To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
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Advocacy for LBTQ women's rights at CEDAW
Sayoni was at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2017 to bring Singapore LBTQ women's issues to the forefront. The CEDAW Committee heard our concerns and raised recommendations related to LBTQ women in their Concluding Observations for the Singapore government.
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Sayoni is a Singapore-based feminist, volunteer-run organisation that works to uphold human rights protections for queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics.

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Just some thoughts on what I did on Mothers’ Day this year.

I normally have lunch every Sunday with my uncle and aunt. Usually it is just the three of us (since my grandfather passed away, my cousin went to study in Sydney and my sister moved to Malaysia). On Mothers’ Day my aunt and her siblings were doing a big family lunch with their mum, and they invited me to join them. My partner was not invited, because I am only out to my aunt and uncle (not to her extended family), and also because they still think it is wrong and they disapprove.

So lunch was at a lovely Thai restaurant and the food was delicious. It was all very “decent” and “civilised”, by which I mean that there was no mention of my partner. But of course how could there have been when the majority of the company do not know about us.

I think that being in the closet is both an active and passive thing. It is like walking a tightrope, a delicate balancing act. It is like sitting on one of those large rubber balls supposed to strengthen your core muscles; your aim may be to remain perfectly still but you are expending lots of energy just to maintain your balance on the bouncy sphere.

That is how I feel when I am with company that I am not out to. I feel as if I am always on guard, holding my breath in case they ask me the dreaded “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”, double-filtering all my words before they come out of my mouth, and other fun varieties of mental Solitaire.

So let’s move on to dinner on Mothers’ Day. My partner was planning to bring her parents out for dinner, and she suggested I join them. My relationship with them is cordial, at most. The main reason for this is the language barrier. Secondary reason is that my partner and I mostly hang out at my place, so I haven’t met her parents very frequently. However those times that we have met, they have been friendly and kind towards me. We also think that they do realise that we have some kind of relationship going on, even though my partner has never actually talked to them about anything gay-related.

Dinner was at a very crowded eating-house nearby. They managed to get a table while I was parking the car. Food was also very good. Conversation was pretty mundane, the superficial type of chatter that you can have with people whom you don’t know well, in a language which you failed in school.

But throughout dinner, it did not feel awkward at all (aside from the awkwardness of my Chinese). I felt welcome and accepted. It was not strained, forced or contrived. My partner’s parents seemed to be quite happy, acting normally and enjoying the food. I was happy.

The contrast struck me as interesting.

Lunch with my aunt and uncle (who I am out to) and her family. I felt like I was hiding, and trying to be someone whom I’m not.

Dinner with my partner’s family. We have never actually declared to them that we are in a relationship, but from what they can figure out, I am the only Girl-Friend who is brought home. Many dissimilarities between me and them in terms of background, language etc. But I felt safe and welcome.

Disclaimer: I am aware that there may be many reasons and contributing factors to explain why the lunch and dinner turned out so differently. However, if I start all the conjecture and hypothesis, I would be perhaps-ing and on-the-other-hand-ing until the cows come home and no closer to a concrete answer. Thus I have chosen to focus on the way that that day made me feel, because my feelings cannot be reasoned away.

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