Saturday, December 3, 2011

Unpublished letter to newspaper about Elton John's orchids

A couple of weeks ago, Elton John visited Singapore. He was honored with an orchid named after him, to which he attended the ceremony with his partner David Furnish and their son Zachary. A certain Josephine Tay wrote an indignant letter, saying Elton does not deserve that honor because he is gay.

I wrote a letter to Straits Times, our main national newspaper. While the responses published are good (according to the editors, 19 letters supporting Elton's honor, and 3 supporting Ms Tay), I'll leave you to guess why mine wasn't included. My view is that if Indians are insulted, a letter from an  Indian would be appropriate. If gay people are insulted, why shouldn't openly-gay people's responses be included?

"I am a gay Singaporean who grew up in a homophobic environment. When Elton John sang "I'm Still Standing", I found some courage to not give up and just keep going. When Princess Diana passed away, I cried with the millions who had heard Elton's "Candle in the Wind". Elton has battled homophobia, survived fame, and raised millions more for charity. And he continues to help younger artists like Eminem find their place. In his concerts, he sang with humility and grace, usually performing well over 3 hours to the delight of millions.

His achievements are monumental. His voice is a gift that lifts hearts and souls. While some insist that gay people cannot form meaningful relationship, Elton - like many of us - has a happy, stable family. Yet, for all his talents and humanity, Ms Tay felt that Elton's sexuality alone should discount his eligiblity for an acknowledgement. Does Ms Tay also feel that gay Singaporeans like myself, or even her gay or lesbian colleagues should expect no acknowledgement from our peers and country, even when we do our part in careers, family and society?"

Nevertheless, it is a positive step in the right direction. ST Forum pointed out that 19 letters disagreed with Ms Josephine Tay, while 3 agreed with her. I can only hope that these steps will continue, as more and more people understand the real facts behind being LGBT. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Same Sexuality, Different Drag

This week, Kumar comes out of the closet!

Kumar is famous in Singapore as a comedian, cross-dressing performer and the top drag queen. He is also a household name as he has hosted local TV programmes. At the launch of his new book “Kumar: From Rags To Drags”, attended by guest-of-honor and Singapore minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Kumar – now 43-years-old – announced that he is finally able to say that he is gay.

Many gay men and women praised Kumar for his courage, and just as many gay people say that it is no surprise because Kumar is “so obvious”. Kumar’s sexuality, as some believe, is community and public knowledge – he still enjoyed fame and success as a performer - so his coming out would make no difference at all.

I beg to differ. Kumar’s public outing is as significant as anyone’s public outing. It took no less courage for an “obviously gay” person to acknowledge that he or she is gay.

Many people prefer that gay folks NOT acknowledge our sexuality, even when all signs point to someone being gay. In the past, Kumar had denied that he was gay twice in the newspapers. So, even if there was acceptance, the acceptance was of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell No Matter How Obvious You Are” kind. We accept you – as long as you don’t say you are gay.

That is why Kumar coming out is important: as a community, we want that formal acknowledgement, and we want the respect that comes with it. The true test for Kumar’s relationship with the public lies in the next few years after he comes out: it should make no difference then that he said he is gay, since he is already an ‘obvious’ queen.

A Madonna song was introduced this way: “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, 'cause it's OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, 'cause you think that being a girl is degrading.” The discrimination within the community for drag queens and ‘obvious’ gays persisted till today.  Perhaps some of us see their sissy behavior as instrumental in the discrimination of the LGBT community?

The real culprit of LGBT discrimination is not so much that ‘obvious’ gay people live openly, but rather that less ‘obvious’ people remain hidden, therefore offer nothing to counter the public’s perception that all gay people are somehow into drag or sissies (not that cross-dressing or being effeminate is wrong). The only way for the public to see the diversity, is for a diverse bunch of gay people to live their lives openly, isn't it? Seeing is believing. All else is propaganda.

