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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Then I got to learn the L word. Not the show, but the premise it was based upon: Lesbian. At first, it was just an abstraction. Lesbians were from another universe, strange creatures who didn’t like boys. I was pretty sure I wasn’t one of them.

Then, as is the custom in girls’ schools, half the cohort got a crush on the head prefect. [I didn’t, by the way] That was a laughing matter, something to joke about. The word lesbian did not even enter our vocabulary when gossiping about this.

At this time, I, like everyone around me, was acclimatised to the fact that some girls had crushes on other girls. It was so common, no one even thought it was unusual. Even the arch-conservative homophobes didn’t see anything wrong with it [indeed, some of the homophobes were the ones getting crushes, but they didn’t see it as lesbianism]

Humourous memories of this time entails a friend of mine joining a CCA because she liked the senior. We teased her about it, but didn’t call her a lesbian. Then there was the case where my classmate had a crush on another girl in our class, who looked just a little boyish [but not butchy]. We encouraged her to ‘chase’ the other girl, even, jokingly.

Girls also have a propensity to show their affection towards other girls openly, as demonstrated by the extensive hugging and hand-holding that went on in the school corridors, and even outside the school. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a girl to lay her head on another’s shoulder or cuddle upto her in class. Lesbians? Hardly.

***

Now, some of you might be wondering: what is going on? Girls are having crushes on girls, girls are showing extreme PDA to other girls, and no one even thinks that they are lesbian? Are we blind?

The fact is, that such behaviour does not constitute lesbianism in any way. We know almost everyone of those girls are straight, and are just being girly. Even when they progress into JC, a mixed environment, their behaviour does not really change. The hand-holding and hugging continues.

However, I never really participated in the abovementioned activities. I didn’t have a crush on some authority figure. I didn’t go around hugging girls. I didn’t write those sappy notes to other girls [mentioned in the CNA program]. It was JC 1 before I publicly held my best friend’s hand[not even my girlfriend!] But, in the end, I am the one who has identified herself as bisexual. Did the environment in a girls’ school shape me? Hardly. I was the way I was when I was born.

So, the argument that girls’ schools turn out lesbians have effectively been defeated. It is clear most of those crushes are part and parcel of growing up ‘ the girls who experience them are effectively straight, and they know so. The absence of boys do not make them lesbian. Rather, this behaviour is essentially feminine in nature. Even grown straight women have crushes on other women. This stands testament more to the fluid nature of female sexuality than anything else.

So, next time someone tells you that being in a girls’ school is what has turned you lesbian, tell him he doesn’t understand the fluid nature of female sexuality. If nothing else, the jargon you use should shut him up. *winks*

[It has to be noted that being in mixed school has no effect on your sexuality either. It probably just makes you dislike boys even more if you are really gay.]

 

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