Friday, 18 September 2015

IndigNation Queer Shorts

So I attended my first ever LGBT film festival today. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a film festival, but that’s what I’m calling it, because they screened 4 films and the mood was kinda festive. Haha. In any case, it was BRILLIANT!

I got to know about the event one day while idly browsing through my Peatix app and signed up in 3 seconds flat. I didn’t take a very close look at what they were showing to be honest, just the title “Queer Shorts” was enough to make me buy the tickets.

And so did more than a hundred people it seems.

This private screening was so popular that when I told a friend who might be interested about it, it was already fully sold out. 

That’s a good start.

Well, here are the films shown and my feelings about each one of them. 


1. A Straight Journey: Days and Nights in their Kingdom / 从黑夜到白天:为同性恋拍照时,我们聊了些什么

This was basically a documentary being LGB in China. It was eye-opening and kinda what you’d expect, I mean, coming from conservative China and all that. Having said that, you’d sympathise with the subjects because some of the men have a really tough life, having married wives but being unable to have sex with them because they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. When one said he’d not slept with her for 8 years there was a collective gasp in the audience. Haha. That was funny. 

There were light-hearted moments too, for example, when one parent commented, and I paraphrase, “How do you know you don’t like girls if you’ve never dated them? Do you have a (penile) sexual dysfunction? That can be treated you know.”

This lovely movie was the winner of the ShanghaiPride Film Festival 2015.

It was a good start and I quite enjoyed watching it. I think it’s tougher being LGBT in China than in Singapore just because we are so much more Westernized and (somewhat) more accepting.



2. Let me in / 렛미인

I hated this one. Noir and disturbing, it was a Korean film about a women and a teenage school girl. It was very art-house. Couldn't quite follow the plot. But what I gathered was that a girl wanted to kill herself and fell in love with an older woman. The latter then encourages her to do so and is upset when she failed in her suicide attempt. Girl gets angry and later woman appears to have taken the first step to kill herself as well. Girl later then eats poisoned cake and dies too. Then she wakes up (apparently cake wasn’t poisoned), and watches woman fall of a ledge of a building.

It was weird, violent and gruesome. The organisers kindly gave a trigger warning that there would be scenes of suicide and self harm so we were prepared.

Ah well, the joys of attending a film festival.

Thankfully, the next two redeemed the event. Haha.


3. To Mum (Love Me)

This one was a crowd favourite, probably because it’s set in Singapore. It’s about a young closeted lesbian who accidentally outed herself when her mother found a compromising photo while cleaning up her room.

It then chronicles the journey both mother and daughter take as they try to come to terms with the daughter being gay. The mom is a traditional Chinese mother and tries to change her daughter but later comes around.

Heart-warming really.

4. The Younger / 青親

Last film was as heart-breaking as the previous one was heart-warming. 

It was about a young man who worked at a massage parlour to pay for the medical expenses of his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

We see how he serviced his customers, fell for one of them, got propositioned by one, and raped by another. Shortly after, his grandma killed herself at home. That was really sad.

This short synopsis does not do justice to the show. If you are able to, I don’t know how, do try to watch this, it’s really good.





I was curious and after the film festival ended, I approached the organizers, Stephanie and Muslim and asked them how they dealt with the notoriously strict Media Development Authority (MDA). They said it was a private screening and as they didn’t advertise, it was fine and dandy. I must say I was very lucky to have chanced on it on Peatix myself then.

They mentioned that they are looking at more screenings in the future but nothing’s been confirmed. I really applaud their effort and am delighted that someone’s doing this. LGBT folks can relate and straight ones need exposure, or some of them at least. I’d go for another screening over a Hollywood blockbuster any time man. 

Well, considering how big Pink Dot is getting, I’m sure they’d be no shortage of people getting tickets for their next event. I’ll be posting updates here when they do, so keep a lookout y’all! Alternatively, follow them at their Facebook page at IndigNation Queer Films.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Minority of a minority of a minority

I am gay, Christian, and celibate. And that is probably not going to change very much in the near future. Each successive label places me in an ever smaller subset which can be both liberating and suffocating. I once wrote a rather awful sonnet creatively titled, “Minority of a minority of a minority” chronicling my experience back in 2013.

A good friend tried to matchmake me with a mutual friend yesterday and the dissonance I felt was rather stark. It’s not only because the guy wasn’t quite my type (I think I’m gay with hints of bisexuality), but because she couldn’t appreciate how much my life has changed in the past 5 years. Not that it’s any fault of hers, I never shared my blog with her, what with me blogging here semi-anonymously for fear of repercussions where my job would be placed into jeopardy if I come out because I’m living in conservative Singapore.

Well, she had good intentions, and I don’t blame her, so for my sake, and for hers, I thought I’d just list down how much each label has come to define me.


