Reflections I: "I Am" by Leona Lo

Eye- (and Mind) Opening Session with Leona Lo by Bian Tan

Yesterday, I went to hear Leona Lo speak. I had heard of her through the local GLBTQ internet postings, and since I have a few friends who are transgender, I attended the event to learn more and to show support for the transgender community. The event was held at the Pelangi Pride Centre , now at its new location in DYMK Café (Does Your Mother Know) on Kreta Ayer Street.

There were about 38 people who attended Leona’s informal sharing, which I thought was quite encouraging. Leona spoke about her experiences growing up in Singapore and facing discrimination in subtle and not so subtle ways. And also receiving understanding, acceptance, and help from unlikely people. What struck me was how different the gay and lesbian experience is from the transgender experience, and how much more difficult it has been for the latter to overcome emotional, psychological, and medical problems, while at the same time trying to find a safe space within their own social community to be who they are.

From the general discussion between the audience and Leona, I learned about the small but positive changes that appear to be happening in Singapore , about how different sexual ways of being in people are becoming more accepted, and especially how the government may be viewing the GLBTQ community in a more positive light. Especially insightful were observations made about how we can all affect positive change in social attitudes towards GLBTQ people by not hiding ourselves from our own friends and family. I also realized that I had my own misconceptions about transgender people, and that it is incorrect to lump transgender people with gay and lesbian people.

It was inspiring to hear Leona speak in a candid way about her feelings regarding discrimination. She related to us about having a lot of anger when faced with discrimination, but has now come to understand that the discrimination or negative reaction from people is only a result of their upbringing, fear, and ignorance, and that they really cannot help it. She is now very zen about it and shakes off such incidents as water from a duck’s back. At the end of the session, my heart was full of respect and admiration for Leona. She has gone through a huge amount of pain and struggle, experienced vast personal growth, and emerged radiant, strong, and wise. I was touched by her beautiful human spirit, as I’m sure many in the audience were as well.

I would like to thank the Pelangi Pride Centre for organizing and hosting Leona’s sharing session, and applaud its efforts to bring us together to better understand ourselves. I wish more people realized how wonderful a resource the PPC is. It is a safe space for GLBTQ people to socialize, make friends, look up resources in the Library, and interact face-to-face in a non-scene, non-sexual environment. Congratulations Pelangi, and heartfelt thanks for a great session with Leona!