August 2005

Where queens ruled! - a history of gay venues in Singapore

by Russell Heng


 

 

 

 

In the beginning there was Bugis Street. For those who do not already know, Bugis Street is that world famous tourist attraction Singapore had until urban redevelopment wiped it off our map. It was a street where every night Singapore transgenders would gather in a party atmosphere to entertain the public. In its time, Bugis Street symbolized fun, naughtiness and the romance of the East, a reputation Singapore used to have until the present government started to put its stern imprint on the country. Then the Republic gradually became squeaky clean and boring to the world. The Bugis Street transgender scene had its origin probably sometime in the 1950s and because of that, most people tend to think of it as a beginning of the Singapore gay scene. Earlier than that, public memory is a blank. Tonight's talk does tell the story beginning around the time of Bugis Street but I want to stress the point that the history goes much further back and we need to excavate this history more.

Even if we take Bugis Street as a starting point, we should remember that cross-dressing did not emerge suddenly out of nowhere. Across Asia, there is a tradition of cross-dressing and other forms of transgender behaviour in many places with a rich local lexicon and rituals associated with them. If we want to know more about this fascinating topic, a vast corpus of works by colonial civil servants, missionaries and travellers in the 19th and early 20th centuries would yield sufficient accounts of the natives' sexual behaviour, which in many instances shocked the Judeo-Christian morality of their Western colonial masters. Dutch accounts noted that Dyaks, Acehnese, Bugis, Balinese, Javanese, Batak, Minangkebau and Chinese in the vast Indonesian archipelago shared a passionate addiction to vices such as pederasty and homosexual sodomy [footnote 1] For example, let's look at an extract from the physician Julius Jacobs after his visit to Bali in the early 1880s where he observed many dance performances by young boys dressed up like women:

"One knows that they are boys, and it is sickening to see men from all strata of Balinese society proffering their kepengs (Chinese coins) to have the chance to dance with these children, sometimes in the queerest postures; one is still more revolted to discover that these children, sometimes after exercising for hours in a perpendicular position, are compelled, utterly exhausted though they may be, to carry out horizontal maneuvers with the highest bidders, after being fondled by this man and kissed by that." (Einigen tijd onder de Baliers, eene reisbeschrijving, met aanteekeningen betreffende hygiene, land- envolkenkunde van de eilanden Bali en Lombok [Batavia: Kolff, 1883], italics in the original) 

But is historical material on homosexuality to be found only in colonial text? What exist by way of indigenous literature? Here I want to stress that I am not an expert on the subject. I do not read Malay let alone Jawi. However for the purpose of this talk, I decided to do a quick literature search to see what it would throw out. I found two references. The first is Serat Centhini, an epic Javanese poem dating back to 1616 which has detailed descriptions of sodomy, fellatio, mutual masturbation and transvestism. The poem shows that male homosexuality was an unproblematic, everyday part of a highly varied traditional Javanese sexual culture [footnote 2]. The second reference is the Hikayat Panji Semarang, a classical Malay text which tells the story of the Javanese hero Panji and his exploits in the ancient Malay archipelago. The tale provides a string of moral vignettes as well as numerous references to "cinta sejenis" between same-sex couples [footnote 3]. If my brief search produces two references so quickly, I am sure an earnest scholar or student of Malay literature will turn up more. Where research is concerned, the subject of homosexuality in Chinese and Indian literature is quite well covered. What is needed is somebody to work on Malay literature and give us a more comprehensive account.

Excavating our history beyond Bugis Street is also important to provide answers to some of the questions that continue to plague our lives today. Let's look at the anti-homosexual legislation that remains till today. Most of us know about Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 19th Century Victorian England but not many would know or remember that 377 is really gender-free. It does not refer specifically to male homosexual acts. That was to come later with Section 377a enacted in 1938. Ask yourself what was the world like in 1938. In Europe, Germany was on the rise. In Asia, the Japanese have already encroached on Chinese territory. These events were pointing to the impending Second World War, which began the dismembering of the British Empire. So in 1938, the British colonial regime had much bigger problems to worry about than the issue of men screwing each other. Well may we ask why did they bring in Section 377a. This is one of the big historical questions that I hope would spur more people to research our history and help to answer.

