Opposition politician Wijeysingha is first politician to say he's gay

Opposition politician Vincent Wijeysingha has come out as the first politician in Singapore to declare he is gay, sparking talk on whether it signals that society has moved on homosexuality.

Last Friday, he posted on his Facebook page that he was going for the Pink Dot gathering the next day. "And yes, I am gay," wrote the 43-year-old social work lecturer. "PS. And no, I don't have a gay agenda."

The latter was a reference to a controversy during the 2011 General Election, when he was fielded as a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

The People's Action Party had highlighted an online video showing Dr Wijeysingha at a forum on gay issues and asked if he or SDP intended to pursue a gay agenda.

At that time, without commenting on Dr Wijeysingha's sexual orientation, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan declared that neither the party nor any of its candidates was pursuing a gay agenda.

Dr Wijeysingha posted a longer explanation on Monday of his decision to speak openly of his sexuality. "In truth, I wasn't intending to 'come out'. I merely wanted to encourage every LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) person in Singapore to attend Pink Dot and therefore, I had to say why it means so much to me."

The gay rights event drew a record 21,000 turnout. Dr Wijeysingha also spoke against the "oppression" that LGBT people experience, paid tribute to activists and mentioned a national census.

He did not reply to queries by press time.

Associate Professor Reuben Wong of the National University of Singapore yesterday said Dr Wijeysingha's coming out sends a signal that SDP is "comfortable with being seen as one of the more liberal parties in Singapore".

People's Action Party MP Baey Yam Keng praised Dr Wijeysingha's courage in coming out.

Asked if the move represents a shift in Singaporeans' acceptance of homosexuality, Mr Baey and Dr Wong felt it was hard to say how the silent majority felt but agreed that there has been a shift towards greater acceptance, especially among the young.

andreao@sph.com.sg