LGBT history in Singapore
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LGBT activity in Singapore has frequently been a focus of social conflict. A transgender identity was recognised among the indigenous Malays. Male homosexuality was outlawed under British rule (1819-1942), despite being acknowledged among immigrant Chinese. Following Japanese occupation during World War II and the later gaining of independence, homosexuality and transvestism were visible as a street scene, and from the 1970s were catered for in some nightclubs. In that decade also, Singapore became a centre of gender-reassignment surgery. Concern over HIV arose after cases were reported in the 1980s. During the 1990s police clamped down on manifestations of homosexuality, leading to the growth of a gay movement. A statement from Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 2003 seemed to open the way for greater tolerance, starting a controversy that involved anti-homosexual expressions by some Churches and others.
- 1 Pre-colonial period (up to 1819)
- 2 Colonial period (1819–1948)
- 3 World War II to 1960s
- 4 The 1970s
- 5 The 1980s
- 6 The 1990s
- 7 The 2000s
- 7.1 2000
- 7.2 2002
- 7.3 2003
- 7.4 2004
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Pre-colonial period (up to 1819)
Relatively little is known about pre-colonial Singapore, let alone the history of homosexuality during this period. Nonetheless, it can reasonably be assumed that ideas and practices relating to sexual minorities were similar to other contemporary and nearby Malay societies.
As with all pre-modern societies, traditional Malay culture did not contain the idea or the figure of the modern gay individual. However, Malay society did acknowledge the reality and existence of alternatives to heterosexual practices. ‘Third gender’ or transgender individuals, who are called mak nyah, were socially recognised, tolerated and even incorporated into community life. They occupied a stable, albeit arguably marginalised position within society. The mak nyah are similar in many ways to the hijra in India or the fa'afafine or Mahu in Polynesia. Unfortunately, there is limited scholarly knowledge about homosexuality in traditional Malay culture.
Colonial period (1819–1948)
Population growth and urbanisation
From the establishment of British rule in 1819 to the eve of World War II, Singapore's population grew rapidly from a small village of a few hundred to a large city of nearly a million. This growth and urbanisation is significant, given that the rise of large modern cities and urban culture has been correlated with the rise of the modern gay identity.
Traditional Asian attitudes to homosexuality
Bret Hinsch in chapter 6 of his book 'Passions of the Cut Sleeve: the Male Homosexual Tradition in China' has detailed evidence, derived from the works of literati Li Yu and Shen De Fu, of institutionalised gay marriage practices amongst Hokkien men in Ming dynasty China. The subculture was exported along with the human tide into Singapore and practised discreetly in an alien environment which officially espoused Victorian values. Usually, the younger of two male homosexual lovers would be "adopted" as the godson of the parents of the elder lover in a ceremony before the ancestral altar, involving an offering, amongst others, of pigs' trotters. Similarly, amongst the Indians, 'maasti' or sexual play between men who were not necessarily gay would likely have been widespread with the paucity of women.
British law & homosexuality
As with other British colonies, Singapore acquired a legal system and law modelled after Britain. Victorian values were codified into strict laws governing sexual behaviour in the United Kingdom, and these were brought to the colonies. The colonial legal system criminalised sodomy (see section 377 of the Singapore Penal Code). These laws reinforced the values of the ruling British elite, which set the tone for other classes and ethnicities to emulate, at least on the surface. Over time, and to appear equally 'civilised' many Asians disavowed their longstanding cultural tolerance of sexual minorities.
Between 1938 and 1941, seven high-profile cases of prosecution under or related to Section 377A happened. Although four cases involved Europeans, only one was convicted.
In September 1938, Lim Eng Kooi and Lim Eng Kok became the first to receive punishment in the Straits Settlement. The two "well-known" Penang Chinese were sentenced to seven months imprisonment each under Section 377A.
