“The idea to collect personal, real-life stories from Singapore’s GLBT communities came about one night in March 2009, when I heard from a friend that a young gay man we both knew killed himself a few days before his birthday,” said Leow Yangfa, the book’s editor whose own coming out story was included in SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century. He added, “As someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts as a teen, and armed with a social work education as an adult, I felt strongly that these stories needed to be told. Above all, I was curious to uncover the resilience that keeps people going in the face of crisis and adversity; hence the title. Hopefully, sharing these stories will empower their contributors by giving them a voice, even though they prefer to remain anonymous, and inspire others who may be able to relate to them.”
The stories speak of the ambivalent relationship between a mother and her gay son, and between a young man and his abusive boyfriend. They describe the relief felt by a young woman on receiving her sister’s support for her same-sex relationship, and the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. They reveal a gay man’s sense of duty to his wife and children, and follow a young woman’s transition to becoming a man. Other stories talk about what it’s like to be gay and living with HIV, depression or sex addiction. These stories, and many more, are very real in their candidness, and will make you think and feel deeply about the lives of others, and also that of yourself and others close to you.
Prefacing these stories is an introduction by Juliana Toh, Executive Director of the Counselling and Care Centre, alongside essays from four local commentators who share their reflections on the GLBT communities in Singapore. They are the former Methodist Bishop of Singapore, Reverend Doctor Yap Kim Hao; transgender activist Leona Lo; and former Nominated Members of Parliament Braema Mathi and Siew Kum Hong.
Dr Khoo Hoon Eng, loving mother, AWARE activist & Action for AIDS volunteer counsellor, said “As a mother of two gay sons and a friend of many gay people, these stories resonate with me. They could be the stories of my friends, my children or my friends’ children. These stories reveal very clearly that GLBT people are human beings with the same emotions and relationship issues that all people struggle with. I hope that reading these stories will convince you, regardless of your sexual orientation, that we all share the same deep-seated need to seek happiness and to be respected and loved.”
Ovidia Yu, award-winning playwright and author, said “I was very touched by what I read. Their candid honesty in describing difficult and sometimes painful and all too familiar Singapore experiences made me feel I not only knew them and Singapore better but knew myself better too. The unpretentious yet gripping narratives gave me a strong sense that these people are triumphant, practical survivors and I can be too.”
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ABOUT THE WEBSITE & E-BOOK
I Will Survive: Personal gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender stories in Singapore is online at http://iwillsurvivesg.wordpress.com/
An e-book, to be published by Monsoon Books, will be available for download at the end of 2011. Excerpts of stories are available free-of-charge from the website, while full versions of the stories will be included in the e-book.
The editor’s proceeds from sales of the e-book will go towards supporting Oogachaga’s community services.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Leow Yangfa has spent most of his adult life involved in social services, including a previous job in a large statutory organisation and volunteer work with an HIV/ AIDS group in Singapore, as well as a charity for the homeless in London. He currently works for a voluntary welfare organisation in Singapore. As a proud uncle to five beautiful girls, he also happens to be gay, and his own coming out story was included in SQ 21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century, published by Oogachaga in 2006.
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
Monsoon Books is a Singapore-based independent publisher of English-language fiction and nonfiction titles, usually with Asian themes. Contact: phil [at] monsoonbooks.com.sg.
Oogachaga is a counselling and personal development organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals.
Coming Out Day on 11 October is an internationally observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
The editor is available for interviews, and through him arrangements may be made to interview story contributors. Contact him by email: SurvivingInSG [at] gmail.com.