To queer or not to queer?
The SG Boys in conversation with Mark Kinoshita
Notes from the session
Live recording for the first time, something that we've dreamt of for a while. Usually we record in small intimate spaces like people's closets, the bed...
Someone went karaoke last night right?
We usually digress...
Hope nobody's hungover. There were 3 parties ytd on a sat night.
It's the revenge partying from Covid
How open should we be on social media? Let’s do introductions
We met years ago at tantric? Karaoke? What is the one song you'll always do?
Stay by Rihanna
I always do Mikky Ekko's part
(sings: All along it was a fever... Cold sweat, hot headed believer...)
We used to go to school tgt. We were in a group where we would judge ppl at the atrium or cineleisure.
You're the mean girls!
We've come a long way.
People fall in love with your characters but they're really just an extension of you!
You guys met at a time where you’re more true to you are today. Then, we couldn't really even ask each other questions about sexuality or things like that. In schools nowadays, ppl do assignments regarding LGBT issues. No one gets picked on, and this is not that long ago. So when we reconnected, we don't know...
We knew la. I smell it off you.
It's one of those things where we knew, but we didn't. There was a lot of self-hatred built into my being. Growing up, sexuality was frowned upon. I didn't even dare ask my closest friends, I would avoid questions about sex and sexuality. We'd rather not lie, so we just stay quiet and not even go there.
When we were at that age, it was a different time, we were also questioning ourselves. We have Christian parents, so it's a thing to beat yourself up and ask, is this right? Something eventually changes in you, and after a while, I realised this isn't a choice. It just... Is. I keep wondering, why don't I. When I was younger, I had 2 ex gfs, and then I started embracing that I had crushes on boys. It became an internal battle, why am I crushing on them? Mum says gays are this, gays are that... One day I just woke up and said this has to stop. I wish I could change it, but I can’t.
When we were going into school, it was the 2010s era, lady gaga’s born this way, glee etc.... We were coming to terms with self-discovery. Lady Gaga showed me that the thing that I've been so ashamed of can actually be celebrated. So, if we fast forward to today, it’s not so much "is he... Gay?" It’s more of like are you open with your sexuality on social media... Are there any motifs or clues? I found myself trying to find out, how queer are you? Rainbow flag? Any bf photos? PinkDot? We want to know how open one another is. With drag, we had this convo on the podcast where we asked, is Jack Neo a drag queen? For us, the earliest form of entertainment is linked to queerness. Like Liang Si Mei, Liang Po Po, there is nothing linked to same-sex attraction there, but they are just presented in that jester type of way.
My auntie is auntie, it's not queer content, but a self-extension to want to portray everyone around who are mostly women. There are these Malaysian content creators who are very straight and dress up, so how do we classify that?
This is a question of the creator's pov. One opinion about what’s more impt is, does jack neo consider himself a drag queen? How do ppl read your content? As a queer person consuming their content, knowing they're straight, I still take from it as queer. I can relate to the queerness, regardless of their orientation. It's the comic relief that they provide. It’s entertainment and content just that.
Re female characters: Someone would hear the reference and ask, why not act like uncle instead? There's just something about us that we feel drawn to femininity, we choose the other crayons, etc. There's sth in there that we as queer ppl connect with. I naturally gravitated towards playing such characters. It's an extension of me being queer. Some ppl see it as an art form, there is a division there for them, or other people could also just see it as an extension of their own traits.
Some content can just be for laughs. Uncles have less things to do, open newspaper and grunt? As opposed to an auntie that's nagging you. It's easier for gay men to act out some things that aunties do, like broken hand syndrome... When you ask me if that content is queer, I wouldn't go out of my way to say it is. It’s not always relating to queerness (unless you see a boat, i.e., cute guys) Then you have cruise ships... (loaded/daddy) Yacht (younger version, trust-fund kids, also loaded) ... Sampans (ugly)...
