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News & Updates Sexual Assault Violence Against Women

Let’s Unite! to end violence against women

Every act on every level counts! #16DaysSG

 

You might be wondering after #MeToo, #NowWhat?

Through the recent online movement, #MeToo, thousands of women around the world – and in Singapore – came forward to have open and honest conversations about their experiences of surviving sexual violence. #MeToo has not only foregrounded the prevalence of sexual violence in Singapore, but also the silence surrounding the issue. At the end of the day, a hashtag can only go so far: the onus lies on us to take action every day.

We Can! Singapore invites you to be a part of Let’s Unite, a 16-day campaign* to end violence against women. Start taking action these 16 Days, between 25th Nov – 10th Dec 2017 so we can galvanise everyone’s efforts and show that we are building a strong community of support.

If you start saying ‘violence against women happens in Singapore’ → More people will learn about it → Others will say it too → Perpetrators’ behaviours will not be excused → More survivors will seek help → State and social support for survivors will be improved → Violence against women will be on its way out

Tell others that you want to end violence against women – and encourage them to join you!

Start your #16DaysSG journey below.

 

 

 

 

 

*16 Days of Activism is a global campaign that calls on individuals, groups and organisations to stand together against violence against women by pledging their support and taking action from 25 November, the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

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Blog Body Image News & Updates [email protected]

Winning the Impossible Fight

By Deborah Wee

“Life must be easy when you look that way.”

This thought used to cross my mind while watching the willowy, impossibly stunning bombshells of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show strutting across the runway and swaying their hips with confidence.

Model Cameron Russell in Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2012 Source: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images North America

I was aware that it was physically impossible for the vast majority of women to ever achieve that tall, hourglass frame. But I had always assumed that the 5 per cent who were blessed with the type of body glorified by the media would have nothing to be insecure about.

Little did I know how wrong I was.

According to a 2007 study by the City University in London, it turns out that fashion models are more likely to have lower self-esteem than people who are not models.

American model Cameron Russell made a similar revelation on TED Talks in 2013, when she confessed to being insecure about her body. “I’m insecure because I have to think about what I look like everyday,” she revealed, adding that models are possibly the most physically insecure women on the planet.

I used to think that women like Russell never worried about looking “inadequate” because they already had that “ideal” image.

But it seems as if even the most conventionally beautiful women in society are not spared the intense scrutiny that women often face about their looks, and dealing with this scrutiny is a never-ending battle that chips away at their self-confidence. The message seemed clear: when it comes to women’s bodies, “perfect” isn’t perfect enough. There is always some “flaw” that everyone else is eager to point out.  

In other cases, body types perceived as “ideal” or “desirable” still end up becoming associated with negative stereotypes. Last month, American actress Ariel Winter spoke out on Refinery29 against body shaming after enduring a long history of social media backlash for – you guessed it – her body. Running a quick Google Image search, I quickly concluded that the Modern Family star fulfilled mainstream standards of physical attractiveness – she’s voluptuous, shapely and simply sexy. Didn’t society favour that kind of body, epitomised by the iconic fictional character Jessica Rabbit, whose desirability is consistently highlighted in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Ariel Winter for Refinery29, May 2017 Source: Danielle Levitt

Yet, it seems that society still finds ways to shame women who have been encouraged by the media to show off their curves. That was the case for Winter, who does not shy away from posting pictures of herself in bikinis and small dresses. “When I first got my curves I was so excited, but then people on the internet made me feel bad about it,” she told Us Weekly last October. Her large bust size has continued to draw negative attention – when Winter wore the same bathing suit alongside a thinner and lankier friend, she was still singled out and branded a “slut”.

It is already problematic that women are pressured to conform to narrow standards of physical attractiveness. I barely need to illustrate what such beauty standards do to the majority of women who cannot attain them. In fact, it has been found that women with normal body mass indexes and overweight women have lower self-esteem after looking at comparatively thinner models.

But what is baffling is that for the women who do meet such standards, “sexy” is still considered “slutty”, and willowy models are still judged for the smallest imperfection every time they step out in public.

The pursuit of the “ideal” female body is an impossible fight.

