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No. 38, Oxley Road, was the longtime residence of Singapore’s Founding Father & longest-serving Prime Minister—Lee Kuan Yew.
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CHAPTER XVI—OFFENCES AFFECTING THE HUMAN BODY
OUTRAGES ON DECENCY
377A. ANY MALE PERSON WHO, IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, COMMITS, OR ABETS THE COMMISSION OF, OR PROCURES OR ATTEMPTS TO PROCURE THE COMMISSION BY ANY MALE PERSON OF, ANY ACT OF GROSS INDECENCY WITH ANOTHER MALE PERSON, SHALL BE PUNISHED WITH IMPRISONMENT FOR A TERM WHICH MAY EXTEND TO 2 YEARS.
The Statutes of the Republic of Singapore (Penal Code).
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A now-repealed provision—then Section 377—criminalized any sexual act “against the order of nature”:
WHOEVER VOLUNTARILY HAS CARNAL INTERCOURSE AGAINST THE ORDER OF NATURE WITH ANY MAN, WOMAN OR ANIMALS, SHALL BE PUNISHED WITH IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE, OR WITH IMPRISONMENT FOR A TERM WHICH MAY EXTEND TO 10 YEARS, AND SHALL ALSO BE LIABLE TO FINE.
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In a 1998 interview, a gay Singaporean asked then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) if there was a future for homosexuals in the Republic.
LKY expressed his belief that the acceptability of homosexuality was a matter for society rather than the government to decide. He claimed that his government let people live their own lives so long as they didn’t impinge on other people.
In a subsequent interview, LKY was asked if he believed homosexuality was a product of nature or nurture. He replied that he had been told that it was caused by genetics.
In yet another interview, LKY was asked how he would react if one of his grandchildren turned out to be homosexual. He replied that he would accept his grandchild because homosexuality is the result of genetic code. He added that he opposed LGBT+ adoption because they had no maternal instinct necessary to raise children.
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In 2004, Taiwan’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen blasted his Singaporean counterpart for telling the UN that actions by Taiwan’s independence groups could lead to war with China.
“Singapore holds China’s lanpa with its hands,” Chen said.
In Taiwanese, lanpa means testicles. Saying that someone holds another’s lanpa means he is fawning over that person.
Chen further lamented Taiwan’s status in the international community, noting that “even a tiny garden country like Singapore, which only has 3 million people, can criticize us.”
[Singapore is now home to more than 5.6 million residents.]
Chen also called Singapore a “pisai country,” meaning a country only as big as a piece of snot.
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LKY died in 2015 at the age of 91. He did not live to see Li Huanwu come out in 2018. As the grandson of Singapore’s Founding Father & nephew of current (& homophobic) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Li Huanwu’s coming out was a watershed moment for LGBT+ rights in the island territory.
• • •
“Their biceps bulge, unbulge, bulge again.
It’s not that I want them. I’ve had enough
men, and yet I can’t stop looking at them
while trying not to look at them.”
—Aaron Smith, Spring Rush
“The madness of grief when all you have is / the mess of the body”
—Miguel Murphy, Detainee
Dear John, I desperately wish for a world without thieves, I bring my own pillow when I travel, I’ve been waking up early to write, is this how Thomas Edison felt, anyway, I will always remember the strap around your books, coat buttoned up the front, eyes quiet but alert, flickering blue flames. Sexual Congress is in session. I’m an epiphyte perched on your sprawling leaves, you beckon me into your chambers, where you’re thinking about, I imagine, me, your first aid kit handy, suddenly aware of my wanting, in your hands I’m soft like mango & on your lips sweet like kyoho. You practice withholding, at first gently, then not at all, with you it’s trick-or-treat, even in January, it’s not exploitation if there are flowers involved. Mouth and skin, your desire leaps into me, taking me on a tour of Singapore, mouse modest in your talons, I hold your lanpa in my mouth, swap spit in carnal intercourse, pocket your seed, shimmy over to the Merlion, suck in the Sands, swallow your Sir Stamford Raffles, drop by Fort Canning, revel in your Istana, smack that Sentosa, bukake at the American Club, wave to the Gurkha guards, they’re born to kill, admire the half-naked boys at St. Joseph’s, chat up the chicas at Crescent Girls’, you take me to the Bird Park • Botanic Gardens • Bukit Merah • rail me from Woodlands to Tiong Bahru, say things that would make Gan Eng Seng blush, feed me a table of Hainanese chicken rice, Bak Kut Teh, Char Kway Tew, Beef Rendang, Carrot Cake, meaning Chai Tow Kway & not the white-people-dessert kind, this shit is heavenly & savory in the worst way, don’t forget strips of kaya toast, delightful streaks, smothering me in streams of earthiness, your cream in my crepe, food of Gods, against the order of nature, genitalia generating discomfort, democratic elections & peaceful transition of power. You with your arched back, unapologetic posture, clouds coil & surge, the natives die, pato, pixie, 禽兽不如 (worse than a beast), say what you want, puto sucios, Antonin Scalia retire bitch, with you I’m cute & helpless, 小鸟依人 (like a little bird), you convince me with your 花言巧语 (flowery speech), I know you’re insincere, but we’ll deal with that later, needy sick man of Asia, in truth I need you like a hole in the head, for now / we’re contorted like fantastic beasts / please / leave / I was wrong / please / stay / please / leave / I wanted nothing / I was / wrong / please / stay / leave / stay / at peace / exhausted / spent / waiting at Changi / flight back to reality / we’re not in Kansas anymore ///
Michael Chang (they/them) poets to feel alive. They are the proud recipient of a Brooklyn Poets fellowship, and were invited to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop at Kenyon College. Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in The Minnesota Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Heavy Feather Review, Glass Mountain, Thin Air, ellipsis… literature & art, Q/A Poetry, Yes Poetry, Typo Mag, Wrath-Bearing Tree, Bending Genres, The Hunger, Cabildo Quarterly, Willawaw Journal, Neon Garden, The Conglomerate, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Funny Looking Dog Quarterly, London Grip, Rogue Agent, Kissing Dynamite, BULL Fiction, Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine, Collective Unrest, Pink Plastic House, Little Rose, Milk + Beans, Love’s Executive Order, Squawk Back, and many others.