That is my brief hardsell on the need to look as far back as we possibly can into our history. I shall stop here and get down to tonight's topic proper, that is to recount a history that begins with Bugis Street as one of our earliest remembered gay venue. Basically tonight's talk deals with what I call "living memory". It means talking to other old queens to tap their memory. 

 

Foreword by Yawning Bread

This was the talk that Russell Heng gave on 16 August 2005 at for IndigNation, Singapore' first gay and lesbian pride month.

 

The popular Hokkien name for Bugis Street was Pei Suah Pu, meaning where white sand floats. I do not know why. As a street with a name, Bugis Street still exists today but there are no traces of that old street where the transgenders used to ply their trade. The old street was a long one stretching from Queen Street through Victoria Street to North Bridge Road. Today it is truncated with one section entirely swallowed up by the Parco Bugis Junction complex. But the transgender scene was in that section between Queen St and Victoria St, now called the New Bugis Street behind the Bugis Village building where Boom Boom Room used to be.

If you want a mental picture of the old Bugis picture, imagined old shop houses before they were made pretty like they are today. In the evening, the street is closed to traffic and zhi cha stalls set up rows of table. Usually at around 9 pm, the first of the transgenders would arrive but you have to wait till at least 11 pm for the party to start warming up. The transgenders would move among the tables. If you strike up a conversation, they would sit down and chat. You can offer to buy drinks, which were not cheap with Coca Cola sold at $10 a bottle. Yes, t was a time when soft drinks were sold in bottles not cans. The exorbitant $10 was like a cover charge to see a show. However I cannot be certain if there was ever an arrangement for the drink stalls to pay a commission to the transgenders if they get tourists to buy the over-priced drinks. On a busy night, you can have as many as 40 transgenders. I also remember some interesting characters like the little girl who went round challenging tourists to play noughts and crosses for either 10 or 20 cents. She never lost a game.

When researching this presentation, newspaper articles jolted my memory about important events I have forgotten. Our popular perception of Bugis Street is always one of an entertainment venue where there is so much camp and people having a good time. But Bugis Street was not a continuous happy party all the way to 1985 when it ended. In 1980, the police started to harass the transgenders, forcing them to migrate to Orchard Road or Geylang. I found this newsspaper report quoting a Delphine Tan about how hard a life it was operating away from Bugis St: "We were beaten and abused by some Singaporeans who despised us. And we were always being raided in Orchard Road. At least here, the foreigners are more broadminded and treat us well". On returning to operate on Bugis Street, Delphine continued: "This is our home. It is where all our friends are. This is the only place we can go where we are accepted and appreciated."

But despite feeling more at home working on Bugis Street, it was not easy to make a living there towards the closing years. Another transgender who worked there called Bianca said where once they could make $300 a night, now "we are lucky to get $50". The Bugis Street scene came to an end in October 1985 when the bulldozers moved in.

What is not well known is that over-the-hill Bugis Street transgenders sexworkers downgrade themselves to the far more dinghy Johore Road. Where is Johore Road? You cannot find it marked on a Singapore map today. I had problems pinpointing it on the map until a friend pointed out that the old road was in that area, which is today the Victoria Street Whole Sale Centre, bounded by Ophir Street, Queen Street, Arab Street and Victoria Street. Here the older transgenders shared the scene with old female prostitutes. At Johore Road, you did not get the carnival scene where tourists bought over-priced drinks. It was high turnover low cost sex and the age and body of the transgenders showed it.

