“I fear being always angry, but I fear the day I stop being angry so much more.” The importance of having strong queer communities in Singapore. Fikri for Autostraddle.
My partner is my closest friend and my safe space. She’s kind, endlessly supportive, and when the rest of the world shuts out this angry brown queer, she gets it. I am so, so lucky to have her with me.
But I need more than that. We both do.
We need friends and we need family. We need community. We need support systems, especially because so many like us see the ones that we were born into or that we grow up with taken away from us. It’s often said that Singapore has a large gay community, but I’m not sure it’s accurate to conflate having a large number of gay people with having actively engaged, connected communities built around queer identities, and this statistical speculation is one that is incongruent with the experiences of my peers and me. Maybe we’re too young, maybe we don’t go to PLAY enough (or ever), or maybe we just haven’t been looking in the right places. We’re not isolated, in general — most of us have healthy social lives and are privileged in our education and careers — but we struggle to find groups in which we don’t feel different.
Community building is impossibly difficult when we’re literally denied spaces to come together, a problem that is endemic in civil society here. It is slowly getting better, and I’m fortunate to be in a place and time to witness this happen. Groups like Sayoni and events like IndigNation allow us to meet and connect with other LGBTQ people in places that don’t (always) involve alcohol, darkness and anonymity.
Yet these spaces can only do so much. While actively repressive techniques — like police entrapment, criminalisation of expression and repeated exclusion from legal avenues of assembly — are too far back to be part of my personal memory, they’re still recent enough to cast a long shadow on today’s activism. Organising as we see it now, operating just under the radar in public view but not always with public permissions, is impressive but stops short of being able to reach out to the ones who need it the most.
During International Autostraddle Brunch Weekend I found myself at a mini-roundtable about coming out with my partner and two people I’d only known as acquaintances before, and I thought, “This. This is what I’ve been missing.” To be at home among people who make you feel at home: it makes a world of difference. This is what so many queer youth need and it’s what so many of them here don’t have.
Partly in jest, my partner and I often say we want to live on a queer commune in the future. Some of this is literal: the idea of a self-sustaining group household appeals to us on so many levels. More fundamentally, though, this queer commune is a metaphorical expression of the desire for a family life that is richer and more diverse than what the state-sanctioned heteronormative model affords us, one that is bound by affection and responsibility rather than designated roles. We want to live in a society that respects and values that, or at the very least does not actively seek to extinguish it. This is not that society.
I’d like to stop being angry, you see. I’d like to stop having to fight for my space and my voice. I’d like to stop because there is no longer reason to be angry, because these are things we no longer have to fight for, and not because I no longer have it in me to be angry. Yet today I hold scarce hope for the world of the former – so I fear being always angry, but I fear the day I stop being angry so much more.
Featured Image: Asia One