11 April 2006

People Like Us

There's this chap I know. Let's call him DL. I wouldn't say that he's a friend, more like a acquaintance, but I do also know a couple of things about his background.

DL's story represents the Conventional Singapore Success Story. In fact it's so conventionally successful that it's stereotypical. DL went to a top junior college, bagged his straight A's, obtained a PSC scholarship, went to NS, became an SAF officer in a "prestigious" combat unit, disrupted his NS, went to a brand-name UK university, bagged his 1st Class honours, came back to Singapore, completed his NS, joined the civil service as a teacher, rose meteorically through the ranks (as government scholars do), and at an early age, became a vice-principal.

In other words, DL typified the kind of Singaporean that the Singapore government would love all Singaporeans to be, or at least aspire to be.

I didn't hear anything from or about DL for a couple of years. Then I heard from a mutual acquaintance that he'd left Singapore for good. Emigrated to somewhere in the United States.

To me, this seemed to be a slightly odd case at that time because DL's profile didn't fit any of the typical profiles of Singaporeans who emigrate (another time, I may elaborate on the typical profiles). But I didn't give it much thought.

As chance would have it, a series of recent coincidences led me to discover his blog in the US. Where he writes freely about his new life in his new country.

Turns out that DL is gay.

And didn't think that it was feasible in Singapore to be gay. So he left.

And won't be coming back.

Well, I know that there are plenty of Singaporeans in our society who would say, "Good riddance." We're pretty backward that way. Still, what a pity, what a waste - thinking of DL from the government perspective.

I don't know how many other DLs there have been, and how many there will be. But certainly he won't be the only one.

Thinking about DL made me think of the gay group in Singapore "People Like Us". Actually it is a very interesting name. The name has at least three different interpretations.
1. "Like" as a verb. That is - "We Gays Are Nice, Normal People After All, So People Do Like Us, We're Likeable."

2. "Us" meaning the gays. As in "We Are Gay, And We Represent People Like Us, In Other Words, Our Group Represents the Gay Community".

3. "Us" meaning the whole of Singapore society. As in "Just Remember This, Gays Are People Too, They are People just like you and me and him and her and the man next door."

I think DL would have liked Interpretation 3 to have been true. I guess it didn't work out for him in Singapore. Anyway, I wish him all the best.


che said...

oh sigh, dl's right, it just doesnt work to be gay in singapore.

Anonymous said...

Pple emigrate for all sorts of reasons, just like they kill themselves for all sorts of reasons. Like they say, you can take the bumpkin out of the ulus but u can;t take the ulu out of the bumpkin, so too pple who leave s'pore think they r getting away from what pains them here when in truth what pains them is in them and wherever they go, after the initial distraction, the pain will re-surface. Mark my words: DL will be moaning again... be4 long. Tho he'd probably keep it to himself..

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Heheh. The way I see it -

the gay can't take the gay out of himself;

but then DL's case shows the gay doesn't necessarily have to try;

he can simply go to another country where it's ok to be gay.

Anonymous said...

DL obviously din know about the real meaning of being gay and the whybegay blog.


Anonymous said...

And Mr Wang, I think you misinterpreted the meaning of what PLU stands for.

It means people who are similar to us, rather than people who are pleased with us.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to DL, but stereotypes and prejudices don't dissolve automatically. If you believe in something, you fight for it. If all gays left Singapore, then how would they be contributing to the situation?
I read about Kumar in the papers that even his father was upset about him being gay. Yet he didn't banish himself, he stays on till today. The US is more gay-friendly today BECAUSE gays actively fight for their rights. I can understand why someone who wants certain rights recognised would want to leave, but I'd have no respect for them because they don't want to help People Like Them by staying on and doing what they can to break down stereotypes.


moomooman said...

Interesting reference to Kumar and how he stay put. Why could he have gone to? I wouldn't think US would give him a green card.

As for DL, maybe he leaves not because he couldn't be gay in Singapore.

He could. Ask Bread.

I think he couldn't break away from the social norm he is expected to fit into, given the stereotype.

Or he couldn't find another companion in Singapore that matches his intellectual.

But seriously, I would think the latter may be his motivation for leaving Singapore.

Afterall, in western country, you have more choices.

Anonymous said...

Good point mugster. Let's say between PLU and someone like DL, obviously one is fighting for the cause they believe in while the later may not be a fighter of similar mold. It is kind of like politics, an active citizenry contributes to the political growth and maturity of a country but that doesn't mean they need to be full-time politicians. Maybe loyalty is the larger question, and the lack of freedom and a closed society (in this case DL being gay) all contribute to a motherland that is increasingly unappealing and alien.

Anonymous said...

Well, he definitely can't be a vice-pricipal and be gay in SG at the same time. Imagine if the school finds out. he'll be sacked and shamed, and splattered all over Straits Times. Then again, I dunno if it'll work in the US.

Well, in SG, there was less tolerant people, but less extremists.

In the US, there are more tolerant people, but there are also people who kill gays. Now you wouldn't get that in SG.

Pick your poison.

7-8 said...

I hope he went to the right part of the US, which is, so to speak, the left part. We know what happened in Brokeback mountain. I was in the US when they murdered Matthew Shepard.

Seriously, what is wrong with people liking PLU? Why is the discourse between gay population in Singapore and the larger population always framed as an adverserial one? Then the 2 meaning of "like" are opposites: people like (adj) us means a divide between "people like us" and "people like them". Which is sad because it means you can never be friends.

Anonymous said...

it could be that his job had a role to play as well?

Anonymous said...

7-8: It is framed as adversarial because of existing power relations. GLBT are being "framed" (pun intended) as making some sort of intrusion into Singapore society. When it fact there is no intrusion; we have been here all along.

Another favourite way of framing it is to see being gay as an import from the 'West'. Whatever that means.