Saturday, October 25, 2008

At the precipice

Having been born towards the end of the year, I have the advantage of having more time to cling onto youth and not let it get sucked away from me by the swirling sands of time. Well, I have always asserted that age is not really an important concept to me because what we do with our lives is what we should be focussing on. If you have all the youth at 20 but have not achieved anything in your life, what do you have to show for it? What is the point of being young if you have not lived? On the other end of the spectrum, if you are 40 (and not exactly ripe enough to sleep on a death-bed yet) and have reached all the life goals you have set for yourself, there is actually no need to live for another second because you will die a contented person. Therefore age to me is nothing but a number, much like time displayed on a watch, and is just something to organize the world with.

Maybe the project engineering (ie. what I am doing at work now) is getting the better of me but I sometimes see my life as a giant project schedule capable of being mapped out in a single Microsoft Access document. And as all projects go, there must be milestone checkpoints where you take stock of what you have achieved and how much of the entire project has progressed thus far. And for this project called "My Life" which I am the engineer of, I see a major checkpoint coming up soon.

The big three-O.

One by one, I have witnessed my friends go pass this checkpoint in the previous months and now it is my turn too. Different people attach various degrees of emotion to this number and from what you see on TV and in the movies, this usually is a mix between despair, panic and depression (albeit masked by comedy most of the time). For me, I feel that life actually starts after 30 but before 30, we must first plough through 0 to 29 and in case you are wondering what exactly I had to plough through, you are in luck.

0 - 13
Basically before puberty, life is nothing but a means for you to reach puberty. I feel that too many people place too much significance in a happy childhood. Granted that those formative years do have an impact on your future adult life but we should all move on from there and make the best out of what we had and came from. I did not exactly have the best of childhoods having not had a father since I was eight and up till today, I do feel one of the reasons I turned out gay was because of the cliché lack-of-father-figure reason (don't shoot me for that opinion). For years, I have gone through depression for not having a fathered childhood and beating myself up for it. But what is the point of blaming your history for your current inadequacies in life? I am gay and figured that the best way to live my life is to live it my own way with my own goals and my own dreams. My own project. And looking at life as an unfinished project gives you something to work towards to all the time.

13 - 18
Looking back at my adolescence, I see a jumbled mess of acne, poor dress sense, insecurity, childishness and ignorance all wrapped up in a sense of being lost and desperately seeking directions and belonging. I have always told my friends if the price of being young again is to live through life not knowing how to fit yourself in and failing to blend into the background despite your best efforts then I would rather not be young. All those years of looking at magazines of men in skimpy trunks and underwear, admiring the physique and musculature of post-pubescent boys not being able to attribute any grounding reason for that is just plain wrong (albeit being totally exciting at that time). Trying to constructively chip into conversations discussing women's body parts without knowing an iota of what I was saying is even more wrong. I even tried wooing a girl for goodness sake and that just goes to show how clueless and ill-equipped I was at dealing with life. Want me to relive that? That's a big fat no!

18 - 21
But we all have to be patient even when the time scale is as long as an entire life. And if you are patient enough, life will certainly reward you by being more interesting. I don't think I was all that patient (and I am still the same now) but life did get more interesting for me. What came next on the timeline were my days in the army. Although it was only two and a half years, the army deserved an entire phase of life linked to it. National Service is something you can only enjoy in retrospect -- I recall seeing it as a complete waste of time (being stuck in an utterly inefficient system that the government still wants to package as something exciting, worth doing and to be proud of). But now, I realize that those years really shaped a lot of my current views on life along with the methods to deal with it. Being in an artificially-constructed environment in which people from all walks of life are forced into yours accelerates growth much faster than most people can acknowledge it. In the army, I had a glimpse of how life really is and it was nothing like what I have been taught at all.