In March 1941, a Tan Ah Yiow was sentenced to nine months imprisonment after he was found with a "European client" in a "low down quarter", where he was discovered by F. J. C. Wilson, head of the local Anti-Vice Branch, following a tip. Wilson added that in court that a "disgusting and revolting practice had been performed", with medical evidence forthcoming.
In April 1941, Captain Douglas Marr, the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal of the Singapore Fortress Command, was accused of having committed "an act of gross indecency" with a male Malay youth, Sudin bin Daud, who denied being a "catamite". Sudin claimed that on March 13 or 14, he was walking along Stamford Road, a supposed "area for male prostitutes", at night when a car driven by Marr stopped, picked him up and brought him to his boarding house in Tanglin Hill. The offence against Section 377A allegedly took place there, he claimed, whereupon Marr gave Sudin some money and let Sudin take a watch before Sudin left, leaving his shirt there. In his defence, Marr claimed that he had wanted to get "at the root of the homosexual type of vice and I thought, as it transpires very foolishly, that it would be a good idea to question a catamite and to try and find out to what extent soldiers in different regiments were involved". Marr did not deny picking up Sudin, who he claimed approached him, but maintained that he merely questioned him back home to no avail, as he had mistaken Sudin for an Indian and spoken to him in Hindustani. On 16 April and 29 July, after a withdrawn appeal by the prosecution, Marr was acquitted of the charge, despite the fact that Sudin's shirt was found in his room. Sudin, who had pleaded guilty to the act of gross indecency and theft of the watch, was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment on 27 March.
In May 1941, Gunner Ernest Allen of the Royal Artillery became the only European convicted under Section 377A after witness Chan Yau testified that in March, he and Allen had committed the alleged offense in an Anguilla Road house. Allen denied the allegations, claiming that he had hired Chan to get him a girl. Allen was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.
In July 1941, a case involving Mr. Griffith-Jones who admitted "he had been addicted to homosexual practices" and two Chinese locals, Tan Ah Lek and Lim John Chye, who extorted and attempted to extort money from him by threatening to expose him, went to court. The European, who "held a responsible position in a Singapore firm", first came into contact with Lim in January 1939, when Lim wrote a letter to him asking for $5 to keep silent. By 1940, Griffith-Jones had paid him over $1,000, while the English-speaking Tan had extorted and tried to extort a total of thousands of dollars from Griffith-Jones from the end of 1938, even extracting monthly payments from him. On 30 July, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
World War II to 1960s
When the Japanese invaded Singapore in February 1942, Japanese laws replaced previous colonial laws. Gay sex was never criminalised in Japan and would now have been technically legal in Singapore. However, given the lack of human rights and rule of law under the Japanese occupation, this change in law was a technical and historical quirk, reflective of a different legal tradition, rather than an expansion of real rights for gay people.
Anecdotally, gay cruising continued in post-war Singapore in back alleys, public parks and toilets. In the most part, this was ignored by the police and no one was charged under section 377 of the Singapore Penal Code. Meanwhile, transvestite prostitution in Bugis Street became increasingly prominent. The State and mainstream society initially accepted it is as a vaguely undesirable but inevitable vice, similar to the pragmatic and worldly attitudes towards prostitution in the cosmopolitan port-city. With their growing fame, the transvestites of Bugis Street became a tourist attraction, drawing local and foreign visitors every night. Bugis Street and its associated transgender community were by far the most visible face of sexual minorities in the immediate post-war period, much as transgender people had been in traditional Malay society. The difference was that the community was now much more public, urban and multi-ethnic. Prostitution and interaction with international visitors also added a new dimension to the life of this community.
Another arena in which GLBT issues were being played out was in National service. Compulsory uniformed (usually military) service was implemented in 1967: all 18-year-old males were required to train full-time for two or two-and-a-half years, according to their level of education. Homosexuality and transsexuality were listed as conditions in a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) 'Directory of Diseases' (disease code 302). Prior to enlistment, all enlistees underwent a medical examination, during which they were asked to declare their homosexuality and/or transgender status (medics conducting the examination had little awareness of the difference between the two). New recruits who came out were deployed to non-combat, non-sensitive vocations. They were generally downgraded to a Public Employment Status of 3 (PES3) and assigned only light clerical work.
