Dear Straight People,
David Reddy is a name that probably doesn’t ring much of a bell for you. But chances are, you’ve seen his work.
Over the past few months, David Reddy’s videos have gone viral in a country where the recent debate over repealing the anti- gay law 377A has grown increasingly ugly. His videos may be what the country needs to see more of. Down to earth, humanist, sometimes humorous and heartfelt, his first video has gained 80,000 views in ten days. David is eager to capture a swathe of Singapore society that is rarely represented in the discussion of equal rights for LGBTQ people: the voices of straight Singaporeans.
When asked how the project came about, he shared about an argument he had with a gay friend who was committed to apathy rather than support the petition to repeal 377A.
“ I got upset because here we had a gay person I knew who used gay spaces actively. He was in the community, whether he felt it or not. And yet it didn’t occur to him that the freedom to go to a gay bar and have a night out comes from civic freedoms that have been fought for. I think the greatest obstacles to equal rights are LGBTQ people who are apathetic towards their own freedoms. And the root of such apathy is selfishness and obsession with one’s own needs.”
While his videos seek to buckle common perceptions of gay people, David himself does not fit into any kind of a neat box. One would expect an advocate to have anti- establishment views. But David is openly passionate about his support for the People’s Action Party. He once told me that the PAP is “the best party to govern Singapore and also the best party to manage that LGBTQ people are treated equally in the eyes of the law.” He also feels that anti- gay views from the religious communities are valid for them and we should include them in this discussion. ” Many religious people who have views that homosexuality is sin are themselves genuine and sincere people. What we need is dialogue and understanding that all people belong to Singapore including LGBTQ people. And the law must remain equal to all.”
When I asked him about his views on Pink Dot he answered:
‘Pink Dot has done excellent work for the community. But it’s also important to know that Pink Dot alone can’t solve everything for gay people. The problems are much more complex than what Pink Dot alone can take on. There needs to be other voices. More gay individuals need to come forward to take an action and do their own projects. As long as you’re a Singaporean and you believe in our pledge about equality for all, then it is incumbent on us to do our part.’
It is this down to earth grass-roots movement that so inspires me. I feel I can relate to David’s work. I am also proud that David is a close friend.
Back in 2006 when I was 19 years old boy sitting on the black leather sofa of my Pasir Ris home, my whole entire family was gathered in front of me, their brows furrowed in deep discussion about sending me for guidance counselling because they had found out, quite by accident, that I am gay. They firmly believed it was something I could change. Already traumatised by the emotional confrontation with my family, my then 29 years old brother accosted me after the confrontation and asked me this – “You don’t find me attractive because you are gay right?”. I was flabbergasted at his statement.
The latest video from David, aptly named “Older Singaporeans: We Accept Gay People”, triggered this memory back. I watched it on repeat for over 10 times. It echoed resoundingly to the life I had since led post-family drama. Like many gay people in the community, I submerged myself entirely into the robust nightlife scene of Tanjong Pagar, eager to get away from how my straight families and friends saw us as someone lesser than who we are. Someone that needs to be fixed. I didn’t have the tools to fight back, only the bitter taste of cheap Gin & Tonic served at the now closed down “Why Not” Club back in the late 2000s.
If only Catherine, Judy, Angela, Susan, Kay Siu and Swee Lin were there on that black leather sofa beside me, speaking up for me when I was being confronted by my own family, perhaps life would have been very different. Perhaps, I, and many others who already came out, would all have had a chance to live better, and more authentic lives, in the time that we’ve already lost.
To all those who are still in process of coming out, I’d suggest that you show your families and friends this video. This is a powerful tool I never had then, but perhaps something you can use now, so that you can have access to an opportunity of a life I had always hoped for when I was in my 20s.
From the wise words of someone, “You can come out bitter or you can come out better.” My answer? Choose better.
Written by Jared Tan: https://www.instagram.com/jialatloh/
WATCH DAVID REDDY’S LATEST VIDEO HERE:
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