Embracing Modernity: Sex Education & Drag

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Tangential Laterality; Dramatic Realness / Special Pride Edition

TL;DR is our way of bringing you condensed versions of recent news stories. Each edition contains just two stories that we believe are worth your time. We promise you should be able to digest these bite-size summaries in just under 3 minutes!

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Inclusivity in limbo: The push and pull of progress in Singapore

Singapore often heralds itself as a country that is diverse, equal, and inclusive. Initiatives like Racial Harmony Day aim to bring together people of all ethnicities and races, but there is no denying the underlying racism that still exists in some contexts.

Similarly, even though the government has started to take steps towards LGBTQ+ inclusivity by repealing Section 377A in 2022, there are still people who strongly oppose this change. 

Most recently, the Science Centre cancelled a talk that was centred around gender, sex, and sexuality due to backlash it received online. The talk was targeted at those aged 18+ and was set to feature a drag queen, a local youth counsellor, and a professor of gender and sexuality studies. 

The event had been posted on Facebook, where there was widespread criticism. Ms. Carol Loi, a parent and educational consultant said that while the topics were useful, the event was “not representative of good science”. 

Many others were justifiably upset with the cancellation. In their statement, organisers of PinkDot, an inclusive movement for LGTBQ+ rights in Singapore, highlighted the fact that this was not the first cancellation of this nature since the repeal of 377A, and expressed concerns over the lack of free speech and ways of living in what is regarded as an inclusive society.

According to a survey by Ipsos, 43% of Singaporeans are neutral on LGBTQ+ expression in public, and 30% are against it. However, there is a larger percentage of support for gay marriage and adoption rights, at 54% and 57% respectively. Sociology professor Shannon Ang says that the fact that there is a sizeable portion of neutrals proves that there is room for engagement and discussion to move forward.

Currently, there is also a “Protect Singapore Scorecard” going around that aims to let voters know which politicians “protect family values” to let them make “informed decisions”. They measure this via several metrics, including a politician’s attendance at PinkDot’s annual Pride event.

Even so, several politicians, including PAP MP Darryl David attended and expressed their support for diversity. The event, which followed the theme “No One Left Behind”, saw thousands of attendees celebrating  the LGBTQ+ community. They also took the opportunity to  pen letters to PM Lawrence Wong, highlighting the challenges faced by the community and advocating for a more inclusive Singapore.

With a growing need for inclusivity that seems to oppose deep-rooted cultural and religious values, Singapore is stuck in a tug-of-war between stagnancy and progress. 

With many Singaporeans remaining neutral on this issue, and initiatives like the Protect Singapore Scorecard gaining traction, how can the queer community and its allies secure the support of those on the fence?

Fearlessly Swift: Filipino drag queens step up

If someone looks like Taylor Swift, sings like Taylor Swift and dances like Taylor Swift, then they probably are Taylor Swift. Except that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s Filipino drag queen, Taylor Sheesh. 

Sheesh – whose name uses the colloquial term to mean “cool and thug-like” – does amazingly accurate recreations of the global pop star’s legendary tour – only not in stadiums, but rather malls and smaller venues. Sheesh has done many shows within the Philippines (one of Swift’s biggest fan bases, once garnering up to 10,000 attendees in Quezon City), as well as Singapore, Bangkok and Melbourne.

Sheesh went viral early on in the Eras Tour last year for her impersonation of Swift, which skyrocketed her popularity and resulted in the attendance of huge crowds of devoted followers who all wanted the Taylor Swift experience. Swift’s only stop in Southeast Asia was in Singapore, which meant that many Swifties from neighbouring regions could not attend.

The drag scene in the Philippines is a vibrant one – ‘Drag Den’, a regional drag show on Amazon Prime, has challenges that are specific to Filipino culture, and features Manila Luzon, a Filipino-American drag queen as its host and one of the judges. 

Luzon says that the Philippines has one of the “best drag scenes” in the world, but that the rest of the country is unaware of it, as it mostly operates underground. She hopes her popularity in the country will help others embrace their true selves as well.

In a 2021 global index created by UCLA, the Philippines ranks among the highest in the Asia Pacific region for LGBT acceptance, and hosted the very first and one of the biggest pride parades in the region as well.

Despite the thriving queer and drag cultures, and an apparent widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in the country, they are still subject to hate. Recently, Sheesh was assaulted during one of her shows, where a male audience member was seen reaching out his hand to hit her. 

In response, Sheesh reinforced the need for the SOGIE bill, which would criminalise discrimination against the queer community. The bill was first introduced 20 years ago, but little to no progress has been made in committing it to law. 

The fact that the SOGIE bill has not yet passed, but there is legislation protecting religious interests is very telling of the double standard present in the country.

What does Filipino drag culture tell us about using art as a form of resistance?

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