A transgender Tina Lee, 60 year old, who was sexworker for two thirds of her life said that after she was too old and ugly to have any market value, she worked as a dish washer but lost the job when employer found out she was once a transvestite, fearing she had Aids. Remember Aids came on to the Singapore scene in 1984 with the first reported HIV positive case. She then lived in a rented room on her savings. She said: "no matter what they do, the government should realize there will always be places like Bugis Street. They should help us by giving us a place to stay and ICs so that they will know who we are and we are not criminals. We don't want sympathy nor do we want to be ignored. We just want understanding". In a way, Tina's attitude is very familiar to all of us today. There is a need to get the Singapore government to licence your behaviour and make you legitimate. 

Let me say something about the sexual ethos and professional code of conduct among those who worked on Bugis Street. Thirty years ago, the butch he-man type, many of whom were of working class background, could be found buying sex on Bugis Street and not in the gay bars. Let me recount a story about a friend whom I shall call Eugene that best illustrate a certain mindset that was not uncommon in those days. Eugene had a crush on a char kway teow hawker in his neighbourhood. Kway teow seller was also one of the local samseng with tattoo on his body, which drove Eugene wild with lust. Eugene was prepared to pay him for sex but to no avail. Then Eugene wised up to the fact that the only way to hook local butch men was to go in drag and seduce them on Bugis Street. Lo and behold, one night, Eugene in his wig and dress met kway teow seller on the street and tables were turned. He was prepared to pay Eugene for sex. In those years, many butch men could only bring themselves to have sex with another man if the latter turned himself into a surrogate woman by going drag. It probably lessened the guilt for them.

I also want to make a point about the code of conduct for sexworkers on Bugis Street. You could say Eugene, my friend who held an executive position in an MNC, was freelancing on Bugis Street. He did not need the money but he had to charge. You cannot give sex for free and spoil the market for the others. If words got around that you were giving it for free, you would be beaten up by those who really needed to earn a living.

Meanwhile in the 1970s, another gay social scene was emerging on Orchard Road, which distinguished it from the commercial sex scene on Bugis Street. Singapore began to see the first of its gay bars where gays met to socialize and cruise (without charging for sex). What was the name of Singapore's first gay bar? Many believed it was Le Bistro in the late 1960s. This bar was in the Tropicana Night Club situated at the spot on Scotts Road where today sits Pacific Plaza. However, in 1973, I met a gay New Zealand soldier in Wellington who recalled that in the 1960s when he was stationed in Singapore, he used to go to the Golden Venus bar at the Orchard Hotel. The Orchard Hotel is still around but the skyscraper we see today is very different from it was in the 1960s; a building with just a few storeys and a small open air carpark in front. After hearing the gay Kiwi soldier, I asked a friend in Singapore to check out the Golden Venus Bar. He reported that there was indeed such a bar at the hotel. It was one of those places where the tables were covered with white table cloths and a sprig of orchid in a small vase was on every table top. The waiters were mainly Hainanese in their 40s wearing starched white shirts with little bow ties. It was brightly lit and there was no sign of gay life. On the night my friend went there was no sign of any other life except the waiters and himself. I am inclined to believe Le Bistro was indeed Singapore's first gay bar.

Le Bistro was around since the 1960s. I just heard an account from a bisexual friend who started going there in the late 1960s but said it was then not yet gay. It was really just a hip bar, very conducive for hanging out. The building that housed Le Bistro was the exclusive Tropicana Nightclub, which was probably Singapore's first performing venue for topless musical revues. Le Bistro was for those who either could not or did not want to pay the cover charge to see the topless revue in Tropicana upstairs. The appeal of Le Bistro was also the live music provided by an Indian woman singing and playing the piano behind a huge horseshoe bar. She alternated with a male guitarist. Sometime in the early years of the 1970s, the gay clientele started to come. They never turned the place entirely into a gay bar. Gay and straight clientele would sit round the bar listening to the performers. The bar was well patronized but never chock a block full like some gay bars or discos can be nowadays. 

