Home > Uncategorized > Friday Night at a Gay Bar

Friday Night at a Gay Bar

Reposted from my Vox blog.


I always knew that they were there – bars for guys who loved guys. They would hook up, wander off to a dark corner and fuck each other to bits. I have never seen them for myself. Instead, my education came by 2nd hand.


"Taboo was so happening! He was hung! " cried a young NS boy as he shimmied up and down the storeroom. We laughed at his antics while he arched an eyebrow and pouted.

Deep inside, I was disconcerted. A guy shouldn’t act that way.

It was in 1997; when coming out of the closet was tantamount to social suicide. Straight guys squirmed. They would hush-hushed say, “He’s gay.” Then the group would express mild disapproval and not a little fear. Well, darlings. It’s been 10 years. Since then, massive gay parties were held; ‘Nation’ and ‘Snowball’ – shut down by the police since 2004. Gay pubs have sprouted up in Tanjong Pagar and Chinatown – it used to be just Taboo.


Joseph stared out from his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

"Backstage Bar is like a theatre." said Benny, the manager of Backstage Bar and Tantric Bar. He looked young, barely past his mid-20’s. Movie and musical posters were pasted all around him. The black wood walls and tables receded further into obscurity under those windows of colour.


"We usually fill up by 10. Then the crowd moves on to Tantric Bar." Benny has that gentle demeanour peculiar to gays. It was a nice change from men’s boastful bluster.


I sipped on a chocolate martini; good, honest vodka (rum? gin? I could never taste the difference) heavily dusted with cocoa. Not yet 10pm but a smattering of guys lounged at the bar and at low tables sited at far corners. Each one hungrily looked over newcomers from head to toe. Each one looked to make eye contact.


Backstage has been around for six years; smack in the heart of touristy Chinatown, on Teregganu Street, a few lanes from Chinatown MRT station. It’s located on the 2nd floor of a Chinatown shophouse where its only advertisement is a rainbow flag fluttering on the balcony.


“Unless you’re younger, you wouldn’t know what the rainbow flag means. Sometimes, we get some older folk coming up here; thinking it’s a restaurant.” We laughed at that.


I wondered about the big parties. Were drugs involved, was it because of flagrant in-your-face sex or non-acceptance by authority figures? I got somewhat of an answer, “It’s ok if we keep a low-profile. Everyone knows that we exist. But once there’s a big event. People will complain. Then it gets shut down.”


We were at the balcony. A life-sized poster of a slim boy hugged by an older man looked over us as we, in turn, looked down on Temple Street. “I love it here during Chinese New Year. The streets are always lit up and it crowded with people buying things, looking at things. People shout and haggle. It’s a beautiful sight. And that’s the best time to come here.” Benny looked over the street and pointed to an imaginary crowd.


10.15pm. Backstage Bar filled up fast with men.


Some sat at the low tables chatting, now and then glancing out of the big windows. Some stood at the balcony, the designated smoking area, puffing on cigarettes and gazing at the quiet street. All of them were bright-eyed as the night started ticking for them. Below the balcony, an old, skinny and sun-browned man peddled on a rickety green bicycle along Temple Street; towards home and oblivious to the night’s sexual politics.


Backstage Bar (Add: 13A Trenggannu St, look for the rainbow flag from the balcony; T: 6227-1712; W: www.backstagebar.moonfruit.com)



7pm onwards. Usually fills up by 10pm.



Double-shot drinks at single-shot prices (martinis are great deals). Cosy bar, friendly staff. Great views from the balcony. Most gay patrons go to Tantric Bar after loading up on drinks.

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