Translation of a "Scary/Gross" Article
from the Malay Language Newspaper,
Saturday, August 23, 1997
Gays "busy" in Bedok area
Night activities spotted near swimming complex
by Nizam Ismail
In the daytime, the area surrounding Bedok Swimming Complex is lax, and only occasionally visited by those passing by, to and from the swimming complex for recreation. But come evening time, this relatively secluded area has been rather "busy" lately - with many gay men spotted performing homosexual activities.
Clients come in floods by car, and after meeting and agreeing on the "services", the client will bring the gay man to a separate place. Another place spotted by BH as a "nest" of similar activities is the areasurrounding China Street, Chinatown. The area at Changi Village Road is also the playground of "mak nyah", ie. transvestites. They would hang out there at night, especially during weekends, to obtain"partners".
In fact, the area sometimes turns into a festival, says a worker at a nearby hotel, Mr Shuaib Halim. "Some come to look at the mak nyahs and some want to use the services of these mak nyahs. But for me, the Changi Village area has become a display centre for mak nyahs showing off their beauty," he said.
When contacted, a police spokesman said that his department was currently monitoring the situation. According to him, it was an offence to solicit/hustle in public. Those found guilty could be fined up to $1,000. Those found guilty of unnatural acts could be jailed up to two years.
PAGE 13: EXCLUSIVE
The area around Bedok Swimming Complex near Bedok Stadium has been the prime destination of homosexual men recently. These gay men appear almost every night there to offer their services tofellow clients. Another gay meeting place in the dark of the night is China Street, Chinatown. The area at Changi Village has also been publicly known as a meeting place for mak nyahs for more than six years now. BH's reporter explored these three places for several nights recently to file this report.
Part 1: Late Night In Bedok
In the daytime, he works as an insurance agent with neat clothes and necktie, just like an executive. But come night time, Alex cavorts to perform his "part-time" job as a homosexual. Alex, aged 28, with a stout and attractive body, was met outside Bedok Swimming Complex near Bedok Stadium. This area has become one of two places explored by BH for being places of gay activity for quite sometime now.
Just like in Bedok, the entire row of old shophouses at China Street is also a stop for homosexuals or gays. Dressed in T-shirts and tight pants, they wait for customers, while some can be seen kissing with their partners in between the walls. The clients who come here, mostly in cars, can be seen bargaining from their cars, before the gay can finally be seen entering the customer's car, headed to another place.
Alex, who I met at Bedok Stadium, confessed of other gay friends who acted "more daringly". Alex, a Chinese male, has been familiar with the place for about a year now. "There are about 20 cars of clients each night," said Alex. Their activities usually begin at about 10 pm and end at about 3 or 4 am. On Sun nites, the number of gays are higher, as the place is visited by even more clients.
"Usually I'll ask what the clients want ... whether light or more heavy stuff ...," explained Alex, who was only wearing shorts and a flimsy top. However, according to Alex, not all gays were there to solicit in the first place. Some were merely there to mingle with their friends. But it's certain that they were ultimately there for "fun".
"It's only 'part-time', to get rid of boredom," said one of them. Another, who only wished to be known as Mad, 24 y/o, and active in the area for the past year, said: "I do this voluntarily. No payment. You do it 4 me, I do it 4 you ... know what I mean?
"But if clients want to give 'tips', I dont reject," admits Mad, a Chinese salesman.
BH found that gay men have their own distinctive fashion - tight shorts, flimsy tops, revealing the body, and sometimes carrying haversacks and water bottles. A police spokesman, when contacted, said that under the law, those caught soliciting in public for the first time could be fined upto $1,000. Second-time offenders onwards could be fined upto $2,000 or 6 months in prison or both. Those caught performing unnatural acts could be imprisoned upto 2 years. Gay activities such as these have been reported by BH two years ago, at East Coast beach, near Katong Park.
One month after the report, the police arrested 12 men for allegedly outraging the modesty of police officers who had gone undercover to crackdown on gay activities there. Still, when asked if they were worried about police actions, Alex replied: "We know these activities are risky ... there's the police, there's AIDS, but I think I'm doing it safely ... using condoms ... But I dont want to think about the police or AIDS. The Bedok Swimming Complex is hidden from the public and there are no disturbances.