In the early 1970s, gays started going to the Pebble Bar in Hotel Singapura Continental. That hotel was actually completed in 1965 as part of the Singapore government's plan to turn Orchard Road into a tourist belt. Hotel Singapura Continental became the Hotel Forum before it was replaced by the present Forum Galleria building. I remember the Pebble Bar was located to the left of the small hotel lobby if you entered by the front entrance. Pebble Bar had a small dance floor, which could have won it the accolade of being the first gay disco except that same-sex dancing was strictly prohibited. The bouncers would stop any gay couple from doing so. Today we take same sex dancing for granted but it is important to bear in mind that this was not allowed till the early 1980s. In the 1970, the only way for gays to get around the restriction was by bringing along their fag hag friends and dancing in a mixed group. Pebble Bar also had a live band called Tania made up of three guys. The singer Alban de Souza wore androgynous make-up. Tania was well-liked which explained the attraction of the Pebble Bar.

Following Pebble, gays colonized the Tree Tops Bar of the Holiday Inn on Scotts Road. The Holiday Inn became the Royal Holiday Inn for a while before becoming today's Plaza on Scotts. Tree Tops was on the right hand side of the lobby as you entered the main entrance. It too had a live band which was popular with its clientele. During that time, the hotel was a hub for gays. Besides having a gay bar, the hotel coffee house Vienna Café was also a gathering place for gays. The café was across the lobby from the Tree Tops, on the left hand side of the hotel front entrance. While Tree Tops Bar is no longer around, the Vienna Café is and some of the stain glass décor to simulate a Viennese café is still part of its look today. The Vienna Café also had live music. A small orchestra played light classical music, mainly Viennese waltzes. So the whole set-up was rather elegant or pretentious depending on how you look at it. What is undisputed is the gay crowd loved going there because if you get tired of sitting in the bar, you hopped across the lobby to have a coffee or a piece of pastry in the café.

 

Unfortunately, the scene did not last. The hotel management decided it did not want Tree Tops to be a gay venue and started refusing to serve people whom they thought were gay. It was not a pleasant experience to be turned down and some gay people protested. I had a friend who did just that and the hotel PR person backed down. But not enough gay people stood their ground and so Tree Tops lost its gay reputation quickly. If this were to happen nowadays, I think the bar would run into greater resistance from the gay community.

I want to stress this difference between then and now. Way back then, the ambience of a gay bar was never as comfortable as what they are today, beginning with the act of ordering your drink from the bartender. In most gay bars today, customers take for granted that the bartenders know they are working in a gay venue probably owned by gay people and have to serve gay people with a welcoming friendly attitude. In the old days, you got a feeling that you were in the bar at somebody's sufferance. There was always a touch of tension or suspicion when you ordered your drink, very unlike the easy casual relationship that you could have with waiters and bartenders in gay bars today. There was no sense of ownership of a gay venue that today's gay community enjoy.

People often asked me how did a bar become gay? I have never investigated this deeply. I suspect it was mostly serendipity; for example, a group of gay people going to a place, then liking the music or the ambience, went back frequently. They then told other gay people and the word got around that the place was attracting a gay clientele and this trend would grow unless the bar owner put a stop to it, as was the case with Tree Tops Bar. This is very different from today's bars where the proprietor set up a venue deliberately for a gay clientele. 

Another significant difference across the decades was the prevalence of the rice queen in the 1970s and 1980s. A vast majority of Singapore gays in the Orchard Road bar scene were also unmitigated potato queens. They just found it beyond their imagination to have sex with another Asian. Looking back it was a rather restrictive dreary scene and I am glad the gay scene has moved on.

The 1980s brought significant changes at gay venues. The taboo against same-sex dancing was breached. According to my memory, the trailblazer was a seafood restaurant at the end of Punggol Road, which turned its premises into a gay disco on Sunday nights. Allowed for the first time to dance with each other, gay men flocked to this place packing it to the brim. Bear in mind how far the end of Punggol Road was and how much taxi fare past midnight would have cost. Furthermore, if the place was packing them in on a Sunday night when people had to wake up early the following day to go to work, it demonstrated how starved of a place to dance gay people were. I suspect that the remoteness of the place could have helped it to evade police detection. Alternatively, the police knew and was prepared to close one eye because being in such a distant corner of Singapore, it disturbed nobody. What I cannot remember and neither could a few old queens I asked, is what was the name of that seafood joint. At that time, the end of Punggol Road had at least three seafood restaurants. It could be any one of the three. 

