On Monday night, 5 January 2004, during the question-and-answer session after a speech to the Harvard Club, the then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated that a ban on gay activist groups, along with other interest groups, may soon be lifted as the government planned to ease curbs on political and social freedoms. Lee, who was likely to take over as Prime Minister from Goh Chok Tong that year, said, "There will be other groups formed, I'm quite sure, to campaign for specific issues, gay rights for example, and that is a sensitive one."
On Saturday, 10 January 2004, Safehaven, a local non-denominational Christian group for gay men and women, organised a Family Reunion Dinner hosted by Rev. and Mrs Yap Kim Hao. The aim of the inaugural dinner was to help its members and their families deepen their relationships. It was co-organised by 26-year old Alphonsus Lee who attended the gathering with his father.
On 21 January 2004, People Like Us sent an emotional and personal open letter to all 94 Members of Parliament. It appealed to the MPs as parents of children who could be gay and pointed out that current anti-gay laws would make their children criminals just on the basis of their sexuality. However, it failed to convince legislators to consider decriminalising homosexual oral sex when they review the Penal Code about oral sex.
From 4 to 15 February 2004, W!ld Rice presented "Landmarks - Asian Boys Vol. 2" at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. Written by Alfian Sa'at and directed by Ivan Heng, the collection of eight short plays told the stories of the lives of gay men in Singapore set against a familiar backdrop of saunas, cruising spots, parties, coming out issues, sex, and the city.
On 27 February, it was reported in the tabloid Streats that the Media Development Authority (MDA) had warned MANAZINE, a local men's periodical, that "the current state of the magazine, which features nudity and homosexual content, is unacceptable". This was despite recent announcements by the Censorship Review Committee (CRC) that Singapore would relax its censorship laws.
In early March 2004, Richard Chua, artistic co-director of The Fun Stage, announced in a press statement that the theatre company's earlier planned lecture series had been cancelled due to an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a licence from the Public Entertainment Licensing Unit (PELU), the licensing arm of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). PELU notified the organisers that the "talks are contrary to public interest". A series of talks on "Same Sex Love in Chinese Culture" and "The Politics of Gay Literature" and an open forum on a local book "People Like Us" was to have been held on March 6, 20 and 27 in conjunction with Lovers' Words, a Mandarin play about a boy and a girl falling in love in a homosexual society.
On 9 March 2004, the gay advocacy group, People Like Us, issued a press release calling on PELU to explain its reasons for not allowing the public talks on homosexuality to be held.
In March 2004, to mark its third anniversary, Fridae launched Version 4 of its website, the most significant update so far. It also announced that a new full-featured Chinese section would be introduced in the second quarter of 2004.
From 18 to 20 March 2004, the Ecnad Project presented openly gay engineer-turned-dancer, Kon Su Sam's performance entitled, "March Spin" at MOX Bar & Cafe.
In a letter dated 31 March 2004, the Registrar of Societies (ROS) rejected People Like Us' second application for registration, saying that "the registration of the proposed society is not approved under Sections 4(2)(b) and 4(2)(d) of the Societies Act". The gay community was tremendously disappointed. PLU appealed against the ROS' decision in June 2004 but it was rejected via a letter dated 19 May 2004 from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Despite the rejection, PLU co-founder Dr. Russell Heng said the group had made a "point to the government and the public that the gay issue will not go away." Gay activist Alex Au added, "The refusal again to register PLU raises serious doubts about any claim about freeing up Singapore, and makes an utter mockery of Goh Chok Tong's words about gay civil servants."
On Saturday, 10 April 2004, Fridae held its Squirt party at Palawan Beach, Sentosa and a small private island off the beach. It featured upcoming local DJ George and Los Angeles-based DJ Kiokio. This was followed up by Slurp the next day, Sunday, 11 April 2004, showcasing DJ Antwone at Zouk club. The double-bill was called "Squirt and Slurp" and came hot on the heels of the successful Nation and SnowBall parties the previous year.
In April 2004, Action for AIDS released the results of their 2002/2003 MSM survey. It was the most comprehensive study of the attitudes, behaviour, and sexual and HIV-related knowledge of men-who-have-sex-with-men in Singapore to date. 1,291 responses were collected through the survey website (76.3%) as well as from 3 gay saunas (12.1%), AfA's HIV Anonymous Testing Centre (6.3%), 3 gay clubs/bars (5.0%), and from the DSC Clinic (0.3%). AfA also revealed that the number of new HIV cases reported among MSM in Singapore had almost doubled from 28 in 2000 to 54 (22.3 percent of total cases) in 2003 despite a gradual tapering of rates of infection for the general population.