21 - 25
The next four years of my life came and went in a flash. It seemed like a lifetime then but it was essentially a speck in the hourglass. When I was in the university, the only friends I had were lecture notes, tutorial assignments, tests, term papers and exams. I did not learn much about life and to be honest, I actually lost a huge chunk of it. Being the control freak that I am, school was always a stressful thing for me because it was something with results I had complete control over. Striving for perfection when there was so much to do left me no time to live out what a lot of people view as the most valuable period of one's life (a.k.a the period of reckless youth). The worst thing is that I did not get the best possible results attainable having been pumping in effort worth so much more than what I aimed to achieve! That is a smudge in my Microsoft Access document that will remain forever to taunt me and to remind me that sometimes in life, instead of being able to reap what you sow, you get ripped off.

25 - 29
So I was fresh out of university and with the world being my oyster, it was a time to set goals and plot a path to them. These years of my life were spent looking for a good job ("good" here means something that I don't hate and pays enough to allow me to live the life I want to live), and ultimately a good man ("good" here means "final destination"). Of course there was the sexual experimentation of all sorts (within reasonable limits) typical of youngsters of that age (it might be a tad late to Gen-Z standards though) which I believed helped to crystallize my desire to settle down knowing that I have sufficiently played the field. This four-year journey took me to the States for a bit where I saw another part of the world that I realized I was entitled to choose to live in. I saw for the first time what was available out there beyond the huge and thick imprisoning bars of the ironically small red dot on the map. My life was injected with a lasting chemical, biological and psychological high that left an imprint on all the future goals that I was to set for myself. Somehow from then, I knew that I must get out of Singapore and I must do it as soon as possible. It was venomous (and still is) and I had to run away before I get infected. So slowly (and sometimes sub-consciously) my plan of migration took form in my mind and as soon as I could associate a face to that form, that was my cue to fly.

And here I am standing at the precipice of year 29 looking back, I see that everything prior to now has a reason and plays a part in where and how I am now. The good, the bad, the sweet and sad all serve a purpose. And again I will have to start ploughing the fields, sowing the seeds and patiently wait for them to grow into trees that will provide shade for me in the future. Although age is a nothing but a number, it is still better if it were a nice round one. There, life is getting better already and I don't even have to do anything.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Out

I am not sure if many of you know this but Singapore has recently relaxed the anti-demonstration laws and gays are capitalizing on that to organize a mini gay pride parade at the only government-designated space for such "demonstrations" -- Speaker's Corner of Hong Lim Park.

You might find the concept funny -- having a parade in such a small area but it is important for the gay population in Singapore because it sets a precedence. It is also an opportunity to show the rest of the nation that we are but like them, normal and well-adjusted Singapore citizens. It is a daring move by the organizers and I applaud them. I have waited for this for so long but now that it might really be happening, I can only watch it from across the ocean for I am now so far away. Words cannot imagine how frustrated and sad I can get knowing that I will miss this historical event. You will have my moral support, the brave homosexuals of Singapore. It is time to step out of the closet and I will be there with you in all your hearts waving the rainbow flag so high.

I urge all of you (straights and gays) to attend the parade if you can -- that's why I am writing this in my blog to spread the word. Please leave a comment expressing your interest and I will point you in the right direction. This event has also been reported by The New Paper. But you will be surprised at the level of apathy in Singapore -- there are actually many gays who are completely unaware of this! Come on, I know freedom should be afforded to us by the government in a democratic country but Singapore is different (not right but it is just so) -- we must fight for our freedom as much as against the hypocrisy the government is knee-deep in.

To whet your appetite, here is an extract of what the parade organizers have tentatively put together:

===============================================

Date: 15 Nov 08, Saturday
Time: 5pm - 7pm
Venue: Hong Lim Park, Speaker's Corner

Proposed Theme:
Gays Are Like You and Me

Objectives:
1) To be publicly heard as gay or gay-friendly men and women
2) To show Singapore that her gays citizens are like you and me
3) To lobby for gay equality in all aspects of life

Target Audience:
All people currently resident in Singapore. We welcome family members, friends, colleagues, schoolmates, and everyone who is gay-friendly and accepting

Icons and Banners to be displayed:
1) "Gays Are Like You and Me"
2) The Rainbow Flag

Event Souvenir:
Bookmark

Dress Code:
Casual (what you would wear when walking down the street)

