Singapore LGBT organisations

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Historical

Real world

  • Yagga Yagga support group - the third, but most well known, of the initial support groups for gay men ever to be organised in Singapore. It had two sessions, Yagga Yagga 1 and Yagga Yagga 2, separated by several months. The previous groups were named Northern (something) and Forbidden Fruit. All were started by activist Alex Au. The same format would be carried into future support groups such as the current and immensely popular Oogachaga. Yagga Yagga was targeted at men who embraced their sexuality late in life. Operational for 12 months, its last session ended in June 1999. Read Yawning Bread's round-up of the group's experiences: [1]
  • SiGNeL gatherings - informal social meetings of the Singapore Gay News List for the then-nascent Internet gay community. The first was organised by list owner Alex Au at a local Chinese restaurant several months after SiGNeL's founding. Its first anniversary was held on 15 March 1998 at Goodwood Park Hotel and organised by activist Kelvin Wong. Gatherings in later years were held at the pub EMOH at Upper Circular Road, organised by Miak Siew and at the Centrepoint food court, organised by Patrick Lee.
  • The NUS weekly tea group for womyn
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  • Singapore Lesbians and Naughty Girls (SLANG) - a social group for lesbians operating around 1996 to 1997. It was set up by a night spot manager who later went on to become a local entertainment icon. T-shirts and caps with the group's logo were printed for members.


  • Plu.edu.sg - founded by J. Koh and D. Chua in the mid-2000s, it was a group of Singapore-based teachers, educators and supportive colleagues from a range of institutions and backgrounds. They offered support to their members through regular meetings and social events. Their long-term mission was to achieve a situation in Singapore schools in which each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Gay teachers who were interested in joining this group could apply to join via e-mail.
  • One In Ten [2] - a non-profit organisation initiated in July 2002 by Fridae, inspired by Hong Kong's Fruits in suits. It sought to facilitate networking opportunities for gay and lesbian professionals and to foster economic interdependence to build a strong, cohesive and supportive LGBT community. The group met on the 3rd Thursday of each month, and sessions typically began with a speaker on a topic of general interest, and concluded with an interactive segment to meet others in the group. Participants were reminded to bring lots of business cards for registration and interaction. Former website: [3]. Former e-mail address: oneinten@fridae.com. It met with a poor response, probably because the concept was too ahead-of-its-time for the relatively closeted LGBT business community in 2002, and ceased to function after a few months. It was the forerunner to the successful 5Degrees.

Cyberspace

Non-profit

  • SinGLe - a short-lived, unmoderated newslist set up in the late 1990s by a renegade moderator from SiGNeL, the Singapore gay newslist (see below). It suffered a premature demise after a few months due to unregulated postings of a large amount of rubbish.
  • Auntie Teck (also known as AuntieTeck.com) - a website connecting lesbian and bisexual women in Asia set up in 1997 by an elusive lesbian called "Auntie Teck" [4]. It closed down in the mid-2000s.

Commercial

  • fluffboy.com - believed by many to be a spin-off from SgBoy after the latter's first run in with Media Development Authority in 2004 although Sgboy has officially denied any links [5]. In September 2004, the MDA objected to "raunchy pictures" and explicit sexual language on the SgBoy site. This led to a fine of S$5,000 (US$2,940) in November 2005 and SgBoy was asked to remove "offensive" content. Fluffboy.com was banned in late 2005 by the MDA for allegedly promoting homosexual promiscuity. This was done by blocking access to the site by Singapore-based Internet surfers.
  • Cream – an LGB portal, modelled after Fridae.com which hoped to carve a niche by offering to host videos of local gay events. It closed down in early 2007 due to poor response.

Contemporary

Real world

Activist

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  • People Like Us 3 (PLU3) [6] - the first and still the main gay-equality advocacy group in Singapore, started in 1993 by Joseph Lo and later joined by activists Alex Au and Dr. Russell Heng.


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  • Pink Dot SG – a non-profit movement which evolved from Roy Tan's intention to hold Singapore's first gay pride parade at Hong Lim Park in November 2008. After discussions with stakeholders, the concept of forming a giant pink dot, suggested by Choo Lip Sin, was unanimously approved of and Singapore's historic, first, open-air LGBT-supportive event was held on Saturday, 16 May 09 at Hong Lim Park. In 2011, Pink Dot events spread throughout the world.


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  • Sisters In Solidarity [7] - a transwoman support group formed by Marla Bendini and Tricia Leong in 2009 to combat discrimination against transgender women in Singapore.


Religious

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  • Heartland [8] - the gay Singapore Buddhist discussion group spearheaded by activist Kelvin Wong in 2003.