When we were young, some of the straight-acting (in a sense, Kumar dear, we’re better actors than you) amongst us joined in the teasing of sissies. That sense of superiority never left some of us. We bulked up, and with our armor of muscles, are manlier than straight men. We think that this armor can protect us from the curious attention of our colleagues and friends – even though the same muscles are primarily designed to attract potential suitors and lovers (don't give me that "it's for health" talk - you can be perfectly healthy doing yoga or jogging).

It might work for a while, but unless you’re married with children, eventually, people will see through that build. In other words, it takes a straight person to know another straight person – and you ain’t no straight person, bro! You are single, middle-aged, and buzz-cut, and you carry more name-branded clothes and bags than the average female colleague. If one day you come out, don’t be surprised that your friends fight to stifle the yawns as you did when you heard about Kumar’s outing.

Kumar may be the elephant in the room, but when he trumpeted, some other elephants in the room yawned louder than they should. That’s because some think they're much less obvious than Kumar – maybe because they think they are safe hiding behind the sofa and other tiny furniture in the room.

Kumar wears a dress, some of us wear muscles and A&F. Different drag, just as gay. There is nothing wrong with gorgeous muscles that light up the scenery and my Facebook, just as there is nothing wrong with dresses because they do that too. There is nothing wrong with coming out, and nothing wrong to stay in the closet.

But if we discriminate our own kind, can we expect equality from others?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Role Models

A special thanks to my straight friend Lim Teng Leong. A discussion he started made me write this piece!

The world shook today. Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, father of the iMac, iPod and iPhone, announced that he is stepping down.

The world shook too in the LGBT community. The person taking over the rein of Apple is Tim Cook, outed by Out magazine as a gay man. Cook himself has never confirmed nor denied his sexuality.

A friend’s friend asked, “why make his sexuality such a big deal?” Another said, “It shouldn’t matter.”

In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t be a big deal if Apple’s next CEO is a woman, a minority or a religious person Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or Hindu. Why make a big deal about Tim Cook being gay? Noone made a big deal of Steve Jobs being straight!

 Tim Cook of Apple | Apple Headlines - Mac, iOS, Apple News
Tim Cook - the new CEO of Apple

In the real world, a woman or a black person need not face that choice – the fact that they are female or a minority race is clear as day. Not so for a gay person. In the real world, most gay people keep their sexuality private.

I remembered growing up gay and searching desperately for a role model. Here was my journey:

From childhood to teenager, my only gay ‘role models’ were perverts and pedophiles prowling in the toilets. They were hunted, arrested and paraded on the national newspapers and tabloids. I remembered my mother said, “those sick bastards!” So I concluded I might be sick too.

When I discovered Yukio Mishima, a Japanese gay writer, I poured through his books, thirsting for some clues to guide me. Unfortunately, he was a strange fellow indeed. While I was thrilled that he declared his love for the same sex bravely, I was less happy about his morbid passion that gay love must end in suicide. Since he was the only Asian gay writer I knew then, I almost bought into that fatalism – there was to be no happy ending for gay relationships.

Yukio Mishima - talented but disturbed

In a better world, you might find it funny to know my next favorite role model, an unrepentant, cheeky playwright called Joe Orton, had his skull bashed in with a hammer by his deranged boyfriend, Kenneth Helliwell. After killing Orton, Helliwell killed himself with an overdose of pills.

Joe Orton - talented but died a violent death in the hands of his lover

AIDS unearthed a slew of celebrities - Rock Hudson, Brad Davis, and Freddie Mercury to name a few – and in the same breath, declared them dead or dying.

I soldiered along, and in the process found many LGBT writers and artists in my native land of Singapore. The arrival of Elton John, Ian McKellen, Ellen DeGeneres and Adam Lambert lifted my spirits, but they, along with countless gay fashion designers and celebrity hairdressers, still did not fit my definition of a role model.

I may be an artist, but a part of me is decidedly a science geek.

What I need, is a modern-day Leonardo DaVinci, or a contemporary Alan Turing: someone who is gay but cannot be pigeon-holed into a strictly artistic environment. So you can imagine my excitement when news of Cook’s sexuality broke!

