From 25 to 27 January 2008, cinema chain Golden Village (GV) organised "The Love and Pride Film Festival", the first commercial Singaporean film festival dedicated to international LGBT feature films. However, publicity was discreet and minimal and it showcased a modest slate of only 7 titles already cleared by censors and shown separately in Singapore cinemas in 2006 and 2007.
On Monday, 25 February 2008, part of director and Oscar-winner for "Best Documentary short", Cynthia Wade's, acceptance speech about the woman in her film, "Freeheld", who spent her last days fighting against discrimination was snipped from the repeat telecast on Channel 5 of the 80th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. In the original broadcast, Wade had said, "It was Lieutenant Laurel Hester's dying wish that her fight for, against discrimination would make a difference for all the same-sex couples across the country that face discrimination every day. Discrimination that I don't face as a married woman." From courtroom scenes to the couple's private moments at home, the 38-minute film captured Lt. Hester's battle in her last months as she is supported by colleagues from the police department and LGBT activists who lobby the county's elected officials known as the Freeholders.
In March and April 2008, the 21st Singapore International Film Festival showcased 2 locally produced films with lesbian and gay themes - Lucky7 which was rated R21 for "sexual content and disturbing images' and Women Who Love Women: Conversations In Singapore. Lucky7, which premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier that year, was an 82-minute, multiple-genre, multiple-language collaboration by 7 local directors, 4 of whom were gay - Sun Koh, K. Rajagopal, Boo Jun Feng, Ho Tzu Nyen, Tania Sng, Brian Gothong Tan and Chew Tze Chuan who each made 10- to 12-minute segments. Each director was only allowed to know the last minute of the preceding segment. The film festival was also scheduled to hold the Asian premiere of the highly controversial and high profile documentary "A Jihad for Love", the world's first feature-length film about Islam and homosexuality, since it was first screened at Toronto's International Film Festival in September 2007. However, it was later banned by the Media Development Authority which oversaw the Board of Film Censors, with the latter's chairperson, Amy Chua, saying that the film was "disallowed in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle."
On Monday, 31 March 2008, Mox Bar and Cafe, which had been recently voted as Singapore's favourite gay bar at the Fridae ae-List Awards, closed its doors, with a garage sale on Thursday, 27 March and a farewell party called "End of the Rainbow" on Saturday, 29 March 2008. Mr. Mok, the co-owner and engineer by profession and his 4 partners including buff-bodied doctor, Toby Hui, also holders of full time jobs, had considered keeping the party going in his absence, but with high rental costs (double what they were when the bar opened) and a generally dwindling nightlife scene, they decided to let it go.
On Wednesday, 9 April 2008, a media statement issued by the Media Development Authority said that it had fined StarHub Cable Vision S$10,000 (US$7,200) for breaching the TV Advertising Code by showing a commercial of a song that depicted lesbian kissing scenes. The commercial, which promoted a song titled "Silly Child" by pop singer Olivia Yan, was aired on MTV's Mandarin-language channel in November 2007. The MDA's statement also said, "Within the commercial, romanticised scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable. This is in breach of the TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality."
Shortly after, on Thursday, 24 April 2008, Channel 5 was fined S$15,000 by the MDA for airing a home and decor programme entitled "Find and Design" on 13 January 2008 at 7:30am which showed a gay couple transforming a room into a nursery for their adopted baby. Announcing its decision on its website, the MDA said that it took issue with the programme's presenter who congratulated and acknowledged the gay couple and their baby as a family unit "in a way which normalises their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup. This is in breach of the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise gay lifestyles...MDA also consulted the Programme Advisory Committee for English Programmes (PACE) and the Committee was also of the view that a gay relationship should not be presented as an acceptable family unit."
On Tuesday, 13 May 2008, Fridae, Shaw organisation and Crocodile co-presented the fundraising gala premiere in benefit of IndigNation 2008 of the movie "Wilde" (rated R21) at Lido 2, Shaw House, 350 Orchard Road at 9pm. Banned a decade ago, the film depicts the rise and fall of the widely known gay Irish-born playwright, Oscar Wilde. The event raised S$10,000 for Singapore's 4th annual Pride Season.
