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The Magic of Singapore

by Lawrence Ferber
Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

As with every time I've visited this cultural and religious melting pot city-state, known affectionately as the "little red dot," the topic of penal code section 377A arises.

Lawrence Ferber

I’m waiting for a Genie to appear. A California-raised Indian- American, Amed Gurnani is by night a fierce, tall, rubenesque drag queen named Genie with a penchant for horror moviemeets- kawaii (an extreme Japanese style of “cute”) looks.

I’m visiting Singapore, where Genie/Amed has been working as an expat, and we’ve arranged to meet up for a kiki over dinner. I’ve arrived first, since I’m not operating on DQST (Drag Queen Savings Time). While waiting for Genie to materialize, I nurse a refreshing chrysanthemum tea and gin based cocktail, The Escape to Kaifeng, at the cozy, Gatsby-gone-Chinese gold and black Yellow Pot Bar at the new Six Senses Duxton (83 Duxton Rd. Tel: +65 6914 1428. www.sixsenses.com/en/hotels/duxton) in Chinatown’s Tanjong Pajar district. The Six Senses Duxton is the resort brand’s first foray into the urban boutique hotel space, and has been heralded with two Singapore properties: the 49-room Six Senses Duxton and, just a few minutes away by foot, 138-room Six Senses Maxwell (2 Cook St. Tel: +65 6914 1400. www.sixsenses.com/en/hotels/maxwell). More on those later, though!

Genie from Drag Race Thailand in Singapore

Photo: Courtesy Genie

The first Indian-American contestant on Drag Race Thailand, Genie turns heads upon arrival, dressed in a gender-nonbinary black outfit with tight leggings, a loose-fitting top, chunky, shiny boots that make Genie even more towering, and a white handbag as icing. After a drink, we settle down within the adjacent Yellow Pot Restaurant for incredible Chinese cuisine created with sustainable, healthy ingredients: hickory wood-roasted duck, giant tiger prawns resting in creamy curry, and crispy Sichuan chicken tossed with peanuts and peppers. In between gorging on this feast, our conversation ranged from dish about the show (Genie came in at eighth place) to Singapore’s must-see local queens, including Vanda Miss Joaquim, a Muslim, and fellow Drag Race Thailand finalist, and OG Singapore stand-up comedian and drag personality, Kumar, who came out publicly in 2011.

As with every time I’ve visited this cultural and religious melting pot, known affectionately as the “little red dot,” the topic of Penal Code Section 377A arises. An archaic holdover from the British colonial days that criminalizes homosexual acts (a.k.a. “gross indecency”), 377A isn’t on the books today for any logical reason, and it isn’t actively enforced, but it’s existence is a buzzkill with nonetheless unpleasant effects.

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