Interview with Stuart Koe, COO, Fridae by BBC World Service (BBC World Service East Asia Today)
8 Aug, 2001
Nation Party, East Asia Today, 8 August 2001, 10 pm (+8 GMT)
BBC: Finally, Singapore's usually low profile gay community, as I speak, is holding a coming out party. It's a bold move in a country where homosexual acts are outlawed and where the criminal code does not even acknowledge the existence of lesbianism.
The event is being hailed as Singapore's answer to Sydney's Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball Parties.
First, how's it been going - I asked one of the organisers, Stuart Koe, whom I dragged off the dance floor to a phone in a quieter place.
Stuart: The party is going very well, everyone is arriving and we are getting a very good crowd, everyone is really out for the party. I think it is going very well, tonight.
BBC: Now, one of the attractions is Body Painting. Has that started yet? What does it involve?
Stuart: Well, actually the events that are scheduled for tonight include a pageant. We have gays coming in from around the region. We have two separate rooms, one for the women and the main room for the party. In the women's room, we have a foam party. Outside, we have the chill out zone, where we have body painters. We have stalls set up by all the gay and lesbian business in Singapore. We have different representatives just from every walk of the community here in Singapore.
BBC: You said that there would be a foam party in the women's room. What is that all about?
Stuart: It is basically a plastic barricade, and they blow foam into it; it's as if you are going to have a big bubble bath.
BBC: Are the women clothed or are they in bikinis and stuff?
Stuart: All the women are clothed.
BBC: What's the idea? What goes on behind the foam?
Stuart: Well, I have no idea; the men aren't welcome in the women's room.
BBC: Now, tell me, on a more serious note, why is the party being held? Well, there are some who might say, you know, the Singapore gay community is given a certain amount of space by the government. But this kind of in your face event might risk a bad reaction from them. What's going on? Why are you having the party?
Stuart: I don't think we intend for this to be an in your face event at all. When we started planning the event, it really was as a means to celebrate National Day, which occurs tomorrow on the 9th of August and it was really a chance for a group of gays and lesbians and their friend to get together to have a dance party.
BBC: What do you say to those who would argue that there is precious little for Singapore's gay community to celebrate? You know homosexuality is illegal or homosexual acts are illegal and there is a huge endemic prejudice against gay men and women in Singapore.
Stuart: Well, definitely there is a huge prejudice against gay man and women in Singapore. As you stated very correctly, homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore. However being gay or lesbian is not illegal and certainly, it's not illegal being a gay and lesbian person in Singapore throwing a dance party and neither is it illegal for a gay and lesbian (person) in Singapore to celebrate National Day along with the rest of the country. So, it's definitely a grey area - the actual statute that says that homosexuality is illegal is a law that we inherited from the British in the 19th Century. That's what we have to live with but it certainly doesn't stop gays and lesbians from existing in Singapore. It certainly doesn't stop us from living our lives normally like anybody else.
BBC: Stuart, thanks a million, get back to the party and have fun. Bye Bye.