Yawning Bread. August 2006

Nice pineapple tarts




Page 37. Jeremy Kwok's story:

I had my first boyfriend in Sec 2..... I was with him sixteen days: no holding hands, no kissing, no nothing, just a promise. He dumped me on a rainy day, without an umbrella. He had an umbrella but he took it home with him. What an asshole.

The world came tumbling down for me. I couldn't get over him and it showed in my work. My teacher, the wonderful Miss Brenda Lee, called me into her office and asked me, "What's wrong? You're not being Jeremy." So I told her everything, and she listened and held my hand, but she was worried. So she told the Head of Counselling. Big mistake. That horrible woman went and told the principal and they actually discussed my gayness with all the teachers in the staff meeting. Imagine that: the whole school. I heard some teachers actually respected me a lot for coming out. But some of the big-mouthed ones actually went back and told their kids, "Don't tease Jeremy. He might not be able to take it." And so the names came back again. Ah kwa. Bapok. Faggot.


Page 38:

The school sent me to a church-based "de-gayification" centre. We're not even a Christian school. The people gave me one whole stack of notes which I felt were condemning other religions. They made fun of how Kuan Yin was male and female at different times, and showed me testimonials of so-called ex-gay people who'd "reformed" through reparative therapy. They put me in a room and showed me deliverance videos, about demon exorcisms and effeminate men, talking about how they'd married ex-lesbians and had children. Wonder how. They had to confine me, they explained, because I was too dangerous for group therapy. I could penetrate the environment and convert all the ex-gay people into ex-ex-gays. So dumb, I thought. All that energy for nothing. So I walked out. I didn't care. If I can be ex-gay, you can also be ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-gay. It's just perverse, trying to convert people from their nature.

Page 39:

Some time after that my mum and I went for counselling of our own accord. It was at this Woodlands Family Centre in a void deck near our home. My mum would just sit there and cry, tissue after tissue after tissue, talking about her pain and disappointment. I was sitting there stoned because the same thing happened over and over again those past three years. Then the counsellor, who was a straight woman, finally told her, "Ma'am, look at yourself. Your son is not the one with severe emotional issues. You are."

So my mum stayed for private counselling, while I went home.

On 23 August 2006, the mother went with her son, Jeremy, to the book launch of SQ21 – Singapore queers in the 21st century. The emcee, Sam Wu, got a few of the contributors to the book to come forward to the front and tell the crowd how they felt about telling their personal stories in print. Jeremy was among those who went up to say a few words.

But before he began, he told the room of over 200 people that his mother was also there. He beckoned to her to stand up to be seen. She did, giving a shy smile. The crowd broke into applause.

Quickly, she sat down again. I couldn't see from where I was, but perhaps she broke out the tissues once more.

* * * * * *

SQ21 is a compilation of true stories by 15 Singaporeans. Fourteen of them are lesbian, gay or bisexual. But the fifteenth is a mother – of two gay sons.

The first-hand accounts are not just deeply touching, but for anyone who is not gay, probably mind-blowing. In the stories, you'll get to walk a little way in their shoes, negotiating space and relationships with family, friends, colleagues, even strangers. Not all of them turn out well.

Page 108:

When I walk down the streets with my girlfriends holding hands, I can see people staring and whispering.... When you walk past they will stare at you from a distance and say, "Oh, lesbians," or "Haaaaah, this kind of girls," not shouting it out but within earshot, making sure you hear what they say.

Alas, I have the faint suspicion that the people who most need to read the book will not. The human tendency is to choose to watch, listen and read stuff that reaffirms our preconceived ideas. We're not anti-gay, people say, it just doesn't interest us. And then many of these same people will write in the comments section of this article that those two lesbians asked for it. They should not have been holding hands. Why do you homosexuals (they can't even speak the word "gay") always want to flaunt it?

But stop for a moment and consider: In a country where homosexual sex is still a criminal offence, where the state policy, particularly over the media, is that homosexuality should be cast in the most negative light, and where stereotype, social prejudice and job discrimination are seldom checked, the 15 people run considerable personal risks by agreeing to be featured. It takes a hundred times more courage and fortitude to be gay than to say "faggot."

Dominic Chua came out to his entire class of junior college students in August 2005. Soon after, he met one of his students on the road with another student he didn't know.

Page 79:

... the one I didn't know, kind of poked me in a friendly way, and said, "Die, faggot, die."

I was quite freaked by that. I mean, sure it was moderated by his tone of voice, but to think that that kind of line comes to mind of a 17-year-old when he meets or is confronted with someone gay -- it says something frightening about the kind of cultural messages that are being put out about gay people.

Would anyone like it, if meeting someone you didn't know, the first thing he says to you, albeit jokingly, is "Die, chink, die"?

As Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh (founders of one of Singapore’s most popular websites, Talking Cock) said in their foreword,

while we recognise the stories in this book as ordinary accounts of human beings with flaws, we were also struck by the sheer courage displayed by the contributors -- the real names, real photographs, real stories, and perhaps the real cost that must be paid for such candour. We feel outraged and saddened by the tragic irony that to be accepted as ‘ordinary’ requires an act of superhuman bravery.


Questions! Questions!

Isn't it unprofessional for a school counsellor to blab about any student's problems to the whole staff faculty?

Why does a non-denominational state school send its students to a Christian cult group?

How can the government close one eye to the religious hatred spread by such groups?


But SQ21 is as much about love, understanding and commitment. About fathers who tell everyone else, "She's my daughter. If you have a problem, screw you."

About a big Indian, very strict, supposedly-conservative course commander in the military who one day told his men,

Page 133:

"The weekend's coming. You all are booking out. Why don't you all go get yourself a fuck? So, how many of you got girlfriends?" Various hands shot up. "Boyfriends?" Then everyone turned and looked at me, and I was thinking, "Shit you!"

Then the course commander said, "Why? What's wrong? Why? Who's anti-gay here?" A few people put up their hands. He pointed his finger and said, "Okay, you. Get out of your seat. You also, get out. You go sit over there, one corner. You can all form the anti-gay corner over there."

... he took this kind of initiative to defend me... And after that, it was plain sailing all the way.

Only 14 of the contributors were present at the book launch. Mohammad Irwan T Karim couldn't make it because of a prior appointment. He was getting married the day after, in Zurich. To Patrick.

© Yawning Bread 



The interviews in SQ21 were conducted, transcribed and juggled by Ng Yi-Sheng (right), and edited by Jason Wee (left).

Yi-Sheng himself recalls an encounter from Chinese New Year with an 80something year old widow and neighbour.

Neighbour: These are nice pineapple tarts.

My mother: Yes, why don’t you tell Mrs Gan about the nice book you’re writing?

Yi-Sheng: Yeah, um, it’s a book on homosexuality in Singapore.

(Uncomfortable pause)

Neighbour: Oh my. Is it rampant?



  1. SQ21 is published by Oogachaga Counselling and Support and is available at leading bookstores such as Borders and Kinokuniya. It is also available through the online store of Fridae.com

  2. You can discuss the book with the author at the blog