Part 1: Counselling and Choices Support Group (2011 - 2014)

I first joined a Christian support group helmed by Church of our Saviour (COOS) in 2012. This was after I’d undergone counselling for the intense internal conflict I faced between my sexuality and my faith. It was like a second puberty as these attractions only emerged when I was at a ripe old age of 23 for reasons we will save for another blog post.

In any case, the support group was awesome. It was helpful to meet people who faced the same struggles that I did. To know that I wasn’t alone was a relief to say the least. I went through 3 modules in this system set up by Sy Rogers in his stint in Singapore and it was progressively less and less helpful as it went on. I found that a focus on distant fathers and domineering mothers was something I couldn’t quite identify with. They call it reparative therapy and I must admit that some parts of it did prove to be rather reparative. But over time, it just got a little annoying.

Thank goodness there was a break in between where I attended my first and the last ever…


Part 2: Exodus International Conference 2013

This was the best conference I have attended ever. It wasn’t the just the speakers. God knows. I was only fully awake when Alan Chambers spoke at the opening night because of the adrenaline rush from the anticipation that was built up the entire day. At other times, I was just falling asleep because of the terrible jet lag I suffered.

What impacted me the most were the Refuge Groups held nightly where a bunch of youths and young adults gathered together to share their testimonies. There were probably a hundred people each night and the stories I heard were extremely healing. Men and women spoke about how God convicted them and led them away from their gay partners, abusive relationships and wrong beliefs. To know that I was part of a bigger collective was the most amazing thing ever. I listened intently to each person, my heart beating fast on the last night because I thought I’d share my story. But I never summoned the courage to before the night ended.

It was kinda different from the support group I had here at home. Perhaps because I heard from both guys and girls whereas at Choices we were grouped by gender. And perhaps it was due to the way Choices was structured, I never got the chance to hear the story of how each person, unlike that night at Exodus.

That was part of what led to my next step in this journey where I discovered…


Part 3: Gay Christian Bloggers (2013 - now)

Twitter is a weird and wonderful place where the world truly becomes a smaller place. I found and devoured authors like Justin Lee, Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet and more. The first time I read Washed and Waiting, I felt an instant connection, especially in the chapter where Hill comes out for the very first time. It was exactly how I felt, word for word.

Then I found ordinary folks who blogged, people like Julie Rodgers, Brent Bailey, Stephen Long and more.

Then in more recent times I discovered Seth Crocker, Kevin Garcia and Justin Massey.

All of them provided a community, though separated across the Pacific, but one that was brought very close to me with every tweet and blog post they posted.

I could identify with them as they articulated how I felt about the society around me, how the church and fellow Christians treated me, and the somewhat constant, unending, daily conflict I encounter between my faith and sexuality. Though I must say that it’s a lot better these days.

With the closure of Exodus, the presence of these people (whether affirming or not) solidified my identity as one who was celibate just because that was the conviction God’s placed on my heart.

However, my options are open. I look at Alan Chambers and am encouraged. I am open to the concept of marriage in the future to a man, someone of the opposite sex. This would be nothing short of a miracle and it will certainly be a very special man, in every sense of the word.

However, that is not my aim. Marriage is not an idol in my life, thank God for that. Perhaps I might enter a celibate same-sex relationship like what the folks at A Queer Calling model? I don’t know. We will see how God leads.

All I know is that at this moment in time, affirming theology does not speak to me and I feel that I’m committed to celibacy.

As a result, not any other matchmaking attempt would lead to success. It would take a very, very, very special man to come into my life, and it would be a divine appointment. The same goes for any lady God might send.

Anyway, I don’t quite know if I’d let the said friend read this. She did what she did with every good intention, but I don’t know if she’ll understand, or even make an attempt to understand, my rambling here in this post. Perhaps I’ll share with her one day when I think she is open to the things I’ve blogged about here.

Perhaps.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, I’ll journey along with you, my reader, as I attempt to be a compassionate gay, Christian and celibate voice in sunny Singapore. I will endeavour to do my best to speak up for this minority of a minority of yet another minority because that’s where I belong. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

A conversation with my vocal coach

Because I am tone-deaf, I signed up with a singing school to address the problem a couple of years back. I’ve got an excellent vocal coach who has helped me to sing more and more on pitch. We sometimes talk and have such an intense conversation that we forget about singing and just yak on and on and on. Today was such a day and I thought I ought to share it with you because it contained so many insights and revelations it must be divine. I shall put headers for each section so that I’ll try to stay on topic.


On matchmaking and marriage

It all began when she tried to matchmake me with someone we both knew. I didn’t want to shatter her hopes that the guy isn’t my type so I just humoured her by listening to her theory of how people get together and end up getting married. She made quite a lot of sense and it isn’t anything new.

