In the past year, Bangkok has surged as the LGBT hotspot in Asia, centering a large chunk of its tourism and night life on the community. On its heels, however, is Singapore, a country working to create a new space for LGBT nightlife. Pink Dot SG, which organizes the country’s largest community event, has seen increased participation over the last several years. Even aside from that, there are bars, nightclubs, and saunas that cater specifically to the LGBT community, which center in the tourist-driven Chinatown district.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who took the place of his father in June of 2015, said that “we do not harass [the LGBT community] or discriminate against them.” While this is great rhetoric on the Prime Minister’s part, section 377A of the Singaporean legal code still criminalizes male homosexuality. Anti-discrimination laws and the legalization of same-sex marriage are off the table in Singapore, for the time being, due to the influence of Christian organizations. Despite this, in an effort to give off the impression of being an advanced and modern society, gay bars and cafés have been popping up everywhere.
A few such examples are a trio of bars made famous for creating the Blue Spin cocktail. These establishments range broadly in theme, from Tantric, which features a relaxed, outdoor environment, to Backstage Bar, which is a theatre lover’s delight, to May Wong’s Café, which evokes old Hollywood glamour. Despite the sin taxes, which can bring the price of drinks well beyond the average traveler’s budget, Singapore offers a well-established gay bar and entertainment scene.
The presence of bars and nightclubs to create an environment that is accessible as an LGBT tourist destination doesn’t really fulfill the role of Asian “hotspot” in my opinion. When I think of a place that I want to go as a member of the LGBT community, I think of a place which has a diverse quantity of quality experiences, and where the legality of my existence is not in question. Bars are wonderful, but the LGBT community as a whole is already more susceptible to alcoholism, and touting nightlife as making a city or country a “hotspot” simply won’t do. It’s commendable that Singapore wants to focus on LGBT tourism, but focusing on LGBT rights would probably be a better start.
Sources: Daily Xtra