Part 2: Mak Nyahs In Changi
Late night does not mean bedtime for them. The later the evening, the more cars flood to Lorong Bekukong, near Changi Village Road. They come either to look at the fashions and actions of mak nyahs standing by the side of the road, or to look for sexual services from them. BH's investigation of Changi Village over several nights has shown that the place is full of men dressed as women with long-hair, aka "mak nyahs", almost every night. Starting from 11 pm till 3 am, mak nyahs can be seen in Lorong Bekukong, awaiting the arrival of customers.
One, who wished to be known as Chloe, was 19. He had applied thick make-up to hide his facial hair. At a glance, their beauty were comparable to, if not surmounted those of (real) women. "We take hormones to make sure that our skin and voices are more feminine." said a mak nyah, who wanted to be known as Ebby. Overall, they were still young - some between their teens to late twenties.
"Previously I hated to wear women's clothes. I was 'gay' last time. But slowly, I began to change into a 'mak nyah'," said Ebby. However, according to Ebby, he still has not undergone surgery to become afull woman.
It's clear, for clients who come by car, that mak nyahs will direct them to places for giving sexual services. BH found out that these places include the surrounding area of Changi Village or places within a short 5 minutes' walk. The cars would stop in dark places, esp in front of old vacated buildings. "If want, hotel also can. But most dont want cos expensive," said Chloe.
Part 3: Interview with a Gay Man
When observed up close, the man's "manliness" can turn into "gentleness". A conversation with one man at Bedok Swimming Complex was rather "scary/gross". After only a few minutes of knowing each other, the man, by the name of Mike, expressed his feelings of wanting to make me his lover.
"I'm not a commercial person. I dont ask for payment. I need someone to get rid of this loneliness," said Mike who admitted working as an English teacher in a private school. According to Mike, 24, he had just returned after studying in an Australian university. "When I was 16, I had a 32 y/o boyfriend. But now it's over. Now there's no one." said Mike.
We exchanged pager numbers. Next morning, just as I'd expected, Mike contacted me and expressed words of longing. Mike wanted to meet up, but after I had neglected his calls for several days, Mike went into hiding, probably because Mike had previously said that "I too have dignity".
Unlike Mike, another gay man I met, Gerard, 25, was even more scary/gross. "I like you. Can we get together tonight?" he said. When his request was rejected, Gerard shifted his attention to another manwho came in a rented car. After talking for a short while, Gerard went off with the man in his car.
Although Gerard and Mike did not ask for payment for "introductions" or sexual services, there are some gays at Bedok Swimming Complex who ask for money for the services they provided.
Part 4: Interview with Dr Roy Chan (Action for AIDS)
AfA VP, Dr Roy Chan said that these fall outside the true culture of the gay community. "The gay groups that you mention are involved in Bedok or Chinatown or anywhere else in Singapore only comprise a small group. They are indeed more interested in openly having sex with the clients who approach them. But they give the wrong picture as to the true group of gays. Real gays actually prefer to go off among themselves and hide their true identities," explained Dr Chan.
According to him, gays need not be involved in hustling or in sexual activities. Added Dr Chan, the number of gays involved in Bedok or China Street are far too small, as compared to the 3-5 per cent of men in Singapore who are categorised as 'gay'. The percentage was based on his personal estimate. Dr Chan also added that he will be conducting a study of gay behaviour in Singapore. "The results of this research will help us in determining how AIDS spreads, etc." said Dr Chan. The research is expected to be ready at the end of the year.
Sidebar: Two different "kinds"
Gay men and Mak Nyahs are not the same. In fact there are many differences among them, according to Vice President of AfA Singapore, Dr Roy Chan. The following are their characteristics:
- look like normal men
- prefer men and reject women
- psyche mixed with masculine and feminine characteristics
- Mak Nyah
- men who resemble women ito fashion, clothes and mannerisms
- prefer men
- keen in reconstructive surgery to resemble women
- psyche of a woman
(translation by F.W.)