The day before

My eyebrows hurt.

Yesterday a very kind, precise lady attacked my eyebrows with a piece of thin white thread, showing no mercy to any wild, scruffy strand. She did it slowly, going at half the speed of the usual threading sessions I’ve had. My eyebrows were red and raw by the time I finally left her chair.

But at least I have neat, even eyebrows for the wedding now.

People keep asking me if everything is organised and ready, or if I’m nervous. The questions are simultaneously understandable and mildly irritating. I never really know what to say in response. There is no answer that is both accurate and satisfactory, and so I often opt for the cop-out: a smile, a “yeah, it’s pretty much done” and a trailing off that suggests that I could say more… but I don’t.

The truth is that I’m good, but wake up early in the morning with what feels like every molecule of my body dancing around under my skin as if they’re thinking of bursting out through my pores. I spend the daytime going through practical lists of tasks, ticking them off one-by-one as if it was yet another project to fix. I spend the nighttime counting down the days and the hours, unsure of what that emotion I’m feeling actually is.

It feels as if a blog post is needed to mark this occasion, the last day on which I tick “Single” on government forms. But it doesn’t feel like there’s that much to write about: I don’t think things are going to be hugely different after the wedding. Are they?

I don’t know. I’m guessing not, but will await a blog entry post-wedding to confirm.

Wedding

Pulping penguins: the NLB and a space that used to be ours

Disbelief. Disappointment. Rage. These emotions have not been in short supply on my Facebook news feed recently. And although a lot of it was World Cup-related (sorry, Brazil fans) most of it was actually about the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of certain children’s books.

I’m sure the NLB had hoped that the removal of the books would happen quietly, unannounced and mostly unnoticed. It’s not the first time they’ve done it, after all. It has emerged that three books written by Robie Harris, making sex education accessible to young children, have also been withdrawn.

But now the news is everywhere, and it’s a revelation that hurts. I see it in the reactions of my friends and I feel it myself; indignation and anger mixed with deep, deep disappointment.

The national library was ours – a publicly funded institution open to all members of the public, a house of knowledge, culture and learning for all Singaporeans. As a child I visited the library often. I still remember learning how to use the self-checkout machines, carting my books home and devouring them while lying on a mattress spread out on the floor of my grandmother’s house. Those books were the foundation of a lifelong love for reading that endures till today. The library belonged to me, and my family, and my friends. It felt like it would always be a space for us to turn to, a neutral space that would be open to all Singaporeans, regardless of who we are.

Discovering the NLB’s willingness to cave to conservative religious anti-LGBT pressure has shattered that illusion. We now realise that our public library is complicit in denying space to people who don’t conform, and in using the “pro-family” excuses used by homophobes and bigots committed to the marginalisation of sexual minorities.

We now realise that our public library is not actually ours, and probably hasn’t been for a long, long time.

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On Pink Dot and confrontations

A pink dress, with white polkadots, hangs in my cupboard at home. I bought it over a month ago, and even got it slightly altered to fit me better. I bought it before the run-up to Pink Dot exploded into a culture war of pink and white and red, and people who would never actually be personally affected by other people’s freedom to love decided that it was an affront to them and their religion for other human beings to strive for equal rights.

The dress is hanging in my cupboard at home while my friends are no doubt already gathered (or gathering – my friends aren’t always known for punctuality) in a sea of pink at Hong Lim Park because I am, once again, missing Pink Dot.

Since 2010 – which is when I first heard of and wanted to attend Pink Dot – I have only succeeded in being there once, in 2011. It was wonderful, friends, lovers and multi-generational families packed into the little park in the middle of the city. I’ve wanted to join in on another Pink Dot, but never quite made it because I always ended up, somehow or other, out of Singapore. This year is no different: despite all the anticipation and planning I am sitting here in Scotland, having had to catch a last-minute flight out to be with family.

Pink Dot is by no means a perfect event or movement. There is plenty that needs to be said about diversity and differences in experiences – straight or queer – in Singapore and around the world. But I still believe that Pink Dot is worth supporting, and it’s a belief that has been further reinforced by the outpouring of hatred and fear-mongering that has come from religious conservatives like Lawrence Khong and Ustaz Noor Deros.

It’s not a huge surprise. We’ve known for ages that Khong spends more time obsessing over gay sex than even gay people do. His anger, vomited all over obliging newspaper opinion pages, is fast getting repetitive and boring, especially to those who have never subscribed to as narrow an understanding of family as he.

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