Meet 45-year old Singaporean Bobby Luo, who also happens to be the co-founder of Butter Factory; one of Singapore’s most iconic night clubs.
Butter Factory may have closed its doors in 2015, but that hasn’t slowed Bobby down one bit. Ever the go-getter, Bobby’s life remains as hectic as ever, splitting most of his time between managing his multi-label fashion boutique Superspace, and organising hell-raising gay parties through MISMATCH and Yum Yum Disco Dong.
Openly gay and unabashedly bold, few would have imagined that Bobby was once that weird awkward kid who struggled for years with his sexuality.
It was the early 1980s and Bobby’s puberty had just begun. There was no google, no openly gay public figures and no one teaching Bobby about human sexuality. While most of his school mates started dating girls, Bobby never felt the urge to chase the opposite sex.
To the girls, I was this spaced-out cadet who didn’t seem to show any interest at all.
Me and my friends didn’t know what gay was. There were no means for me to classify this strangeness that I had felt.
Instead, he was a lot more interested in MTV and popular culture. From a very young age, music has always been his greatest source of refuge. Bobby’s parents divorced when he was 7-years old and the only respite that he had from the countless legal affidavits about custody battle and child support was music.
By the time he was in secondary school, he became pretty much obsessed with arts and culture. Bobby was an avid fan of magazines like The Face , Blitz and Interview, all of which introduced him to the world of subculture. Reading about openly gay celebrities like Andy Warhol in these magazines opened his eyes to the diversity of human sexuality and it was then that he finally learnt what being gay meant.
But despite the revelation, Bobby was unable to come to terms with his newfound sexuality. For the next couple of years, he kept the knowledge to himself, and even tried out sex with women on two separate occasions.
It didn’t blow my mind and and actually, it was more trouble than it was worth. So I decided that girls wasn’t doing it for me, and I would much rather jack off. So people just assumed that i was asexual.
While Bobby didn’t get laid much during his younger years, his life was by no means dull. Quite the hell-raiser back in his high school days, Bobby’s teenage years were a blur of gang fights, getting high and skipping school. But despite the fact that he hung out with some of the coolest and most popular kids in school and had a lot of friends in many different cliques, Bobby still felt like a fish out of water back in those days.
As a kid – i was always the awkward weird one… I never felt like i belonged
Surprisingly, it was during his National Service that Bobby finally muster the courage to embrace his homosexuality.
Posted to man the clothing store of the Officer Cadet School, watching young and fit cadets change in the store everyday awakened the innate sexuality that Bobby tried so hard to suppress. On a night out at Zouk in 1990 whilst serving his second year of National Service, Bobby finally had his first gay sexual encounter.
Currently in the midst of organising a beach party, MISMATCH originally started out as a gay-themed night in Butter Factory. But ever since Butter Factory’s closure, MISMATCH has gone mobile and now organises one-off party events.
On the surface, MISMATCH seems like nothing more than an organiser of gay parties. But to Bobby, MISMATCH represents so much more than that:
Before Butter, the lines between gay and straight venues were quite clear cut – it’s either a straight club or a gay club. You don’t usually get straight people go to gay clubs and vice versa.
Because they have never experienced an actual gay party before, there is a tendency for straight people to have misconceptions about gays and gay parties, especially when coupled with local mainsteam media’s misrepresentation and marginalisation, where gays are villified and faced with discrimination and double standards.
That was also one of the reasons why we started MISMATCH. We wanted MISMATCH to be that bridge between straight and gay. We wanted to break stereotypes and misconceptions and continue repping the gay community with something positive for the heterosexuals. It’s really an open door policy where people can be as themselves, dress as they like and give shape to their own identity and persuasion.
Bobby has very kindly agreed to share his coming out story with Dear Straight People so read on to find out more about his coming out journey and his thoughts on the local gay party scene!
1. How was your first coming out experience like?
It was at Zouk that i met my soulmate Ritz and I have been with him for the past 24 years since 1992. It was during that time that I felt comfortable enough to begin the process of telling my closest school friends. I guess , some of my school friends kinda “knew” for much longer due to their own assumptions or beliefs .
But as I came out, i discovered that I truly don’t have to care what people think of me before . My friends will like me for me , with flaws and all . And they still have to this very day. They, together with Ritz, have been such a very positive support system in my life. Through them, I have managed to turn that awkwardness and “dont give a shit” mindset into a unique personality trait .
For those of you in need of some relationship goals, check out these adorable couple pics of Bobby and Ritz:
2. What were some of the difficulties that you personally faced growing up as a gay male in Singapore?
We didn’t have any positive LGBT role models that was represented back (this lack of representation still exists in mainstream media to this very day ). It was quite like a “gay shame” that was never spoken of , but something which we have to live with each day.
