SINGAPORE — Local filmmaker Kirsten Tan, director of award-winning film Pop Aye, has shared her experience of coming out as queer for Pride Month
In a blog article by local queer merchandise brand Heckin' Unicorn, Tan is described as queer and gender non-conforming, and uses the pronouns she/they. The 39-year-old said she struggled with her LGBTQ identity during childhood and had suicidal thoughts in her teenage years. She came out to her family years ago, and she was grateful that they were supportive and accepting of her sexuality.
Tan said in the interview with the brand, "I’m not a flamboyant person but especially in Singapore, I make it a point never to hide my sexual identity within my extended social sphere. I know that not everyone is in a position to do that, so within my capacity I hope to normalise queerness as much as I can, to soften the ground for those who find Singapore a tough environment to be themselves for any number of reasons."
The article is a Pride Month piece featuring the coming out stories of seven queer individuals, including Tan. Heckin' Unicorn, an online vendor selling LGBTQ-themed pins and accessories, is managed by artist and gay activist Teo Yu Sheng.
Tan also shared her coming out story on her own Instagram page:
Tan's partner is well-known author Amanda Lee Koe, whom Tan's mother accepted too and invited over for dinner the day after Tan came out to her parents. Lee Koe's short story collection, Ministry Of Moral Panic, won her a Singapore Literature Prize in 2014, and her first novel, Delayed Rays Of A Star, garnered critical acclaim.
Lee Koe is also out and had mentioned in a 2019 Elle interview that her partner was Tan.
Both Tan and Lee Koe are currently based in New York.
Tan's first feature film, road trip drama Pop Aye, which she wrote and directed, won a Special Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and the VPRO Big Screen Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Pop Aye was the first ever Singaporean film to screen at Sundance, and was Singapore's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Homosexuality remains criminalised in Singapore. Three separate legal challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law which criminalises sex between men, were dismissed by the High Court in March last year. The court said Section 377A was intended to safeguard public morals and enable enforcement and prosecution of all forms of "gross indecency" between males.