The packed Sunday discos signalled to entrepreneurs that there was money to be made from the pink dollar. The idea of Sunday discos where gay people could dance with each other caught on. Throughout the 1980s, other venues offering the same grew: Shadows which became Marmota at Kallang Leisuredrome; Hangar at Summit Hotel which has since been redeveloped into a condominium known as The Summit on Upper East Coast Road. 

 

 
Added by Yawning Bread:

Opera Cafe

A similar end came to Opera Cafe. In the early 1990s, when Boat Quay had been newly gentrified and made into a riverside dining and pubbing strip, one of the classy cafes somewhere in the middle of the stretch was Opera Cafe.

It lived up to its name by playing operatic arias (mostly Western arias, but occasionally Chinese opera music as well), which must have repelled straight young men and their girlfriends as much as it attracted gay men.

It was also famous for introducing Singaporeans to Tiramisu cake.

Having a gay waiter or two didn't hurt, and it soon became THE destination for a slightly more upmarket gay crowd whose idea of a good life was a dinner date complete with wine and a to-die-for dessert.

It was never exclusively gay, though on any night, about half the tables had identifiably gay customers.

It grew very popular and almost all weekend nights saw full houses. Before long, however service standards started to fall. Orders took forever to arrive, and food quality slipped as well. But its reputation kept up the steady flow of customers.

Then the management turned homophobic, and the door captain kept telling same-sex couples and groups that all the tables had been reserved. Yet opposite-sex couples were always waved in. 

Word of boycott spread throughout the gay community. This would be around 1993 or 1994.

What did it in is hard to say: it might have been the declining food and service standards, it might have been the boycott, but within a year at most, Opera Cafe was no more.

 

 

 

Then in April 1983, somebody took the scene a bold step forward by opening a fulltime gay disco Niche, located in Far East Plaza. With Niche operating on the Orchard Road belt on a nightly basis, would such a stepped up profile invite police action? Evidently the police did not do anything for Niche went on to become a fixture on the gay scene, packing them in on most nights. The question many gay Singaporeans today may ask would be did Niche get a permit. The notion of getting licensed by the police has become more and more entrenched in us over the years as witnessed by the controversy when IndigNation decided that it would not bother applying for a licence. I know Niche did not bother to apply for a licence because there is no category of licence that exists to endorse same sex dancing. The owner of Niche who later opened the karaoke bar Inner Circle on Tanjong Pagar Road told me that he just gauged the political mood in 1983 and decided to test the waters. He got away with it. This is an important lesson for us to note. Advances in the gay community happened because individuals took risks and pushed the envelope. Progress does not just drop on you from heaven. 

Niche was followed by another disco Legend in the Lucky Plaza building where there was also Vincent's bar, another longtime fixture on the gay scene.

I should also add that the 1980s was an interesting decade in Singapore's political history. Beginning in 1981, J.B. Jeyaratnam the then leader of the Workers Party won the Anson by-election breaking the 100 per cent monopoly of Parliamentary seats held by the Peoples' Action Party (PAP) for a good one and half decade. When Niche opened in 1983, it was just one year before the historic 1984 general election where 10 per cent of the popular vote swung against the PAP. It gave the party a jolt and made its leaders realise that their old way of talking down to people could not continue. This political shift was credited to a younger generation of voters coming on to the scene who were better educated and informed than their parents. Thus "liberalization" came into the political vocabulary of Singapore and in the second half of the 1980s was given more form and profile by Goh Chok Tong, the man who would succeed Lee Kuan Yew. This was the sort of social-political-economic environment that gave birth to Niche.

