In a Time magazine (Asia) article entitled, "The Lion in Winter" by Simon Elegant published on 7 July 2003, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was reported to have said that his government would henceforth allow gay employees into its ranks, even in sensitive positions. The change in policy, inspired at least in part by the desire not to exclude talented foreigners who are gay, was being implemented without fanfare to avoid raising the hackles of more conservative Singaporeans.
"So let it evolve, and in time the population will understand that some people are born that way," Goh said. "We are born this way and they are born that way, but they are like you and me."
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The article further reported Vivian Balakrishnan, the government official in charge of the Remaking Singapore Committee as saying that Singapore would do "whatever it takes" to attract talent. As part of that effort, repressive government policies previously enforced in the name of social stability were being relaxed. The city then boasted seven saunas catering almost exclusively to gay clients, for example, something unthinkable even a few years ago. Foreigners, gay or straight, would be critical to carving out the niches in which the government hopes Singapore's new economy will thrive.
Reaction to Goh's statements
Goh's liberalising policy and his apparent acceptance of the gay community was widely reported in both local and international media. The topic was hotly discussed on LGBT online forums like SiGNeL as well.
Some partygoers at Fridae's Nation.02 in August that year wore T-shirts embodying Goh's statements about gays being "born that way". Attendance of the event by regional visitors was even higher than the previous year's bash, drawing close to 500 partygoers, mainly from Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.
- Archive of Time magazine article "The Lion in Winter" by Simon Elegant, 7 July 2003
- PM Lee Hsien Loong allows indoor talks to be held without a police licence, 22 August 2004
This article was written by Roy Tan.