To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
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.
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.

We believe that everyone has a part to play in improving the lives of LBTQ people. Donate or volunteer with us.

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It has been a journey of self-discovery spanning at least 13 years and it was largely undertaken alone because of the lack of helpful information for people growing up gay in Singapore. Much of my journey happened when I was older and read materials from the medical community and other research-based articles surrounding sexuality. But ultimately, my self-acceptance came from my growing belief in myself as a capable and strong individual with the capacity to contribute meaningfully to society. Increasingly, I saw myself defined not just by my attraction to girls, but by my professional development as a counselor, my growth as a person, and the difference I made in the lives of the people I interacted with.

Coming out to my family was a big thing for me because I knew I could only do that if I was sure about myself.’ I’m not someone who shares a lot with my family, but once I had accepted my own sexual orientation, it was never something I wanted to hide from them. There are two reasons I came out to my family. Firstly, being gay was not something I was proud of, nor was ashamed about. It was simply who I was and what was real to me. I didn’t see any reason to have to hide it. Secondly, I wanted my family to get to know my partner, whom had become a part of me.

My family didn’t react quite as I had thought. There were supportive moments and raging outbursts, but for now the dust seems to have settled in denial. Now, if not for the memories of those moments, it feels like I had never come out. I had expected news of my sexual orientation to spread like wild fire after my aunties (who are the family ‘loudspeakers’) got to know about it. But alas, it has become the ‘family secret’. I was advised not to tell other family members and basically it is never talked about. Suddenly, I am not keeping my own secret anymore, but rather, my family’s secret. Sometimes, I wonder if it was at all worth while coming out to my family. A process that took years of self-discovery, self-acceptance and courage seems to be belittled by a family who would rather act like it never happened.

My friends are terrific. To the extent that it is an issue to my family, it has always been a non-issue to my good friends. One particular memory touches me to this day. I had been hiding my previous relationship from my very close friend for about 4-5 years. She knew both me and my ex but was never told of our relationship until it had ended and I was already with my current partner. To add insult to injury, I told her via sms that I was gay and was seeing my partner. Bracing myself for a dramatic and possibly angry response, I waited in anxious anticipation for her reply. Her reply sms came in a short while later. It simply said ‘I’m happy for you su.’ It is in times like these when I realize that with true friends, coming out is never an issue.

I am 27 years old this year, and I am happy being who I am. Work is fulfilling and enriching, family is peaceful for now, and I have a loving relationship with my partner. Sure, many areas of my life can be improved on, but my sexual orientation is not one of them. I am often perplexed at how much tension, discomfort and anger my sexual orientation can cause people around me. My sexual orientation is not something I think about everyday, nor is it something that I am trying to ‘advertise’. Some say it is abnormal, yet it is normal to me; as normal as how I like Chihuahuas over Shitzus or how I like pink over black. It is not something I became, nor is it something I chose after careful consideration; it is simply who I am. My being straight might have made my family feel happier and it might have given me an easier time growing up but then, I would not be the daughter I am, the friend I am, the person I am today. It might have made many happy, but it would not have been me.

- 27, Post-graduate student


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