While the SAF was concerned of the safety of out gay and trans men living and working with straight servicemen it was also reluctant to exempt them from the compulsory National Service that all Singaporean men had to perform. However, post-operative male-to-female transsexuals were exempted from National Service as the Singapore Government recognised their new gender identity as women. It is unknown if post-operative female-to-male transsexuals perform National Service, though it is unlikely that many of them exist who have undergone their operation by the time of enlistment, around the age of 18. In any case, most homosexuals did (and do) not declare their sexual orientation during this examination and go on to serve in all variety of vocations. Gay men do not come out for many reasons, the most common being that they are not comfortable with declaring their sexuality to a State and organisation that is perceived to be homophobic. Some gay men also refrain from coming out as they wish to perform their duties alongside others, and find the segregation of homosexuals offensive.
With growing prosperity, many homosexuals, especially the English-educated middle class were exposed, via travel and the mass media, to the social liberalism of the West and the nascent gay movements there. This exposure introduced the idea that local society could evolve similarly. The growing popularity of travel to Thailand and Japan in the late 1970s also introduced Singaporeans to traditional Asian societies that were more accepting of homosexuals.
Meanwhile, several nightlife entrepreneurs realised the unmet social demands of the emerging gay market, and gradually allowed their establishments to cater to gay customers on certain nights. One of the earliest was The Hangar, located in a secluded area outside the city centre where, for the first time, a large group of gay men could freely congregate and even dance together. Encouraged by this precedent, homosexuals started to patronise other, mainly straight, discos in the city area such as My Place, Black Velvet, West End, El Morocco, The Library, Studio M and even the NCO Club at Beach Road. Nightclubs like Pebbles Bar, Tropicana Inn, and less popularly Treetops Bar at the Holiday Inn, were increasingly packing in the gays and became iconic institutions of the local gay scene. Some heterosexual clubbers complained about this, so the managements of some of these outlets were pressurised by the authorities to display signs proclaiming 'No man and man dancing' (sic). Over time, the ruling was relaxed for fast songs, but same-gender slow dancing continued to be proscribed.
In November 1971, the English-language evening tabloid New Nation ran an exclusive interview with a trans woman on her transition. In July 1972, an exposé of the hidden lives of Singapore homosexuals in New Nation, headlined 'They are different', carried photographs of a gay couple embracing and "local transvestites". It caused a stir and raised mainstream awareness of the existence of gay people who were not transgender. The report also highlighted how "homosexuality is as old as ancient Greece".
During the decade, there was a well-known transsexual model featured occasionally in Her World magazine. On the silver screen, cinema goers enjoyed a Chinese language Shaw Brothers production entitled Ai nu (Love Slave) which starred actresses Lily Ho and Betty Pei Ti as a lesbian couple in a period setting. In the final scene when Lily Ho wanted to desert Betty Pei Ti to pair off with the male hero, she was asked for a final kiss. Whilst they were kissing, Betty Pei Ti sneaked a poison pill into her mouth which she bit, thus transforming it into a poignant kiss of death.
The widespread construction of public swimming pools from the 1970s gave Singapore the highest density of public pools per unit area in the world. Coupled with the emergence of many shopping centres, this increased the number of conducive spaces for gay cruising. The growing population, size and urban density of the city created opportunities for anonymous gay encounters even as it raised the risk of discovery by others and hence the number of public complaints about gay cruising and/or public sex, a factor which led to the phenomenon of police entrapment more than a decade later.
