The Show Must Go On

The AKS may be over, but the story lives on thanks in part to Luis Torres from Agence France Presse who summarized the key messages beautifully in an article that has been circulated around the world. This is not forgetting the sublime photos of Stan Honda which captured the poignant moments of the play.

My experience in New York has enriched my life infinitely, not least because of the wonderful people I caught up with. First, I shared a lovely afternoon with Ken Dollarhide my mentor whose interest in the welfare of trans women – the elderly in particular, continues unabated. Ken led me to Stonewall and reminded me of the brave trans pioneers whose names have been whitewashed from history.

Next, I had the pleasure of meeting our company representative Vanessa Sparling for the first time. She’s a dedicated, down-to-earth assistant producer at Ohio Theatre without whose help we would have been utterly lost in New York. Vanessa is a gem of a theatre person who actually has a good head on her shoulders. She’ll do fabulously well in any part of the world.

Then there’s Elena Holly Artistic Director of the festival who gave us a chance to be heard in New York and Taty, a volunteer who wanted so much for us to succeed. Thank you ladies for your generosity, belief and good will.

An interesting aspect of the trip were the many Singaporeans I caught up with. It was good to see my former schoolmates doing so well in a nurturing environment, but I was also glad to have moved on. I don’t wish to revisit the past.

It was definitely great catching up with Kiat Jin, now a lecturer at UC Riverside who’s a sociologist with passion – and whose fire would have been extinguished at the sterile National University of Singapore. He confirmed my worst suspicions about Singapore academia. Kiat Jin is a wonderful fount of knowledge on the rise of Christian fundamentalism among the Singapore middle-class, a social trend I’m most concerned about. If recent news reports in Straits Times are any indication, our government is concerned too. The Singapore diaspora in New York confirms another suspicion – that there is a community of well educated, more vocal Singaporeans who can no longer bear to live in a country known for it’s wafer thin tolerance of dissenting views. On the one hand the government wants to encourage greater political play, on the other hand it is quick to slap the wrists of those who question its choices, such as the Youth Olympics. Sure, the pyrotechnics were impressive, but also very costly. That most of the tickets were sold to the Ministry of Education did not go unnoticed. That the PR machinery got its knickers into a tight squeeze trying to wring praises from international participants was all too clear. All this came at a time when the police were cracking down on Internet dissenters, which does not bode well for civil society. Why was it so wrong of a NSF to criticize the police force over the handcuffing of the Lianhe Wanbao reporter? Surely our soldiers are entitled to opposing views? Does the average Singaporean care? Probably not. If they are not happy, they can always live overseas if they have in-demand skills. Some of my former schoolmates – all ex scholars – have chosen to do just that. Only this crazy trans woman has chosen to live in Singapore to act out her angst. Perhaps I have more faith in the system to evolve than my ex schoolmates. Perhaps.

Certainly my live affair with New York is not over yet. I only discovered the charms of Harlem on the last day when I finally had some time to walk around. I asked Mr Lee Lee, founder of the eponymous bakery on 115th street if he would still be there when I returned and he said he would. Mr Lee Lee bakes the best rugelach in Harlem and his lemon pound cake and egg and cheese croissants are just as mouthwatering. I will be back for more cakes, Mr Lee Lee!

Until I visit again New York, the show must go on.


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