Feminist scholar Sandra Lee Bartky pointed this out in 1990 when she argued that prescribed and “ideal” standards of femininity are a “set-up” in which every woman will fail in some way. She argues that this is because the bodily transformations women must go through to achieve the “ideal” female body are too “radical and extensive”.

But, it seems that failure is also inevitable because it has long been determined that a woman’s body will never be free of criticism. When it comes to beauty standards, women can never win. The only way we can triumph is to reject such beauty standards and scrutiny altogether.

I understand that this is easier said than done; the peer pressure to conform to such standards is high, even without the media shoving them down our throats. But I realised not long ago that attempting to battle an unwinnable fight is just not worth it.

In the past, when someone commented on a physical “flaw” that I needed to cover up with cosmetics, I did as I was told. But when I returned with my supposedly “improved” self, they would quickly point out another flaw. Approval never came, and I’ve realised that it never will. So, I decided that I would no longer alter myself for someone else’s approval, and I’ve been happier since.

There is, of course, the grander and more onerous project of changing the general attitude that women’s bodies are eternally flawed and deserving of criticism. But until then, if society is always determined to find physical “flaws” in us, then why not just reject their criticisms and learn to see the beauty in who we are? If you no longer see your individual physical attributes as inadequacies, then you cannot lose.

About the author: Deborah is a popular culture-obsessed political science major who swoons over 1990s boy bands and holds solo jam sessions covering pre-2012 Taylor Swift songs. She is an advocate for gender equality and wants to promote a world where no one is or feels limited by their gender. She also gets a tad bit over-excited when given a keyboard and a blank Microsoft Word document, or when asked to share her opinion on, well, anything.

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Body Shaming: “Harmless” Teasing

By Jasmine Loo

When I was 12, I used to tease my best friend about her larger than average breasts. My nickname for her included adding the title “Big Boobs” at the back of her actual name. She’d tell me to stop, but I didn’t really think much of it – after all, it was just harmless teasing.

Back then, there was also a plump girl in my class. She was teased by everyone who called her mean names like “fatty”, “whale”, “fat girl”, amongst others. At that age, we viewed it as harmless fun… But was it really just that?

When I was 13, I started getting really bad breakouts. People started noticing and pointing it out. At first, I wasn’t really bothered by their comments. However, I started getting really upset when they constantly commented on my pimples. It made me feel very self conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin. I started getting pretty annoyed when people told me that I should “wash my face” or that I shouldn’t “eat peanuts or drink milk” because those food cause acne. Despite trying almost everything, my skin was still the same – disgusting, bumpy and damaged.

I really envied my classmates who had clear, blemish-free skin. I hated my own pimply and bumpy face.

Now, I’m 19 years old and still uncomfortable in my own skin. But, I’m learning how to love and accept it. I may not have clear skin, but it will not stop me from going out without make-up. The fact that I don’t have clear skin does not define who I am.

In retrospect, I should not have joined in on the “harmless teasing”. I should not have teased my best friend for having big breasts and making her less confident. However, I cannot change what has happened. The most I can do is to try and stop myself from making other people feel bad about themselves. I will strive to use my words to encourage others to embrace their flaws and be confident from here on out.

About the Author: Jasmine is an awkward teenager who wants to make a difference.

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Change making in real life

Written by Sumithri Venketasubramanian, Change Maker

A couple oScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.30 pmf days ago, I was scrolling through Everyday Feminism – as you do – and I came across a blog post: “You Don’t Need to Be Leading Marches for Your Activism to Matter – Here Are 5 Reasons Why”. It got me thinking about how the concepts of space and place influence our involvement in creating positive change.

