By Movin Nyanasengeran
When I was asked to write a piece on the Gender Collective (GC) I was at a bit of a loss. Things have progressed at breakneck speed over the last year and a half and it’s pretty difficult to put on paper everything that has happened.
When we first started organising GC events, we knew we wanted to create a safe space for queer and feminism related issues while also building a community of people who were comfortable being open around each other. With this in mind, we started out with short sessions in the master’s commons – discussing various issues such as privilege, coming out and gender identity. Seeing people grow increasingly comfortable with each other was heartening, but what really struck me was the power there was in talking about things. Accepting, acknowledging and dealing with aspects of yourself that society has deemed unacceptable requires inordinate courage; willingly bringing it out into the open and having people who care and support you makes the experience significantly more positive.
GC was also one of the founding groups of the inter-university LGBT network which opened the way for collaborative projects. Qrientation, an orientation event for queer-identifying freshmen and allies, was jointly organised and served as a platform for freshmen to address their concerns and allow them to meet like-minded peers. The event also allowed GC to be more visible to non-Utown students in NUS (where no LBGT groups currently exist), we now have quite a few who come regularly for our sessions.
It was soon after this that we decided to include more social aspects to our events to allow members to bond, and began to start having movie screenings and excursions to events such as the RIOT drag show.
Other collaborations involved a Utown-wide sexual assault panel, held in Cinnamon at the tail end of last year, where GC, Yale-NUS’s the Gspot and AWARE came together to discuss ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault. We were privileged to have representatives from all of the residential colleges present and willing to engage in discourse on best practices and how to create a more holistic system to address this ever-present threat.
To rehumanize; to reconnect was an event a few weeks ago in the Stephen Riady centre where we organised an art exhibition featuring photo essays of transwomen and art work created by sex workers in Singapore. Collectively organised by GC, the GSpot and a few NUS students, we hoped the event would serve as a means to provide visibility to and remove the stigma from these communities. In addition, we had very intimate, candid conversations where we had members of these communities come and have a chat with interested students on a picnic mat in town green. The conversations were eye-opening to say the least – sex work is a lot more nuanced then one would give it credit for, and the laws that govern it are far more complex than a cursory glance would suggest. Of course juicy personal anecdotes were also present and served to spice up the discussion. Don’t take my word for it, ask someone who was there!
We’re currently planning for Qrientation 2016 which will be sometime in summer. We will also have a presence at PinkDot this year. (We’re looking for volunteers so please feel free to let me know if you’re interested to help out! #shamelessadvertising). Next semester we hoping to co-organise Yale-NUS’s sex week – a series of talks and other events that as the name suggests will center around sex, sexuality and navigating the politics that these subjects are too often embroiled in. Also, random shout-out to whoever’s considering coming for our events – everyone is welcome; a willingness to learn and a big heart is all we ask!