middle sex

Homosexuality in Singapore

There are no statistics on how many gay people there are in Singapore or what percentage of the population they constitute. The main reason for this is that section 377A of the Penal Code (Singapore) criminalizes "gross indecency" between men which includes even consensual, private, adult homosexual acts. The penalty is up to two years' imprisonment.

The proportion of gays and lesbians in Singapore is likely to be similar to that in other countries, although there is little hard data.

  • Read PLU's review of previous international studies:

Available statistics

In 2001, Fridae, Asia's largest English language-LGBT web portal, polled its gay and lesbian members residing in Singapore. Of the 595 respondents, 39% declared that they were "attached" or "living with a partner." 40% of the respondents who were in relationships had been with the same partner for more than 6 months.

A high proportion of respondents lived with their parents, while only 22% owned or rented their homes. This was despite the relatively high income levels of the respondents, with 50% earning more than S$80,000 (US$47,000) per annum – 20% reporting income levels of more than S$180,000 per annum, 11% between S$120,000 to S$180,000 and 19% between S$80,000 to S$120,000.

In general, online surveys tend to be less representative of the broader population than scientifically conducted random surveys, because of significant participation bias toward computer users and those disproportionately interested in the topic.

Starting from 2006, Sayoni, an organisation for Asian queer women, has been conducting a regular survey on queer women living in Singapore, which provides the most detailed statistics available on this population available to date. The full reports are available here This survey is subject to the same bias-factors as mentioned earlier.


External links:

Singapore gay culture

External links:

Singapore gay personalities

(See the main article Singapore gay personalities for more information, pictures and links.)


Paddy Chew

Chew was the first Singaporean to publicly declare his HIV-positive status, thus giving a face to an affliction which mainstream society considered remote from possible encounter. He came out on 12 Dec 1998 during the First National AIDS Conference in Singapore. He identified his orientation as bisexual.

His plight was dramatised in a play called "Completely With/Out Character" produced by The Necessary Stage, directed by Alvin Tan and written by Haresh Sharma, staged from 10-17 May 1999. He died on 21 Aug 1999, shortly after the play's run ended.

Arthur Yap

Yap was arguably Singapore's finest poet, influential amongst the later generations of Singaporean writers. He won the 1983 Singapore Cultural Medallion for Literature. He died of laryngeal carcinoma on 19 June 2006, bequeathing $500,000/-, part of his estate which included his apartment off Killiney Road, to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCSS) where he was a patient.


The following categorisations are arbitrary as most of the LGB individuals listed are active in more than one field. Transgender personalities and cross-dressing artistes are listed in the main article Transgender people in Singapore.


(see concise autobiography, website), Singapore's most widely-respected gay activist, regarded by many to be the founding father of the Singapore gay equality movement Au is also one of Singapore's most well known bloggers.

(see Yahoo! profile, blog), the main activist who spearheaded local gay Buddhist and sports organisations. Wong also holds the post of secretary of the pro-tem committee of People Like Us 3.

(see Fridae interview, Yahoo! profile), Singapore's most well-known lesbian activist. Lee was instrumental in the setting up of RedQueen!, Singapore's main lesbian mailing list, Looking Glass, a counselling service for lesbians in emotional distress and Pelangi Pride Centre. She relinquished her appointment as the president of the pro-tem committee of People Like Us 3 in 2006 but continues to build a bridge between the lesbian and gay communities.

PLU3's effectively-bilingual, diplomatic, affable and unflappable spokesman. Tan was the second male gay activist to be interviewed on Singapore television and is an ardent advocate of democracy.

(see Fridae Interview, blog), one of the founders of Sayoni, a discussion forum for queer women. Chong was also active for 7 years in organising women's activities for Safehaven and the Free Community Church. She played an instrumental role in organising women's functions for IndigNation 2006 and was the chief liaison personnel for many of the other events. She forms a strong link between the lesbian and gay communities.

one of the three founders of Pelangi Pride Centre, together with Eileena Lee and Dinesh Naidu. Tan was also one of the founders of Women's Nite, an event for women held on every last Saturday of the month.


the first openly gay entrepreneur and impresario to be known by a wide swath of the LGBT community.

founder of an English-language LGBT web portal,

Arts practitioners

Singapore's first openly gay artist and also one of the first Singaporeans to come out to the general public.