Many of us have circles in which we feel comfortable talking about feminism and social justice, and these conversations often enrich our views on the inequalities of the world, at times giving us a sense of empowerment. And then there are those spaces where we choose to stay silent when jokes are cracked about women belonging in the kitchen – we might even feel pressured to give a little smile, just so as to not draw attention to yourself (“Why aren’t you laughing? Are you some kind of feminist or something?”). There are certain places where feminist discourse is encouraged,and others where it is jeered at.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.41 pmThere’s a phrase that goes “if you’re not fighting something, you’re enabling it”. That is, unless we’re making active efforts to go out into the world and advocate for big changes, breaking down injustices in the system and opening up the minds of society, we’re actually contributing to the discrimination and prejudices that certain people suffer as a result of due to how integrated these systems are with our everyday lives. So it would seem that if we really wanted to contribute to the battle against oppression, we would have to dedicate our lives to full-time advocacy and/or activism. But does this mean that we’ll have to stick to working with feminist organisations and groups which are influential in the women’s empowerment field? What about those feminists who have dreamed of being scientists for so much of their lives, or those who may want to open up their own bakery? Do we have to give up all of our personal (read: “selfish”) aspirations for the greater good?

The short answer is: no. The long answer is that it is not solely feminist bodies and lobby groups that can make a difference. In fact, it is in non-feminist spaces that have the greatest potential for change. As more overt forms of sexism are being increasingly frowned upon by society (though they still are very much in existence), prejudices begin to present themselves in the form of microaggressions – subtle comments and actions that are telling of the biases that one holds on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, class, appearance and/or other traits. And microaggressions are something which all of us experience – be it comments about how weak women are, or the dismissal of a woman’s anger because “she’s just on her period, don’t mind her”. The best part is: we all have the potential to make a difference.

Men’s role in gender advocacy

wrc_profilepicture_sAnd why should the burden (or honour, depending on how you see it) of ridding the world of gender-based injustices lie merely on those who suffer from them? After all, it is the privileged who have the power and means to influence systems in place which attempt to keep certain groups of people down.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a call by men around the world to their fellows, encouraging them to take a stand against violence against women. Movements like these are important, because they don’t attempt to hijack organisations and campaigns by women fighting for rights and opportunities. Rather, they attempt to take the spaces men already yield so much power and influence in and make them more feminist. It is in this approach to advocacy that institutionalised and systemic discrimination are challenged.

Feminism doesn’t just have to be about running a full-time social justice blog, or educating the masses about gender and sexism. Feminism is also in asking “wait, why is [the sexist joke that was just told] funny?”, and in speaking up against workplace harassment. Feminism is about feminism, wherever and whenever it is.

About the author: Sumithri is in a place in life where she knows what she wants to do, but also has yet to figure it out. Whatever it is, she hopes the world she leaves will be more just than the one she was born into.

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“Are women funny?”

Written by Camille Neale, Change Maker

Avaca movie poster number 1 few Sundays ago, I watched the recently released Vacation. The movie is about a family in the U.S. who, in an attempt to revitalise their annual family summer vacation, decide to go on a road trip to the father’s childhood vacation spot, the fictional amusement park ‘Wally World’.

In a predictable turn of events, the trip goes from bad to worse, much like the movie. One of the opening scenes of the movie involves the younger brother teasing his older brother for “having a vagina.” I’m not really sure what the writers’ (all of whom were men) intentions were with that joke, but I think it says something about the what they think their audience will find funny. When a man is made fun of for being “like a woman,” all women are the targets of the joke, because they are saying that it is shameful to be a woman. There’s nothing wrong with raunchy humour, but there is something wrong when all the jokes the movie relies on are sexist representations of women, transphobia and off-colour racial jokes.

Diversity in mainstream media

diversity-mainThe last six or so years have seen an increasing visibility in discussions of feminism, LGBTQ rights, transgender rights, race relations etc in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, movies such as Vacation, do not reflect this and instead, represent a larger anxiety that characterises a media that is narrow at best; at worst, discouraging growth and progress by continuing the overrepresentation of white-centric and patriarchal tropes.

Vacation reminded me of the typical rom-com/comedy from the early 2000s, a formula that relies on reinforcing gender roles. The sad reality is that most TV shows and movies today continue to privilege a male perspective – not surprising considering that 83% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films in the US in 2014 were men.

It’s really time to retire these jokes that rely on archaic sexism, and it’s time we stop supporting movies that popularise awful tropes about women – tropes that are just vehicles for women-bashing.