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  • Safehaven [9] - a non-denominational Christian group which has been gathering since 1998 for prayer, Bible study and fellowship. Gay affirmative and made up of different age groups, backgrounds and religious traditions. On Saturday, 10 January 2004, it organised a Family Reunion Dinner hosted by Rev. and Mrs Yap Kim Hao [10]. The aim of the inaugural dinner was to help its members and their families deepen their relationships. It was co-organised by 26-year old Alphonsus Lee who attended the gathering with his father. Safehaven is now one of the ministries of the Free Community Church.


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  • The Free Community Church [11] - Inaugurated in 1999, the Free Community Church holds weekly worship services on Sunday 10.30am at 56 Geylang Lor 23, Level 3, Century Technology Building, right opposite to the Aljunied MRT Station. (See Fridae interview with Chairperson, Jean Chong in 2004: [12]).


Social

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  • Rainbower [13] – a social group for gay men set up by former Oogachaga 5 support group member, Andrew Chan and J. Chew. It seeks to organise social, strictly non-sexual, outings once a month to foster bonding, friendship and support between homosexual men in Singapore.


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  • Adventurers Like Us (ADLUS) - the Singapore sports and outdoor activities network for gays and lesbians. It was started by Kelvin Wong, who later handed over its management to Dr. Ethan Lim. Lim relinquished his leadership in 2009 and the group has been much less active since then, maintained by several volunteers. ADLUS has both a website [14] and an active mailing list [15]. The mailing list is the main communication hub for the network. The website was revamped in September 2006 to become more user-friendly. ADLUS activities encompass many sporting activities and the group actively promotes sports and outdoor activities within the GLBT community. The website also list major events in the Singapore sports scene. They were the network that helped send Singapore's first sports team to the Gay Olympics in Sydney, Australia.


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  • Women's Nite [16] - Started by Charmaine Tan and Eileena Lee in 2002, Women's Nite provides a safe, neutral and alcohol-free space for lesbians and bisexual women in Singapore to gather and discuss the issues relevant to their lives. Talks and workshops are also held. It runs on the last Saturday of every month. Charmaine Tan, Eileena Lee, Tan Hui Yee, Amanda Lee, Gea Swee Jean and Sylvia Tan are currently the women working behind the scenes [17] for Women's Nite.


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  • MenAfterWork (MAW) [18]- a group that organises strictly non-sexual social outings for gay men. Formed by Shenzi Chua in the 1990s. It currently appears to be inactive, with some of its activities taken over by Friends Like Us.


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  • Friends Like Us (F.L.U.S., pronounced "flas") [19] - an LGBT social enterprise which aspires to be the nexus between business, innovation and community work. They are committed to reaching out to diverse members of LGBT society with the primary objective to better lives through entrepreneurial and other community projects. Net proceeds from their ad hoc activities and events including Dragon Boat racing, inline skating, kayaking, movie outings, a dating club, gatherings and trips, are used to fund community service initiatives including their Caresports, Careout and Carefund programmes. Address: Blk 1 #01-13 Yishun St 23 YS-ONE Singapore 768441. Tel: 96315540.


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  • SAFE Singapore (Supporting, AFfirming and Empowering our LGBTQ friends and family; see [20], Fridae article) – a support group founded in December 2006 by a team of 4 heterosexual women to provide information and resources for straight people struggling to accept their queer friends and relatives.


  • CACTUS (Community Action for Us) [21] – a non-profit social group for LGBT people in Singapore. It aims to function like a community club, having its members actively volunteering to organise social events and activities. Its goal is to improve the social well-being of its members and the gay community at large.


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  • The Bear Project [22],[23] - a Singapore-based, gay community of bears, cubs, Gmen, stocky, big-sized guys and their fans. They aim to exchange ideas, go on organised outings and mingle with each other.


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  • SinQSA (Singapore queer-straight alliance)[24], [25] - a group founded by Sam Ho, Jennifer Teo, Kelly Then and Jean Chong to bridge gaps between queer and straight people, thereby contributing to the creation of a harmonious, compassionate Singaporean society, where there is substantive equality, regardless of individual differences such as gender identity and sexual orientation. Its objectives are to:
  • 1) Provide an open, inclusive platform where queer and straight persons can engage in meaningful communication.
  • 2) Promote substantive equality regardless of individual differences such as gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • 3) Raise awareness of gender or sexuality-based discrimination, harassment and violence.


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  • SgButterfly [26],[27] - Singapore's first and largest transgender web portal and support group founded by a heterosexual man, Daniel Kaw.


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  • SgGurls [28],[29] - singapore's second transwoman support group which seeks a higher social profile and aims to reach out to mainstream society.


Counselling

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  • SPACES counseling and community [30]- is a non-profit counseling and volunteer community service agency. It is consciously inclusive and welcome people from diverse backgrounds. The vision of SPACES is to work with Singaporeans of all walks of life to draw on often hidden strengths and resources of minority communities such as the elderly, racial minorities, sexual minorities, immigrants as well as other minorities such as the disabled, ex-convicts, youth-at-risk and so on to partner with individuals and groups to serve and empower less fortunate individuals and communities in our society.


