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Singapore gay literature

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 3 months ago


 

Singapore gay literature covers LGBT-related writing in Singapore and include plays, novels, short stories and poetry. They also include non-fiction works include books and essays or chapters within journals, websites or books for either scholarly or general readers. In the following, works are categorised by literary genre.

 

Plays

The increasing boldness of local authors in sympathetically addressing LGBT themes is intertwined with the growth of English-language theatre in Singapore since the mid-1980s. It was in theatre that writers first challenged the cultural taboo surrounding homosexuality. A fairly regular stream of gay plays were staged in Singapore throughout the 1990s, raising the public profile of sexual minorities.

 

  • Lest the Demons Get To Me (1993) by Russell Heng depicts a dilemma in which a male-to-female transsexual resents having to dress up as a man to perform funeral rites as her dead father’s only son. The play highlights a society that is rather crushing on the protagonist’s desire to be true to herself. [http://shop.fridae.com/newsfeatures/article.php?articleid=652&viewarticle=1&searchtype=author&textby=Alfian%20Sa%5C'at] [http://www.yawningbread.org/guest_2001/guw-073.htm]

 

  • Private Parts (1994), a comedy by Michael Chiang, addresses the theme of Singapore society’s capacity to come to terms with gender minorities in the form of transsexuals. The Straits Times reported that "Private Parts, with its remarkable performances and poignant message, is a special production that should not close until every person in this country has seen it". The play has also been performed in Mandarin. [http://www.citylightschicago.com/michael.html]

 

  • Mergers and Accusations (1995) and Wills and Secession (1996) by Eleanor Wong, the first two parts of a trilogy, tell the story of a lesbian marrying a man, leaving him and falling in love with a woman. In charting her heroine’s personal struggle to win acceptance from family and social circle, Wong pushes the 'coming out' message and moves closer to activism than seen in Heng or Chiang's more descriptive treatment of the subject. [http://inkpot.com/theatre/01reviews/01revmergaccuwillsece2.html] [http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/96/1129/feat1.html]

 

(For other plays, see Singapore gay theatre).

 

Novels

Novels with LGBT-related themes began emerging in Singapore literature scene in the 1990s. Among the earliest work is Different Strokes (1993) by David Leo portraying victims of AIDS. [http://www.ethosbooks.com.sg/store/mli_viewItem.asp?idProduct=86]

 

  • Abraham’s Promise (1995) by Philip Jeyaretnam tells a story of a father’s rejection of and then coming to terms with his son’s homosexuality. This is no exploration of the world of a gay man, for the homosexual character hardly speaks. Its intellectual touchstone is the political culture of post-colonial Singapore where many feel marginalized with little promise of respite in personal or professional life. [http://www.thecore.nus.edu.sg/post/singapore/literature/jeyaretnam/holden1.html] [http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/jouvert/v2i1/Holden.htm] (ISBN 0824817699)

 

  • Peculiar Chris (1992) by [Johann S. Lee] (Cannon International, 1992 ISBN 9810035578) [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9810035578/102-0378171-4874553?v=glance&n=283155]

 

  • Glass Cathedral (1995) by Andrew Koh- a prize-winning novella, the winner of the Commendation Prize of the 1994 Singapore Literature Prize. [http://masqueradedwaltz.blogspot.com/2005/09/glass-cathedral.html] (ISBN 9971006707)

 

 

  • Asking for Trouble (2005) by Jason Hahn, an 8-days journalist, who based his humour book on his experiences with living with two high-maintenance women, with free advice from his 2 male friends, one gay, the other married. [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9812610251/102-0378171-4874553?v=glance&n=283155] (ISBN 9812610251)

 

  • Bugis Street by Koh Buck Song. [http://www.qlrs.com/issues/jan2003/interviews/kohbucksong2.html]
  • [What are You Doing in My Undies?] (2002) by Jon Yi about a man's change into transvestism. [http://www.selectbooks.com.sg/getTitle.cfm?SBNum=32460]

 

 

  • The Narcissist (2004) by Edmund Wee (Times Editions, May 2004, ISBN 981232819X) [http://www.fridae.com/newsfeatures/article.php?articleid=1279&viewarticle=1] [http://www.writers.net/writers/books/22277?PHPSESSID=b6258c26b2698ea27a185c87a4301dd3]

