Many might not know this, but there are restrictions to homosexual relationships between guys (in short, gays) in Singapore.
In a concluding speech on the public debate over the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code (the official law on gay relationships in Singapore) in December last year, PM Lee said, “Singapore is basically a conservative society…The family is the basic building block of this society. And by family in Singapore we mean one man, one woman, marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework of a stable family unit.”
According to Wikipedia, Section 377A (“Outrages on decency”) states that “any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.”
However, Section 377A remains sporadically enforced. The last time this law was used to charge a defendant was in November 2010. And on 29 October 2014, a Singapore Supreme Court ruling upheld the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men.
In Malaysia too, gay rights are mostly unrecognised. The government has also retained the penal code from the colonial era, criminalising sodomy largely because the country’s official religion is Islam. As such, many of the country’s religious groups tend to discriminate against the LGBT community.
But just as we can’t choose what cards we are dealt in life, homosexual males can’t choose their sexual preferences either. And while both countries do not condone homosexuals, that hasn’t stopped these pockets of communities from forming in Singapore and Malaysia.
Pockets of gay online and offline communities in Singapore
To find out more about them, we spoke to James (not his real name) to find out where these communities hang out, both online and offline. Apparently, the more well known apps for gays are Grindr and Jack’d, where James met his current partner.
Similar to how dating apps work, Grindr allows you to easily set up your profile, fill up basic information, and chat with other homosexuals around the area. Grindr claims to have over 4 million users in the world, and its recent announcement read: “The Grindr community has just exceeded 4 million users worldwide, meaning there are more guys on this mobile social app than anywhere else.”
To experience how guys pick each other up on Grindr, we tried the app ourselves.
Getting greeting messages from other app members is relatively easy: as soon as our profile went live, we were bombarded with Hi-s and Hello-s. A stark difference we noticed on Grindr — as opposed to WeChat, where we pretended to be a lady in an earlier Vulcan Post After Dark story — was that guys tended to go straight for the ask/the kill without the need for small chat. Most of them asked where our location was, and if we wanted to meet up right there and then.
There is no mistake that Grindr hosts a thriving community of homosexual guys in Singapore.
What about offline? How does the community meet offline?
We tried to get more information on these parties, but James declined to share more.
Read More On Page Two: Common Misconceptions About Homosexual Males
Common Misconceptions About Homosexual Males
However, John openly discussed with us some of the misconceptions people have about homosexual males. We also talked about the problems faced by homosexuals, as well as their sexual encounters:
“People Choose To Be Gay”
James told us that he felt depressed and “out of the norm” because he was attracted to guys. Things changed for the better, however, when he later opened up to a few close friends.
The hardest part for James is that he has no clue on how to face his family. “Asians still have the traditional conservative mindset and they might not agree on homosexual relationships. I don’t have the courage to tell my family about my sexual orientation yet,” James said.
Gay Community Apps
“Female Or Male”
While the world has made great strides in accepting the gay community, there are still many marginalised individuals who face difficulties when coming out. In November last year, for example, CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, came out and publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation — an act which divided Apple fans.
There have been successful movements to raise awareness of gay rights in Singapore — such as 2014’s Pink Dot that gathered 26,000 people — with the support of several large sponsors like Google, Barclays, BP, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and ParkRoyal on Pickering. Yet homosexuals in Singapore often continue to hide the truth from their friends and family, while searching for others through online communities and mobile apps such as Grindr.
Technology is playing a larger role in helping the gay community connect with others facing the same issues, and despite the strict laws in place in Singapore and Malaysia, these online platforms remain a safe place where the community can thrive.
This article is part of our Vulcan Post After Dark Series. Have a dark story that you think more people should know about? Drop me a note at email@example.com. You will be kept anonymous.