Leaving it unspoken only perpetuates the problem

Chill fun. Chemsex. Chilling. Snow flake emoji, snowman emoji, ice-cream emoji... these are just some of the “discreet indicators” that people put on their profiles in hook-up apps like Grindr and Jack’d if they’re looking to engage in casual sex under the influence of a cocktail of recreational drugs. It’s not an unknown phenomenon, even in Singapore where there are strict drug laws, but people just don’t really talk about it for a variety of reasons. And that’s a problem, which is why LGBTI organization Oogachaga has teamed up with SG Narratives to start a community-led campaign to promote a drug-free lifestyle in Singapore called Our Story is Drug-Free.

It’s important to note that the drug problem is not synonymous with the community at large. Far from it—Minister K Shanmugam has addressed this in his public nod to the campaign on Facebook and Instagram, saying: "People from every community are susceptible to drugs," while noting that the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) is in talks with Oogachaga to help expand their reach. 

But that’s not to say nothing’s being done about it prior to this new campaign. Sure, there are counseling and support services that are already in place—for example, Singapore-based peer-led support group Lifeline has curated their own recovery program for drug addiction. There are also many other national-level initiatives to try and curb the use of drugs, but it's not enough to tackle the issue. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) does publish statistics annually—in 2017, there was a downward trend of drug abusers arrested, 1,840 of whom were repeat offenders and 1,249 were new. They don't however release numbers on the sexuality of these abusers. 

The aim for the Our Story is Drug-Free campaign is not one that looks to berate, condescend or lecture. On the contrary—it hopes to do a couple of things: change the narrative that the LGBTI community and the usage of drugs are synonymous, and in the bigger scheme of things, reach out to those silently suffering from their addiction. 

It’s an interesting approach, seeing how they’ve picked four storytellers—National swimmer and Paralympic medalist Theresa Goh, trans activist and co-founder of online resource site for the Singaporean trans community TransgenderSG's Cassandra Thng, ally and Oogachaga counsellor Shamini Nedumaran and Oogachaga's centre manager Muhammad Faliqh Bin Abdul Rahman—to further highlight that Singapore's queer narrative is also about identity, family, relationships, love and equality.

So take action. Everyone is invited to contribute his or her own stories of struggle, hope and courage, which will later be collated into a finale video. We remain hopeful that something good can and will come out of this campaign.

Read more about Our Story is Drug-Free here.