Student Vincent Pak wins the OSCLG Outstanding Undergraduate Creative Project/Paper Award

The Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender (OSCLG) brought together students, scholars, activists, artists and practitioners interested in the discussion of gender, language and principles behind feminism at their 42nd annual conference, “Interrogating Intersectional Masculinities”, this year.

During the conference that took place in Cincinatti (OH), our graduate student Pak Youngkang Vincent was recognized for the OSGLG Outstanding Undergraduate Creative Project/Paper Award for work that he undertook as an undergraduate at our department. This is his abstract:

“Coming-out is a process that the queer community, regardless of whether they are out or not, is intimately familiar with. Beyond its use to communicate one’s sexual identity, it is a linguistic act that has real world implications for the interlocutors involved, especially when we consider poststructuralist identities. In Singapore, sexual minorities are socially stigmatised and legally disadvantaged, and translates to the delegitimisation of the local queer community. Understandably, there is an expected hesitance when it comes to being open about one’s non-heterosexual identity in fear of discrimination.

The way in which one comes out matters, and its linguistic framing can determine how the information is received by the addressee. This thesis investigates the coming-out process of Singaporean gay men from the viewpoint of pragmatics, and treats it as a speech act that produces illocutionary and perlocutionary effects. By examining the coming-out narratives of 15 Singaporean gay men, I argue that it is precisely the very effects of a speech act that align a gay identity with a sense of dissatisfaction. Due to a fear of being unaccepted by a heterosexual audience, the Singaporean gay men I interviewed demonstrate a tendency for a general eschewal of the phrase “I am gay” when coming-out.

The findings of this thesis contribute to a larger discussion on whether the coming-out process of young Singaporean gay men has atrophied, and if it should be reworked or retired. I venture that by coming-out in such definitive terms, one restabilises a problematic homosexual/heterosexual binary that does not dismantle but upholds the power dynamics between the sexual identities. In demonstrating the illocutionary and perlocutionary effects of the speech act of coming out, this thesis challenges an ontology of a seemingly mundane coming-out ritual, and questions whether or how Singaporean gay men should come out, if at all.”

We are extremely proud of Vincent’s incredible achievement at the department. Congratulations, Vincent!