Theme Songs:
Over The Rainbow - Judy Garland
Make It Happen - Mariah Carey
We Shall Overcome - African-American Equal Rights Theme Song

Important Note:
Keep the park clean

Tentative Programme:
5:00pm - 5:15pm Assembly
5:15pm - 5:45pm Welcome and opening speeches
5.45pm - 6.00pm Briefing on March
6.00pm - 6.15pm First round of March
6.15pm - 6.20pm Short Briefing / Break
6.20pm - 6.35pm Second round of March / Songs
6.35pm - 6.50pm Public Forum: "Why is there so much shame associated with being gay in Singapore and what can we do about it?"
6.50pm - 7.00pm Thank you speech
7.00pm onwards Dinner Time; Free & Easy

Publicity
Flyers: Distribute to bath houses, pubs, fitness centres, etc
Banners: Online and offline -- PLU, Fridae, Sgboy, IRC, Signel, Spaces (Oogachaga), Safehaven, Men After Work, Yawning Bread, Heartlander, Fabulous Asia, and any other PLU-related sites

Committee Members:
Parade Leader
Assistant Parade Leader
Secretary / Time Keeper
Treasurer
PR Manager, including briefing the media on which segment of the gathering is non-comfortable with being caught on video or photographed
Team Leaders
Graphics / Webpage Designer / Facebook or Yahoo!Groups co-ordinator

To-Do List:
Setting the deadlines
Recruit committee members
Meetings
Publicity
Print Park terms & conditions (http://www.nparks. gov.sg)
Get graphic designer to do flyer and bookmark
Video and music
Make small coloured flags for all participants
Make placard and banners
Get name tag / stickers
Bring trash bags

Logistics:
Talk to Hong Lim Park Cafe to arrange for food & drinks
Buy whistles, rattles, ghetto blaster
Get pole for rainbow flag
Forming a committee
Arrange for first meeting
Get the songs lyrics and practise with all

===============================================

We all know how organized gays can get right? So are you impressed yet? There are actually many gay activists in Singapore organizing many activities for the community eg. seminars, workshops, talks, etc and I have attended many of them. The biggest one is the annual month-long Gay Pride event called Indignation (it coincides with National Day) which consists of many small events. Take a peek at IndigNation 2008 at http://www.plu.sg/indignation. Gay life is actually not all that boring when you strip off the clubbing, sex and drugs. We should all get involved and keep the gay flame of Singapore burning strong.

To do my part for the inaugural gay pride parade, I have put together an MTV of the Mandarin song I have written during the time when we had a fighting chance to tear down 377A and I wanted to make that the theme song to garner more support (but no one got to hear it). I then wanted to share the song with the community during IndigNation 2008 but alas I did not have the chance to perform it before I left for Sydney. Finally I can present it here as my support for the parade. The song is called "" which means "pride". I find this title especially apt because it sounds very much like the word "out".

Here are the words to the song (as well as a rough English translation) followed by the video:


[傲]

爱一个人的自由我没有, 这又有什么理由
你试图掠夺我们权力的拥有, 如此丑陋
我们再也不能够, 无条件等候
让我们在今天圆梦

我们的傲气比天高, 绝不让人嘲笑
迎着逆风, 我们能飞向天涯飞到海角
若能够用这力量去创造
平等待遇的一天会来到

我们的傲气比天高, 绝不让人嘲笑
誓要用无极限的爱, 把这世界改造
我们知道, 你不是不能是不要
请你听听我们这祷告

那道彩虹在空中, 七色虽不同
但我们得团结行动

我们的傲气比天高, 绝不让人嘲笑
不屈不挠, 要世人看清我们坚忍的容貌
若自己不主动争取寻找
我们生活怎能够更美好

我们的傲气比天高, 绝不让人嘲笑
你我他之间的差异, 是如此渺小
为什么你总不去理会不明了
我们急切的需要

我们的傲气比天高, 绝不让人嘲笑
我爱一个人的自由, 你主宰得不了
手牵手, 心中涌现的骄傲
我们现在要让你看到




[Pride]