In May 2008, the then 24-year old director Boo Junfeng completed his 19-minute short film "Tanjong Rhu" which was sponsored by Fridae and based on the notorious arrests of 12 gay men in a police entrapment exercise in 1993.
On 23 May 2008, Prof. Douglas Sanders, who was barred from giving a public talk during IndigNation in August 2007, delivered the same presentation at the fifth annual Asian Law Schools conference held at the Asian Law Institute (ALSI) at the National University of Singapore's Law Faculty. As the meeting was an academic affair and closed to the public, no police permits were required.
In late May 2008, Action for AIDS revealed that a recent landmark project to make HIV testing more accessible found that 30 (3.1%) of the 960 MSM who took the test were HIV-positive. Although this HIV prevalence among MSM was one of the lowest in the region, AfA and Fridae unveiled a new campaign called "We Can Stop AIDS Now".
In June 2008, TV broadcaster Mediacorp's print magazine 8 Days carried an interview with Channel 5's Senior Censorship Manager David Christie who said that "It's really not easy" to interpret the "broad strokes" of the Media Development Authority's code of conduct. He elucidated, "There are some shows like Brothers & Sisters where one of the main cast is gay, and The O.C. where two characters were lesbians in Season 2... How do you keep it running when there are strong gay issues?...we put such series on late nights and put up viewer advisories after making necessary edits...Even a cooking show can be dangerous. A guy could say something like, 'I'm cooking this for my boyfriend tonight.' We die, you know! What that one remark does is normalise gay lifestyle" and which can lead to a hefty fine by the MDA.
On 30 May 2008, TODAY newspaper reported that Attorney-General, Prof. Walter Woon, said in a speech that human rights was "now a religion among some people...You have, like in some religions, the fanatics. And it's all hypocrisy and fanaticism (for these people) to set the views, as the leading spokesmen, of what is acceptable and what's not." He voiced his disapproval of advocates framing same-sex marriage as an issue of human rights, asking rhetorically, "Is this a question of human rights?"
In early July 2008, journalist/songwriter Dr. Ng King Kang published his second book on homosexuality in Singapore, a compilation of results from a survey of political and social attitudes towards gay men since 1990. 9 years after Ng stunned Singapore in 1999 with "The Rainbow Connection", possibly the first upfront, unapologetic non-fiction book about gay people in the country written as his Masters thesis at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), he came up with a sequel of sorts to the first, entitled "Born This Way But?: The Changing Politics of Homosexuality in Singapore", referencing Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's 2003 comments in Time magazine. At its heart, the book is a compilation of results from a survey on attitudes towards male homosexuals, conducted as part of his Ph.D. at Deakin University, Melbourne. However, with its accompanying essays, it forms the most comprehensive printed work to date on the political situation of gay Singaporean men.
From 17 to 20 July 2008, The Dream Academy Playhouse Pte Ltd presented "Happy Robin" at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. The production, directed by Selena Tan, was Robin Goh's first solo concert. Goh, better known as an actor for his roles in Asian Boys Vols. 2 & 3 and for playing both Chang and Eng in the namesake musical, sang favourites from Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra his way.
- Welcome reception
Friday, 1 August 2008, 7 pm, at 72-13 During the reception, People Like Us (PLU), organisers of IndigNation, launched a biennial award worth S$2,000 (US$1,500) called the Rascals Prize to recognise the best research work related to LGBT topics in Singapore. The award was so named to commemorate a seminal event on 30 May 1993 when police raided Rascals, a gay-on-Sunday disco.
- Ancestors on the beach - an art exhibition by Jimmy Ong
- From fag to friend, a forum by the Queer-Straight Alliance
- From classoom to comics, by Otto Fong
- ADLUS night hike
- Cruising through history
- Silence and aching hearts
- Tong bu tong 2 - Another tribe
- Opening of art exhibition - Jimmy Ong: Ancestors on the Beach
- ContraDiction IV
- The Unofficial Pink Picnic
- Brain surgery - what's inside the heads of homophobes?