  • Martin Loh

(see Fridae profile), artist specialising in Peranakan and abstract erotic male themes.

(see website), poet.

writer, poet and playwright. He has a weekly column on gay website Trevvy titled, "Iced Bandung".

(see careerblog, ), writer and performance artist. Ng is the author of "SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century" and Last Boy, a collection of personally written poems including gay-themed ones. He also contributes articles to on a regular basis (see bibliography) and is currently working on several plays.

(see Yawning Bread article), poet.

(see Fridae profile), the highly acclaimed and award-winning enfant terrible of Singaporean cinema.

(see Fridae interview, website), photographer specialising in the Asian male form.


  • Dr. Russell Heng

(see Fridae interview), Singaporean academic, playwright, psychologist and former Straits Times journalist.

(see Fridae interview, website), Singaporean academic, social activist and writer.

(see summary of conference presentation, ), Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Illinois, USA.


(see bibliography)- the first Singaporean journalist to write exclusively about local, as well as international, LGBT culture. Tan holds a degree in arts (communications) and is presently working as the principal reporter of, an English-language LGBT web portal.

(see blog)- a graduate in business administration from the National University of Singapore, Lee is currently working as a freelance property agent. He was one of the 14 individuals who came out in the 2006 book "SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century". Lee is an avid photographer, contributing all the portraits in the latter tome. He also works part-time as a counsellor with a community-based organisation and plays the guitar during the Free Community Church's Sunday services. He has organised many public and charity events for the church.

Other prominent personalities

(see Yawning Bread article), controversial ex-gay ministry survivor.

  • All the individuals featured in the book "SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century" including Nicholas Deroose, a co-producer of QueerCast together with Ian Lee, Singapore's first GLBT radio talk show-style podcast, and Leow Yangfa, a professional social worker.

Singapore gay venues

(See the main article Singapore gay venues: contemporary for more information, photographs and links. For a discussion of places where gay people used to socialise or cruise, see the article Singapore gay venues: historical).

Non-commercial/non-sexual venues

  • The Free Community Church

A non-denominational church which welcomes all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. It conducts Sunday services at 10:30 am.

  • Pelangi Pride Centre (PPC)

Singapore's first GLBT Centre for sexual minorities used to operate out of Bianco (above Mox Bar & Cafe) every Saturday from 4-8pm. However, after the closure of these venues in April 2008, it relocated to a terrace house in Rowell Road, in the Serangoon area. Specially organised events are held every 2nd Saturday of the month. Email for more information. PPC features an extensive library of local and international gay literature, whose catalogue can be searched online, and an archive of Singapore gay history and culture.

Arts venues

The following list consists of exhibition and performance venues where many works dealing with LGBT themes or by LGBT arts practitioners have been held. However, they are not exclusively used for such purposes.

Founded in 1990 by the late Kuo Pao Kun, it is Singapore's first independent contemporary arts centre, centrally located in the civic district. Its sub-sections include a black box theatre, a gallery, a dance studio, the Blue Room and two multi-function classrooms. It was the venue for the nascent PLU Sunday meetings in the early 90s. The historic PLU 2 pre-registration discussion was also held in the Blue Room in 2003.

The topmost floor is a vault-like loft under the same management as MOX Bar & Café. It seats up to 150 people and is suitable for exhibitions, fashion shows, and performances. It was the former location of the Sunday services of the Free Community Church (from 2002 to 2004) and Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble (from 2004 to 2005). Currently, it houses Bianco which contains a small bar and has an all-white decor. Dr. Russell Heng's talk When Queens Ruled! A History of Gay Venues in Singapore was held here on 16 Aug 05 as part of IndigNation.

It provides exhibition space and management services to local and Asian artists, and photographers. Utterly Art was the venue for the opening event of IndigNation - an exhibition of paintings by artist Martin Loh entitled Cerita Budak-Budak, meaning 'children's stories' in Peranakan Malay. The event was followed up with Contra/Diction - A Night with Gay Poets held on 4 Aug 05, Singapore's first public gay poetry reading session which was attended by over 70 people, with standing room only.

