Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a statement from the Singapore Institute of Management, and Leon’s response to that statement.
SINGAPORE — A local bisexual singer has pulled out from a concert at SIM Global Education (SIM GE) institute after allegedly being asked to remove any lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) content from his performance.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore over the phone, Leon Markcus said he had been booked to perform at a concert on 24 September, “A Night To Shine”, organised by the SIM-RMIT Student Council.
However, two weeks before the concert, the 23-year-old pop singer-songwriter received a message from an organiser that the school management could not accommodate his LGBT “causes”.
“I don't blame the students,” said the queer musician. “From what I've heard, the students really fought hard to keep me in the concert, but ultimately, it was up to the higher management.”
“A Night To Shine” is billed as a student talent showcase with guest performers including Ralph Alvern, Hearken, HTL and Words Within. Leon was to have been one of the guest performers.
“My art and my sexuality are two different things,” said Leon, whose real name is Leon Chua Jun Rong. “And it’s very cheap of them to water down my work because of my sexual orientation.”
“I just don't think it's right, especially for a university or a place of education, to be supportive of discrimination,” Leon added.
According to Leon, a member of the student council had told him on 10 September, “After much consideration and internal conflicts with the higher management of the school, the school is unable to accommodate your performance for such causes”.
The student council suggested that Leon change his performance such that “attire, song content, and whatever is being delivered shall not be suggestive or provocative in any sense, as well as not promoting the LGBT community”.
Leon declined to perform at the concert instead of amending his performance to suit the school’s demands. He wrote his thoughts in an Instagram post, saying, “This is not the first time an incident like this has happened. Just earlier this year, my friend, Joshua Simon, had to endure the same rubbish.
“As a university, what kind of example are you setting to your students? Are you telling your students that discrimination is okay? That if they are LGBTQ+, them being themselves is not okay? My story is just one of the few rubbish that we as LGBTQ+ individuals have to endure in our daily lives.”
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.
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.
Leon said his music doesn’t really touch on LGBT topics, although he is outspoken about LGBT rights in his social media posts. He often performs in androgynous attire.
Regarding his scheduled gig at the concert, Leon said he and his band had planned to perform songs from his upcoming release. “We were going to play the songs I have on my EP, which actually just talk about youth issues, growing up in a dysfunctional family, and feeling like an outcast. Nothing really LGBTQ or provocative, actually.”
Leon said he had performed at schools in the past with no negative feedback, including junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.
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 Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) group which partners overseas universities to offer degrees to students in Singapore.
In response to queries from Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, an SIM spokesperson released the following statement from the school: “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 for comment, but had received no response at the time of this article’s publication.