Alan Turing - conceptualized the principles of modern computing, instrumental in stopping World War II. Rewarded with chemical castration. Committed suicide.

And my disappointment when later articles clarified that he never came out personally. Waiting for my role model feels like grasping at mirages in a desert.

Tim Cook has been an integral part of Apple. How big an influence or inspiration he has been, or will be, to such an iconic corporation remains to be seen. It would be great if he comes out, but what if he doesn’t? Afterall, filling in Jobs’ enormous shoes is already a monumental task. He should decide for himself if coming out will be to Apple’s advantage.

We may never get his own confirmation.

Until then, he cannot be a role model for me or my community. But I realised something: I can wait for that elusive gay role model to show me the way, or I can be that role model.

I won’t be holding my breath for Cook or any other gay men or women. I won’t sit and wait for someone to share his or her formula for success. There is no road map that will point the way towards my dreams.

“Fine!” I tell myself, “all the sweeter when I get there first.”

And with that, I put my best foot forward.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wild Rice's "Family Outing" - LGBT plays are a cornerstone for Singapore culture

(Photo courtesy of Charmaine Tan)

I attended Wild Rice's staging of first-time playwright Joel Tan's play "Family Outing".

Significantly, this is the first time a local gay play attempted to fuse religion with sexuality where the son did not turn away from his sexuality*. The playwright manages to present what was once un-presentable on Singapore stage. It wasn't a perfect piece - it ended where I felt it was to be an interval. For a devout religious family to come to terms with a gay son, experience of my friends showed that it can take years or decades. A friend once told me, "when a son comes out of the closet with his parents, the parents often go into a closet of their own." Perhaps the mother would deploy her arsenal of church friends and even pastor to 'set the boy right', perhaps she would have to struggle privately. For a drama mama, the protagonist's mama sure got over herself in a period of time that is nothing short of miraculous. But Joel should be applauded for writing an enjoyable play with a gay protagonist that, even in death, insist on being happy and true to himself. I'm sure the story connects with many religious gay people, and even a non-religious gay person like myself can relate to the struggle to reach out to mom and dad. The play is a notable entry into a canon of LGBT plays in Singapore, and Joel is a young playwright whose future works will be thrilling and exciting.

(*Strictly speaking, The Necessary Stage's "___ Can Change" contains a segment with a gay religious son too. In that play, the son chose to leave his boyfriend, get married and start a family to please his mother.)

I'd watched a few notable gay plays in the recent years (Drama Box's "Bondage" and Wild Rice's "Asian Boys Vol 3"), wrote the first Mandarin gay play (Drama Box's "Another Tribe") and all my plays feature gay characters and some gay themes, including this year's Arts Fest play HERStory. Since Russell Heng's "Lest The Demons Get To Me", Eleanor Wong's "Mergers and Accusations" and Michael Chiang's "Private Parts", I'd attended some local gay plays.

A majority of the local playwrights have their own gay plays. Virtually all local drama groups have staged gay plays. Asking friends to name some, I was greeted with a barrage of plays old and new. It appears that gay plays are not just a regular occurrence in the local scene, but one of the main themes that kept propping up. No amount of bullying or discouragement seemed to have dented our merry spirits.

Yet, our local media authorities have continued to discourage this genre of plays. Shouldn't they recognise the LGBT's huge contribution to the development of local culture instead? Without exaggeration, the gay play IS a cornerstone of Singapore culture and should be recognised and acknowledged as such. Below is a Facebook discussion of local gay plays. 

My dear LGBT friends, let it be known that we are the soldiers who built Singapore's Great Wall of Culture**. Unlike the thousands who died anonymously building the Great Wall of China, we will not let our contribution be swept under the rugs.

(** This is not to disparage the straight giants of culture in Singapore - Kuo Pao Kun for example. If I name straight names, I might be unwittingly outing the gay ones who're not out-out yet.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pink Dot 2011 - my keynote speech

Two weeks before Pink Dot, Boo Junfeng wrote me via Facebook, asking me to deliver a keynote speech at the third of this LGBT event. Junfeng, whose directorial debut "Sandcastles" signaled the emergence of an incredible young film talent, also directed the Pink Dot 2011 video. It attracted more than 200,000 views in 2 months. 

