Youth activist Daryl Yang, 23, has been holding the fort at the helm of youth activism especially in the Singapore LGBT community this past year, as outgoing coordinator of The G Spot, a student group from Yale-NUS College concerned with issues surrounding gender and sexuality.
As he passes on the baton to new coordinators Paul Jerusalem and Guadalupe Lazaro, Daryl said to Popspoken that he learnt that while being in The G Spot, the power of organising people for collective action is a major tool that can move LGBTQ equality forward in Singapore beyond the repealing of the anti-gay Section 377A law.
“Like Audre Lorde said, we don’t live single-issue lives and a queer movement cannot succeed as an isolated movement. The project of our future, I believe, lays in whether we can queer other movements and forge a fairer and more just society together,” said Daryl, mentioning how some queer Singaporeans may not necessarily identify with LGBTQ activism to this day.
“I think we need to rethink our movement because we are more than the decriminalisation of homosexual relations or the contestation for space to gather in pink once a year.”
The G Spot has had a successful run thus far – it was incepted in 2013 and was first mentioned in The Straits Times in 2014 as a varsity club that offers a safe space for others to share their experiences on matters such as feminism, gender identity and sexual orientation.
A year later, the Inter-University LGBT Network was established at pride gathering Pink Dot, bridging such groups from various universities in Singapore. Till today, the various groups are still going strong, providing assistance to its faculty and students as well as taking a stand on important matters surrounding the LGBTQ community in Singapore and beyond.
The G Spot’s efforts in recent matters such as pushing for sexuality education amid the NUS orientation camp saga and fostering safer schools for LGBTQ students by working with students from polytechnics and junior colleges show that more youth initiatives such as SGRainbow and Young Out Here should use grassroots – and the ability to help other marginalised communities such as racial minorities and the poor – as the way forward.
“We all need to become more engaged with our society and beyond just with our colour of the rainbow… our pride flag is a rainbow for a reason and we need to start working towards a truly rainbow movement worthy of the symbol that embodies our hopes and values,” he said.
Creating activism in the Singapore LGBT community amid anger
The perception that activists are merely angry, hot voices was one that Daryl had to encounter in the early years of him joining The G Spot, equating his anger at unjust happenings to “a wildfire that just burns through everything and anyone”.
However, a quote from Reverend Miak Siew from Free Community Church – that one must learn to use their anger like a laser to create change – impacted Daryl as it deviated from how anger “will only be a destructive force that continues to divide people and perpetuate violence”.
“To advocate for social change, we definitely must draw energy from some source within ourselves that’s really a mix of anger, passion or agitation to drive us on,” said Daryl who admits to faltering in managing his anger but finds comfort in channeling that towards constructive activism.
He has seen that anger play out in identity politics, where members from both parties call each other names. To this, Daryl believes that sometimes, the sexist, homophobe and racist may not even realise they are so.
“I don’t think the solution isn’t in dehumanising them as the new ‘conservative, bigoted’ Other and to silence them for claiming those views. Rather, I think sustainable and authentic change must and can come only through conversations, through connections,” he said.
Daryl recounts The G Spot organising a dialogue with Singapore ambassador Chan Heng Chee after being upset with her statement surrounding Singapore’s human rights record – that it did not push forth LGBT equality and protections.
“We could better understand the nuances and complexities from her perspectives and I personally found it very enriching that we could sit down to have a conversation to understand each other,” he said.
However, he has faced silence from opposing sides after an invitation to dialogue for the administrators of Facebook page Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family was rejected – and The G Spot’s Facebook comment was deleted by the admins.
While Daryl believes nothing can be done about those who refuse engagement, he believes the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be so quick to throw stones and instead be more aware about why others say the things they say.
“Not everyone who uses the word ‘faggot’ or who thinks that being transgender is ‘abnormal’ is immediately homophobic or transphobic,” he said.
“We can choose to see the goodness in others first (even though I know it is often very hard to do that), because if we don’t even give them a chance to learn and change, then are we really advocating for change or simply venting our own anger and frustration?”
Politics won’t change much in Singapore LGBT progress
Singapore was recently in the news over LGBT progress, when the country voted against a United Nations bill for safeguards against LGBT discrimination although a minister pointed to the youth as a more open populace on the matter.
To this, Daryl believes that there is a misconception that political and law movements will make LGBT progress better.
The truth is vastly different: after marriage equality was passed, violence against LGBTs increased in France and anti-gay groups in the US now target transgender bathroom laws and workplace discrimination rights.
“The truth, as we have seen around the globe, is that it won’t… legal change does not mean social change will happen immediately; it just makes it slightly easier,” said Daryl.
In Singapore, he believes community initiatives such as HIV/AIDS awareness with gayhealth.sg and organisations to help different groups in the LGBTQ population such as The T Project and Jejaka are a step in the right direction.
But he advocates more to come forward.
“Change will come, but it will come slowly, one person at a time. It is up to each of us, not the ‘activists’ or Pink Dot or the government to create a safer and more open society for us,” said Daryl.
“The first thing we must have is hope. That is, I think, what activists mainly do – to give hope, to believe, to be hopelessly idealistic that one day, things will change. The rest of the work is up to everyone of us to do with that hope of a better age.”
Photos by Daryl Yang