Guest written by Daryl Yang
Daryl Yang co-founded and currently serves as Executive Director of the Inter-University LGBT Network. Previously, Daryl was President of The G Spot, the Yale-NUS Gender & Sexuality Alliance, from 2014 to 2016. He is currently a third-year student pursuing a double degree in Law and Liberal Arts at Yale-NUS College and the NUS Faculty of Law.
In May 2012, prominent queer activist, poet and writer Ng Yi-Sheng published an article titled “How LGBT-friendly are Singapore universities?”, where he outlined the ambivalent and sometimes hostile attitude of universities towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) students and faculty.
Much has changed since then. In the five years since, we have set up the Inter-University LGBT Network (InterUni) consisting of groups from NUS, NTU, SMU and Yale-NUS College; and it may be timely to review these developments on university campuses since then.
While there have not been much gains in the broader LGBT movement with the failure of the constitutional challenge against 377A and the tightening of funding for Pink Dot, young people have been increasingly active in campaigning for LGBT issues.
However, while there are some campuses with vibrant LGBT communities, other universities have been less welcoming of LGBT groups and students. Ultimately, yielding to fears of public backlash or ideological conflict is a lost opportunity for these universities and their students.
Daryl Yang speaking at TEDxPickeringStreet, Aug 2016
At the point of Yi-Sheng’s article, there was only one student group focusing on gender and sexuality under the University Scholars Programme at NUS: Gender Collective.
Since then, students from the other public universities have set up The G Spot at Yale-NUS College, Kaleidoscope at NTU, Out To Care at SMU and tFreedom at Tembusu College. These groups came together to set up the Inter-University LGBT Network in 2015, and are working together on organising cross-campus social and support programmes today.
I served as coordinator of The G Spot from 2014 to 2016, where I also helped to establish a coalition of groups situated at University Town in NUS. We organised a month-long campaign on sexuality and gender (patriotically named SG Month) last October as well as the most successful Qrientation, a LGBT-focused orientation programme, thus far with over 100 participants.
While other NUS orientation camps struggled with the backlash against sexualised activities, our groups worked closely with the administration to share our experience in fostering a safe and inclusive orientation programme and made various recommendations that have since been implemented.
In SMU, Out To Care has similarly worked closely with the Office of Global Learning in fostering a more inclusive campus for LGBT students. Beyond that, a group of SMU students have also published a new report on strategies to foster inclusive workplaces as well.