A Singapore drag queen stood up to a group of boys who verbally attacked her in a restaurant.
Becca D’Bus was enjoying some dim sum at the ‘cheap (ish) and cheerful’ Swee Choon restaurant. It’s her favourite place to ‘unwind with calories’ after performing her late night gigs.
But a group of four young men decided they didn’t want to let her eat in peace. In the early hours of Thursday morning (14 February) one of them went right up to her face. The boys giggled to them selves while calling out to her ‘are you gay?’.
‘I was in the most literal, and modern day sense, minding my own business, eating alone in a restaurant, scrolling through Facebook on my phone, when a man hovered over my table, bent over with his face coming close to mine, asking about why I was wearing nail polish and lipstick (I was out of drag, and I had lips stained by lipstick that couldn’t come off completely),’ D’Bus told Gay Star News.
‘I refused to answer his questions. He repeated them. I refused again. He returned to his group where he reported that I didn’t want to answer the question.’
D’Bus was not in drag when the attack happened. But she is used to having her ‘gender policed all the time by strangers’.
‘Out of drag, I identify as a gay or queer man, I am fat, tall and my head is shaved bald,’ she said.
‘When I am not dressing for occasions, I don’t care too much about the gendered nature of clothing, i.e out of drag, I wear pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, and various other less defined garments, I sew and wear a lot of my experiments.’
D’Bus has become used to people doing a double take at her, staring or giggling. Sometimes people ask her why she wears the clothes she does. Those questions often come from a place of curiosity or in the case of Thursday’s incident, a ‘desire to intimidate’.
‘What felt different was what I perceived to be a particularly aggressive and intentionally intimidating violation of my personal space, and also an attempt to put me on notice that this group of men were watching me,’ she said.
‘They did this by talking loudly at each other when I was within earshot, saying things that could have plausibly been meant to be a conversation, but were really said for my ears, and then as I was leaving the restaurant, a very loud “goodbye”.’
Common human decency
D’Bus took a photo of the boys and posted it to Facebook. The post quickly went viral.
‘As I was waiting for my car to show up, I was sitting at my table and mostly annoyed. these men were still talking loudly, still throwing glances my way, still trying to assert some kind of ownership over the social space,’ she said.
‘I noticed I could get a clear sightline for a picture, so I snapped one and didn’t think too much about it. But as I got up to leave, and one of the men chose to further assert his space with the very loud “good bye”, I was a bit rattled, and also amused.’
She originally wrote the post from a place of amusement. She observed ‘how fragile these boys were, annoyed by how they thought they could just be so incredibly aggressive, and also, that what should have been a way to unwind after work became slightly stressful and certainly what’s usually a cute place to go after work, became so uncomfortable’.
‘It was very encouraging. It can be easy to think of places that serve Chinese food primarily, and that have been around for a long time as being quite traditional and conservative and to make the leap to thinking of them as not necessarily friendly to LGBT folks.
‘But perhaps we forget that common human decency is actually pretty traditional and conservative.’
Gay sex is outlawed in Singapore under a colonial-era section law. The government has also tightened the rules on who can attend the annual LGBTI Pink Dot Festival. It also restricted foreign corporations from donating to it.
In January, the government changed its adoption laws after a court granted adoption rights to a gay man who had a son by surrogate.
D’Bus thought the boy believed they could get away with their homophobic behavior.
‘I think the incident says MUCH more about these boys’ relationship with masculinity. Spoiler alert, it’s fragile,’ she said.
‘This morning, someone asked why they thought they could get away with it, and I suppose they thought thy could get away with it because they thought I’d be ashamed and shut up.’
D’Bus’ Facebook post has gone viral which she finds ‘surreal’.
‘The vast majority of people have either offered no comment or been supportive and that’s been nice,’ she said.