Singapore gay terminology

The following list consists of formally-accepted words, as well as slang in Singapore's 4 official and other minority languages, used to refer to gay men and lesbians. Terms for transgender and intersex people, while not strictly applicable to gay people, are also included in this section.


PLU - acronym for People Like Us 3, the main organisation involved in the struggle for gay equality. It is also used as a slang word for LGBT people, especially amongst the younger internet-savvy generation. Only in fashion for less than a decade, but rapidly becoming the most popular.

Muffadet - Singlish corruption of 'hermaphrodite', used not with the proper meaning of a person with genitalia from both sexes, but as a synonym for an effeminate male. Formerly popular with especially Eurasians of the older generation.

Sister - slang for a transwoman (male-to-female transgender, transvestite or transsexual person). Also commonly used by some portions of the gay community to refer to close male gay friends.

A.Q. or A.K. - acronym for Ah Kua or Ah Qua, the Hokkien word for transvestite (see below).

A.J. - a popular term probably a deprivation from Pig Latin. Mainly used about the Chinese/locally educated community as well as prevalent amongst the younger generation. The term is often used as code, in situations where the speakers wish not to allow outsiders to understand the conversation. Example: 'Is he AJ or straight?', 'My classmate is also AJ.'

G - abbreviation of 'gay'. Example: 'Is he a G?'

On - slang meaning 'gay'. Example: 'Is he on?'

302 - Singapore Armed Forces (Military) designation of both homosexual and transvestite/transsexual


Pondan - an effeminate male; increasingly being used by the Malaysian - media to refer also to non-effeminate gay men.

Bapok- derogatory word for an effeminate male.

Kedik - derogatory word, derived from the Tamil 'kiddi' (see below), also meaning an effeminate male.

Peliwat - homosexual; derived from the Arabic word "liwat" which means "sodomy" or homosexual act, a serious crime under Shari'a law.

Luti - Arabic for homosexual, literally the Biblical Lot; not commonly used by the Malays.

Homoseksual - derived from the English word homosexual.

Mak nyah - Transwoman. "Mak" is a colloquial contraction of "emak", meaning "mother". The term "mak nyah" was coined by the Malaysian male transsexual community (in 1987 when they tried to set up a society but was denied by the Malaysian Registrar of Societies) as a preferred substitute for "pondan" or "bapok" which generally refers to men who are effeminate homosexual (and cisgender) males.

Ponen - an effeminate male (less commonly used).

Pak nyah - Transman (female-to-male transgender or transsexual person); perceived to be much rarer than mak nyahs.

Abang - literally 'older brother', but used as slang for transmen.

Waria - an Indonesian contraction of 'wanita' meaning woman and 'pria' meaning man, thus coining a word for a third sex, usually meaning transgender people.

Wadam- a contraction of 'wanita' and 'Adam', literally a woman who looks like Adam; masculine female or butch lesbian.

Cunta - uncommonly-used word for 'hermaphrodite'.

Khunsa - an Arabic-derived term for 'hermaphrodite' (intersex people) used by the Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia which permits such an individual to undergo medical treatment to convert to one or the other sex. Also formerly used as a term for lesbians.

Mukhannis - an Arabic-derived term for a pre-operative transgender people; used by the Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia which forbids such a person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, cross-dresses, wears make-up or even act effeminately.

Mukhannas - an Arabic-derived term for an effeminate male who does not want to change his physical sex; used by the Islamic Religious Department in Malaysia which forbids such a person to cross-dress, wear make-up or even act effeminately.

Kes cermin - literally means "mirror case"; prison slang for an inmate convicted for a homosexual crime.



Tóng xìng lìan (同性恋): "homosexual love".

Tóng xìng lìan zhe (同性恋者) - "proper" or "scientific" term for a homosexual. The suffix 者 zhe ('person' or 'one who') is frequently dropped--incorrectly according to many grammarians--in colloquial Mandarin usage in Singaporean (as well as in China).