First people become acquaintances, and then friends. Then you hang out together with a large group of friends, getting to know the person more and more. Slowly you grow closer, and then you commit to one another in a relationship and subsequently marriage.

“You don’t want to stay single all your life do you?” she said.


On SDN* by the church

I then revealed to her I’d signed up for City Connexions, our church’s very own matchmaking service. It was more for fun than anything else, but I told her I was very disturbed by what they advertised.

Have a look:




One statement I didn’t agree with was this: “Marriage should be something that comes naturally along the paths of single Christians.”

Excuse me, are you implying that those who are unmarried are unnatural? 

And of course, my understanding vocal coach pointed out that firstly, those who never get married form a minority. Then, she clarified that just because something was not natural did not mean that the converse was unnatural. It was just less common.

“Perhaps they should have said that it is ‘more common’ instead of using the word ‘natural’,” and I was mollified. 


Of homosexuality and hormones

Throughout our conversation, she mentioned how men with lower testosterone levels became gay at least three times. I let it pass, but on the third time I asked her if she could tell me where she got that from.

She told me that she’d watched it on Discovery Channel. Or was it National Geographic? I can’t remember which. Anyway, she said the show she watched featured a pair of identical twins one of whom was gay and the other, straight.

Scientists proposed that in the womb, one had got a regular androgen wash and turned out male and straight, the other got an insufficient androgen wash which caused him to turn out male but gay.

Very interesting.

But what was more interesting was that she said that when the twins grew up, they measured their hormones and found out that the gay dude had more estrogen and less testosterone.

Now I cannot comment and I have to watch the original show to find out more, but the implications are endless.

Because if a shot of testosterone can stop one from being gay and becoming straight, then why hasn’t this been tried? 

Or has it? I don’t know but I’m gonna find out. (And that will make for an interesting blog post for another day.)

It is fascinating because I once remarked to my friend who’s a medical doctor that I suspected that I had higher than normal levels of testosterone than an average girl.


Trans voices

Which brought us to the next topic. 

I told her about how I found out about Aydian Dowling the heart-throb and how even as a trans male who is extremely buff, his voice did not change much from the testosterone and remained rather high-pitched compared to other trans guys who got onto T and I showed her a clip from YouTube. I took my comparisons from 2 different YouTubers Austen Hartke and Ty Turner before and after T. I must qualify that one’s voice quality does not indicate one’s masculinity or femininity although females generally have voices a touch higher than males.

I asked her if as a vocal coach she had trained any trans people, FTM or MTF, in singing. She said she hadn’t but had met an MTF singer in the industry. She commented that it was easier for FTMs because it you are developing forward and deepening your voice as opposed to MTF who cannot reverse the process.

I told her about Point 5cc, a company setup by Aydian Dowling to provide binders and stuff for FTM because there was a need to provide safe binders and stuff that wouldn’t cause one to faint or suffocate.

She looked at me in horror.

And I tried to alleviate the tension by saying that they wouldn’t be able to sing very well with binders on would they?

She said of course, when you crush the ribcage you cannot sing very well.


Inappropriate gender jokes by pastors 

I later complained about how Pastor Kong was insensitive about gender stereotypes and pointed out yesterday’s message where he said the following, and I paraphrase:

“Men can form friendships easily and become buddies but women, when they come together, they may appear friendly, but internally, they say to themselves, “That girl’s lashes are so long, they must be fake!”

And she interrupted me and said that it was a joke.

I was in disbelief and replied that it wasn’t funny.

She said it’s because she knows people who act exactly like that that she finds it funny and that I didn’t know such people and could not see the joke in it.

I couldn’t. And I was complaining to my good friends A. and T. about it yesterday who both reassured me that our pastor was just appealing to the mainstream by pandering to stereotypes. I was telling them that by his definition I could qualify as a man and I didn’t even identify as trans.

Well, I still don’t find it funny and think that it is equivalent to a pastor making such a joke:

“What did God say when he made the first niggers?

Whoops! Burnt another one!”

That is unbelievably racist and alienating and a sensible pastor would not dare dream of saying such words. Why then jokes on gender?

Sigh.

Ah well, I was at least consoled when Sun, his wife, signalled him to move on yesterday, probably agreeing with me. That is my sole consolation.

Alive or dead?

At some point in the conversation I touched on the fact that 40% of trans people commit suicide. I then asked her the question would be whether we want a trans friend who is alive or a dead friend in their assigned gender. 

She replied unequivocally, "Alive of course!" 

We should always choose life she said. 

I was heartened. 


Well then, that was a summary of our hour long conversation and I’ve done my best although certain things have been forgotten or left out. I thought it was a most interesting conversation and am glad I talked instead of sung today.




*Social Development Network: Singapore’s matchmaking agency run by the state


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