- Too often ignored: The science of sexual orientation
- My wife, my kids...
- Heartbreak heroes: Four Malaysians on surviving love, loss and a hostel in Singapore
- The Bear Project Charity Art Show
- Queer women within feminist Singapore
- Is HIV becoming an Asian disease?
During the National Day Rally on 17 August 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore citizens would be allowed to stage outdoor protests without the need for a police permit from 1 September 2008 onwards if the demonstrations were held at Speakers' Corner, Hong Lim Park. Amateur Singapore gay history archivist Roy Tan immediately saw an opportunity to hold Singapore's first LGBT pride parade there but veteran gay activist Alex Au said that he would not organise any protests as "The freedom to demonstrate is meaningless unless it is applicable to all of Singapore...I would not dignify this tokenism by organising anything there. It will have to be at a proper place like here at Raffles Place or down a major street, or nothing."
On Tuesday, 30 September 2008, for the first time in almost 10 years, the controversial subject of gay sexuality education in Singapore schools was discussed in a talk show entitled "Am I Gay?" on Channel News Asia's Blog TV series. Featured on the programme were 2 educators - Otto Fong, a former physics teacher in Raffles Institution who came out oh-so-publicly on his blog in 2007, and Prof. George Bishop, head of the Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore - and 2 teenage girls - Shraddha Ramsundar, 15, and Kohila Priyia, 18.
On Tuesday night, 21 October 2008, for the 4th year running, Fridae was conferred the Friend of the Arts Award for its support and contribution to Singapore's arts scene by the National Arts Council. Choo Lip Sin, editor of Fridae's Chinese-language web sites, received the award at the 2008 Patron of the Arts Award ceremony held at the Esplanade Theatre from guest of honour Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts. The award was given to companies who contributed $$100,000 to $$299,999 in in cash or in kind in 2007.
On 8 November 2008, the 6th biennial Singapore AIDS Conference themed "Fight the Disease, Fight the Stigma" was held at the Suntec Convention Centre. It was organised by Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the Health Promotion Board and Action for AIDS which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
In early November 2008, 3 of the 6 men who brutally punched and kicked a 37-year old man to death after he allegedly offered his attackers oral sex in toilet at Orchard Towers on 23 November 2007 were handed prison terms of only between 4 and 4 1/2 years, and 6 to 8 strokes of the cane. Although the 6 had been charged with the murder shortly after the incident, the charges were downgraded to that of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to which all pleaded guilty in October 2008. It was not known why the charges were reduced. The 3 persons who were thought by the judge to be less responsible than the others were sent to a reformative training centre, where they would be "confined for between 18 months and 3 years and put through a tough regimen of foot drills, counselling, education and vocational training." Gay activist Alex Au argued that the sentences were woefully inadequate.
From 20 to 23 November 2008, Buds Theatre Company presented "Death and Dancing" at Play disco, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road. The funny, uplifting play, performed stand-up comedy style, was about 2 friends named Max and Max, a gay man and a lesbian woman (acted by Benjamin Wong and Rebecca Lee respectively) both struggling to define themselves against society's expectations.
On 13 November 2008, The Straits Times published a full page advertisement by DBS Bank declaring that it would contribute up to S$15,000 towards Focus on the Family, "a charity dedicated to helping children and families thrive" when DBS/POSB credit card members spent S$300 on their cards till 21 December 2008 at selected malls. Picking up on the Focus on the Family brand name which was synonymous with the anti-gay, rightwing Christian agenda, some gay and lesbian credit card holders cancelled their cards and sent protest letters to the bank. Writer Ng Yi-Sheng also set up a Facebook page to encourage LGBT-supportive people to boycott DBS Bank.
On 19 December 2008, the Holy See issued a press statement stating that the Vatican "condemn(s) all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urg(ing) States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them." Fridae subsequently contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore to ask if it would support repeal of Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code. The Singapore Catholic Church replied that it did not support the repeal of laws that criminalised gay sex acts, and "persons with homosexual tendencies (orientation) should refrain from irresponsible sexual acts."