SINGAPORE — Last week, Google released a video series celebrating Pride Month in Asia Pacific that features LGBTQ people from around the region.
Singaporean transgender artist Sam Lo is among those featured.
Besides Sam's story, Google's Pride series also features the stories of LGBTQ people from six other places: India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and South Korea.
They are known for their spray paint mural artworks, as well as for their run-in with the law in 2012 when they installed guerrilla-style art on the streets of Singapore, including stickers and spray paint graffiti.
In Google's video, Sam shares their experience growing up as a queer person. They initially identified as lesbian, but later realised that the term "female" didn't fit their self-identity.
They now identify as transmasculine – a term that refers to people who were assigned female at birth but identify with masculinity. Non-binary people don't identify as being either fully male or female.
"It was hard growing up. I got called names and bullied a lot because I was different," says Sam. "In the LGBTQIA+ community here in Singapore, we've had our fair share of insults, abuse, and hate. Currently, we do not enjoy the same human rights as heterosexual couples and individuals in Singapore."
Sam continues saying in the video: "I recently came out to my parents as trans. At first, it was a bit hard for them to understand, and it took a while for them to process it, but they always maintain that they love me, and I'm really thankful for that."
"Coming out as trans is a relief. This is how I've always been. Looking back on my experiences, I can now make sense of who I am and how I got here. Fast forward to today: I'm engaged to my partner and both our families are really supportive, which is not common in a conservative city like ours," Sam adds.
"Growing up, I didn't feel represented in the media, nor knew of a transmasculine person, and trans people were often subjected to negative stereotypes. So in some way, I hope to lead by example – that my coming out will be helpful to someone like my younger self and help them feel a little less alone," Sam says as the video ends.
Activists have called for homosexuality to be decriminalised in Singapore, and for an end to discrimination against LGBTQ people in Singapore.
Three separate legal challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law which criminalises sex between men, were dismissed by the High Court in March last year.
A survey commissioned by Yahoo News Singapore in 2019 found that four in five Singaporeans (80 per cent) agree that discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community exists here.
Here's an interview we did with Sam Lo in 2019: