Elska Magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Singapore for its latest issue. Inside readers can get up close and personal with a cross-section of ordinary men from the gay community of one of Asia’s most diverse and evolving societies.
“Singapore is a dichotomy, at once a modern, affluent city and also a conservative and authoritarian place where homophobia is formalised in law and censorship is strict and well-enforced,” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “Because of this I never thought that Singapore would be the sort of place for us. As a publication that is actually illegal to sell in the country, what would be the point? Indeed the city-state’s ‘Undesirable Publications Act’ highlights specific ways in which our work goes against their values, such as the promotion of ‘normalising homosexual lifestyles’ and also nudity, which is considered broadly obscene.”
“Despite these red flags we were hearing from more and more Singaporeans about how queer society was advancing despite the legal situation,” continues Liam. “Even in an authoritarian state many were lauding Singapore as the home of the next great LGBTQ rights movement, and locals were telling me how ready they were to rebel. With this passion I decided to come and there I discovered some of the boldest and most defiant population ever, leading to an issue that breaks all the rules and shatters all the stereotypes. It’s even the most naked issue we’ve ever made in Asia, definitely a sign that queer Singaporeans are ready to be seen as well as heard.”
Inside ‘Elska Singapore’ readers will meet a dozen local men. Each was photographed in their neighbourhoods and at home, revealing some of their city, their style, and their selves. The photography provides a truly intimate and revealing way to get to know a slice of Singapore gay life, which is then taken further by the inclusion of honest and personal stories penned by each of the participating men. Some of the men featured include:
• Sam S, who recalls another date gone off the rails, and how he puts up with it despite the anguish just because it’s all become ‘normal’ to him
• Kira C, who laments the lack of gay and queer role models growing up who could have helped him figure out how to come of age without so much fear and confusion
• Kyle N, describes a tragic event that happened during a holiday in Europe, something which came to shape the rest of his life
• Sebastian G, who shares a story of falling in love with a foreigner, and how despite the sadness of not being able to be physically together, the knowledge that love connects them over the distance gives some sustenance to the heart
• Musha S, who reveals how hard it is to find love in the gay community, but that no matter how often he gets knocked down, he still gets up again
‘Elska Singapore’ is 196 pages and is available from a select group of shops around the world as well as for order online from the Elska website. Also available is a companion zine called ‘Elska Ekstra Singapore’, containing five more Singapore men plus outtakes and behind-the-scenes stories.
The list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.