Having been a volunteer the last two Pink Dots, I was prepared to spend a carefree day at the event ogling at celebrities like Dave Tan (of Electrico fame) and looking out for Vincent Wijeysingha (the Singapore Democratic Party candidate during the last General Election). But the invitation to deliver a keynote speech was a huge honor. Like the time when Raffles Institution, Singapore's top secondary school, offered me a teaching job, I didn't have to consider much before saying Yes.
I was very glad the organisers decided to invite a gay person to deliver the speech. In the last two Dots, straight celebrities like Neo Swee Li (famous stage and tv actress) gave us their blessings, urging compassion and acceptance on our behalf. It's vital that straight people gave us their support, but we must also step up when the opportunity to contribute to the LGBT community land on our lap.

I've known people from the community for a long time, and I know LGBT people are basically ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps thanks to discrimination, some of us behave like carbon under great pressure: some of us became diamonds. So, it is a great honor that some of these diamonds organising Pink Dot asked me.

The first issue to confront is Neo Swee Lin's speech in Pink Dot 2010. It was simple, it was moving, it was powerful: "we are born alone. We go to the graves alone. There is no reason why any of us should be alone in this life." How do I write a speech that live up to that?

Fortunately, I gave up trying to 'compete'. It's not about a better speech. It's talking about the personal that others can identify with. It's about finding a perspective that may help others move forward. 

When I was younger, I tried but failed to find love within the community. I got my heart broken several times. I broke others' hearts several times. After the nth time, I began to question if gay men are meant to be in lasting relationships. I now know that gay relationships - like straight relationships - simply needed the same nurturing from partners, friends and communities. But 20 years ago, most gay folks had zero support in our quest for love. This perspective formed the basis of my speech. Junfeng and a few organisers gave me valuable feedback, which resulted in the following speech:

"My friends, gay brothers gay sisters, straight brothers and straight sisters, welcome! My name is Otto Fong. Some of you may know me for publicly outing myself as a gay man while I was teaching in a secondary school. Thank you for being here! Because of you, we have made history again! This is the single largest gathering of people in support of the freedom to love in Singapore! Do you know that 30 or 40 years ago, the Hong Lim Park area used to be the main gathering place for some gay men? Isn’t it ironic? Isn’t it coincidental? Or is it fateful?

Many years ago, I was a frightened, lonely young man as I looked for love along the back alleys near here. It wasn't easy, and how could it be? We met in the dark, we used fake names, gave out fake numbers because we were so afraid! Worst of all, we broke each others’ hearts because noone taught us how to love. We had to learn about love the hard way.

But things have changed! And we are a part of that change! I am living with my partner, and this year, we just celebrated our 13th anniversary. Many of my friends are in committed, long-term relationships with the support of family and friends. As we stand here today, we are sending a strong message of love, acceptance and inclusivity. We declare that we are also a part of the Singapore family.

Over the years others have spoken out for us, many of them straight people - many continue to stand with us here, now. Were it not for their courage and determination, Pink Dot would not be possible. Please join me in a round of applause in thanking our straight friends for being here!

Today, we reaffirm our love for Singapore. Singapore, belongs not to any one segment, any one group. It belongs to us ALL - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight. Together, we signal a hope of a more inclusive, open-minded Singapore. Together, we support each other’s freedom to love, so that every one of us can have someone to call his or her own in this life!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

HERStory passed censorship without cuts or rating

TODAY's news writeup by Mayo Martin (click on image to read details)

5 years ago, a play which talks about the lives of an old Singaporean political leftist's wife and her gay son would have been a lightning rod for the flash of the censors' scissors. 

This week, it will be showing without cut or rating. This means . . . I really have no idea what it means! Does this signal a more enlightened governmental direction in nurturing the Arts? Did the recent General Election have any impact on the show? 