I do not have the right to love a human being
How can there be a reason behind that?
You try to snatch our rights from us, how very ugly of you
We can no longer wait without any conditions
Let us realize our dream today

Our pride is high and mighty, we will not stand to be mocked
Against the wind, we can fly towards the ends of the world
If we harness this energy to create
The day of equal treatment will come

Our pride is high and mighty, we will not stand to be mocked
We swear to use love that knows no bounds to change the world
We know it is not that you cannot but do not want to
Please listen to our prayers

That rainbow in the sky, though it has seven different colours
We must all unite and strike together

Our pride is high and mighty, we will not stand to be mocked
Unwavering, we want the people of the world to see our strong and determined faces
If we do not fight and seek for ourselves
How can we better our lives?

Our pride is high and mighty, we will not stand to be mocked
The differences between you, him and I are so very minuscule
Why do you keep trying to not care and understand our urgent needs?

Our pride is high and mighty, we will not stand to be mocked
My freedom to love another is something you can have no control over
Hand in hand, the pride that surges from our hearts
We want you to see it now





Do you like the song/video? It is a tribute to all the brave gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered folks in Singapore staying on to fight the fight. One day we will claim what is rightfully ours and on that day, our pride will be so high and mighty, no one will ever mock us again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Affirmation from a Ball

The long weekend is over and it is back to work again. You might recall that both Ision and I were dieting and one of the reasons for that was so as to look good for a major gay dance party called Sleaze Ball.

In Sydney, such parties take place every few months or so with the biggest one being Mardi Gras. As for Sleaze, which has been taking place during the Labour Day long weekend since 1982, the 6000 – 7000 tickets were completely sold out this year. We got discounted ones at $115 a pop. The event was held at the Hordern Pavilion at Fox Studios, a place where big rock concerts and exhibitions were held.

We had a relaxing day earlier and tried taking a nap before the event so that we could stay up late. I knew something was wrong right from the start as I did not feel any excitement prior to it. But still, I have not attended a gay dance party of this scale so I had to see it with my own eyes (the closest one I "attended" was the very last Nation Party in Singapore only to see it banned right after purchasing the tickets!).

We made our way to the rendezvous point and the 5 of us (3 of which were Ision's friends) started walking towards the venue (it took about 45 minutes) and the clock struck midnight soon after. During the walk, I kept hoping that I would slowly get higher and more psyched for the event but the elusive climax never saw the light of day. We entered the party grounds via the long (quiet) way and were a little worried that we might be on the wrong track.

The first thing that greeted us was not hunky gay men but pudgy female police officers inspecting our bags. There was a tiny sign at the gate listing the prohibited items (which they said had been posted on the website so we should have known beforehand) and one of the items was liquids. Well, there was a bottle of moisturizing mist in Ision’s bag and he was so furious that that was not allowed in because he felt that there was no way anyone would have known that liquids were banned (a new rule) prior to the event. An argument between Ision and the officers ensued. To diffuse the tense situation, I quickly ran to a nearby shrub with the bottle and hid it safely and got on with the night – I get very affected by awkward situations and the foul moods of people around me. So essentially, the already-dead partying spirit in me just got buried under another layer of dirt.

The theme of the party was “Villain’s Lair” so to dress to it, one is supposed to either be a superhero or a superbaddie. What we saw mostly were people in leather, something which Ision has not seen so much of before, not even at leather-themed parties! I gathered that leather was the closest to the theme and was something many already had at home so it was a simple get-up. It made complete sense – imagine how difficult and cumbersome it would be to dress in an elaborate costume during a crowded dance party only to take it all off on the dance floor right? (by the way there is no other way to dance in a party other than being topless – at least for me).