Sometimes a queer part of ourselves does come out, cos if you're doing Kardashian etc, the gay tendencies come out. I code switch between my straight and gay friends. One does get a lot of hate comments, but if you’re, say, a Malay person you can get more of them. He might be replying to them, the religious side from Malaysia that's more strong-headed and are basically like "y r u gay". But for a Chinese-presenting person we might get "chao ah gua". It's kind of hurtful but it’s been going for so many years, I tell myself they’re just keyboard warriors only. Does anyone know, the gay agenda? What are we doing when gay ppl meet up? We're not writing policies la, we're drinking gin, partying, seeing boats, tongue going somewhere else…
You're being prideful.
We don't have to specifically say "I’m gay". And it's not like I’m going to date you, it's a side of my life that I don't necessarily need to show.
We pick on ppl like that in schools since young, those who present queer. But when we see them being confident and together in a grp, from the outside it looks like they're doing something that needs to be policed. They’re spreading joy, oh so what's their agenda? Whether or not it's perceived as comedy or whatever, they will somehow link it to sexuality.
I love how you mention hate comments, but do you engage? How do you choose what to engage with?
Most of the time, I don't address it. My character has always been like, if I don't entertain them, I have more time to be happy for myself. When you get hate, among friends, for example. My friend got insulted, he's not gay but has gay friends and got the question "you associate a lot with these gay guys, are you gay yourself?" Do you want to give the haters the reaction they want? It's even more frustrating for them to not get a reaction. They're wasting time on you. Others may like to see them all riled up…their sadistic sides! Most importantly, when you get any hate for your sexuality, there are other ppl also receiving hate. Your time is precious, don’t fight them, they'll just be shouting louder and louder, they'll be straining their voices. But if you really need to speak up, know who you are. you don't have to share your sexuality at all, why do people need to infringe on your personal space? What makes you gay is sleeping with men, fundamentally. Other than that, we complain about everything, we go to work, etc. What's so different about us? Why do we have to obsess over who I sleep with? That's really important to remember, when you feel lost, remember who you are and be who you are.
re: social media vs work
It got me pushed out with a talk that I tried to do. I did read the comments one day (I really shouldn't have), you get kind of curious. Why would anyone not support this cause? It just seems so obvious. Then you realise, oh, we're not watching the same stuff. It can be about anything, even a car accident, and the takes that people have can make you feel so disillusioned with humanity. One of the beats of this story was coming out and how it was used as blackmail for someone near me to quit his job. People said "Oh he only wants to talk about it to hunt for guys in the audience" Now they're trying to twist it in that way, which made it a lot harder to navigate. So we decided we're just gonna call everything queer from now on, and figure it out from there. We can do our best to draw lines, but as time passes I imagine inevitably we will have to ask ourselves what we stand for, even if we don't have public platforms like social media. 100 followers is already strange, by the way. Everyone's already curating their content for their audience.
Why not brand one’s content queer? Gov clients are a little more touchy, they can't say whether they support or not support. I try not to appear queer, like some others in my position.
With beyond repeal, the big question we all had in the media is whether we can start publicising events like this on radio. State-run media’s doors are shut when the rating is R21. Even with the movie companies , they'll say we need to promote the movies Bros or Love, Simon. To promote it would be to "promote alternative lifestyles" A lot of things are still in the question mark area. For e.g. we talk about everything everywhere all at once, we praise the accolades and everything, but no one's talking about it, what it really is about (the queer themes). On my own, I'll do my own little things, for e.g. Sam smith and they/them pronouns. I ask my colleagues to respect that and if they do, they do. If they don't, they don't. We will have to ask ourselves (in different contexts); can we be queer?