The second half of the 1980s saw another bold step forward by gay Singaporeans. I refer to the first political expression of gay people. Three playwrights (two men and one woman) wrote plays with gay themes in 1988. They all ran into censorship problems but it marked the beginning of a long struggle into the 1990s to put homosexuality on the theatre menu. We tend to think of venues in terms of physical places. What we should note and celebrate too would be those occasions when gay Singaporeans stake a claim on public space, be it social intellectual, artistic or political in nature. This space is intangible but it is also more enduring than those physical venues that come and go. Gay Singaporeans have carved for themselves a huge share of the art scene and the art scene has also helped gay Singaporeans to find a voice as a community.

The significance of the 1980s was the development from a gay scene to the beginnings of a gay community. But the decade did end on a cautionary note to gay Singaporeans. Niche had its liquor license withdrawn in 1989 and was given only a week to close down; no reason was provided for the police action but a person, personally involved in the running of the disco, believed it was a reaction to the first reported case of an AIDS death in Singapore. Anecdotal evidence also seems to suggest that after 1989 the police intensified surveillance and entrapment of homosexuals in public cruising areas. Space that is won can be taken away. The lesson is space has to be constantly safeguarded.

A major development in the 1990s was an attempt early in 1993 to start a gay support group. This could be seen as the first time gay Singaporeans tried to organize. It began informally when three gay men explored casually the possibility of setting up such a gay movement in Singapore. In the months that followed, a few more people came into the discussions, which were held in cafes and private homes, less like meetings than friendly chit chats over cups of coffee. Two concrete concerns animated their conversations: the decriminalization of homosexuality and the registration of a movement with the Registrar of Societies [footnote 4]. This desultory group grew bigger and called itself People Like Us (PLU). Gay men, lesbians and bi-sexuals were involved. I was part of that development but I must confess the early months were difficult months, often uncertain about how to take the movement forward beyond the endless rounds of telling coming out stories. There was also that fear about how the police would react if the group becomes too upfront. 

An event on 30 May 1993 provided the impetus for more focused organization and activity. That night, the police conducted a raid on Rascals disco in the Pan-Pacific Hotel (gay only on Sunday) and a number of people were taken to the police station because they did not carry identification papers. They were not charged but this was clearly an act of intimidation. Raids on gay places were not new in Singapore but what was different this time was that a group of about 20 gay people sent a letter of complaint to the precinct police station [footnote 5]. This must have surprised the police used to gay people being too frightened to protest against harassment, and they sent an apology.

The incident galvanised PLU into action to educate gay Singaporeans about their legal rights. This took the form of a monthly forum held at the Substation open to anybody who turned up. At these sessions, a talk and discussion on gay or gay-relevant issues would be held. For the first time, gay Singaporeans had a forum to share their thoughts and raise grievances. The numbers coming to these meetings ranged from 20 to 80. If the Singapore gay movement ever get round to putting plaques on buildings that were important in gay history, Substation deserves such a plaque.

 

By the end of the 1990s, the saunas came on to the scene in a big way. Gay saunas is another good example of how facilities do not come about unless somebody is prepared to take the risk and push the envelope. There is no such thing as a permit for a gay sauna. Like the owner of Niche in 1983, sauna operators just decided to test the limits by setting up their business. It was a case of somebody starting first and when others saw that the police did not intervene, they leapt on the bandwagon. That explains why this city at one stage had eight gay saunas.

The second half of the 1990s also saw the gay scene shift from Orchard Road to Tanjong Pagar Road and Neil Road in Chinatown. The critical mass of gay venues on these two roads as well as a few other nooks and crannies in Chinatown enlarge the gay claim on the landscape. Gay venues in Chinatown are stamping their collective identity on an entire neighbourhood in a way that they never did at Orchard Road. To use a popular term, Chinatown is fast becoming a "gay ghetto", something not many cities in the world have.