Feminist comedy

Mindy-Project-600TV is actually faring better in terms of diversity of roles for women than movies. While there is still a ways to go in terms of racial diversity for women comics on TV, I think the rise of feminist comedians – comedians who use their comedy to push a feminist agenda – are meeting the demand of women who want comedy that speaks to their lived realities. Where they can see women characters that are more than simply the love interest or the unfunny extra. As women comprise half of the world’s population, this is a considerable target audience, to say the least.

Feminist comedy can indeed draw a wide audience, because if you write good comedy, then people will watch it. The recent success of comedy produced by, and for women such as Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City and The Mindy Project have helped to answer the age-old, sexist question: “Are women funny?” Inside Amy Schumer, a show featuring sketches, stand-up and interviews all written by Amy Schumer, draws a 50/50 men to women demographic. Almost every sketch on her show deals with gender politics. Broad City, a show with two women as the lead characters similarly deals with feminist issues. Essentially, these women are being portrayed as human beings, not as some Hollywood, male fantasy image of a woman, and they are allowed to be funny on their own terms, and this is why it is so great. These are shows about all types of women, not just one. These characters are just who they are, they deal with the comedic struggles of daily life as a woman. And they are pushing the boundaries on how women can be funny – through stoner jokes, sex jokes, and even toilet humour.

An article on Policy Mic posits that comedians are helping to push gender equality issues into the mainstream media. This is because they are able to make feminism more accessible to the general public, which somehow makes them more acceptable than gender equality advocates themselves. Nevertheless, they’re making important moves to draw attention to the very real challenges and problems of living as a woman. We are now seeing more young women willing to engage with feminism, and a better understanding of the way sexism hampers women’s experiences.

Gender advocacy

emma-watson-he-for-she-speech-1Sadly, the response to women who address feminist issues but are not comedians is much less positive. Women who seek to create a public dialogue about gendered issues are often told to be less angry, or even threatened with violence. When Emma Watson presented her ‘He for She’ campaign at the UN she received many threats of violence from men. Random men on the internet asserted that if sexually explicit photos of Emma Watson emerged online, her feminist views would be somehow less valid.

It seems that men are willing to engage with the problems of sexism if the women who talk about them are funny. This has not done much to advance the agendas of gender equality advocates however, so it’s important not to forget about these real systemic inequalities that must be tackled. What these comedians do offer is an alternative to the messages that a patriarchal mass media bombards us with. It’s time men stop being shocked when a woman tells a joke that is actually funny. Women should be allowed to be the class clowns too.

 

About the author: Camille is a recent university graduate who is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She hopes that whatever that is, she will be able to wear a power suit and be really intimidating.

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A Change Maker’s perspective on change

Written by Jolanda Nava, Change Maker

Daryl Yang is a 22-year-old enrolled in the Yale-NUS/NUS Law Double Degree Programme. He is also the President of Yale-NUS’ Gender & Sexuality Alliance. I decided to interview him to find out what he thinks about change and change-making.

10847393_673306239461821_5085795308324159513_oWhat do you think are some of the problems that you see with gender around you?

Generally there is a lack of conversation and understanding of this very complex idea of gender. As a result, most people have very fixed ideas about what a boy or a girl should be and this leads to people who don’t fit into these boxes to be considered deviants, “problems” that need to be fixed.

I also find that gender in our society is defined by ideas of family and parenthood, in part because of the national campaign to increase birthrates. If you’re a woman, your “goal” should be to find a husband and have children; if you’re a man, you should be a breadwinner and take care of your household. This creates unfair and unrealistic expectations. I have friends who cannot accept that their girlfriends earn more than them, because of this idea that the man should be the breadwinner. Others feel like they have to keep up with this “I’m strong, I don’t have feelings” persona because they think that is what it means to be a man.

How then, do you start change?

“Change” is a big word and sometimes it feels scary to think about changing society. But I believe it is important we recognize that change does not happen quickly or overnight. It is going to take a long time before we can see the change we are advocating for, but we have to start somewhere, and spreading ideas is a good place to start from.