All I know is that the artists involved all agreed that the politics and sexuality should only be presented when the issue is relevant to the central character. While these issues are inseparable to the woman portrayed in this play, they cannot upstage her feelings and her thoughts. For instance, while the gay son has strong opinions about sexuality and gay rights, it was not shared by the mother during their confrontations. So how do we present such scenes without being disrespectful to both sides? This brings to mind another play, called "_____ Can Change", staged by The Necessary Stage.

A scene from TNS's "______ Can Change"

The TNS story presented the religious mother's view, where the gay son gave up his relationship with a man, then married and had children to please his mother. During the performance I watched, a group of gay supporters protested loudly, then stalked off the show! In our play, we try to show what goes on in the mother's mind when her son made a very public declaration of his sexuality. No apologies, no regrets, no agendas. 

As for the politics, we stayed true to the central character - in Singapore, during the 50s and 60s, women were deliberately kept out of the meetings. When questioned by a more vocal feminist, a prominent politician replied, "it is our prerogative." Hence, we only presented what the woman could see - hence, politically-charged scenes - those which she was not a part of - are presented only when they made some impact on her, or totally removed when we felt it does not serve her story.

Without a restricted rating, our play will be seen and judged by all ages. We cannot predict how the play will be received this coming weekend. All I can say, one day before the play, is that we hope people find that their weekend is well-spent with us!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


On the 10th May, I was invited by Gayglers, the LGBT group in Google Singapore, for their first afternoon sharing session with their employees.

I was expecting a small room where a few LGBT employees and I spend the one hour chit-chatting. Instead, a sizeable number showed up, with a good number of straight and gay employees - it was the most diverse and international crowd I'd shared with. It makes sense too for Google - events like these allows employees to learn about local culture and thinking, giving them a broader perspective and hence greater ways of reaching out to different demographics.

As for myself, I was asking, "why do I keep sharing? I should be drawing my next comic book!" There is no answer to that. Deep inside, I know sharing is good for myself and others, as long as I share responsibly. My view is, we're all fleas on a very big elephant. Those of us living in the elephant's ears will have a vastly different view than those living on its arse. Our own truths are not the Whole Truth, and any "I'm right you're wrong" argument is at best futile. Sharing helps us see a slightly bigger picture. As our differences open our eyes, our commonality draws us closer.

Google Singapore is very supportive of their employees. Gayglers is just one of those interest groups set up by employees themselves. When introducing me, the management (who sat through my entire talk) quoted a line I wrote in my coming-out blog, "I won't be a Bonsai tree."

I shared a little about the lessons I learnt as an openly-gay person: My life has extended beyond the closet, and I'd reached out to friends from all walks of life, seen more schools and students than I'd ever did in my 8 years as a teacher. My comic books have promoted fun and imagination in the learning of Science. Just the other day, a student stood up and said, "a Muslim cannot be a scientist!" (A little heartbreaking when a child cannot dream freely even in a country like Singapore.) And I was able to show her the possibility that anyone can - and I could back it up because one of my books have already featured a Muslim scientist (can we fight global problems with just half of the world's scientists?). A week before the talk, another print of my Sir Fong comics sold out.

I gave up a closet, and gained the forest.

In other words, this little Bonsai tree is starting to grow its own branches. No longer constantly under the gardener's knife, I am reaching for the sky as nature intended me to. I don't know why I keep sharing, but that's the beauty of being out of the closet - I am learning day-by-day to trust my heart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

HERStory - my new play in the Arts Festival 2011

Click on image below to read article!

In this year's Arts Festival, I wrote a little play. The play was originally intended as a tribute to my mother, who supported my dad Fong Swee Suan during his political career as a Trade Unionist, co-founder of our current ruling party PAP and subsequent imprisonment during a sweep against the leftists in Singapore. But as improvisations began at Drama Box, my long-time partner-in-theatre, director Kok Heng Luen, dramaturg Chong Tze Chien and the actors involved help the script evolve into a tribute for women of the 50s and 60s.

