07 August 2007

More great moments in television history

(Part 2 in a continuing series)

Very shortly after touching down in Singapore, Sir Ian McKellen begins to ask reporters for directions to the nearest gay bar. The climate of oppression against homosexuals in Singapore has either dissipated recently, or has always been a myth invented by certain activists - luckily for everyone, The New Paper, former (or supposed) scourge of many a gay agenda in the early 1990s, did not publish this headline in font size 42 on the front cover of the following day's issue:

"Ian McKellen, gay sex tourist?"

Lessons for gay activists

In part, the nonreaction and the unscandalised treatment of this affair could stem from the charm of Sir Ian. In just one day, the actor managed to continue his 20-year history of gay activism in Singapore with a fresh and winsome approach that must have endeared him to the journalists at Channelnewsasia (even if they had to feign some embarrassment) and Class 95FM.

Unlike the "father of the gay equality movement in Singapore", Sir Ian delivered his plea for delegalisation of section 377A with skill, style, and panache. At CNA, it was done in a jokey manner that still got the point across. At Class 95FM, Sir Ian repeated his query on gay bars in Singapore (the gay sex tourist joke becomes increasingly difficult to avoid!) to an amused Vernetta Lopez. Yes, he made an additional statement, about how antiquated Section 377A is - and left it at that. Short, sweet, and simple.

Ian McKellen's model of gay activism should be studied very closely by those who purport to fight for the community here. Alex Au would do well to note that Sir Ian did not have to be confrontational. He made his point without slamming the government and the civil service or calling them insincere liars, without slamming the Church or deriding the Bible, without insinuating that the civil service and church are in cahoots with each other, and without forcing security to throw him out of the building so he could prove to the world that indeed the state of Singapore has failed his test of tolerance. This is real activism, Alex. Look, listen, and learn!

Ian McKellen, pink tourist

And so, someone must have told Sir Ian of Singapore's gay bars. For days after his arrival, the actor made it a point to tell anyone who asked about his experience in Singapore, that this country has over 20 gay bars and pubs. That's something to put in one of those Lonely Planet guides.

Enterprising establishments which hosted Sir Ian during his stay in Singapore should seriously consider naming their bars or rooms after him. You know, like "The Sir Ian McKellen Room".

Even though Sir Ian cannot be the first pink tourist in Singapore, there's no better way to celebrate this actor. If Singapore has commemorated the stay of another LBGT artist for almost 70 years by naming a room in its most famous and oldest hotel after him, I can't see why we can't do the same towards this luminary.


Anonymous said...

The climate of oppression against homosexuals in Singapore has either dissipated recently, or has always been a myth invented by certain activists

Oh really? How interesting, that the five s377A prosecutions in the last 2 months have been a myth. Why don't you visit the men in jail and remind them of that?

akikonomu said...

Hello jol,

Tell me how the application of 377A to prosecute men who molested their younger charges constitutes a "climate of oppression" against homosexuals.

If those 5 men were unfairly arrested in saunas, in their bedrooms, in discos, in parks - then yes, that constitutes a climate of oppression. Otherwise, no. I hope activists like you learn the true value of words instead of doing this "help, help, I'm oppressed!" routine.

Anonymous said...

The age of consent for sexual intercourse in Singapore is 16. AFAIK the "younger charges" you speak of are 18, although if you have more information than I do on this count please share. But if I am correct and the sexual partners of the defendants were perfectly capable of consent, why are you so certain the sexual activity was non-consensual? The lack of consent is not exactly an element of proof in the offence, so are you relying on some knowledge of the inner workings of their relationship not subject to criminal burdens of proof? There are entirely adequate sexual assault laws in Singapore which can deal with non-consensual situations and in fact carry higher maximum penalties - if the sexual partners of the convicted men indeed allege lack of consent what reason can there be for preferring to prosecute under 377A? If they do not allege lack of consent, is this not a classic case of oppression? And do you think the threat of state violence is any less real to someone whose behaviour fits all the elements of a crime for which prosecutions are actively ongoing, because he is supposed to rely on the benevolence of the persons who will determine whether he is prosecuted, and their deeming his relationship sufficiently "responsible", regardless of the wishes of his consenting adult partner? That's not exactly the rule of law as I understand it.