Monday, May 21, 2007

SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century

I finished reading SQ21 while traveling to and from Babylon on Sunday, where I read as a feature in Pisces Cafe. The stories of these gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women are at once ordinary and extraordinary. I wished such a book had been published earlier; the book might have helped me pluck up the courage to come out earlier in my life.

Particularly moving to me is Sheila Rajamanikam's story. Her butch girlfriend was beaten up and gang-raped by a group of men before her eyes in the 1980's, near Orchard Road, the commercial and entertainment heart of Singapore. Sheila also spoke of the honey-traps, policemen posing as gay to entrap gay men in bars. In her account, lesbians and gay men were much closer back then, since the community was much smaller and even less accepted than now. Lesbians would go to the Croc, the oldest lesbian bar in Singapore, on the 4th floor of Far East Shopping Center. "You cannot write about lesbian history without writing about Crocodile Rock," says Sheila.

It is a history, lesbian or gay, that I do not know at all. I would like to find out more about it, but at the same time I am dissuaded by its parochialism. The brief history of a tiny minority group on an island-nation. What is it to me? It calls to me with all the force of home, but the heart is a lonely hunter. Still, I'm glad that a snatch of that history is recorded in this book, compiled by Ng Yi-sheng and edited by Jason Wee.


Greg said...

Wow - what a grieving and enraging story about what happened to Sheila Rajamanikam and her girlfriend. As it appears to me, for the sake of people's better understanding, and in support of hope for greater fairness and compassion for lgbt people in Singapore, it is a good thing that her story and similar stories are now being told. Thank you for this post, Jee Leong.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Greg,
if you are interested, the book can be purchased online at the link provided.

Greg said...