Last night I attended A Minor Contradiction the closing event for Indignation SG 2014. Indignation SG 2014 is a volunteer-run, month-long series of events by the LGBT community that seeks to explore issues of sexuality and to chronicle the experiences of queer people in Singapore. Most significantly, I believe that it aims to promote a sense of community for queer people. A Minor Contradiction showcased the literary works of young and emerging queer writers. I thought that it was interesting that a presentation of written works was the means by which the organisers had chosen to close the month, and to me that was a testament to the power of writing in terms of self-expression. I was interested to attend the event because I had observed that in recent times, many queer people in Singapore were writing about their experiences and sharing them not only in printed works but also on social media. I was thus curious to understand how similar or different this reading of works might be from any other readings, such a poetry slams I’d attended before.
The event was opened by Jerrold Yam, who read a few poems including one entitled Museum, in which he talked about reconciliation with his parents after they found out about his sexuality. Jerrold was probably one of the most well-known performers that night and it was clear why from the skill of his writing. His poetry to me, was largely confessional and made use of vivid imagery. One of my faourite lines from his reading was “His mouth receeding with scraps of forgotten conversation”. I thought this line was quite beautiful as it showed how his style of writing was emotive and yet effortless. What I did notice though, was the universality of the issues he talked about. Struggling to re-connect with your parents after a major difference in opinion is something I think many young people relate to. The fact that poetry is often written in a way in which the subject matter is not explicitly outlined, allows people who are not queer to relate to the sentiment expressed.
Another reader who was outstanding to me was Mrylyn. She too read a few poems and her brand of writing was bold and peppered with puns( good ones). She wrote openly about sexuality and many puns were made about every day objects. One of her poems cleverly melded the topics of food, sexuality and her family which created a funny and daring read. Mrylyn is obviously a natural with words, however the sexual innuendos in her writing might not go down so well with everyone. In this way, I felt that her writing while no doubt entertaining, is possibly alienating and thus an acquired taste. The audience really enjoyed her enthusiastic readings, but I suspect that the larger Singaporean audience would not be so readily accepting of the frank and sometimes raw way she wrote about sexuality.
A third reading I thought was note-worthy was Dylan by Lavanya. This was a story about a child of a same-sex, female couple who realises at school that their family is different from the other childrens’. I use “their” when referring to Dylan because the protagonist’s gender was not referenced at all in this story. To me this emphasised how the writer wanted people to focus on the the deeper issue at hand, love, and not the sexuality and gender of the characters themselves. It discussed the idea of family and illustrated the challenges faced by Dylan’s parents in raising a child in Singapore as an “unconventional” family. This story was interesting to me because besides being the first (and only) story of the night, it was also the first that was written for children. I thought this was one of the most original pieces of work because I have not heard previously of writing about same-sex parenting in a Singaporean context. I thought as a children’s book, it was a step forward from the “happy-ending” and one-dimensional stories that already exist because of the ambivalent tone at the end of the story. I thought in this way, it was a realistic and mature piece of writing.
All in all, while I enjoyed the spirited works of the young writers at the event, I think that there is much more that can be done to make the writing more diverse. Many of the pieces read at the event were poetry and I am not sure if this was done in the interest of time, but it would have been nice to hear more short stories for variety. Also, I felt that there was a tendency to over-sexualize things in much of the writing. Perhaps, this might sound ironic since this was an event about sexuality, but to me it would have been more interesting if some of the writing had focused more on emotions and social stigma for example rather than sex. Ultimately, “queer writing” if I may loosely use the term seems to be in its infancy in Singapore. Having said that, judging by the crowd that showed up last night and the talent I saw, it looks like this is just the beginning of some very beautiful work to come.