It’s not news that studying Singaporean LGBTs (it’s always “LGBTs,” because obvs “LGBT people” is just too much) is the Academy’s latest flavour of the month and a particular favourite of young’uns looking to do something ~edgy~ and ~interesting~ for their group research projects. (It’s also always group projects. Why?) Friends have fielded earnestly misguided questions from “how do you feel about gay jokes?” (love them) to “how do you deal with crushes on straight people?” (oh, honey) and I’ve done my fair share of interviews, spilling my guts about every shitty thing that’s ever happened to me because of The Gay over tea or Skype.
I can’t totally blame researchers, baby ones or otherwise: it’s a relevant, timely topic, an area of curiosity to most folks, and of course, queers are fucking awesome. Who wouldn’t want to talk to us? What I’d underestimated is the extent to which this fad has come to take root in the minds of academics-in-training brainstorming on which social phenomenon is worthy of their course grades today. I’m here sitting in an IRB training 15,000km away from Singapore, in a department in which I’ve not met a single other Singaporean, when to illustrate a point about the complexities of international research the facilitator quips, “for some reason undergraduates are really ambitious — they always wanna go study LGBT youth in Singapore, where it’s illegal!”
In response: 1. yes it’s “illegal” but also not really, and 2. ok calm yo’ tits, undergrads.
Don’t get me wrong — there’s been plenty of really good research done and I’m not opposed to more. I also understand that people gotta learn and everyone makes mistakes. But you guys, so much out there is just bad. Not just bad, but sometimes actively harmful. This is especially true for class assignments that “won’t get anywhere” because having minimal supervision and no real benefit come out of your studies doesn’t mean you get to be blasé about how you go about it; instead it means you have to be extra careful about the little things and be extra grateful to your research participants for taking time to further your learning when it’s likely they’re not getting anything out of it. And the very least you could do is not be ignorant or insensitive about things that matter to queer folks.
So here are a few tips for those planning on or currently studying LGBTs, the first one being: if you still unironically use “LGBTs,” please go stand in a corner and think about what you’ve just done. I’m writing this from the perspective of a queer person who’s often studied, but for full disclosure, I’m also a queer person considering studying other queer people.