SELF DISCOVERY The moment I realised that I was gay was when I was watching a TV advertisement about men's body building. I was 10. [At school] we were encouraged to keep a diary to improve our English and hand it in, and I talked about it in my journal. My teacher said it was just a phase, which was OK; I do believe that sexuality is at least a little mutable. I did mind later on though; my school was a Christian mission school - they had an 'ex-gay' speaker come to speak to us. Luckily it wasn't a big theme. When I was 13, the Singapore government organised a creative writing camp and I remember winning a poetry competition for a poem about how much I longed for another guy. They suggested that I change pronouns and I went along with it. I was in the drama club and was more willing to take on female roles than most boys were. My mum thought there was something amiss about this and my dad tried to placate her. When I came out to my dad, he felt terribly guilty for not having taken notice of the 'warning' signs. FLIGHTS OF FANCY I went to schools where they encouraged writing. I spent three years in a British-run international primary school in Hong Kong [Quarry Bay School]. I remember the juvenilia I wrote in class: 'If I were the king of Singapore I wouldn't shut my bedroom door, if I was the king of China ...' and so on. The teachers encouraged us to write poems and compositions, and all of mine would end up in the fantasy realm; people would be transported into magical realms from supermarkets. This definitely shows up in my plays now. The most realistic play I've written had an immortal snake as a character. It was based on a Chinese legend, Madam White Snake; I'm into legend and myth and their overlapping with history. BOY OF GOD I converted to Christianity at school. A teacher told us there was scientific evidence that the sun stood still for the battle of Jericho and I thought, ooh, if it's scientific it must be true, right? I didn't get involved in the church, though, partly because I didn't like that sense of big communalism, partly because I was too lazy to get up on Sunday mornings. There was also my sexual guilt and my fear that everyone I knew who wasn't Christian would go to hell. But I wasn't expressing [my sexuality] back then. I didn't actually have sex until I was 21. I did write a lot of love poems though. COMBAT AND CABARET I was 17 when I went into the Singapore army. Back then, they asked you directly during the medical screening whether you were gay. In my case it was decided that since I was still a virgin and wasn't super flamboyant I would go through normal army training. Now they've stopped asking directly but it's mentioned in a form: the questionnaire says, 'Do you have any problems you want to talk to the medical officer about; for example, homosexuality?' But if you do come out, you're not supposed to have certain combat positions and you're seen as a security risk. Was it traumatic? Yes, but it was more to do with being an oddball than because I was gay; being utterly unsporty and an incredible wimp; being clumsy assembling rifles. I wanted to be a good soldier so badly but I was lousy and thought, 'Oh, it's because I'm gay'. But I later found out that there are gay [men] who love being soldiers in Singapore. I acted out in really strange ways. I would do little musical performances with my rifle. PAGE BOY I have a problem committing to one type [of writing]. I write poetry, plays and have written a non-fiction book; most of the time I write for a children's newspaper ... and I also blog about my own life. Activism-wise, I write for a gay website. I'm not a very big activist but my main thing is that I'm a rather visible, out gay person and I'm willing to turn up and discuss things. My first book, SQ21, [contained] 'coming out' stories of Singaporeans, [and it was written] when I was 25. I got a positive response; not a single piece of hate mail and it was on the best-seller list for a while. I won a Singapore literature prize last year for my poetry collection. There is an extension of SQ21 coming and a queer literary anthology from Singapore I'm organising. I also organise annual queer literary readings in English. HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS Singapore's so easy to slam but I really do love it. Having been away from it for those early years, I came back with a kind of identity crisis and I had to try and figure out what being Singaporean meant to me; and to me the thing to be really proud of is that it's got a workable Asian multiculturalism; where Singapore stands in the world; how many countries look up to us. Of course, it's ridiculously flawed, but everywhere is. It would be nice to have a two-party democracy. I know that wouldn't solve all of the problems but [it's absence] impoverishes our imaginations. We are always rebelling in one direction, always taking potshots at this big father figure and the world is more complicated than that. A lot of younger administrators and people in the system are sympathetic to the idea of free speech and sexual rights. It's a mistake to tar everyone with the same brush but because of the one-party system we just say, 'Oh, it's the government.'