Kenny Leck on the Significance of SQ21: A Queer Publication for the 21st Century

Mirroring the Singapore Airlines Flight 21, SQ21 by Ng Yi Sheng is a publication also known as Singapore Queers in the 21st Century. Perhaps a shared common goal of pushing past boundaries set for them – be it geographical or laws – and pursuing possibilities until they are made reality. The 181 pages in the book consists of interviews as well as portraits of ordinary Singaporeans who identify as queer.

Sincere and everyday, the book gives you a slice of each individual’s life. The book gives you what big scale events may not always be able to provide – the one on one connection built upon stories, empathy and going into personal hardships and triumphs. This read serves as a way to understand someone beyond the superficial assumptions of one’s sexuality. Touching, heartwarming and ultimately hopeful, the text shows us a side we all can empathise with, because of how similar we all are – the want to know ourselves, to love and to feel safe.

Popspoken finds out more about this particular reprint from Kenny Leck, who runs BooksActually and Math Paper Press.

Popspoken: It’s been 11/12 years since the first edition of SQ21, so why another edition this year? 

Kenny: For me it is a question of making sure the book continues to exist year-in, year-out. When it was first published nearly 12 years ago, am guessing 1,000 t0 2,000 copies were printed. In such a manner, only a maximum of 2,000 people will have come into contact with the book in a theoretical sense. As a book that is meant to educate, and widen perspective, a number of 2,000 is grossly insufficient, especially when the book goes out of print. So reprinting a new edition is to serve this purpose. After all, the battle has not been won. The need to widen perspective is an ongoing work that none of us can shirk away from.

Popspoken: Do you think the significance of SQ21 has changed from when it was printed then, and now? 

Kenny: I think there is definitely more room for a decent conversation now. The arguments that goes to and fro can become heated, especially in the online sphere but it is precisely these arguments that bring the difficult issues out into the open, and enable a discussion, no matter how polemic or limiting it can be.

Popspoken: Share with us the choice made to have the interviewee’s portraits shown at the end of each piece. 

Kenny: The choice of showing their own portrait photo is one of the bravest thing that were done by the individuals in the anthology given that this was nearly 11 – 12 years ago when attitudes towards an LGBT individual is definitely not as accepting as now. I think the idea is to show the person that has come out as an LGBT individual that he or she is just like anyone of us. Where we have families, we have relationships, we have good days, and bad days, we are just simply human beings, LGBT or not.

Popspoken: Is there a possibility of new interviews being done to add to these published stories from 2006? 

Kenny: There were discussions on this. Maybe we can explore doing an “updated version” of SQ21 with new stories from new individuals.

Popspoken: Why is representation important?

Kenny: Representation cuts across all awareness, perspectives, and prejudices. Without representation, you can’t even begin to talk of what is the issue at hand? Representation provides a level playing field for anyone or everyone that has a vested interest in the issue that is being pursued.

To purchase the book SQ21 and to find out more, look it up hereBooksActually also has a Shophouse Fund to finally purchase a permanent space to house its books. Read more here.

Reads is a series by Teo Dawn on Popspoken. Learn more about local writers, their inspirations and what they think is worth writing about. Got a book you want featured? Drop her an email here

Featured image: High Net Worth


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