3. How is your family coping with it?
For years, my family was used to my general nonsense and weirdness, ever since those hell-raising days of the Centerpoint Kids. My mom had to speak to my principal and even once, she had to pick me up from the police station cos my friends were all involved in some hooligan gang fights at Far East Plaza. Not surprisingly, my mum and dad were probably just relieved that i was staying out of trouble, at least.
My brother? He was probably more thrilled cos now i could intro him to all the fag hag chicks (women who like to hang out with gay guys)
4. What advice do you have for gay people still hiding in the closet?
Thanks goodness things turned out the way it did. But for a lot of people, they are forced to live a life in hiding and in fear for just being who they are , or whom they love. Your life should be an open book. Never live a lie – always be true to your authentic self. You don’t have to please or answer to anyone , you only just need to please and answer to yourself, cos a life half-lived – is a life not worth living.
5. How did ‘Mismatch’ first come about?
MISMATCH started as a night of self expression and individualism for those hipster gays who didn’t want to conform to anything or felt they needed to stick to any one ideal, stereotype, scene or dimension . The gay scene should not be homogenised and not everyone should look the same .Therefore, we wanted to offer MISMATCH for diversity.
6. As someone who is familiar with the gay party scene in Singapore, how has your experience with the gay party scene been like?
It is very interesting to see that it is the same all over the world. Whether you’re in Singapore or in another country, there is so much diversity .You get different “tribes” and sub communities. Step into any country and you’re going to see old gays, young gays, bear gays and little Givenchy model gays. There are so many different layers out there in this melting pot, and that’s what i love about it.
7. As the organiser of both straight and gay parties, are there any differences between straight and gay parties?
The rules of attraction are very different. The way straight boys tries to flirt is very very different from the gays. With straight boys, the usual standard interaction has a lot more alcohol involved. It is a lot of “lemme get you drunk so you will fool with me tonight”.
With gays there’s less trickery involved cos the boys buy their own drinks to get themselves drunk. To hook up, it is usually driven more by consent than alcohol.
But underneath it all , the real difference between straight and gay parties is quite clear – it is the women. Ultimately – it has to do with pussy power. In a straight party, the pussy holds more power than the golden rings in LOTR. The boys are hunting down girls , buying drinks and trying their best to charm and flirt. Without women, a straight party is busted.
At a gay party – because same gender usually equates to same power; the ladies become non-essential ingredient. The power shifts away and mostly, they become glorified set decoration and an almost-last-resort dance partner. “Sorry ladies, but the pussy has no power here. That’ll be a $20 cover please.”
8. What do you think is the biggest concern in the local gay party scene?
People aren’t in the moment anymore. Social media is great for capturing moments but it can also cheapen the experience. You go somewhere and they’re constantly on their phones. People are more concerned with instagramming the moment than living and enjoying THAT moment. So it is a very strange time. Nothing is spontaneous anymore .
Now you don’t even have to go out on a date, you have Tinder or Grindr or whatever. There’s nothing you have to go out for anymore other than dancing. Thank God dancing is the one thing you can’t do on your phone! Let’s hope gay people do not forget how to dance and have fun!
9. What do you think is the biggest misconception straight people have about gay parties?
Straight people’s views on gay parties are usually influenced by religious right wingers and the moral majority. It is usually “depraved” , or everyone gets “raped” , or “turns gay” or “orgies everywhere”.
Being gay and one of the founders of The Butter Factory, the excellent camaraderie we have with so many of the great people we’ve met over the years, has helped Butter regulars forge a more accepting view on LGBT. People who party with me and Ritz know that we are the same fun loving individuals as everyone else, and not the “pedophiles” and “devil worshippers” that (the authorities) has classified us with…
At Butter, we have carved out a safe house where diverse cultures are embraced . We are of the same blood and we share the same planet together – so why be divisive? Being inclusive and not divisive has always been that kind of culture that we have always been trying to build . It doesn’t matter whether you are a freak or weird or corporate or rich or broke or young or old – as long as you get into the spirit of the night – you are very welcome at Butter.
10. Tell us more about your upcoming Beach Party with ‘PLAY’ and ‘Hypertainment’! What can party goers look forward to?
It is on the Good Friday long weekend – and we be bringing back the Foam Party to get the homos all FOMO. So lather up and get your suds on, bitches!
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Bobby Luo for sharing his story with us.
If you would like to keep up to date with Bobby Luo, you can check out his Instagram account. And if you’re keen to find out more about his upcoming beach party on the 25th of March, check out their event Facebook page for more details!
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