Tóng xìng aì (同性爱) - homosexuality (lit. "homosexual love"); a more respectful term than 'tóng xìng lìan' (同性恋).

Bō li (玻璃) - (lit. "glass") slang for male homosexual. It draws an analogy between the opening or mouth of a glass bottle and the male anus.

Tóng zhì (同志) - properly meaning "comrade", but used as slang for homosexual in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan . Not commonly used by Singaporean Chinese.

Jǐe mèi (姐妹) - literally meaning "sisters"; a term of endearment used between transwomen, or even effeminate gay men, to address each other.

Kǒng tóng zhèng (恐同症) - a recently-coined scientific term for "homophobia", a product of Western culture.

Yīn yáng rén (陰陽人) - an intersex person; literally meaning "a person with feminine and masculine qualities".

Rén yāo (人妖) - a term for transgender people who usually perform on stage; literally meaning "human monster" or more euphemistically, "enchanting person". It is the Mandarin version of the Hokkien A-kua. This term is typically offensive in among Chinese speakers and is mainly applied to South-east Asian transgender people, especially Thai katoey or ladyboys. Ethnic-Chinese transgender people themselves almost universally avoid the term, favoring less deprecative descriptions.

Bìan xìng zhe (變性者) - scientific term for a trangender person who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, hormonal treatment or lifestyle changes.

Bàn zhūang húang hòu (扮裝皇后) - cross-dressing queen; drag queen.

Yì zhūang pì (異裝癖) - literally meaning "obsession with the opposite (sex's) attire"; cross-dressing.

Zhōng xìng rén (中性人) - an intersex person; lit. "neutral" or "middle sex person".

Kùa xìng rén (跨性人) - recently coined term for a transgender individual; it has a somewhat scientific/technical ring.


 Qûa - a transvestite, or more recently, with sex reassignment surgery becoming more available, also a transsexual woman. Used in the past to refer to male cross-dressers who perform in Chinese operas or 'wayangs' as they are locally called.

Or  - literally meaning 'black crow', it is used as a covert form of  Qûa , referring to the cackle that crows make, which sounds like a contracted form of  Qûa . Not widespread.

 Pong - 'pong' is the Hokkien translation of 'pump'; used to refer to a straight man who enjoys being the passive partner in anal intercourse, i.e. getting 'pumped'.

Mo·-Tau-Hu - literally 'to knead soyabean/tofu'; used to refer to sex between two 'bottoms' or effeminate/passive gay men, where their soft, limp penises do not respond to each other's fondling, and sex is an exercise in futility.


Bō lei (玻璃) - Cantonese version of the Mandarin "bō li" (see above); a gay man. Uncommon in Cantonese.

Gēi (基) - Cantonese transliteration of the English word 'gay'.

Gēi lóu (基佬) - a gay person/fellow.

Gáau gēi (搞基)- to indulge in homosexuality.

Sí fāt gwái (屎忽鬼) - literally meaning "bottom devil"; derogatory and offensive term for a gay man.

Tùhng seng lihn (同性戀) - Cantonese version of the Mandarin "tóng xìng lìan zhe".



Kiddi - an effeminate male.

Potaipaiyeh - an effeminate male

Ombohthu - an effeminate gay man

Oombi - a male who enjoys performing oral sex on men

Sutthadi - a male prostitute.

Akkaa - literally meaning 'older sister' but used as slang for transwomen.

Ohrinapunarchiyaalar - recently-coined scientific word for 'homosexual', used in newspapers and documentaries. It literally means 'person who has intercourse with a similar kind'.


Swawarga bhogi - scientific word for homosexual; "swa" meaning "self", "warga" meaning "type" and "bhogi" meaning "a person who has sex".

Flute - one who likes oral sex.

Vadanasuratham - oral sex.




Amraprasand - scientific word for homosexual.

Hijra (South Asia) - a member of the "third gender" in India.

Maasti- sexual play between men who are not necessarily homosexual, mainly to relieve sexual tension.

Samlaingik- scientific word for homosexual.

See also


External links and references

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