From 12 to 22 May 2004, Singapore's iconic drag comedian, Kumar, acted in the play "Not Guilty" at Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel. The play, produced by Arts Central, directed by Alvin Tan and written by veteran playwright Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage was about Kumar's life, childhood, family, being Indian, career and living in Singapore.
On Thursday, 13 May 2004, Edmund Koh, head of Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) consumer banking, told reporters at the launch of its DBS Woman's Mastercard the government-link bank may consider launching a credit card for gays in Singapore if there was enough demand for such a product.
In June 2004, Checkpoint Theatre presented "Opiume" at the Singapore Arts Festival, a modern chamber opera based loosely on the Opium Wars in the 18th to the 19th centuries. The music was written by gay Singaporean composer, Mark Chan.
In June 2004, Monsoon Books released a book by Singaporean author Gerrie Lim entitled "Invisible Trade: High-class sex for sale in Singapore". Chapter 6 of the book entitled "Boys in the Hood" explored the world of gay male escort services candidly described by former escort Cyril Wong, who had by then become an accomplished poet.
In July 2004, Times Editions released a novel by Edmund Wee entitled "The Narcissist". It was the first novel by the 31-year-old Singaporean journalist. Set in Paris and London, the novel follows the trail of a young, callow homosexual narrator who gradually discovers the darker side of men. The two themes woven throughout the novel are self-discovery and self-love.
In July 2004, Internet chat rooms and e-mail discussion lists were abuzz after Chinese-language tabloid Lianhe Wanbao ran a series over 5 consecutive days from Friday, 13 July onwards on orgies, saunas, bars and other gay issues. In retaliation, a couple in their 20s created a web site called "antiwanbao" to highlight how the "reports from the tabloid are biased and discriminatory towards the gay community, urge the gay community to stop buying the newspaper, support gay-friendly establishments and practice safe sex."
In July 2004, the Taiwanese gay movie "Formula 17" was banned by the Board of Film Censors despite the Censorship Review Committee's recommendations to relax its ban on gay-themed movies and publications. The distributor, Festive Films which proposed an "M18" rating (for viewers 18 or over) urged the Films Appeals Committee to allow the coming-of-age movie which follows the life of a 17-year-old boy who heads to Taipei in search of his dream lover, only to fall in love with a popular older gay man who does not believe in love. The Films Appeals Committee however upheld the ban saying that it encouraged homosexuality and "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passers-by, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected". Similarly, the racy Hindi lesbian film "Girlfriend" which that caused riots in several Indian cities and cinemas to be vandalised, was prohibited from release both in Singapore cinemas and on video. The story revolved around two close female friends who share a sexual encounter but one gets jealous and violent as the other falls in love with a guy.
From 28 July to 1 August 2004, director Alvin Tan and playwright Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage restaged 2003's glamourama "Mardi Gras" at the Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel with a new cast, script and sequel entitled "Top Or Bottom". The latter ran from 4 to 14 August, with breaks. The new cast included Paerin Choa, Jay Espano, and sitcom queens of Singapore, Irene Ang and Koh Chieng Mun. While Mardi Gras examind the issues faced by the Singapore gay community as a whole, Top Or Bottom looked at problems faced by the gay individual. Hossan Leong took the lead role of makeup artist Faith who had to deal with the untimely death of a friend. It lead Faith to question the way he has lived his life, including the choice he made long ago to come of the closet and set it on fire. "Mardi Gras" and "Top or Bottom" were part of the first ever Nation.04 Arts programme which included several other plays and art exhibitions.
On Saturday, 7 August 2004, Fridae's eagerly anticipated Nation.04 kicked off with the "Make Love Not War" opening party at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, followed by the Nation party proper on Sunday, 8 August and the Closing Party at the world-famous Zouk Club on 9 August,,. Hailed by Time Magazine as "a 3-day festival of international proportions" and "a must on the world circuit" by DNA, Australia's leading gay magazine, the event attracted some 2,000 tourists from 30 countries and raised S$10 million in tourism revenue. Nation.04 was also nominated for "Best Event Experience" in the 2004 Singapore Tourism Awards.
Action for AIDS operated a booth at party but was asked to shut it down by the local police jurisdiction who thought that giving out safer sex brochures and condoms was promoting gay sex. In another incident earlier that year, AfA was also stopped from circulating its new range of safer sex postcards by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore which objected to any reference to oral and anal sex on the grounds that such acts were illegal.