The change in direction was also prompted by my mother: she objected to me bringing up the fact that the woman in the play has a gay son. She had given her entire life and sacrificed her own dreams in order to bring me up after my father was released from prison. It is easy to imagine that a possible lifetime of discrimination by the mainstream population was NOT what she had in mind for her child. In the end, the gay son stays in the story, while we modified the story from one woman to women of her generation.

Click on image below to read Mandarin writeup on play!

Click on image below to read Mandarin writeup on play!

I came out publicly as a gay person in 2007. While I cannot agree with my mother's prejudices, I can sympathize with her feelings. AND while I sympathize with her feelings, I cannot consent to going back into the closet. She'd given up her whole life partly for her family, and for myself. But I cannot give up my life in return just to just be her ideal son. 

Afterall, she had rebelled against the injustices of her generation. She'd defied old traditions of women staying in the kitchen and allowing the men to run her life. She had stood for what she believed in and paid the price. Hence, it was a little ironic that she expect me to follow in her tradition and live according to her expectations. So, the focus of the play is firmly from the woman's point of view, but the audience can also expect to see some really interesting exchange scenes, as sparks fly between the two generations. 

The fight to express our sexuality is not the same as the Feminist Movement nor the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Yet, there are a lot of parallels as we move towards an era where all these damning labels get discarded one by one. If you have the time and interest, do book a good seat for this show:

Date: 28th May and 29th May 2011
Performances at 3pm and 8pm
Tickets at $36
@ SOTA (School of The Arts) Studio Theatre

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Anniversary: is a partnership automatically 'better' than being single?

Today, an ex-student of mine was featured in Straits Times

Today, a student from a single-parent family was featured in ST. His mom raised him singlehandedly, and she raised a son anyone can be proud of.

Why do I mention him here?

Anniversaries were kept private

Yesterday, my partner Han and I celebrated our 13th anniversary together.

In the past, we kept our birthdays and anniversaries to ourselves. We usually buy a cake and flowers for each other. Barring a few very close friends, we would spend those evenings quietly at home.

One of the reasons why we chose to celebrate quietly is this: as the years go by, it felt like gloating. I didn't know why, but somehow celebrating with others did not feel right.

Flawed views on partnerships

Recently, I saw what stopped us from sharing: I know how being single felt like. Now that we're together, I don't see how we can enjoy the moment when some of our great friends are single. To every single person, declaring our anniversary might come across as a declaration that we'd "succeeded". In order to be successful, in my old view, someone else must fail.

Also, there are many gay and lesbian couples who had stayed together longer than we. AND, there are instances where such long term relationships come to an end. So, celebrating an anniversary is in no way a declaration that a couple has "made it".

Thankfully, age has finally given me some new insights. The main flaw lies in seeing a long-term relationship as 'superior' to that of singlehood or short-termed ones. I'd committed the same folly as the religious fundamentalists who objected to gay marriage, single-parents and divorced parenting: they assume that a man-woman marriage is superior to that of other forms of arrangements. All other arrangements are frowned upon, or worse, discriminated against.

Yet, anyone who knows my ex-student will attest that he is raised as well as - if not better than - many two parents could.

Is there only one right path?

Many people have done quite well as singles. Whether it's singlehood by choice or circumstance, many people has created extraordinary lives despite the lack of a partner. Divorced parents can bring up wonderful children, and children under traditional man-woman households are also likely to face a variety of challenges. In other words, we cannot assume that only one way works for everyone. Given that each individual grows up with distinct abilities, genes and circumstances, it is erroneous to believe that what works for us will work for every individual.

That is what religious fundamentalist believe: there is only one way. All other ways are morally objectionable.

Similarly, if I'd assume that my 13 years together with Han is somehow 'better' than every other arrangements by my fellow lgbt friends, I am, for lack of a better phrase, full of shit. Many of my single friends are doing very well on their own, and what right do I have to judge them according to my personal ideals?

A celebration need not be a comparison

With that realisation, I now share with you that Han and I have been together for 13 years. I am able to celebrate our anniversary fully. Celebrating my happiness does not diminish the varied life experiences of my fellow men and women, because I can see that one celebration is simply an affirmation that I am happy with the choice I make in life - which is to spend it with Han. I am at the same time in awe of all the single men and women who made it work and made it work well. What I cannot imagine doing myself, my single friends made a reality.

