to circumvent the official ban on public gay parties imposed in 2004, Fridae
creatively transplanted the annual Nation party
, dubbed Nation.V
, to Phuket
. It was held from Friday 4 November
to Sunday 6 November 2005
at 8 venues with DJs
and artistes from the U.S.
, New Zealand
and Hong Kong
. The event, which created a buzz in the international gay party circuit gave a booster shot in the arm to Phuket
's recovering tsunami
-devastated economy. It was reported in Australia
's Sydney Morning Herald
that Singapore's loss was Thailand's gain.
The year's event was a smaller, cozier one attended by less than 1000 partygoers, mainly Thais, as compared to the 8000 mostly Singaporean revellers who flocked to the previous party before the ban. The host hotel which housed the participants was the Crowne Plaza hotel on Karon Beach. The welcome reception was held around the hotel pool, the G.Y.M. party at the Arena disco and the closing after-hours party at the Locker Room.
Rejection of PLU3's performance at the National Library
The opening of the new Central branch of the Singapore National Library
, which incorporated a Drama Centre, was heralded with an invitation for groups to submit proposals for performances. An insider in the National Arts Council attests that PLU3
's proposal for a play was turned down specifically because the organisation was deemed too "controversial".
Singaporean first to advertise civil partnership in UK
On 6 December
newspaper The Daily Telegraph
reported that Singaporean Ghani Jantan and British civil partner John Walker were the first gay couple to announce their civil union in the print version of the widely-read British daily. The pair were amongst the first wave of more than 1000 homosexual couples to take advantage of the civil partnership law which came into effect in the UK on Monday, 5 December
05, granting gay unions almost all the legal rights and obligations which apply to heterosexual marriages. The story was also carried by Singapore's Today
Increased coverage of international gay news by Singaporean media
Towards the end December, Singapore-based news media including the Straits Times
, Channel News Asia
, Asia One
, the Business Times
and The New Paper
all gave intensive coverage of a flurry of gay-related international news stories which they tended to ignore or downplay in previous years. These events included the gay civil union of pop superstar Elton John
, the year's Golden Globe
"Best Film" winner "Brokeback Mountain
", a gay romance between 2 masculine American cowboys and the announcement of UK
pop icon, George Michael
's new gay film biography.
Rise of RSS feeds and video posting sites
Major technological innovations in 2006 which impacted world culture in general and Singaporean LGBT culture in particular were the advent and exponentially increasing popularity of RSS feeds
and video posting websites such as Google Video
For the first time, readers could choose to read only gay news from around the globe and neglect all other events if they so desired on RSS feed websites such as Google News by typing "gay" in the search box: Thus, the efforts of the Singapore government to prevent "narrowcasting", in which members of a particular segment of the population would only be immersed in news related to their own community, could easily be technologically sidestepped.
User-contributed video posting websites saw explosive growth in which material of every description could be viewed without censorship. LGBT Singaporean eyes were opened to the excellent documentaries on homosexuality filmed in neighbouring Asian countries. Even a presumably conservative nation like mainland China were producing well balanced portrayals of homosexuality , which made the local policies of muzzling television discussions of homosexuality appear all the more retrogressive.
First Guidebook to Singapore's Gay and Lesbian Scene
The Utopia Guide to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, by John C. Goss, was published internationally in April 2006. With Foreword by Alex Au, along with Au's essay, "Singapore: Brokeback to the Future," the book included comprehensive listings of Singapore's gay and lesbian organizations, accommodations, clubs, restaurants, spas, and businesses that are gay-owned, gay-managed, or gay and lesbian-friendly. It also noted that more than 30 LGBT businesses had taken root in the small area of Chinatown alone.
SGBOY Prom Nite
Singapore's oldest gay portal SGBOY.COM held its 'graduating' event on 15 April 2006 to a packed Why Not club. While the event was intended as a swan song for the portal's impending re-branding to Trevvy.com, it was significant because it was the first party organized by a gay portal after a series of gay parties by another gay portal were banned or cancelled by the authorities.
In August 2006, Singapore oldest gay portal SGBOY.COM which was the most visited gay portal in Singapore (as ranked by Nielsen//Netratings, November 2005-February 2006 & Hitwise, April-June 2006) was renamed Trevvy.com to allow the portal to expand regionally.
Asia's first gay and lesbian channel
In November 2006, Asia's first gay and lesbian channel Wink TV was launched exclusively through homegrown Trevvy.com. Programming include Asian and international films with gay themes, popular comedy series and dramas, reality shows and fashion files, documentaries and music, and exclusive award-winning short films from international lesbian and gay film festivals.
In an NTU survey (source: Straits Times, Sep 20th 2007), 7 out of 10 Singaporeans frown on homosexuality.
In the review of Singapore's Law in 2007, the Penal Code Section 377A, which states that homosexuality is illegal, is retained. In the review of proposals to amend the Penal Code, the government has stated:
"When it comes to homosexual acts, the issues is whether Singaporeans are ready to change laws to bring them in line with heterosexual acts. Singapore remains, by and large, a conservative society. Many do not tolerate homosexuality, and consider such acts abhorrent and deviant. Many religious groups also do not condone homosexual acts. This is why the Government is neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and presenting it as part of the mainstream way of life. We should not be hasty to act in this area. Hence we are leaving Section 377A as it is.
Since the revelation that there are 200,000 gay men in Singapore. The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has been conducting feasibility studies on ending National Service. Replacing conscription will be the exclusive internment of all gay homosexuals to serve in the Singapore Gay Regiment (SGR). The SGR is meant to be an elite fighting unit with training very much along the lines of G.I Joe (A Real American Hero), trained in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency.
Despite protest from the gay men.inc singapura, the Government has assured that upon enlistment, all members of SGR will be exempt from persecution from Section 377A. District Attorney Jack McCoy has prepared the documents for process upon parliament passing the said recommendations.
The A-Team is said to be interested in lending consulative advice, the premise being their successful transformation from the hit gay icon disco group The Village People, into action stars even heterosexuals all loved.
At time of print, Cobra Commander was said to be very perturbed. Sources close to him speculate he was about to come out of the closet but has since changed his mind.
SGR concept uniforms have been designed by JPG and D & G, of Shanghai. Fleming Corp has started making presentations on their latest Dildo Bayonet which has been made compatible for the SAR21 and M-16 rifles.