In August 2004, Action for AIDS revealed that men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) accounted for 78.6% of all the positive results at its Anonymous HIV Testing and Counselling Centre from January to June 2004. There was a significant increase in the number of homosexual and bisexual clients compared with the same period last year - a 48.7% jump from 347 in 2003 to 516 in 2004.
In August, People Like Us and its LGBT e-mail list, SiGNeL announced plans to organise a gay forum and exhibition. The group made the decision after newly installed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who assumed office on 12 August, spoke at his first National Day Rally speech on the night of Sunday, 22 August and stated that organisers would henceforth not require a licence for indoor forums.
In September 2004, Manazine, a local periodical which had previously featured "homosexual" content, announced that the magazine would move from being a free pick-up zine to one that would only be sent to subscribers or available to card-carrying members at selected outlets to limit its access to the general public. According to The Straits Times, the Media Development Authority (MDA) had received complaints by concerned parents about the magazine's homosexual content and its easy availability. MDA's spokesperson added that the authority had met with Arjan Nijen Twilhaar, Manazine's publisher and chief editor on 11 August and reminded him that local magazines should not promote homosexuality as a lifestyle.
From 8 September to 17 October 2004, gay artists Brian Tan and Vince Ong, who were once boyfriends, created an extraordinary installation work that represented the journey they took in understanding their own lives and sexuality. It was entitled "Hypersurface: A Medi(t)ation On Media And Architecture" and was displayed at Sculpture Square, 155, Middle Road.
In September 2004, it was reported on SiGNeL that the Media Development Authority (MDA) objected to the use of "raunchy pictures" on the SgBoy web portal's subscription-based HotBods section, the use of explicit sexual language in its Personals section, and required its webmaster to bar such ads as well as to shut down certain sections of its bulletin board due to its overt gay content,. However, the website denied that the validity of the report, saying "With regard to the recent speculations and postings (one notably from SiGNeL) about MDA clamping down on SgBoy.com, we would like to say that there is no concrete information to support these reports."
In September 2004, Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan voiced his concern about the rising numbers of HIV cases in Singapore. He noted that about one-third of cases were occurring among Men who have Sex with Men, and that cases in this subgroup were increasing quite rapidly. He called for greater efforts and fresh thinking to halt the spread of HIV.
From 7 to 17 October 2004, the Utterly Art Exhibition Space at #02-01, 208 South Bridge Road presented "My Sisters, Their Stories", an exhibition of fashion photographs featuring male-to-female transsexuals by photojournalist Lance Lee's published book of the same name.
On the night of Wednesday, 10 November 2004, in a speech entitled "The AIDS Epidemic in Singapore" (see transcript: ) made to doctors in a hospital, Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan warned that Singapore could face an "alarming AIDS epidemic" as the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS in Singapore was doubling every 3 to 4 years. He pinpointed gay men's unsafe sexual practices as the biggest cause for concern, saying that Singapore was fortunate in that HIV had not entered the general population in a big way, with the disease generally limited to two distinct groups of men that needed attention - "MSM i.e. the gays, and heterosexual men having casual sex in other countries." He added, "Of the two, the gays are the bigger concern." Dr. Balaji highlighted the sharp rise in new AIDS infections among homosexuals, from 54 cases last year to 77 in the first 10 months of 2004.
In his speech, Dr Balaji also chided AfA for not doing a good enough job in HIV awareness and education and mentioned Fridae.com, where he came across an article that he felt was advocating a "promiscuous and reckless lifestyle". Dr. Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae, and lawyer Paul Tan wrote an articles on Fridae in response to Balaji's allegations,.
On Friday, 19 November 2004, Dr Balaji told reporters after he chaired a consultative meeting involving health officials and representatives from Fridae.com, Action for AIDS (AfA), the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), the Singapore Red Cross, the Communicable Disease Center, the AIDS Task Force and the Health Promotion Board that although Singapore would not embark on a "publicity blitz" to promote condom use, the Ministry of Health would involve Fridae among other partners to get the safe sex message across to respective target groups.
On 23 November 2004, Fridae launched an online red ribbon campaign to urge users of the web portal to make a personal commitment towards fighting HIV/AIDS through safer sex.
From 27 to 28 November 2004, the biennial 4th Singapore Aids Conference was held at the Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (Suntec City). It was targeted at a multi-sectorial audience. The conference organisers and AfA also convened the 2nd MSM Stakeholders' Meeting which involved over 40 participants including owners of gay establishments, and gay individuals was held in which ideas were tossed around about how to promote safe sex. These included designation of saunas and clubs as being "HIV-friendly" and informing patrons that the guys they met within those premises could potentially be HIV-positive.