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  • Oogachaga [31] - was started by artist Jason Wee and friends Steve Wong and Kenneth Lau in 1999 as a support group for young men in their 20s. It was subsequently handed over to Daniel Tung, Bryan Choong, YY Teh and at present CY Kong. Its first women support group was started in 2005. Better known as “OC” today, Oogachaga has expanded its target group to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) individuals of various age groups with services including counselling, personal development and support groups, forums and workshops. OC also conducts workshops and seminars for counsellors and other professionals working with LGBTQ clients. OC is currently run by three full time staff and over 50 volunteers. Its first and current Centre Manager is Bryan Choong; Oogachaga talks have become highly-anticipated guidance and mutual revelation sessions for the gay community (see Singapore gay conferences). On 18 Feb 2006, Oogachaga started a hotline service 626 86 626, Singapore's first hotline manned by gay volunteers. This community outreach service enables callers to talk about issues regarding their sexuality issues or to find out more information on HIV and STI.


  • The Looking Glass [32] - a free counselling service run by a group of queer-friendly woman volunteers who provide women with strictly confidential and anonymous counselling through e-mail. In April 2001, the tragic suicides of lesbian lovers Michelle Yong and Wee May May in Singapore prompted 10 volunteers from RedQuEEn! to get together to be trained by professional counsellors. Their goal was to listen, counsel and help those who were pushed to the edge by their daily negativities and problems encountered in urbanized life.


Healthcare

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  • Action for AIDS (AfA) [33] - a gay-supported and gay-supportive AIDS advocacy and AIDS services charity started by a group of doctors in 1988. It organised successful campaigns to break down the 'only homosexuals get AIDS' stereotypes, to change the 24-hour cremation rule and to create greater AIDS awareness in school sex education. It publishes 'The Act', a free periodical which provides Singaporeans MSMs with safe-sex and AIDS-related information.


Youth

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  • Young Out Here (YOH) [34] – an LGBTQ group for teenagers and young adults formed in 2006 by J. Kwok, E. Tay and B. Xue. It provides support to individuals between the ages of 16 and 22. Young Out Here emerged from its low-profile background in 2007 to organise and publicize its talks and social outings to the GLBT community at large. Young Out Here is now a queer youth community group, organizing both support groups and events for queer youths


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  • SGRainbow [35] – started as an online youth portal and has now gone beyond the capacity of cyberspace to reach out to GBQ men aged 18 - 35 years old. It is currently run by volunteers who believe in change in the community. The group aims to provide a platform for GBQ men to develop themselves personally and socially. Its e-mail address is contact@sgrainbow.org


Cyberspace

Non-profit

  • The Singapore Gay News List (SiGNeL) [36] - started on 15 March 1997 (the Ides of March, having a cryptic coincidental symbolism with the slaying of Caesar) by activist Alex Au. Its subscribership has grown to over 2000 and it represents the main platform for intellectual discussion of gay issues in Singapore. SiGNeL postings have been archived in Yahoo! groups since 1999.


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  • Blowing Wind gay forum [37] - an online forum for gay men in Singapore started in 1997 to discuss any issues which concern them. However, it eschews political topics.


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  • Gay SG Confessions [38] - Started in February 2013 in the footsteps of a host of popular "confessions" websites, this is a Facebook page that hosts a collection of user-contributed personal stories by gay, bi, lesbian, straight, transgendered "and those who have yet to make up their minds". Originally started as a confessions page for gay Singaporeans, the page has since began to receive and publish stories from readers around Asia and the rest of the world. GSC stands for the LGBTQI individual who for whatever reason, is prevented from fulfilling his or her true potential and is lacking a voice to speak out, as seen from its majority of readers who are still in the closet due to social stigmatisation and discrimination of the gay community in Singapore and around the world.


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  • RedQuEEn! [39] - initiated by former PLU3 president Eileena Lee in 1998, this e-mail list for queer womyn, provides a safe online discussion space. Having started from an initial group of 17 women, its membership currently numbers over 1000. With discussions ranging from the serious to the very humorous, the list provides online support as well as friendship and networking opportunities. RedQuEEn! initiated the monthly gatherings called Women's Nite at Pelangi Pride Centre for queer women living in Singapore (see above). Its postings have been archived in Yahoo! groups since 1998. On 17 August 2002, it held Singapore's first women's safe-sex workshop and potluck party. [40]


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  • Sayoni [41] - a Singapore-based platform for Asian queer women, comprising a blog [42], and a forum [43]. Founded by a group of women from diverse backgrounds, age groups, economic status and ethnicity, it aims to empower queer women via a two-pronged approach to encourage dialogue within the community and to educate the general public. Both its media are open to public view.