I think change starts with small things, like challenging stereotypes in your casual conversations with friends or just changing the language you use. It is about asking questions that can start a deeper reflection. When your friend tells you he doesn’t think he can accept it if his future wife earns more than him, ask them why they think so. Get them to think about where those ideas come from. It is about not saying things like “man up” or “don’t be such a girl”, because they perpetuate and reinforce negative stereotypes about what it means to be a guy or a girl.

We cannot be trapped by the idea that things have to change now, or we are going to feel discouraged and start thinking it is a lost battle. But every one of us can do small things to push a little, and we should recognize that each of us can only play a small yet important part. You have to put things into perspective.

Do you think that change starts with people, or with laws?

I think legal and social change have an interactive relationship. It is hard to say whether one should come before the other because there are pros and cons to either of them coming first. But they are not mutually exclusive, they should go hand in hand.

Different members of the community should advocate change in different areas of the community and at different levels. Personally, I am not yet able to advocate for legal change [Daryl is currently enrolled in the double degree of Liberal Arts + Law] but what I can do is influence the community and people around me.

G Spot LogoWhat do you do, personally, to start change?

I try to make myself someone that people can approach and talk to about these things. I want to achieve change through dialogue and conversations, so I try to be someone people can reach out to; I try to create a place around me where people can feel safe.

Sometimes we get angry when we face people that are ignorant or negative or pessimistic, and we respond in a way that does more harm than good. I think it is extremely important to develop the ability to put the anger aside and respond in a more helpful way. Shouting at someone will not help, we have to think about the kind of support we offer each other when we advocate change. The important question is: how are we helping the person in front of us to change?

Often we feel trapped within these social structures. Your friend might agree with you that what they are experiencing comes from social expectations, but they are still stuck in that position and they might find it impossible to escape. So it is important to help creating an environment that allows people to feel comfortable about themselves and to find a way out.

Is there an example of small changes that you have witnessed?

Two semesters ago we hosted a panel on gender, it was only a conversation about it. Yet, it led some people in the audience decide that they wanted to do something for the transgender community, which lead to a small project aimed at fundraising and raising awareness. Even if the panel was just people sharing their experiences, the ripple effects were many.

Most importantly, I think when you do something, no matter how small, it will help encourage and inspire people to do something too.

About the author: Jolanda is a university students learning about international relations and having fun with programming classes. She not-so-secretly enjoys challenging gender stereotypes and when she grows up she wants to be a superhero.

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What Makes a Man

Written by Leow Yangfa, Change Maker, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

Being a son means I am grateful for my parents’ loving support, good health and continued presence. Being a brother means I am fortunate enough to have two women with whom I will have life-long relationships. Being a nephew means I have aunts and uncles who are there to remind me I’m part of a larger family. Being an uncle means I have relationships with five very different young women whom I will risk my life to protect.

Being of Chinese-Hakka-Peranakan heritage means I am connected to a long history of culture, language and traditions. Being a Singlish-speaking Singaporean means I can be uptight, eccentric, arrogant, kiasu, kiasee and patriotic, all at the same time.

Being gay means I have an awareness of what it means to be feared, hated, demonised…and different. Being a survivor of suicide and sexual assault means I know how it feels to be vulnerable.

Being vegetarian means I would like to practise kindness in my daily habits. Being an atheist means I only have this life to live. Being a social worker means I am self-aware and seek purpose in my life.

Being a man to me means….all of the above.

About the Author: Leow Yangfa is the Executive Director of Oogachaga, a community-based professional counselling, support & personal development organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, couples & families.

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RALLY: for art, music and conversations for change


WE CAN POSTER - 4 SEPT SMALLRALLY,
v. coming together for a common purpose.

Celebrate solidarity, support, collaboration and allyship at We Can! Arts Fest on December 6 – back for the third year in a row!

What does it mean to be an ally for gender equality? How can we support the causes we feel strongly about without overpowering the voices we want heard? How can we do this through art, music and conversation?