From 18 to 28 November 2004, the Utterly Art Exhibition Space, #02-01, 208 South Bridge Road presented an exhibition entitled "Nativity Nonyas and Other Uncommon Icons" by famed Singaporean artist and playwright Desmond Sim. The 40-something writer co-wrote Beautiful Boxer by Ekachai Uekrongtham, which won a string of awards in Europe at various film festivals, multi-award winning play Autumn Tomyam, and Hubbies4Hire among others. Sim was Action Theatre's associate artistic director at the time.
From 24 to 27 November 2004, theatre director Jonathan Lim and comedian Hossan Leong presented the 8th installment of the live parody show "PRIVATE (partly) - House of Flying Chestnuts" at the Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel. It featured double-edged parodies of Mamma Mia! , Singapore Idol, Dim Sum Dollies, Private Parts, Wills & Mergers and films like Peter Pan, House of Flying Daggers, Kill Bill, Alien VS Predator and The Stepford Wives.
On 3 December 2004, Fridae announced that it would be holding its year-end SnowBall party on Christmas day at the Warehouse, a newly refurbished cavernous godown along the Singapore River which would be transformed into a dazzling palace of heart-stopping sound and spectacular light and laser design. This was to be followed up with Meltdown, another party at Chinablack on 26 December.
However, on Wednesday, 8 December 2004, the police rejected Fridae's application for a public entertainment licence (PELU) to hold SnowBall.04. It was the first time that a PELU licence had been denied as organiser Jungle Media, a Singapore subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Fridae.com, had obtained licenses for past events, namely Snowball in December 2002 and 2003, Nation (August 2002, 2003, 2004), Squirt (April 2004), Boys of Summer (June 2003) and Paradise Ball (December 2003).
In a press statement, the police said the during the indoor opening party of Nation.04 at Suntec City, they observed that "patrons of the same gender were seen openly kissing and intimately touching each other. Some of the revellers were cross-dressed, for example, males wearing skirts. Patrons were also seen using the toilets of the opposite sex. The behaviour of these patrons suggested that most of them were probably gays/lesbians and this was thus an event almost exclusively for gays/lesbians...A number of couples of the same sex were seen hugging and kissing in public after the event while waiting for taxis and checking into the nearby hotels after the party...Several letters of complaint were received from some patrons about the openly gay...The Police recognise that there are some Singaporeans with gay tendencies. While Police do not discriminate against them on this basis, the Police also recognise that Singapore is still, by and large, a conservative and traditional society. Hence, the Police cannot approve any application for an event which goes against the moral values of a large majority of Singaporeans. Future applications for events of similar nature will be closely scrutinised."
Fridae's CEO, Dr. Stuart Koe wrote a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng to appeal the decision and asked the relevant authorities to reconsider their position. Readers from Singapore, which included Rev. Dr. Yap Kim Hao, and around the world also wrote to the press and various government departments, urging the authorities to do the same. Some analysts feared that the rejection of a public entertainment licence to hold Snowball.04 signalled a change of public policy toward homosexuality, perhaps instigated by junior health minister Dr. Balaji Sadasivan's warning about a sharp rise in the number of new AIDS cases amongst gay men one month ago.
In a letter dated 13 December 2004, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) rejected Fridae's appeal to overturn a rejection of their application for Snowball.04, saying, "Singapore is indeed opening up. But we are still, by and large, a conservative society. The blatant public display involving intimate behaviour of people of the same sex exhibited at the previous events organised by Jungle Media/Fridae.com would be an affront and unacceptable to the large majority of Singaporeans".
On Sunday, 19 December 2004, at the People Action Party's community day celebrations in Sentosa, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong responded to reporters' questions on the rejection saying, "It's a question of where to draw the line. We made it quite clear that the party should not be targeted at gays alone. There are certain norms and limits which we have to observe and that was the understanding under which the permit was granted last time. As the party turned out, our sense of it was that this was beyond what we are prepared to accept. So, we have said 'no'. It's a matter of balance and judgement ? how far we can go and where the limits are. I think it's the right thing to do".
On Saturday, Christmas day, 2004, the Free Community Church (FCC) held its Christmas Celebration Service at The Chambers on level 2 of The Old Parliament House. The speaker for the service was Clarence Singam who had also written a letter to the govenment several weeks ago urging them to reconsider the rejection of a police licence to hold Snowball.04. The Chairperson of the FCC, Jean Chong was interviewed by Fridae.