Imagining the Gay Community in Singapore

Author: Kenneth Paul Tan; Gary Lee Jack Jin

Abstract:

Through an analysis of public responses to two separate but related events in contemporary Singapore — a church's claim that “homosexuals can change” and a former prime minister's published comments about openly gay civil servants in his administration — this article explores how a “gay community” has been imagined in Singapore, where homosexual acts remain illegal and where a “conservative majority” has been ideologically mobilized by the state and moral-reli-gious entrepreneurs. A close reading of the debates within SiGNeL (the Singapore Gay News List) and the local mass media reveals ideological struggles—and, in particular, gay activists' role in these struggles — surrounding a basic contradiction between Singapore's exclusionary laws and practices and official state rhetoric about active citizenship, social diversity, and gradual liberalization. This rhetoric is aimed primarily at attracting foreign talent and retaining mobile Singaporean talent in a globally integrated economy that is increasingly dependent upon creativity and innovation.
Countries: Singapore

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© 2004 ILO/Cassidy K.