The next big leap forward was gay venues in cyberspace. With the advent of IT, Singapore's gay community was alert to the possibilities of the Internet. A few members of the PLU core group have been preparing an alternative in expectation of the group's failure to gain legal recognition. On 15 March 1997, they launched a newslist called the Singapore Gay News List (SiGNeL). To be sure this is not the only cyberspace venue for gay Singaporeans to interact. Other newslists included SinGLe (Singapore Gays and Lesbians) and Singapore Pride, to name just two. Increasingly, gay Singaporeans are also becoming confident enough to set up individual homepages announcing their gay identity. In its pioneering days, SiGNeL was useful as a forum for debate and a means of information dissemination. It therefore helped create an intellectual climate of openness and mutual support. SiGNeL has not remained purely as chatting in cyberspace. Subscribers have used it to organize large meetings in restaurants, trips to concerts and school reunions for gay alumni. Thus the list has contributed substantively to community building.

The potential of the Internet for gay activities was taken another big step forward by the Singapore-based regional gay portal fridae.com. This happened when the world was on the threshold of a new millenium. After fridae.com in 2000 came the Nation party on Sentosa island in 2001. I do not intend to dwell on Nation because many in this room know about its fantastic development over its first four years. But four years of success had not won it any immunity from capricious official regulations. This year's demise of Nation, which has given rise to IndigNation should be seen as an object lesson that space won can be so easily taken away. Just as Niche lost its liquor licence in 1989.

To close on a more cheerful note, Indignation 2005, Singapore's first gay pride month is taking place across several venues in a gay neighbourhood of this city. This is a scenario gay Singaporeans would not dare imagine when the first gay bars began to pop up in the Orchard Road area 40 years ago. 

What of the future? Nobody knows for sure whether Singapore's gay community will continue to expand its claim on public space and give us more wonderful venues to enjoy and to express ourselves. But if this talk has a lesson for the future, it is that space does not just get handed out to you on a silver platter. You have to push the envelope and seize opportunities when you see them. When space is won, do not take it for granted. Space gained can be as easily taken away unless you guard it zealously. Finally, I want to reiterate that tonight's historical tour only covered living memory. Our history as a community is much more than what I have said tonight and I would like to see more people joining the effort to research this history together.  

 
Postscript: I should point out that I have not said anything about lesbian places. The reason is I do not know much on this subject. I also believe the task is best left to lesbians who would probably be in a position to do it more efficiently. I look forward to an account of lesbian history. In the Q&A session that followed my talk, the audience reminded me that I have left out a very important aspect of gay venues: the cruising places. Many immediately recalled Hong Lim Park and the Esplanade and the list grew a lot longer through the evening. That is good. We should all be pooling our memory to put together as much of our shared history as possible.

 



 

 

Added by Yawning Bread

Saunas

At the high point in late 2004, the eight exclusively gay saunas were (in order or opening)

Rairua (on Neil Road)
Blue Heaven (Jalan Pinang - Bugis)
One Seven (Upper Circular Road)
Shogun (Telok Ayer Street)
V-Club (Mosque Street)
Raw (Ann Siang Road)
Towel Club (Loke Yew Street)
Papillon (Keng Cheow St - Riverside Piazza)

There was also Diamond (in Sultan Plaza, Jalan Sultan), which preceded all of them, but it has never been exclusively gay, just predominantly and unspokenly so.

 

Footnotes

  1. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, “Professional Dreams: Reflections on Two Javanese Classics” in Language and Power—Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia, 1990, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. pp 277-78.
  2. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, “Professional Dreams: Reflections on Two Javanese Classics” in Language and Power—Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia, 1990, Ithaca: Cornell University Press pp278-86.
  3. Noor, Farish A. “Porn and the Sheikh” in The Other Malaysia - Writings on Malaysia’s Subaltern History, Kuala Lumpur: Silverfishbooks. 2002. See endnote 1 on p 278.
  4. The History and Herstory of PLU, People like Us, Issue 7, June 1994, Singapore (copies available at Pelangi Resource Centre, Singapore).
  5. A fuller account is available at the website www.yawningbread.org (see article The police raid at Rascals disco)

 

Addenda

None