As Singaporean surgeons became more skilful, some like Prof. S Shan Ratnam were authorised to perform male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery at Kandang Kerbau Hospital from 1971 onwards. However, before hopeful transsexuals-to-be could go under the knife, they first had to subject themselves to a battery of psychological tests by psychiatrist Prof. Tsoi Wing Foo. Later, the more technically demanding female-to-male variety was also offered there and at Alexandra Hospital, performed by gynaecologists such as Dr. Ilancheran. A Gender Identity Clinic and Gender Reassignment Surgery Clinic were set up at the National University Hospital two decades later. In fact, for thirty years, Singapore was one of the world leaders in gender-reassignment surgery. Bugis Street and Johore Road started to become populated with a range of genders from transvestites to iatrogenic intersex individuals to fully transformed women. Local hospitals and clinics also attracted transgender clients from other countries in the region, especially Malaysia and Thailand.
Meanwhile, the rise of gay cruising and gay nightclubs led to the formation of informal social networks of friends. Within these networks, information and rumours spread within the gay community about the sexuality of local television, sports and entertainment celebrities, university professors, children and relatives of politicians, and even the occasional Cabinet minister himself. This form of informal networking and 'knowledge' constituted the nascent beginnings of a gay community, which was beginning to acquire a sense of itself within the larger society.
The early 1980s was a period of widespread prosperity and new freedoms which saw the opening of clubs like Shadows, Marmota, Legend and Niche which catered to a predominantly gay clientele even though they were not exclusively gay. These discos would be closed by the time of the mid-1980s, for unclear reasons, to be replaced by weekly Sunday Night Gay Parties or "Shadow Nights" run by the former management of Shadows (affectionately known as the "Shadow Management"). These "Shadow Nights" were roving events held at semi-permanent venues which included Rascals (at the Pan Pacific Hotel), Heartthrob (at Melia at Scotts), The Gate (at Orchard Hotel), Music World (in Katong) and Studebaker's which later morphed into Venom (at Pacific Plaza). It is interesting to note that men's night parties held since Studebaker's were no longer run by the "Shadow Management". Lesbian culture also found a focal point in a small bar named Crocodile Rock in Far East Plaza, which remains to this day the oldest lesbian bar in Singapore.
Such events were now officially sanctioned and no longer discouraged by their managements. No police raids at these establishments took place. With these weekly gatherings for energetic dancing to let off steam and meet new friends, homosexuals felt the first bonds of a relatively cohesive community- a warm feeling of being welcomed into a new brotherhood, in contradistinction to erstwhile isolation, alienation and loneliness for many.
Distant rumblings of a nebulous entity dubbed the 'gay plague', later standardised in nomenclature as AIDS, were heard emanating from America. There was some relief when US doctors discovered that it affected not exclusively gays, but also Haitians and haemophiliacs. However, it caused some local homosexuals to cast a wary eye on Caucasians and promiscuous Singaporeans returning from Western countries. The possibility that it would become a problem here seemed remote at the time.
It came as a shock when the first case of local HIV infection was reported in 1985. It galvanised a group of healthcare personnel (both gay and straight) to set up a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Action For AIDS (AFA) in 1988 which provided support and counselling for AIDS victims as well as educating the public on safe sex. AFA was not technically part of the Singapore gay movement and has been careful to present itself as an NGO dealing with a public health issue. However, a significant portion of the energy and leadership behind it has been provided by gay people and in many practical ways AFA has rallied homosexuals around a cause.
Cruising continued in areas like Hong Lim Park, Boat Quay, back alleys in the Central Business District, Raffles Place MRT Station and Tanjong Pagar, swimming pools, Fort Road Beach and public toilets. Police patrols to these areas were sporadically seen; on rare occasions individuals have had their IC numbers recorded, but for the most part they were left alone and no arrests were made. Lesbian couples who held hands in public, while not officially persecuted, report that they were frequently the target of verbal, physical, and at times sexual abuse from passers-by and gang members.