 

Short stories

LGBT-themed stories are found in different collections of short stories. Examples are:

 

  • Corridor: 12 Short Stories (1999) by Alfian Sa'at, (Raffles Editions ISBN 9814032409) contains a several stories with GLBT themes. 'Pillow' looks at a difficult inter-generational relationship. 'Cubicle' is about the physical intimacy two lesbian students often steal in a public toilet. A flamboyant transvestite character appears in 'Bugis'. Finally, 'Disco' deals with an older man who is staring to discover the youth-dominated gay club scene. This book won the 1998 Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award. [http://selectbooks.com.sg/titles/28982.htm]

 

 

*Students' collections like Onewinged with stories like The Transformation and Extracts from Fairy Tale by Cheryl Lim and Sim Yee Chiang respectively

 

  • Pte M, a short story by [C.S. Chong] in NS: An Air Level Story about an effeminate soldier who tries to be intimate with the protagonist who feels nothing but revulsion, despite not rejecting the unwanted advances until the last possible moment.

 

 

Poetry

Cyril Wong came out into the scene in 2000 with poetry that was confessional in style but universal in scope. Completely "out" in newspaper and magazine interviews, he is the only openly-gay poet to win the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award for Literature. His books include:

 

 

(Read reviews of Wong's work archived on his website:[http://www.cyrilwong.com/Htms/reviews.htm])

 

Alfian Sa'at's first collection of poems One Fierce Hour (1998, Landmark Books) contains the poem 'Plaza Singapura', which deals with gay male cruising in a popular shopping mall. Gay themes are also touched on, more tangentially, in some of the other poems.

 

The last poem in Alfian Sa'at's second poetry compilation, A History of Amnesia (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2001), is entitled 'We Are Not Yet Free'. Written in twelve parts, the poem is a response to the infamous Josef Ng affair (for more information, go to: [http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2005/yax-420.htm]).

 

While Luo Qining's poem Asshole (found in Onewinged), disparages and stereotypes effeminate behaviour as gay and "asshole", the epithet could also refer to the abusers in the poem, which invokes sympathy for the effeminate character.

 

Alvin Pang's The Scent of the Real, a tribute to Cyril Wong, is value-neutral and talks of Cyril Wong's sexuality as a fact, not something disgusting or abject.

 

Toh Hsien Min and Yong Shu Hoong have written poems about friends coming out to them in On a Good Friend's Admission that he is Gay and A Friend's Confession. Both were suspicious that their friends wanted sexual relations with them.

 

Gwee Li Sui in the eponymous book with the poem Who wants to buy a book of Poems talks about how (most of the) poets are limp-wristed and "ah kua". In the following poem, Edward, he depicts the sad life of a cross-dresser past his prime.

 

Non-fiction

Academic works address various issues related to LGBT.

 

 

 

There is also a medical reference writing on sex-reassignment.

 

  • Cries from Within (1970) by S. Shan Ratnam; Victor H. H. Goh and Tsoi Wing Foo- an illustrated and user-friendly tome on sex-reassignment surgery and its attendant psychological considerations by two eminent gynaecologists and a psychiatrist. [http://www.rootsweb.com/~lkawgw/shanratnam.html]

 

A few works on gender studies for both general readers and academic interests

 

 

 

The following are works mainly for general readers.

 

 

 

*[F.O.C: Freedom of Choice] by Leslie Lung features 20 short stories about people struggling against their sexual orientation. A short commentary by Lung accompanies each story. The premise of the book is that individuals can choose and change their sexuality. It advocates gay people can and should become straight, but never advocates that they remain gay. [http://www.exodusasiapacific.org/singapore.htm]

 

LGBT writing on the Internet

 

  • The Yawning Bread website[http://www.yawningbread.org/index2.htm]-a high-quality, award-winning collection of essays on various topics, particularly Singapore LGBT issues. It was started in November 1996 by activist Alex Au and has grown to be the leading site for intellectual comment on gay issues in Singapore.

 

  • [fridae.com][http://www.fridae.com/index.php?6708&¬login] and [sgboy.com][http://www.sgboy.com/] are web-based, gay-themed magazines that feature news and commentaries.

 

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