“Who you are attracted to is really just a small part of your personality. The acceptance of others have taught me that it’s more important to work on being a decent person, because that is the yardstick which most people will judge you by.”
Faces look down on you from the walls of The Factory as you eat your fries and ice cream. In colour and monochrome, some portraits are elaborate and flamboyant, others simple and understated. All of them have stories to tell.
Running from 24 August to 7 September, Our Very Own Stories is a photo exhibition held in conjunction with month-long gay pride festival IndigNation. A collaboration between five photographers, the exhibition highlights members of Singapore’s LGBT community, sharing their experiences of coming out, battling discrimination and bullying.
Inspired by the It Gets Better campaign in the United States, Our Very Own Stories aims to break the silence around LGBT issues and personal struggles, and show that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel for those who are still struggling for acceptance and self-acceptance.
Although there are signs that Singaporean society is becoming more and more accepting of LGBTs, Singapore still retains Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men. Introduced in 1938 when Singapore was still a British colony, 377A is the major obstacle to any campaign for gay marriage to be legalised in Singapore. Furthermore, some AIDS activists say that the law makes it difficult to address issues surrounding AIDS and HIV, as getting tested or even participating in studies will essentially involve confessing to a crime.
However, the Court of Appeal has recently overturned the High Court’s decision to dismiss an application to challenge the constitutionality of this law, which means that there is now a possibility for the law to finally be struck down.
For supporters of gay rights, this is a long overdue move, but there is no assurance that the constitutional challenge will succeed. If the courts do not rule that 377A is unconstitutional, it doesn’t seem likely that Parliament will repeal the law. The government has long defended the retention of 377A by saying that Singapore’s conservative society is not ready to accept homosexuality.
Which is why events organised by Singapore’s LGBT community like Our Very Own Stories, IndigNation and Pink Dot are significant. Not only do they bring communities together in mutual support, they bring forward stories, experiences and issues often neglected. Slowly but surely they reach out and change minds, taking Singapore on its own journey towards acceptance.