From the mid-1980s onwards, pubs and karaoke bars like Babylon and Inner Circle started to sprout up along Tanjong Pagar. Sizable groups of gay men could be seen milling about outside these establishments especially on weekends. This, along with cruising activity at nearby Ann Siang Hill and the surrounding back alleys would eventually come to give Tanjong Pagar Road the reputation of being Singapore's gay quarter.
Large bookshops like Borders, Kinokuniya, Tower Books and even MPH responded to the growing body of mainly foreign gay-themed literature by stocking these books along with those on women's issues in sections entitled 'Gender Studies'.
The expansion of gay spaces in the 1980s were curbed to some degree in the 1990s. Singapore's rapid economic growth had been attributed by its leaders to 'Asian values'. The promotion of these ideas by Singaporean leaders fostered a climate of social conservatism. Against this backdrop, gays were perceived as a threat to Asian values and a sign of the emergence of decadent Western liberalism and individualism. Complaints made by the public about public cruising led to police entrapment raids. Youthful and attractive undercover cops would pose as gay cruisers. The moment they were fondled by their targets, the latter would be arrested for outrage of modesty. Their names and occasionally mugshots were published in the press to humiliate them.
The most publicised case occurred in a forested grove near Tanjong Rhu's Fort Road Beach in November 1993. Amongst the 12 men arrested was a Singapore Broadcasting Corporation producer. All were punished with three strokes of the cane and prison sentences ranging from 2 to 6 months. In protest, performance artist Josef Ng staged a work on New Year's Eve, 1993, as part of which he snipped off his pubic hair while his back was turned to the audience. This provoked a severe government reprisal in the form of a ban on all performance art, one that held sway until 2004. Ng was also charged in court for committing an obscene act in public.
Gay discos also experienced occasional police raids, the most well-known of which occurred at Rascals on 30 May 1993, where policemen shouted rudely at patrons. A gay lawyer who was present later enlisted the support of 21 other gay professionals in writing a letter of complaint to the Chief of Police. To their surprise, they received an apology. This was the last documented case of police harassment at gay discos for many years to come.
The local media, especially the daily tabloid The New Paper, began to sensationalise homosexual activities with attention-grabbing headlines like 'Pool Perverts on the Loose' and 'Gays surface again at East Coast beach'. In 1992, the Censorship Review Committee recommended that 'materials encouraging homosexuality should continue to be disallowed.' In 1996, I-S Magazine's publishing license was suspended for one issue because of gay content appearing in the personal ads section.
An example of this government censorship was directed at Chay Yew, who, in the 1990s, had become an internationally known playwright with several plays featuring gay individuals and couples. The government banned performances of his work on the grounds that it was "promoting homosexuality" and, as a result, Yew felt pressured to live and work overseas.
It was against this deterioration in public image and treatment that a Singapore gay movement emerged. The most revolutionary factor which surfaced to facilitate the development of a sense of community amongst Singaporean gays was the widespread availability of the Internet and start of affordable access to the World Wide Web from the mid-1990s.
Activists such as Alex Au, a member of People Like Us, the first gay equality organisation in Singapore, saw the potential of the Internet as a vehicle to unite the gay community and foment intellectual discussion. The Singapore Gay News List (SigNeL) was started on 15 March 1997 and has been instrumental in discussing issues of interest to the community. On 15 October 1998, RedQuEEn!, an e-mail list for queer-identified women was established. Au also launched his Yawning Bread website in November 1996, to which he would contribute the most thorough analyses of issues facing the local gay community. It would also serve as a de facto chronicle of Singapore gay issues and history as they unfolded.
To enable censorship of undesirable sites, all Internet traffic into and out of Singapore was required to be routed through local proxy servers. As a token of this restriction, to placate social conservatives, prominent porn websites such as Playboy and Penthouse were blocked. The official explanation was that the Government wanted to signal a stand on undesirable sites without unduly hindering the development of the Internet. However, websites of local origin were monitored more closely than those from overseas.
