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Roy Tan waving the Pink Dot flag during the inaugural Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Park on Saturday, 16 May 2009.

Roy Tan is a healthcare professional passionately interested in documenting local LGBT history.

He has been one of the most active contributors of local LGBT-related news articles to the Singapore Gay News List (SiGNeL)[2] since the latter's formation and has continued his archival work on the Singapore LGBT media archive (SLEMA)[3] since 2015.

Tan has also recorded and uploaded the most comprehensive collection of local LGBT videos to his two YouTube channels - Homosexuality in Singapore[4] and Transgender people in Singapore[5].

First Singapore LGBT articles on Wikipedia[edit | edit source]

In 2005, Tan realised the potential of the then nascent and relatively unknown Wikipedia in informing local mainstream society and the world at large about Singapore's LGBT culture and history.

The advantage of Wikipedia was that knowledgeable contributors could consolidate widely scattered pockets of information into a one-stop reference site. This was unlike any Singaporean LGBT website that had existed before like Yawning Bread, Fridae or Trevvy in which only authorised writers could pen articles.

Tan created the first Singapore LGBT-related Wikipedia article entitled "Singapore gay movement" on 12 April 2005. He subsequently started all the other articles on Singaporean LGBT culture there in the ensuing months.

Howevever, his hope that other contributors would chip in and expand the articles he pioneered was not realised and he ended up doing most of the updating himself. Moreover, many Singaporean editors of Wikipedia were homophobic and deleted entire articles or huge chunks of extant articles, claiming that they were not significant enough for a prestigious reference work such as Wikipedia.

In dismay, Tan looked for an alternative site to transfer the articles to. He was overjoyed when he found SgWiki, a site hosted on a local server and which used the same wiki markup language as Wikipedia. He then ported all the articles in September 2005 to SgWiki[6], which had a more liberal and LGBT-friendly policy. Even then, some articles deemed sensitive because they rebutted religious condemnation of homosexuality were also deleted by SgWiki's administrators.

Another drawback was that articles on SgWiki did not rank as high up on Google and other search engines as the much more globally popular Wikipedia.

Tan also replicated all the Singapore LGBT-related articles on user-constructed knowledge sites such as the now-defunct Knol (an initiative of Google) and on other wikis such as the PBwiki[7] and Wikidot[8](now also defunct). These websites enabled registered users to have complete editorial control over their articles and not be subjected to the whims of appointed editors. However, these wikis used different markup languages from Wikipedia, therefore making porting articles much more difficult than just copying and pasting. The articles first had to be translated to the different wiki language used by the site.

In 2012, Tan searched for and managed to find websites such as the still extant Shoutwiki[9], as well as others like Wikia[10] which used the same wiki markup language as Wikipedia. He then transplanted all the SgWiki articles to these sites - easily accomplished by direct copying and pasting with no translation required.

Singapore LGBT video channels on YouTube[edit | edit source]

Tan has also recorded and amassed the most comprehensive collection of local LGBT videos on YouTube, divided into 2 channels because they dealt with separate sets of issues - "Homosexuality in Singapore"[11] and "Transgender people in Singapore"[12].

First outdoor LGBT speech in Singapore[edit | edit source]

Tan delivered Singapore's first outdoor LGBT-themed speech to an overwhelmingly straight audience at Hong Lim Park at 5:15pm on Saturday, 13 December 2008. He spoke on the discrimination which gay Singaporeans faced at work. The event was organised by MARUAH and entitled, "Human Rights and Dignity of Workers". It marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which promoted the values of justice, fairness, equality and non-discrimination.

Registration of first LGBT pride parade and Pink Dot[edit | edit source]

Tan registered to hold Singapore's first LGBT pride parade at Speakers' Corner on 15 November 2008[13],[14][15],[16],[17],[18] after the government legalised protests there. This later morphed into Pink Dot SG[19][20],[21],[22][23],[24], an event which supported the "freedom to love" and which later spread worldwide.

First gay Chingay contingent[edit | edit source]

Together with fellow citizen Tien Kim Chuan, Tan marched in Singapore's first and only gay Chingay contingent when the public were allowed to form their own marching group in 2010[25],[26].


