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.