If you:

– love art and performances that provoke critical thought and empower your audience
– wish to showcase your talents to inspire action for change
– want to meet like-minded artists and activists
– have a voice or a story that you want to share with others

….then we invite you to be part of RALLY, and be featured alongside other artists and activists in Singapore! Band together for a day of art, music, films, performance and dialogue. Be part of the Change Maker movement towards a safer, inclusive, more diverse reality.

Submit a proposal for your performance, programme or exhibition to us!

More details on what to include in the proposal in the link above. Send your proposal to [email protected]


About the We Can! Arts Fest

10869589_884245438277055_5022304249781370802_oWe Can! Arts Fest is an arts festival by We Can! Singapore and its partners in conjunction with ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’, an international campaign marked by the UN and other groups around the world. 16 Days of Activism starts on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. It aims to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional, and international level.

We Can! Arts Fest offers a platform to bring together arts, performance, and community-based events in solidarity with the international movement, and to make an impact locally. We Can! Singapore will also run a parallel social media campaign to build up towards the festival.

Read more about The Silence of Violence: We Can! Arts Fest 2013 here and take a look at our photo gallery here!

Read more about Breakthrough: We Can! Arts Fest 2014 here and take a look at our photo gallery here!

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For The Young Men Who Love Women

By Robert Bivouac, Change Maker

Don’t be that guy. You know, the guy who hangs around women, doing things for them, because they’re pretty and he’d like to go out with them. The guy who holds doors open, offers to do homework, always ends his texts with a “☺” or “;)” or “hahahaha lol” because that’s not nice, that’s just creepy. Doesn’t mean you can’t be nice to people; don’t be daft. Just don’t be nice to them because you want to have sex with them.

Don’t be that guy. You might’ve seen him before, the guy who doesn’t put any effort into his presentation and wonders why women don’t like him. Also, don’t be that other guy. I’m talking about that guy who goes to the gym, who drinks several different kinds of shake every day, even though he’d rather be at home or doing something else, just to look attractive to women. Look, you have every right to dress the way you want to. You can do whatever you want with your body. You can keep a neckbeard if you want to. You can get ridiculously bulked up if you want to. If you’re doing it for yourself, that’s fine. If you want to look attractive to women, that’s also fine. Nobody gets to judge you. Don’t feel like you have to look attractive, or that you ought to be attractive regardless of what you look like, though. You don’t deserve a partner, and you don’t need one. Get comfortable with your body. Do what you want to.

Don’t be that guy. As in, that guy who looks for tricks to pick women up. Yes, it’s tempting to think some dude has things figured out, that he understands women better than you do and knows how to get them to have sex with you. It’s reassuring to have something to fall back on, to blame your failure on not being skilled enough at the “game” instead of not being attractive, but when the “game” involves harassing and assaulting women it’s not something you should be training to do. Besides, women aren’t simple. Nobody’s that simple. Understand people, as a whole and as individuals.

Don’t be that guy. Like, that guy who doesn’t take no for an answer. The guy who calls at women in public places, on public transport, and gets mad when they don’t respond the way he wants them to. The guy who doesn’t want to hear “no”, and so waits until his target is too drunk, or high, to say “no”. The guy who keeps pushing until “no” becomes “yes”. Respect the “no”, and move on. Everything must be built on consent.

And lastly, don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy who believes his main goal in life is to get into a relationship, or have sex with as many women as possible. The guy who wants a happy ending, who maybe watched too many movies as a kid and thinks his life is a fairytale, who feels like he needs to be in love or having sex. No, you don’t. Love is fun, sex is fun, but it’s not necessary. People don’t exist to be loved. They don’t exist to have sex. They just exist. That goes for you, and it goes for everyone else too. Get a hobby, find some friends.

For the young men who love women: don’t be those guys.

About the Author: Robert Bivouac is a 20-year-old writer and spoken word poet from Singapore. He enjoys Singaporean food, music and literature, and lives mostly on the internet where he pretends to be cool.

This article was edited on 23 June 2017.

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Some Reassembly Required: An Interview with Chris Khor

Interview conducted by Sing Rue, Change Maker

Christopher Khor is a transgender man who has been making headlines in Singapore with his upcoming documentary “Some Reassembly Required”. The film will document his reconstruction and is the first film on transgender men in Singapore. His team raised over $14,000 through crowdfunding earlier in the year for the documentary. We talk to Chris about his thoughts on transgender visibility in Singapore, and globally, gender diversity and what we can expect from the film.