Internet TV interview on homosexuality[edit | edit source]

On 31 August 2012, Singapore Internet TV station in988 interviewed Tan on the subject of homosexuality. It was the longest interview conducted with a medically qualified doctor in Singapore on the topic uploaded the Internet to date. The following clip is an excerpt of it[27].

Well known showbusiness celebrities Abigail Chay and Roger Poon were in the studio.

Section 377A constitutional challenge[edit | edit source]

On Friday, 20 September 2019, Tan filed a new constitutional challenge in the High Court against Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises sex between men. He was represented by lawyer M Ravi from Carson Law Chambers. The Attorney-General (AG) was listed as the defendant.

Roy Tan and pioneering human rights lawyer, M Ravi, after a Fridae interview by writer Ng Yi-Sheng in October 2011 prior to the landmark ruling by Justices VK Rajah, Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash on Tan Eng Hong's Section 377A constitutional challenge[1] which paved the way and made all subsequent challenges possible

In court documents, Tan stated that Section 377A was inconsistent with Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law. He also stated that Section 377A was inconsistent with Article 12 which states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to its equal protection, and Article 14, which states that every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

According to Tan, his challenge was based on "novel arguments". For example, the Public Prosecutor had discretion on whether or not to prosecute an accused person under Section 377A and the Government had said that the law would not be enforced against acts done in private. This was incongruous with Section 14 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which requires the police to unconditionally investigate all complaints of suspected arrestable offences. "This subjects gay men to the potential distress of an investigation into private conduct where they have a legitimate expectation that the state will decline to prosecute. It represents not only a contradiction between the Public Prosecutor's prosecutorial discretion and the non-discretionary carriage of criminal justice on the ground but is also a restriction on their personal liberty, which is not consistent with Article 9(1) of the Constitution."

A pre-trial conference was set for 8 October 2019. The case sought to challenge the Court of Appeal's previous ruling in 2014 that Section 377A was constitutional. The 3-judge Court of Appeal had then rejected two separate challenges by Tan Eng Hong, who was also represented then by M Ravi, and a gay couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee. The highest court in Singapore upheld Section 377A, rejecting arguments that the provision contravened the Constitution. The court held that Section 377A did not violate Article 9 as the phrase "life and liberty" referred only to the personal liberty of a person from unlawful incarceration and not to the right of privacy and personal autonomy.

As for Article 12, the court held that Section 377A passed a test used by the courts in determining whether a law complied with the constitutional right of equality. In Singapore, the courts had used the "reasonable classification test" to determine whether a statute that differentiated was consistent with Article 12. Under this test, a statute that differentiated was constitutional if the classification was based on an "intelligible differentia" – a discernible distinguishing feature shared by those who were treated differently – and if the differentia bore a rational relation to the objective of the law. The court held in 2014 that the classification prescribed by Section 377A - men who performed acts of gross indecency with other men - was based on an intelligible differentia.

The court also ruled that Section 377A fell outside the scope of Article 12, which forbids discrimination of citizens on grounds including religion, race and place of birth. The court observed that Article 12 did not contain the words "gender", "sex" and "sexual orientation", which related to Section 377A. Tan felt that the court had erred in ruling that Section 377A passed the test and disputed that the law was based on an intelligible differentia. He said acts of "gross indecency" may take place between men only, women only and a mix of men and women, but "such acts cannot be meaningfully distinguished across the three classes". "However, Section 377A only proscribes acts between males. There is therefore no intelligible differentia as Section 377A was intended to proscribe acts of gross indecency,” he added.

Tan's application joined two other constitutional challenges against Section 377A then before the courts - one was filed in November 2018 by Bryan Choong, the former executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation working with the LGBT community and another was filed in September 2018 by disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, who went by the stage name DJ Big Kid, shortly after India's Supreme Court struck down its analgous law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Tan's application was widely reported in the local[28],[29],[30],[31],[32] as well as international media[33],[34],[35],[36],[37],[38],[39].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]