Trans-Singapore: some notes towards queer Asia as method
ABSTRACT From the transsexual sex workers of Bugis Street to the self-fashioning butches of the current creative economy, trans-visibility has always been an iconic feature of Singapore’s public culture. Using three case studies that examine colonial transsexual subculture, postcolonial transgender biomedical modernity and the contemporary inter-Asian performances of tomboy boybands, this paper examines these practices of trans-embodiment to reveal their centrality to Singapore’s modernity. While the recent transgender turn in the West has resulted in trans-visibility and acceptance, this paper will critically show how the experience of trans-visibility in Singapore provides a different model to consider the narrative of progressive modernity. It concludes by gesturing to this new model – one that does not replicate Eurocentric ontology – through further demonstrating these practices as strategies for the critical paradigm of “queer Asia as method.”
Keywords: Singapore, queer, transgender, public
Notes on the contributor
Audrey Yue is Professor in Cultural Studies and Director of the Research Unit in Public Cultures at The University of Melbourne. Her recent publications include Sinophone Cinemas (with O. Khoo) (Palgrave 2014), Transnational Australian Cinema (with O. Khoo and B. Smaill) (Lexington 2013) and Queer Singapore (with J. Zubillaga-Pow) (HKUP 2012). She is currently Chief Investigator in three Australian Research Grant Council funded projects on multicultural arts, East Asian media flows in Australia, and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.