Web services like IRC and ICQ allowed locals to engage in online chat not only with fellow gay Singaporeans but also with the international gay community. What started out as a communication tool for like-minded university students soon became a key "gay space" with the entry of players like Singnet and Pacific Internet which provided reasonably priced internet access services. Notable IRC channels which fostered gay forums included #GAM, #SGBOY & #GSG.
One of the most important LGBT events of the decade took place in 1996 when People Like Us submitted their first application for registration as a society, after taking a year of painstaking effort to solicit 10 signatories. The application was lodged with the Registrar of Societies on 7 November 1996. However, it was rejected on 9 April 1997 with no reason given. PLU's appeals all the way to the Prime Minister's Office met with no success. This rejection was reported by news agencies around the world.
For over two decades, post-operative transsexuals had been discreetly lobbying to be given the right to have their new sex reflected in their identity cards (but not their birth certificates) and to get married to opposite-sex spouses. They were finally granted their wish on 24 January 1996 via an announcement by MP Abdullah Tarmugi without much public fanfare or opposition.
On 11 December 1998, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew responded to a gay man's question about the place of homosexuals in Singapore, live on CNN International by saying, '...what we are doing as a government is to leave people to live their own lives so long as they don't impinge on other people. I mean, we don't harass anybody.' Given Lee's stature as the venerated albeit authoritarian founding father of independent Singapore, these words helped set the tenor for official policy on homosexuality for many years to come. His comments may be regarded as one of the most significant events, as far as gay rights are concerned, of the decade.
On 5 March 1999, Singapore's pioneer gay portal SGBOY.COM was started as a not-for-profit hobbyist site hosted on GeoCities. It was developed into a major portal and added forums and chat functions. It was the first such non-political website in the island-state and offered an outlet for closeted gay people with light-hearted stories and a counselling email service. Its very first editor was artist/photographer Jason Wee.
In November 2000, the Church of our Saviour which runs the "Choices ministry", a branch offering religious counselling for homosexuals seeking to change their sexual orientation similar to the ex-gay movement, put up a large banner outside their church in Queenstown. It read, "Homosexuals can change". The sign was visible to everyone travelling on the MRT. It took several months before the church removed the banner.
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 of homosexuals 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 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 the article, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong 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 though homosexual acts remained illegal in Singapore, gay people would now be allowed to serve in 'sensitive positions' in the civil service. This started a major controversy in the media. The statement was greatly welcomed by the gay population of Singapore, but there was a strong reaction from those opposed to homosexuality. These included the National Council of Churches of Singapore, which issued a statement that homosexuality was 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. This group held a meeting to discuss a strategy and plan of action for Christians to tackle what they termed as a "volatile situation", and Yang's church issued a statement "Don't Keep Silent" on 20 July, calling on the Church in Singapore to "take a stand". Following this, many letters opposing homosexuality were published in Singapore's daily, The Straits Times.
Several prominent members of the Singaporean Christian community disagreed with the stance taken by the National Council of Churches, including Reverend Yap Kim Hao, the former bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore, and Catholic Theresa Seow, President of the (Singapore) Inter-Religious Organisation.
Reporter M. Nirmala of the Straits Times covered the controversy in her article on 23 July 2003, titled "Gay Backlash". The debate and its political implications are also documented and discussed in an article "Imagining the Gay Community in Singapore", whose abstract is:
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 mobilised 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 liberalisation. 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.
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 it "normalizes homosexuality". 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".
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).
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 report: [permanent dead link])
Singaporean first to advertise civil partnership in UK
On 6 December 2005, UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph  reported that a Singaporean man Ghani Jantan and his British 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 grants gay unions almost all the legal rights and obligations which apply to heterosexual marriages. The story was also carried by Singapore's Today newspaper.
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- An article by Alex Au on the importance of documenting and organising often all-too-ephemeral gay history:
- Singapore gay equality movement