BEYOND the HORIZON
L'OFFICIEL Singapore|November 2021
Art has always been a means of escape. But for these THREE ARTISTS, they want to DO MORE than use it as an insular medium. They tell us how they are using their work to carve out space for VITAL CONVERSATIONS not just themselves, but for queer youths, for black and brown artists, and even for the ocean
HILLARY KANG

Jean Goh

WANTS TO SHOW THAT QUEER RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE HEALTHY

The list of negative tropes about the LGBTQ+ community in pop culture is long: Queer characters in toxic, tumultuous relationships. Queer characters who never get their happy ending, who are unceremoniously killed off, often to advance a heterosexual character's storyline. Queer characters who are promiscuous and hyper-sexualised – a trope especially prevalent for lesbian relationships, which have long been used for the pleasure of a male audience.

It's something that musician Jean Seizure – real name Jean Goh – feels acutely. It was really lonely growing up, because there wasn't much queer representation around me, she says. The few times she did see queer people and relationships portrayed, they were rarely positive. There are so many stories of queer romances being super dramatic or intense, she adds. A lot of queer content is actually quite negative in its portrayal.

Goh wants to buck the trend. In her latest music video, Do You Wanna, Goh showcases several queer couples in various scenes of intimacy: Women cuddle in bed with hot mugs of tea. They paint (fully-clothed) portraits of one another. They even wash the dishes together in a sun-dappled kitchen. Put together, it's a comforting picture of queer domesticity – and more importantly, normalcy.

When I was growing up, I wasn't able to find someone who I could look up to, says Goh. I want to be somebody who can help people feel less lonely – to help people who were in the same place that I was in when I was younger.

In Do You Wanna, there's this overwhelming sense of wholesomeness and domesticity in the characters' relationship. Was that intentional?

Yeah, it was intentional to make it very matter-of-fact: People see so many dramatised versions of queer relationships – there are so many stories of queer romances being super dramatic or intense, but I wanted something with good vibes.

I think it is important, because firstly, it's so rare to even find content like that – portrayals of queer romances that are lighthearted and normal. A lot of queer content is quite negative, which is real, too, but it’s nice to have a mix.

We also wanted to make a music video where there are just these nice moments of love – and it's not just two girls making out and being in bed and all that stuff.

In all the music you've released so far, there's always this undercurrent of queer love. Why was that so important for you to include?

I wanted my works to be authentic to myself – so all the songs I put out are inspired by my own experiences as a queer person. And I feel there's not a lot of LGBTQ+ content to begin with in Singapore, so in a way, I wanted to put it out there to make myself – and my younger self – happy.

I spent a big part of my childhood and adolescent years trying to hide who I was, and it just really made me not want to do that for the rest of my life. It was torturous, having to pretend I was someone I wasn't to my friends and my family – I wanted to be able to openly talk about my loved one, but I couldn't.

What was your coming out story?

I came out before I started being active in my music career. I'm very lucky to have a family who cares about me a lot – when I came out, they took it very well, and I never once felt like I was being ostracised for my sexuality. I think because of that, it also gave me the courage to just be myself in terms of my career – because if my family accepts me, then that's all the strength that I need. But it's something that I know that a lot of people will not get to experience.

Now, I feel content. In the past, when I was growing up, I wasn't able to find someone who I could look up to, or who could support me. In some ways, what I'm doing now is about satisfying my younger self.

These days, you are very open about your identity – a far cry from your younger days. How does that feel?

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