September 16, 2022
SINGAPORE – Canteen stallholder Kaal Hamid, 45, and small business owner Muhammad Faliqh, 34, had been living together for eight years when Mr Kaal suffered a heart attack in 2020. Yet, as part of a same-sex couple, Mr Muhammad did not know what role he could play as medical decisions loomed.
Account manager Jerome Chan, 29, has a loving mother, who has always been there for him. Even then, he worried about how she would react when he decided to tell her he is gay.
Drag queen Eugene Tan, 44, has attracted all kinds of reactions, from puzzled stares to unkind comments. While attitudes towards gay men have changed over the years, many still experience prejudice and challenges related to their sexuality.
The Government’s announcement in August on its plans to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, has brought some relief.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during the National Day Rally on Aug 21 that societal attitudes towards gay people have “shifted appreciably”. “We need to find the right way to reconcile and accommodate both the traditional mores of our society, and the aspiration of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted.”
There was also a significant risk of Section 377A being struck down by judges in future legal challenges as the Court of Appeal had said in a February judgment that the law could be unconstitutional, and it would be unwise to do nothing, PM Lee added.
Still, many in the gay community believe it will take a lot more time for fellow Singaporeans to fully accept them.
The announcement has sparked a pushback from some segments of society, who worry it could pave the way for same-sex marriage and changes in other policies.
But the Government has said it will amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage as between a man and woman from being challenged in court. It has also said policies on public housing, adoption rules and education will remain unchanged.
The four men speak to ST CloseUp about their lives as gay Singaporeans.