Re doing the podcast, I said yes to the dress. But I had cold feet. Because of my work.... A lot of colleagues were very liberal and progressive but there was an overarching aura of conservatism. I hope it's opened up a bit more, but back then a lot of things couldn't… A lot of celebrities coming out then, like Demi…An idea for stories on enby people almost didn't see light of day. There are those people who can rly determine if it makes it to print, but made a call not to promote on social media, the story got pushed all the way back, instead of the cover or whatever. I was nervous about joining the podcasts because my bosses would… Makes me shiver still, because all me and friends wanted to do was dress as Britney and go to her concert. They went as the flight attendant version, assassin suit, me: nude jewel illusion, skin-tight with convenient opening for easy entry/exit, depending on how you see it. I couldn't tuck so my sack was hanging out. I was not naked, I was wearing underwear, everything was covered. Very soon after posting the photo at the concert, I got a text from my colleague who was like “oh our boss wants you to take it down or make your account private”. I felt blindsided, why are you telling me what to do about this? You know who I am and what I do, I perform at our office parties, etc. I have done a lot worse. But why this need to police me? For a few years I privatised my account because I was uncomfortable. More insidious is ppl going behind your back to censor you. You don’t even have the balls to say it to my face, you had to get someone to say it for you. I had all that baggage coming into the podcast. I'm still in the process, but thanks to all of you (audience) and the fellow podcasters who really show me that life is too short to just not be who you are, I'm shedding the baggage over the years. After, I reposted the photo. When Britney was freed, I also arrived at that point in my life where I was freer. Not comparing our experiences, but trust a gay guy to make a pop culture reference.
With everyone being more open, everything's gonna start floating to the top. Even my straight or ally friends get their influx of people in this discussion of how public you should be about your support.
What's most important is to do what you want to do, identify the things that you wanna keep private/public, and be happy with that choice. With Gen Zs being openly everything, society is taking a shift and we should change with that and allow more freedoms. That being said, don't be pressurised by other people, weigh this yourself, and then ask yourselves if the decision makes you happy or not.
Before, we used to be "let's all eject from social media, we’re all talking so much" and then the pandemic happened, and we became more noisy online. There were less convos about not engaging, but rather, HOW to engage… Can I not engage at all?... It is a constant thing we're navigating.
Audience member - On the subject of workplace discrimination and Shanmugam's comments, if that were to happen now, J, how do you feel about pushing the issue at the workplace? How do we get clarity, and does clarity from people who used to back off and are now not backing off?
There is a massive gathering of staff where we all talk about things we need to work on, goals, etc. There was a q&a, and there was a moment where I asked myself, should I raise this issue? I did. LGBT was mentioned, and the posture changed, there was a visible reaction. This happened right as the debates were going on about repeal. I asked, is there going to be any welfare changes for staff, resources to support LGBT workers, etc.? “It's up to y'all to figure out what to do, there's no problem???” is the response we got. But I asked, do we actually have any data to show that there is no issue? Now we're figuring that out BTS. Bc the repeal has brought the uncomfortable topic ppl don't even want to talk about to the forefront, it's given me courage to stand up. I’m empowered to say, “we can do better, we can do it if other countries like India can”. There's also me being in the room and talking about Sam smith's pronouns, for example, some of the interns stand up too and speak up. Ppl r starting to speak up a bit more.
I see a few allies, and don't underestimate the power you have for speaking up on behalf of minorities. We can try to take control of the narratives, self-empower but we could really use a lot more help, and especially depending on your workplace, with bureaucracy and red-tape, it helps when allies speak up and make the ppl who have the power to change things, change things. The game isn't over yet, but it’s about having them even be on the same page as you. There was no convo to be had.
The moment you stand up and raise your voice, a shift happens. For my ally friends who stand up for me, I've learnt to be allies to them as well. For e.g., for maternity leave and women's rights, a lot of that starts happening when we start using our voices.
As much as the both of them are saying voice up, you don't have to shout it. Having convos with friends who wanna understand how you live is also important. A lot of meaningful convos with straight friends etc. you have to be a little more patient. It's more important for understanding. If you wanna pick a fight, and you're not ready to do it, it will kill you in some way. Be prepared and know your limits.
When I did raise my hand, it wasn't aggressive. In order to fight the beast, you must know it inside out. I've learnt 10 years in my industry that the forces that be don't take kindly to aggression. Sometimes you have to put your foot down, sometimes you have to help them and make change together.