  • The online IRC community #AJ [44], founded by channel owner YiJan in 2001. Although it started as a cyberchat service, it has since forged many friendships and formed real-world bonds. Channel #AJ is currently situated on the Galaxynet IRC Network. It can be accessed either with an IRC client or #AJ's downloadable customized mIRC.


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  • The Hong Lim Park Forum [45] opened its doors on 13 August 2004 and quickly became the premier discussion board for mature gay Singaporeans, with good participation from mature Asian men from around the world. For some time, it was touted as the world's largest English language-based online forum for mature Asian men, although Mandarin and Japanese language exchanges were not uncommon. However, interest waned and it ceased functioning in early 2006. It is now only a skeleton website.


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  • Gay To The Bone [46] is an online LGB community writing project hosted on the blogging website Blogspot. It is targetted at teenage and young adult Singaporean LGB individuals. It enables them to submit stories about their struggles, coming out experiences and relationships with friends in Singapore. It hopes to assist queer teenagers with their life struggles via offering a space for people to voice their thoughts. It also aims to educate non-queer readers via these real-life tales. It is currently inactive and has been superceded by PLUME.


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  • PLUME [47], an acronym for People Like You and Me. It is Singapore's first Internet discussion forum catering specifically to LGB teenagers. It was an offshoot of Gay To The Bone and was founded by Zee in 2006. It is also hosted on Blogspot and has been inactive since 2009.


  • Maleculture [48] - a website set up by entrepreneur Max Lim, closely affiliated with Raw sauna, providing information and support for gay Asian men.


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  • As-Salam Singapore [49], a newslist dedicated towards helping LGBTQI or queer Muslims living in Singapore reconcile their sexuality with their faith through a safe and peaceful platform, namely, a place of as-salam.


  • SAMBAL [50],[51], the Singaporean And Malaysian Bisexual women And Lesbian international e-mail list, caters strictly to women only from Malaysia and Singapore. Members come together virtually to discuss Malaysian/Singaporean lesbian and bisexual women's cultural, social and political experiences/issues. SAMBAL was co-founded by Madeleine Lim, a Singapore-born lesbian based in San Francisco [52] who was the first local lesbian personality to be featured in a Fridae article.


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  • Fabulous Asia [53] – an online lifestyle portal based in Singapore for Asian queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Its main objective is create a safe place for the LGBT community to obtain information and interact. The web portal consist mainly of original and third-party articles, a forum page, videos, a resident doctor contact form and the latest LGBT news from around the world].


Commercial

Singapore is unique in Asia in having very established commercial LGBT portals owing to its high Internet penetration rates and the restriction on homosexual topics in print and broadcast media. These portals provide a large measure of support to the gay community, as evidenced by their enormous patron base which dwarfs the throughput of all the above-listed volunteer-maintained sites.

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  • Trevvy [54], formerly known as SgBoy - set up in March 1999 by Dominic Yeo who was then a National Serviceman, the site was originally Yeo's personal web site and was known as "Singapore Boy Homepage" before it was renamed SgBoy [55]. It became known for its Singapore city guides, classifieds and online discussion boards which enjoy a high degree of participation and deal with a diverse array of topics. It also traditionally hosts a birthday bash every year to commemorate its founding. It is one of the most popular LGBT portals in Singapore and has managed to introduce a whole new perspective on Asian gay culture to the world at large. It underwent a makeover, rebranding itself as Trevvy.com in August 2006, shifting its focus to the more mature 25 to 40-year age group of the local gay market and expanding it user base regionally. Yeo sporadically contributes articles to the site, writing under the name of Ted Young.


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  • fridae.com [56]- Asia's largest English-language LGBT portal has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in December 2000 by scientist-cum-entrepreneur Dr. Stuart Koe. It has achieved much of its mission statement of "empowering gay Asia" and is the most socially responsible commercial gay organisation in Singapore.


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  • Herstory [57] - a website for grrrls which organises real-world events like the annual Butch Hunt[58], [59],[60] and Femme Quest [61] contests. It was started by Cary Tan in June 1999 and initially called Club Herstory [62]. In December 2002, it rebranded itself as simply, "Herstory" with the launch of its new website and its new monthly parties held on the first Sunday of every month at Velvet Underground, a section of the Zouk disco complex [63]. These migrated in 2005 to Gotham Penthouse, #03-01, Blk. 3A, River Valley Road, Clarke Quay. The host of the parties was singer Shirlyn Tan [64]. Other social activities include Grrrls Night Out parties, various sports and dance classes.


Related Links:

  • Utopia's Singapore LGBT listings: [65]
  • Oogachaga's publication on LGBT resources in Singapore (2011): [66]

References

  • 16 July 2002 Fridae article on Singaporean LGBT social support groups:[67]

Acknowledgements

This article was written by Roy Tan.