SINGAPORE — A student-led LGBT group has criticised the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) for allegedly attempting to censor a queer singer because of his sexual orientation.
Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore reported on Monday (23 Sept) that bisexual musician, Leon Markcus, withdrew from a concert on the SIM Global Education (SIM GE) campus after allegedly being asked to remove any lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) content from his performance.
On Wednesday, the Inter-University LGBT Network (IULN) released a statement expressing concern for SIM GE’s attempt to censor the 23-year-old pop artist during a talent showcase concert that was held this Tuesday.
Responding to a statement by SIM that said that the private school needed to be sensitive to the interests of its “very diverse stakeholder groups”, IULN said, “Our belief is that balancing the interests of diverse stakeholders should not have to come at the cost of self-expression, or the erasure of marginalised communities.”
IULN took issue with Leon being the only performer at the concert who was advised against “promoting the LGBT community”. “This suggests that Leon, who identifies as bisexual, was ultimately singled out because of his gender expression and/or sexuality,” said IULN.
“SIM GE aims to build a ‘culturally diverse learning environment’ and ‘equip students with an all-rounded’ global education. The attempt to censor Leon is antithetical to this mission,” IULN added.
IULN concluded by saying: “The censorship of LGBTQ+ expression and the suppression of dialogue around LGBTQ+ issues does not help to promote the safety and security of LGBTQ+ students. Discouraging conversations perpetuates gaps of understanding between LGBTQ+ students and their peers rather than bridging them.
“The Inter-University LGBT Network stands with Leon. We call on all educational institutions to review their policies regarding LGBTQ+ issues. Our organisation is ready to work with any institution that wishes to make safer and more inclusive campuses their priority.”
The IULN is a student-led organisation comprising LGBT-friendly groups from local universities. It describes its goal as “fostering safer and more inclusive school communities for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression”. Current member groups come from the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Yale-NUS College.
Leon, one among few openly out LGBT artists in Singapore, posted a message on Facebook in response to IULN’s expression of solidarity with him, writing:
I wanna say thank you to Inter-University LGBT Network.
This fight is so important even if it might seem fruitless now.
I wanna thank everyone (big or little, straight or not) for standing up. Every little spark creates a conversation so thank you ♥️
There are still so many more conversations to spark which includes mental health, suicide, bullying, racism and 🏳️🌈 . Let’s not forget that as well. Now I’m gonna head back and do what I do best. Express my thoughts through my art.
Also, let’s take a moment to appreciate the ones who have fought and is still fighting tirelessly for our community. Reach out and see what we can do to contribute to community. “Be the change we want to see”
Leon tagged several local LGBT-friendly groups at the end of his post, including Pink Dot, Oogachaga, Young Out Here, the T Project and AFA Singapore.
Jayson Tan, a 25-year-old SIM business student, said, “It’s the school’s decision whether or not to accept a performer, but I think that there shouldn’t be any discrimination. The performance actually has nothing to do with his sexual orientation whatsoever, so whether he’s gay or straight doesn’t affect it. It won’t affect the students in any way, whether the singer is LGBT or not.”
Leon had earlier told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, “My art and my sexuality are two different things... I just don't think it's right, especially for a university or a place of education, to be supportive of discrimination.”
Leon released his debut EP “Mannequin” in 2016. His second EP “Welcome To Hot City” is due for a 19 October release. His previous singles include Alive and Hot City. He is outspoken about LGBT rights in his social media posts.
An SIM spokesperson had released the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore: “As an educational institute with very diverse stakeholder groups, it is important that we remain sensitive to the different interests of our stakeholders. Asking performers to provide details of their performance at SIM’s events is therefore a standard procedure SIM requires of all performers. The same request is made of all the other four performers at the student event on 24 September, and not just of Leon Markcus. No decision has been made to cancel Leon’s performance as details of his performance are pending.”
SIM’s statement did not respond to Leon’s allegation that the school asked him to avoid LGBT issues, or say what details they requested from performers. Leon said the concert organisers did not respond when he asked what they meant by their requirement to not promote the LGBT community, and stopped communicating with him after he declined to perform.
Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore also reached out to the SIM-RMIT Student Council, who organised the concert, but had received no response at the time of this article’s publication.
SIM GE (not to be confused with the former UniSIM, which is now the public Singapore University of Social Sciences) is a private education institute under the SIM group which partners overseas universities to offer degrees to students in Singapore.
Schools here have cancelled talks by LGBT speakers over sensitivity surrounding homosexuality. In July this year, gay local radio DJ Joshua Simon withdrew from a TEDx talk at Singapore Polytechnic after being asked to censor his speech for gay-related content. Last year, gay activist Rachel Yeo was barred from giving a TEDx talk at the Catholic school, Saint Joseph’s Institution.