“Having met queer Singaporeans, I have witnessed their own survival and relative comfort”
BY YAIZA CANOPOLI
It started as a normal weekday when I was picking up my girlfriend for her lunch break, and ended as the day I made a life changing decision… I’m moving to Singapore.
She went into the question hesitantly and, having my head in the clouds as usual, I did not see it coming at all.
You see, she was born and raised in Singapore, having come to the UK to study. We’ve made big plans before – some wilder than others – but moving to Singapore, where LGBTQI rights are murky at best, was on a whole new level…
My biggest worry was, surprisingly, not LGBTQI rights, but visas. Visas and money. Because visas are damn scary, and the scary part is usually the uncertainty. And so, I reluctantly embarked on a journey to the Ministry Of Manpower’s website to read all about visas and work passes.
A bit of panic here and there made it a slow process, but an understanding of the system was the biggest step towards making a real decision, and it was after I knew how to apply for a visa that I first felt comfortable moving abroad.
LGBTQI rights are tangled up in all of that, and in much of what I researched after. Spousal visas are out of the question as Singapore does not acknowledge same-sex marriage. Would we have gotten married after for a visa otherwise? Maybe. (Probably not). But having an extra option is comforting, where instead many of our options are cut off.
That’s when we started thinking about accommodation and despaired at Singaporean rent which, in a country with very limited space, is exceptionally high. But my girlfriend’s family stepped in – almost offended that we didn’t consider living with them as our first option.
So now, I’m not just moving to Singapore with my partner, but I am moving to Singapore to live in my partner’s parents’ house.
Our timeline is a topsy-turvy. Singapore offers government subsidies for housing to married couples but this requires my citizenship, which seems many legal obstacles away – most obviously our marriage ever being recognised.
To be completely honest, it was easy for me to blame many of these problems on Singapore, putting all my adulting woes on my girlfriend and her idea to move took some pressure off me. But the truth is that staying in the UK would not make my life much easier.
Rent is still high, I would not have a family to stay with as my parents live in Europe and good jobs are just as hard to come by. The lack of visas is attractive (but then with Brexit around the corner who even knows anymore?)
The main reason I was never too concerned about Singapore’s lack of LGBTQI rights is perhaps that, having met my girlfriend and other queer Singaporeans, I have witnessed their own survival and (relative) comfort.
There are many stories of discrimination in Singapore but there are countless more in the UK, Italy, Portugal, and other places that would perhaps be considered more LGBTQI-friendly. The outdated colonial legacy that outlaws homosexuality in Singapore, Section 377A, is barely enforced and exists alongside LGBTQI organisations, events, literature and people.
Singapore even has Pink Dot, its own version of a pride event. As big events like that need to be approved by the government, Singapore in a way “officially endorses” its LGBTQI community.
I have many questions and worries moving abroad, but doing my research, visiting the country and having a support system in my girlfriend’s family were all crucial factors in making a decision.
As uncertain as I am about what the future holds, I am incredibly excited for everything that is to come…
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