National Gay Parades

July 21, 2009

ST_IMAGES_ACCOSTUMEFor a country that believes that it isn’t ready for legalizing homosexuality, Singapore is pretty gay. Every year we put up the campiest, kitschiest, most gay event this side of the Mardi Gras called the National Day Parade. And to ensure the very highest levels of gay quotient we appoint drama queens like Dick Lee, Glen Goei and Ivan Heng as ‘creative directors’. We then get thousands of people dressed in a colourful assortment of chicken feathers, tin foil and body-hugging sequined tops to frolic with each other as fireworks light the night sky. Every performer has enough make-up to fit right at home in Changi Village on a Saturday night while the SAF parachuters demonstrate that it is literally “raining men”. And to complete the wet dream, men dressed in uniform march in and out of the stadium waving their big oily guns at everyone. NDP is gay. It is as gay as Elton John dancing in black leather thongs in San Francisco. Its time the NDP planning committee comes out of its closet.

And that is what I love about this goddamn country; the contradictions. Ask any conservative Singaporean about whether we should change the way NDP is celebrated to, say a mega concert and a big BBQ, and you’ll get a chorus of protests. These folks, so resistant to change, prefer to cling on to the gayest possible mode of celebration.

The latest media hoo-ha (the local media likes to create fake controversies to fill up its pages in the absence of investigative journalism) is the howls of protests against the new NDP song What do you see? by local rock band Electrico. It’s not the greatest song in the world but it marks a progressive change from the rest of the kitschy nonsense like Count on Me Singapore or Stand Up for Singapore. People who tear up when singing the latter two songs most probably also own The Sound of Music DVD (director’s cut), ABBA’s Greatest Hits, and know the words to every Barry Manilow song…ever. Nothing makes me more agitated, more unpatriotic than the strains of “there was a time when people said that Singapore won’t make it…but we did”. And when its sung by 60,000 flag-waving Singaporeans who queued overnight for their tickets all dressed in their red $9.90 Giordano T-shirts, well it’s just like a sweet natured version of the Nuremberg Rally isn’t it?

NDPs are depressing. They remind me of everything that is orchestrated, superficial, rehearsed, practiced, and devised from top-down in Singapore. They are artificial cauldrons of whipped up frenzy and heightened emotions where quick spasms of ecstasy are mistaken for patriotism. Not too dissimilar from how churches use music to stir up mass feelings of elated bliss. At the end of the day NDPs are pure theatre.

 I would like to put out a suggestion to readers. Celebrate National Day differently this year. Think back to your childhood. Go to a location, a space or a building that first springs to mind. It could be an old estate, a torn down building, an empty parking lot where your old school used to stand, the beach or even a lonely road you used to take to primary school. Ponder for a while how far you have come since, how far this country has come, and what sacrifices it has made to achieve what it has. Ask yourself if these sacrifices have been worthwhile, both for yourself and the country. Get to know yourself a bit. I promise you, it’ll be more meaningful than watching grown men jiggling in tights and foundation.

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15 Responses to “National Gay Parades”

  1. Artemov Says:

    Adolf Hitler used such pageantries to great effect.

  2. John Says:

    Surely you meant “thongs”?

  3. sumantra Says:

    very well written blog.. I like this year’s song , better than the last couple of years but the fact that the NDP is “orchestrated, superficial, rehearsed, practiced, and devised from top-down” is not unique here, most if not all national day celebrations in any country are like that.. it is what I call nationalism rather than patriotism..

  4. T.OC Says:

    Impressive writing. I can tell you’re passionate about the subject.

    I can’t really comment on people dressing up in feathers because I don’t understand the history behind it, but I can agree that people are resistant to change, even if the change will relieve them.

    Your idea of how to celebrate sounds great to me.

    The last thing I’d like to say is that I’ve never lived in a place (before now) where you had to pay for tickets to your own national parade. That seems like an insult. Of course that’s not just limited to the national parade here. Trust me, there’s no admission price for the 4th of July parade, Thanksgiving parade, or Christmas parade, not even in NYC. This is a symptom of an ultra consumerist economy where people try to squeeze as much money as they can out of each other for anything they can. I’m surprised you don’t have to pay to use all public toilets here sometimes.

    Can you feel the bitterness? ^_^

    • groundnotes Says:

      the NDP tickets are free but limited…hence the queue. but if you really really must go, you can get one on the black market for $200 a pop. majulah singapura!

  5. Mei Wong Says:

    There’s tin foil in the pantry;
    but wherever did I leave my chicken feather outfit??


  6. Love the article. Thanks for writing it.

  7. T.OC Says:

    Thanks for enlightening me about there not being a cost for the tickets. I’m still bitter about the ticket prices foe the Chingay Parade. I was used to free festivities in NYC and hadn’t counted on that and so I missed out on the fun. After reading this article I had assumed the same thing was going on. Still it’s odd that there are tickets at all. Shouldn’t it be set up in such a way that it travels down a long stretch of road for maximum viewing potential? Anyway, now that I e been in SG for a while I’d just try to watch it on TV.

    • zztop Says:

      You have to pay for the chingay parade now? That’s outrageous.

      • T.OC Says:

        That’s what was on the website. I forget how much it was, but after being spoiled by free parades in the US, it didn’t sit well with me so we didn’t bother to go.

  8. sg boleh Says:

    Thk. for the nice article

  9. Jaunty Jabber Says:

    Well written. Thanks for writing such a good piece. I enjoyed reading it.

  10. mirax Says:

    How could you have let the cat out of the bag? Now both the feminist mentor and her daughter are gonna target and hijack the NDP, since other arenas have, ahem, recently become closed to their prodigious talents. Even north korean style mass displays provide some camp relief, ya know! And some of us would happily pack our grannies off to Batam nursing homes for the NDP goodie pack. What would a thio-inspired goodie bag contain except the goodnews bible and a tetrapak of bile? Stop endangering our beloved NDP!

  11. zztop Says:

    If you think watching the parade is painful, try being in it as a sexually confused young teen. Ai yai yai. The leotards show everything.


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