Social Issues

The podcast celebrating Singapore’s ‘hidden’ gay community

By Noel Caballero

Bangkok Desk, Jul 9 (EFE).- Through stories of personal experiences and interviews with guests, a groundbreaking podcast is trying to “celebrate and stop hiding” the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore, where sex between consenting male adults is still a crime.

With a direct and engaging style, the three hosts of “The SG Boys” discuss everyday issues and bigger global problems while also sharing their own experiences in a country that denies part of its population the “rights and the freedom to love freely.”

“For me, as long as we can help just one person with every episode that we do, then I’m happy. That’s my goal,” Sam Jo, one of the hosts along with Joshua Simon and Kennede Sng, who started the podcast in November last year.

“It really means a lot to us. As gays in Singapore, we didn’t have it the easiest. We know how much of a struggle it can be.”

Often heralded as “the city of the future,” this tiny, prosperous and technologically advanced Southeast Asian nation still has a number of antiquated colonial-era laws, more than 50 years since it became independent of the British empire.

Among the outdated legislation is section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual or “indecent” acts between men, whether in public or private, punishable by a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

The Singaporean government has insisted that it sees no need to abolish or amend the law, while also pledging not to enforce it.

Nevertheless, the legislation still casts a shadow over the lives of gay men in Singapore, which in 2007 lifted penalties against “unnatural sex,” which referred to that between women and non-vaginal sex acts among heterosexual couples.

Simon, who was the main proponent behind creating the podcast, tells Efe that the project has had a freeing, cathartic effect, allowing him not only to admit that he is gay, but that is he proud of it.

“Being gay is only for a short amount of time when I meet someone who is like me and that’s it. The rest of my day is sort of having a ‘normal’ lifestyle, trying to fit in and not stand out,” says Simon, who also works at a radio station.

Last year, during Singapore’s first coronavirus lockdown, Simon called Jo and Sng to pitch the idea of creating “The SG Boys,” where they would discuss pop culture icons such as Britney Spears, interview singers such as Mel C from the Spice Girls and exchange stories about how they came out or times they have felt isolated and alone.

“Singapore mainstream media always portrays gays with negative aspects. We want to celebrate it, not as a protest, but to share and celebrate our stories and that of so many others by telling (…) stories to celebrate and not be hidden anymore,” says Jo, who came out to his parents just one month before the podcast’s first episode.

“The SG Boys” release their episodes, usually twice a month, on platforms such as Spotify, Facebook and Instagram, allowing them to interact directly with people, some of whom still hide their sexual orientation.

“We are privileged to be hosts and be confident enough to talk about it and to find support from each other (…) So many people out there are still terrified to talk about their stories and still hide them from their family,” says Jo, while thanking his co-creators for the mutual support they provide each other.

“Every episode is something new, where we learn from different people, from the community, even ourselves,” says Simon, who adds the podcast has allowed him to “heal.”

Both Simon and Jo point out the lack of gay icons in Singapore and across Asia in general, remarking that the vast majority come from Western countries. In that way, the podcast also helps to pave the way to more openness.

In recent decades, pro-gay rights events, such as Pink Dot, and court cases challenging the unconstitutionality of the law – even though they have been subsequently thrown out by the courts – have contributed to gradually opening up the debate in Singapore.

“Section 377A will be repealed. It’s not a matter of will (it be), but a matter of when,” says Simon. EFE


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