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social sciences

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In March 2004 the government rejected an application for a forum on gay-related issues open to the public on the grounds that such an open discussion would be contrary to the public good. Moreover, the government has forced a gay-themed publication, Manazine, to censor its contents and keep its distribution limited to specific locations within the gay community.

However, change is occurring, though slowly. For instance, Singapore is home to, a substantial, highly informative website that reports on the Asian (in particular Southeast Asian) glbtq community. And in 2003 government officials--with little fanfare--let it be known that they would no longer be enforcing a policy that had prevented openly gay people from entering civil service.

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However, the new policy does not mean that openly gay and lesbian workers will no longer experience discrimination or negative attitudes in the workplace. Rather, it means that the government has taken a position that it neither endorses nor persecutes gay and lesbian employees.


In spite of conservative attitudes, Singapore stands out from most other countries because of several transgender-friendly policies. Postoperative are allowed to change their name and gender on official documents, excepting birth certificates. In January 1996, the government announced that postoperative transsexuals would be permitted to marry people of the opposite sex.

However, there are neither laws nor policies that protect transgendered Singaporeans against discrimination in hiring or in the workplace itself.

The Singaporean drag scene enjoyed some international recognition with the release of Yon Fan's film Bugis Street (1994), which made its way into film festivals across the globe. The film, set in 1960s Singapore, explores the lives of drag queens living in a residential hotel.

Thus, Singapore is a society rife with contradictions, as the influences of commerce, globalization, and the mass media interact (and often collide) with conservative societal, familial, and filial notions of propriety. There is no doubt that people in Singapore's glbtq community experience more freedom and opportunities today than they have in the past. But the reality remains that they do not yet enjoy equal rights and protections under the law and are, therefore, quite vulnerable in a society with a history of authoritarian rule.

Andrew Matzner

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arts >> Overview:  Asian Film

The recent popularity of Asian films with English-language audiences has allowed Western audiences a glimpse of Asian gay and lesbian identities and gender ambiguities in high-profile queer films.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, one of the world's most cosmopolitan areas, Chinese and Western ideas about gender and sexuality have uniquely shaped attitudes toward homosexuality and transgenderism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Taiwan

Since 1987 a vibrant, politicised, and diverse public queer culture has emerged on the island of Taiwan, though not without controversy.


Chin, Justin. Bite Hard. San Francisco: Manic D Press, 1997.

Lee, Johann S. Peculiar Chris. Singapore: Cannon International, 1992.

Lo, Joseph, and Huang Guoqin. People Like Us: Sexual Minorities in Singapore. Singapore: Select Books, 2003.

Lo, Leona. My Sisters, Their Stories. Singapore: Select Books, 2003.

Ng, King Kang. The Rainbow Connection: The Internet and the Singapore Gay Community. Singapore: Select Books, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: Matzner, Andrew  
    Entry Title: Singapore  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 31, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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