Alexander Teh (pronouns: he, him, his) is Oogachaga’s first-ever full-time youth counsellor.
With five years of volunteer work experience with the local transgender community, Alex began his journey with Oogachaga as their full-time youth worker,
helping to create a safer, more affirming, and supportive Singapore for the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth.
He is now also supporting clients through professional counselling. A dad to a turtle, and a gay transgender man himself, Alex doesn’t let society define the person he is,
but leaves that job to his young nieces and nephews, who always tell him the truth.
In early May, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 30th ILGA World Conference in Long Beach, California, and the additional honour of representing Oogachaga, a non-profit, community-based organisation working with LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and families in Singapore, as a youth worker and counsellor.
Being a first-timer at a large conference, my excitement was mixed with a little bit of nervousness. Everyone seemed so established, so experienced, and so confident! But, as I realised, one of the beautiful things about being queer at a conference like the ILGA World Conference is that it’s like coming to a huge extended family gathering of siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and their friends — you don’t have to know anyone, but everyone seems to be looking out for each other all the same.
Being from a small island state like Singapore, it was truly a great pleasure to share space with colleagues around the world, especially friends from the Asia-Pacific region, and with fellow trans and gender-diverse individuals. Listening to everyone’s experiences, be it in community work or in their personal lives, was incredibly humbling and heartwarming. Each interaction I had with each person I had the opportunity to meet was genuine, and each session I attended was a space that allowed mutual learning, growth, and vulnerability.
As a young gay trans man working with fellow LGBTQI+ youth, I was particularly looking forward to hearing from my peers especially given the theme of this year’s conference (LGBTIQ Youth — Future Present Change). However, it was sobering to hear that many young community workers and advocates were not present, due to the numerous roadblocks like finances and complicated visa requirements. I was reminded that being able to make it to the conference was a privilege in itself, and my thoughts went to the young LGBTQI+ individuals around the world who may not have the capacity to even think about coming to conferences like these even though it was centred around them.
Nonetheless, I was heartened to hear that representatives of all ages from various organisations spoke up on behalf of these young individuals, whether it was through their work or in feedback sessions, in a bid to support opportunities for young voices to be heard. While LGBTQI+ youth will always need and appreciate their allies, the time has come for us and future generations of young people to speak for ourselves.
It’s now been two months since the end of the 30th ILGA World Conference. Looking back, I’m reminded that while we have so much more to learn, so many more connections to forge, and so many areas for improvement in the work we do, we have also made a lot of progress. Each conference serves as a check-in for this progress, and to come up with how we can move forward as a team; at the same time, it’s a way for us to celebrate the hard work that every person has put in, and to support each other in passing on knowledge to sustain positive change in and for our communities. Now more than ever, it’s so important to be allies to each other. We can only move forward if we are all in this together.