I had heard a lot about Women's Nite for some time, but only managed to come for the one this month. The topic was how lesbians are portrayed in media. I thought I would come as I am really interested in books and film. I must admit I did not really think about the topic before I came. Perhaps, my identity as a lesbian is not as strong as the my other identities. While the topic may raise the hackles of some people, it hardly creates a ripple in me.
I found the discussion process more rewarding. We broke into groups for discussion, and while we tried to keep the conversation around the topic, it sometimes turned to gossip (Oh, is that newscaster/actress/CEO a lesbian? Is that speculation or it is confirmed? Oh my God, I hope she is...etc) It reminded me of high school gals talking about the latest boy bands. Then you see some people getting really "gan jiong" about getting the answers down...
It was great fun seeing how people articulate their views and argue, though I am not much of a debater. However, at times I felt that it was too controlled - like a classroom where we have to answer questions within a given time! There were several occasions we had to cut short an interesting discussion that was not be entirely related to the topic. Perhaps sometimes things need not be stated down in bullet points, and definite answers need not be sought. The discussion can then take a freer form and we might reap unexpected returns.
This kind of discussion/meeting suits me but it also makes me think - what other platforms are there for lesbians to network and to meet other people? If they are not in the party scene and not into intellectual discussions, then what?
I am quite awed by how articulate some participants are. Glad to be part of the group and to know some really wonderful people. Will definitely come again.
by Aunty Sus-si
Most of the Women’s Nite attendees were women in their 30s. Everyone had someplace else they could have been but chose to come to this gathering. Some choose to be there to seek out company, some to see what goes and some were very serious about the topic of the evening: “How the media sees us’ . Personally I don’t care how the media or public see us because I feel I am an individual and whatever deeds, good or bad, done by another individual who happens to be gay has no reflection on me. Anyone who generalises and asks “are gay people like that?”, either has a myopic view of the gay lifestyle or is looking for a way to open a conversation about a sensitive subject. Anyway, why should the subject be sensitive? Maybe because many gays are not comfortable and prefer to stay “closeted”, hence leaving being gay a topic filled with misconception or shrouded in secrecy, which in turns makes a tantalising story when something bad happens. Do you ever read in the news, "Man robbed lady in lift, he is a vegetarian or he is a hairdresser!" And if there was such a headline in the news, what would you think of the person who asks you "are all vegetarians like that?" or "are all hairdresser like that?"?
I think the people who ask questions or make statements about gay issues to a gay person (open or closeted) may just be seeking to understand something they are not familiar with. However poorly put the question or statement may be. I think the best kind of people, are people who are willing to ask. It gives gay people a voice to be heard. Wouldn’t it be worst if people kept silent and formed their own opinions without really seeing us?
I would take it as a compliment when someone asks a question that shows they are willing to explore who and what gay people are. The sooner they know we are just ordinary folks the sooner it will become a non-issue.
However listening to the meeting I realised there is another reason why the media does not acknowledge the gay lifestyle. The Singapore government has a very pragmatic “don’t ask don’t tell policy” when it comes to anything that makes people uncomfortable or highlights differences between people. The government doesn’t want anyone to speak too loudly about the things that others might find objectionable and get stirred up about. This is true whether the topic is race, religion or sexual preference. The government won’t allow the start of the progression of gay people speaking out, asking for equal rights and facing a backlash of hatred. For years they’ve given warnings to the gays to not get so blatant that people in the heartlands might object. Recently they’ve issued warnings to people that trying to move religion aggressively into the political and social discourse will not be tolerated either. (Same-same rap on the knuckles too) So in many ways, the government is telling gay people exactly what they tell everyone else. Be yourself, but be yourself quietly and out of sight. Out loud, be proud to be only Singaporean.
There was no final agreement on the topic that evening. On one hand, there were people like me who think being gay should be a non-issue, just like being a Christian or a Hindu should be a non-issue. But there are others who feel they need to be recognised in a positive tone by the media so that others can “see us in better light”. Still others would prefer to just keep mum about their sexual preference. Perhaps consciously or unconsciously they are not ready to come to terms about themselves. Or perhaps as some said, they really need the government to grant permission that it’s ok to be gay before they can really feel safe to come out.
So that’s my take on the topic. As for the meeting, I was surprised to find it had the seriousness of a workshop. I thought the best part of being gay was to be gay even when discussing politics…. But I liked every girl I met, perhaps it was “memory lane revisit”.