Why should a single person not see his/her life as an inspiration or a reason for celebration? Why should single parents be looked down upon or discriminated against in anyway?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cashing In on Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga released "Born This Way" this week. It is her love song to the gay community.

This is the first time a major artist at the top of her game put out a song about gays, lesbians, bis and transgender lives. Before her, there were courageous indies groups or singers, but none of the major pop stars would give us a song. So we adopted "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, we flooded the dance floor when "YMCA" started blasting and our transgender sisters lip-synched to a dozen torch songs written for suffering women.

So I was surprised at the reception of "Born This Way" by some of our own. "If this song is a hit," declares someone, "I will turn straight!" The common observation is that the song sounds like Madonna's "Express Yourself" - which is, to my opinion, quite accurate. But remember that (for those of us old enough) when Madonna was young, she was also relentlessly compared to the previous gay icon Barbra Streisand.

Soon, it's hip to say that Lady Gaga was cashing in on the Pink Dollar. Now THAT I take issue with!

A few days later, covers of "Born This Way" pops up in the internet. Some really excellent covers. What is striking then, is the fact that many of them took out the line "gay str9 or bi, lesbian transgender lives".

This one wants you to buy her tune on iTune:

This one does an excellent cover:

And this one's great too:

They all took out that line. So, either these artists are uncomfortable with the gay community, or they're afraid of losing a portion of their listeners who might be homophobic. Yet, at least one of them asks that you buy her neutered version of the song on iTunes!

So it seems not many people are eager to cash in on the Pink Dollar! Sometimes, we're so hip and clever that we don't know our asses from our heads. Turns out Elton John and Dan Savage are right again - Lady Gaga has more balls than many. If you ask me, some of our own reaction clearly shows that we're dealing with internalised homophobia. Like dogs that were used to abuse, some of us instinctively bit back when Gaga offered us a real present.

"Learning to love yourself " sounds an easy task, but like everything that sounds simple, there is a lot of hard work. The good news is that finally, we have a really cool anthem of our very own by a really cool, ballsy artist. The other good news is that here is another opportunity to learn what is homophobia. 

Those young artists are talented. I hope though that this event gives them the same opportunity to see what is courage and how they can get some courage of their own.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Arguments against Gay people over the years

It has been 41 years since the Stonewall Riots. In 1969, gay Americans finally took to the streets to protest against the constant harassment of police in gay pubs.

Over the years, homophobes have used various arguments to justify the oppression of gay people. The common ones were "Same-sex attraction is unnatural". Various observations by wild-life observers and scientists debunked that argument. Penguins, dolphins, seagulls and many other animals exhibit same-sex behavior in nature.

You'll have to click on the image to see a larger version of it clearly.

The argument then went to "Incest, murder and cannibalism are observed in nature too, should we follow that?" Which is quite silly because homophobes came up with the "unnatural" argument in the first place.

Interestingly, another argument is that homosexuality is an import of Western decadence. Surely our own fine culture and traditions do not have such evils! Yet, in olden Japan and China, homosexual behavior were documented in literature and drawings. Such fine traditional societies on the whole do not frown upon homosexual behaviors. The homophobia started when Western priests came to Eastern shores!

In recent years, religion is a popular refuge for homophobes: "my religion is against homosexual behavior. My God is against gays. Not me!" Homophobes thought that they'd finally found the Last Stand where no scientific evidence nor reason can refute Belief.

Unfortunately, there are many behavior that religion classified as sins. Why then is a few verses and a small group of people singled out for discrimination? 

I'd created a pictorial of the more popular arguments against homosexuality. Hopefully, this will help my gay and straight friends see things from a different perspective.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A university student's project (in Mandarin only)

A university student Kiahui interviewed a few local gay men (myself included) as a school project. It was very well-written, and even though she is straight, she opened her mind to really hear what we have to say.

Click on link: