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Forming and Un-forming the Urban Closet: Presenting a Geography of Queer Spaces in Singapore
by WONG Zi Hao
This paper looks at the evolving nature and portrayal of queer spaces in Singapore, as these spaces are being shaped and re‐shaped by the changing and advancing social and political influences which affect the queer community, within the last decade.
The research critiques and develops architectural theorist Aaron Betsky’s reconstructions of the private “closet spaces” in the city.1 The private “closet realm” that seems to be separated from the mainstream hetero‐normative city is re‐constructed through a series of queer spaces that challenge the earlier readings of the “closet” and the city by dismantling its simplistic binaries such as private/public, homosexual/heterosexual and ordered/deviant. This dissertation adopts as its geography, three spaces, namely, Hong Lim Park, Chinatown and the Housing Development Board (HDB) flat.
1) The Park: Hong Lim Park challenges Betsky’s closet as a queered space that is open and public, yet able to be transformed into a site hosting Pinkdot – a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) affirming event, held once a year in Singapore.
2) The Street: Chinatown exists both as a tourist site as well as a gay district in Singapore, where many gay establishments are found. The site provides new lenses for looking at queer spatial practices that arise out of the mixed usage of the same space. It re‐looks at the way closets are formed by the bordering of body‐spaces within the site.
3) The Flat: The HDB flat presents an understanding of closet‐forming within the multigenerational home interior, where the privacy of the home becomes encroached into, and where dichotomies of public/private are not strictly separated.
This geography of spaces reveals ways in which control mechanisms of the public realm are resisted, by the temporary forming (and un‐forming) of the queer closet: the inversion of orders of the Pinkdot event in the park; the silent deviation of queer individuals in the street; and the re‐definition of meanings in everyday objects within the home.
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