A recent spotlight to keep or repeal Section 377A of Singapore Penal Code — criminalizing sexual relations between men with those found guilty could be jailed for up to two years — is causing a stir online.
In these pressing times for change, the support groups for gay and bisexual men are needed now more than ever. You probably would have heard of Oogachaga, one of the community-based groups formed in 1990. And if not, here is an introduction to the team.
The name came from the opening chorus of “Hooked on a Feeling” covered by Swedish rock band Blue Swede as the founders resonated with the lyrics of the song.
It started out as a non-profit organisation for young gay and bisexual men, and now provides a range of educational and counselling services for the LGBTQ+ community.
Leow Yangfa, the executive director of Oogachaga and a registered social worker, shared that there are a range of issues predominately seen are related to sexuality and gender identity. These are namely relationships with family members and partners, and mental health issues – from psychological wellness to emotional well-being.
“Over the past 20 years, we have continued to see people who have been impacted by conversion trauma. We believe it is a traumatic experience for anyone to try to impose change on one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” he said.
Oogachaga lends a listening ear and emotionally supports the troubled through confidential services. While face-to-face professional counselling is available, those who would prefer to keep their identity hidden can choose among the options of hotline, WhatsApp or email counselling.
The organisation has been supportive of Pink Dot SG since its first edition in 2009, an annual rally in support of LGBT community in Singapore.
This year, Oogachaga distributed thousands of their badges and postcards to the attendees.
A fringe activity ‘Walk This Way – Queer Chinatown Guided Tour’ by Oogachaga was also part of the recent PinkFest as a lead up to the actual rally day.
Following the 10th successive run of Pink Dot at Hong Lim Park this July, Oogachaga and 11 organisations wrote a community letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong titled We Are Ready For A Better Singapore.
Leow stated that the ultimate goal is for Singapore to be inclusive for those identified as LGBTQ+.
To him, this will achieve our country’s ideals of justice, equality and progress as represented by three of the stars on our national flag and as recited in our pledge.
Besides the core work in counselling, Oogachaga will expand their efforts in having workshops and conducting talks for professionals mainly in the sectors of social service and healthcare.
The team foresees the need to build a professional and identity-affirming environment for any LGBTQ person going to the clinics, hospitals or family service centres.
He further mentioned the plans to conduct fundraising events to mark the organisation’s 20th anniversary next year. As stated in one of the past fundraising events’ page, the sum needed in 2017 is at least $230,000.