Sing Rue: Can you tell me more about some of the misconceptions you intend to address in this documentary? What are some of the important things people need to understand?

Chris Khor: I think the biggest misconception about transgender people is that people can’t be transgender and gay/lesbian. I get that it’s confusing – I’ve had trouble explaining it to my family members myself. But it’s important to know that being transgender relates to your gender identity, and gay to your sexual orientation, so they’re very separate things. As for me, I identify as a straight transgender man.

SR: Recently, transgender women such as Laverne Cox are gaining visibility, but not so much for transgender men. Why do you think this is so? How do we bring about greater visibility for transgender men?

CK: I think the reality is that transgender men often can fade into the shadows. A lot of transmen that I know do not want to seen. Transmen are men, but there is still a lot of workplace discrimination, and there’s always that fear that someone will view you differently. I think the best way to bring about visibility is to create a safe environment in which they are willing to not be stealth, without having to fear jaundiced eyes and discrimination. Of course, then it’s up to them.

SR: As a gender non-conforming person myself, I am incredibly grateful to you for coming out in such a public way to share your story. What prompted your decision to do so? How is the response so far and how do you feel?

CK: We decided to make this documentary after a chance encounter with a transgender man in San Francisco. Geraldine tells this story better, but in essence, he was the first transgender man I’d met in person. And he’d just gotten married, and his wife is lovely. I think it gave me the first semblance of the life I could live, and that was encouraging to me on a personal level.

After that, Geraldine and I began talking a lot more about what being transgender meant to me, and we realised we had a great story. Still, it took me months after that to agree to being the subject of my own film!

It’s a privilege to be in this position, to educate and bring hope. The response has been overwhelming. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone’s support. But the best part has been getting messages from other transguys, looking for advice and sharing their experiences. It’s so important that we start to build a community that isn’t afraid to reach out to one another, especially since it’s so much easier to just “be stealth”.

SR: You seem to be very comfortable with your gender identity and who you are as a person. Is there anything you would recommend to people who are currently struggling with their gender identity and are not in such a good place as you are?

CK: Oh, it helps that I’ve always known I was a boy. There was never any doubt in that regard. I struggled a lot with not being able to accept the body that I have, even after surgery. The best advice I have, in this regard, is that you are bigger than your body. That your soul is more valuable that anything that people see. And you deserve to be loved. That’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. Sometimes, that self-love is the only thing we’ve got.

SR: There are some who have come to a place of self-acceptance with regards to their gender identity, but still face opposition from society. Do you have any advice for them? What were some support systems you had that helped you?

CK: I was very fortunate to have the support of my lecturers when I came out in university, and when I worked at a cafe when I was younger. I’ve found that support tends to spill down from the top. A lot of it, I think, is knowing your own worth, and realising that you can walk away from people that don’t treat you with respect. I’ve found that some of these relationships can be unhealthy, like tumours, and you should get rid of them, like…tumors.

SR: What steps do you think we need to take as a community to continue an open dialogue about gender identity, diversity and acceptance? What are some actions we can take as individuals for positive change?

CK: I think we need to talk to each other, instead of talking at each other. Dialogue can only be had if people are listening, and respectful. This applies for communities and individuals. Be kind. Give more love. Be slow to respond in anger. Be willing to talk, to understand different perspectives, and do not fear being wrong. This all sounds extremely airy fairy but it’s true. When we see each other as humans, rather than labels, then the world will be a happier place.

So, to put those things into practice: be respectful when talking to others. Make no assumptions because of people’s labels. Understand that everyone is different, and that’s okay. These are not battles to be won – these are people to be loved.

SR: I can’t wait for your film to be completed! In the meantime, do you have an exclusive teaser to share with those of us who just can’t bear the wait?

CK: We’re in the early stages of production, so we’ve just started lining up interviews. Look forward to our web content though! It’s mad season at work, but we’ll have a video going up pretty soon!

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