We adjourned to the centre of the dance floor only to discover that there was terrible live singing (occasionally out of tune) going on and not-so-attractive people all around us. This was supposed to be a major event graced by the A-Gays of Sydney but all around us were [PC mode on] aesthetically- and youth-challenged people [PC mode off]. When the terrible singer finally got off the stage, what was pumped out of the speakers was atrocious house music – something that I could NEVER EVER dance to. I thought I finally escaped the poor music of the Singaporean gay clubs but this was (I am very sad to say this) worse! So as my shoulders rubbed against others’ in the tight confines of Gay Party Central, my feet were shuffling ever so listlessly. I never expected it to be like this at all.

The minutes and seconds ticked laboriously away into the night and my hope of better music started to wear thin and my lower back (as there was no space to stand in any way other than totally upright) and neck (as I was shorter than most of the people around me dancing in my face, I had to constantly look up) started to ache. I had to take a rest and so we went to take a seat at the designated resting area. One thing I discovered was that if you want to see cute hunky guys, stay at the perimeter of the dance floor and not go in. I don’t exactly know why but that was just so.

And so one of the most happening events in gay Sydney degenerated into an exhausting night of people-watching, which was not all that bad because there were some pretty amazingly- (and weirdly-) costumed people around. I guess the night not only served the purpose of dance but also of giving people the chance to break free of their everyday shackles and be who they really are. But what was left for people like us (people who are themselves all the time) to do when only such un-fabulous “music” was puking out of the sound system? So slumped in a chair our bodies continued. I was so glad at that point that I did not spend a single cent on getting a good leather costume for the party (the perfect outfit would have cost me $350)!

One of Ision’s friends (as well as many others on the dance floor) found a good way to stay high despite the lows ie. chemically. Prior to the event, this friend stocked up loads of these laboratory wonders so that they could unleash their mind-altering powers on a night like this. One of my undying principles is never to take mood-enhancers (including poppers). First they are expensive and I feel that I do not need any assistance to help me enjoy myself. If something is not enjoyable, it shall remain so because that is just how it is. Of course there are also the obvious health reasons. But this time around, I started thinking along the lines of if-I-were-to-ever-break-this-principle-of-mine-it-would-be-this-party because all stars seemed to be aligned, ready for me to let go of it. In addition to that, I have always been curious too – what does the word “high” really mean? And when all these elements got jumbled up along with a persistent friend who kept pushing the “little piece of chewable pleasure” to me, I guess there was nothing else I could do but to give it a go (only if Ision agreed to go halves with me). In case you are wondering what this $45 item in question is, I will drop a hint here: “anti-natural log of 1”.

And this was how one of the historical events took place in my life. Mind you, it was only half and so nothing was really expected but different people react differently and first-timers need to play it safe because you never know…

An hour or so passed and still there was no sign of music-improvement and it was already 5 in the morning. That was the last straw and we decided to leave – I wanted to experience a major gay dance party and I did. And just when we were about to leave, the magical effects of the pharmaceutical started kicking in. Everything seemed so clear as if my eyesight has improved beyond perfect vision. Also, all the fatigue I have been dragging along with my feet throughout the night seemed to disappear into thin air. I really felt that I could stay up for many more hours (the number was actually 5). It made me wonder – what if I had taken more than half of it... But still I had no reason to stay when the music continued to suck that hard (my ability to enjoy myself at dance parties depends SOLELY on the music) and so we began walking home. I was also looking forward to eating at the end of the event as I was so very hungry. Ision's friend later regaled us with how the music went from bad to fab right after we left (urgh).

So we walked hand-in-hand away from the claustrophobic ball of noise and sweat as the night sky peeled off along with all the party superficialities and slowly turned to light. I guess the night was not totally uneventful after all. Some people continue to skip, hop and jump (not to mention jerk, blow and screw) in the scene well after they have settled down but Ision and I are different and I got to fully confirm that over those 6 miserable hours. The name of my blog says it all – I have SO moved on to the next phase of my life and partying just does not fit in any more. I am not saying this from a moral high-horse perspective as there is absolutely nothing wrong about partying (heck, I love dancing topless if the music is right), this is just how my personal journey is playing out. Perhaps I am really getting old (and not just whining about it).

Whatever the reason might be, I am glad that I attended this year’s Sleaze Ball because not only had I broken new grounds, my beliefs got boosted with affirmation.