I received many messages about Dr Stuart Koe’s court case in the news. The sentiments run the gamut of shock, dismay to even self-indulgent gloating. I won’t be posting any of them. In the purposes of full disclosure, let me explain why.
I first met Stuart after my ORD. For some unfathomable reason, Stuart saw past the angry youth who worked as a full time dancer, as someone with a potential in marketing. He offered me my first ‘proper’ job as part of the team in Fridae and my life changed since then. Today I’m a professional in the communications industry, working with global brands both domestically and regionally. The wealth of experience I have garnered since would not have been possible if Stuart hadn’t seen something in me worth developing.
And it was my time in Fridae that seeded my involvement with the gay community. Being part of such a groundbreaking endeavour opened my eyes to the possibilities of the gay community in Singapore and I have never left that behind. When I look back on that period of time, I marvel at Stuart’s vision, which was a little ahead of its time. Although gay personals sites were a dime a dozen by the time Fridae sputtered out, none really came close in terms of creating real communities both locally and in the region. And it’s that sort community forging that I find lacking in today’s world of apps. In both the gay community and myself personally, Stuart always had an interesting and optimistic view, one he sought to uplift and did, through his many contributions.
Which is why the vitriol and scorn heaped upon him now is disappointing. And it cuts both ways. I wish we could have been there for him. Sometimes when someone is such a public figure, it is all the more harder for one to reach out for help and whether he knew it or not, he probably could have used some. And that goes for all of us within the community, a label we are so happy to pay lip service to but practise so little in reality.
We all know about the rampant drug use amongst us but what else? It is all too easy to be dismissive of those who have fallen prey to drugs as people who are weak but who amongst us are not?
We all have our private trials and tribulations. We all have our flaws, and our failures. We are not helping those amongst us in need, if we all pretend that there isn’t a problem, or simply write each other off.
In the last few years of my work within the community, I have been confronted by those who feel that talking about such issues somehow “paints a bad picture” of the gay community, and some of the more honest and raw stories here do us all a disservice. Probably has to do with the Asian mindset of not wanting to air one’s dirty laundry in public (in this case the “public” being a slightly homophobic society), but my take is that talking about such issues makes us all more mature as a community.
We could all use a little more sympathy and empathy amongst us, not just because we are gay or lesbian, but simply because we are all human. So if you know someone who could benefit from some help today, or if you could use some yourself, don’t wait. Reach out. If you don’t know how, there are excellent resources like Oogachaga or Action for Aids. Or simply write in and I’ll lend a listening ear.