Human of the Week is an initiative by KosmicKult, featuring queer individuals who are killin’ it in their fields. Every week, we celebrate an individual (preferably human) by showcasing their work and talent. Through this, we aim to create a platform for representation of queer folk.
Kyle Malinda-White (he/him) is a co-founder of Prout and The Qurrent. Prout is an LGBTQ+ events and support platform, created to enable LGBTQ+ individuals to meet others like them in safe spaces. The web app has gained much traction since its conceptualisation in 2017, and has since then been featured on numerous publications such as Gay Star News and Esquire. The Qurrent is the first LGBTQ+ Asian social broadcast channel on Telegram focusing on news and event updates of LGBTQ+ happenings in Asia. Running since March 2018, Qurrent has gathered over three thousand subscribers.
Kyle is a two-time founder, having co-founded culture news portal Popspoken when he was just 18 years old and starting the LGBTQ+ column there. He was previously part of Singapore's Inter-University LGBT Network as its Public Relations Director.
This week, we speak to Kyle to find out more about his incredible drive to serve the LGBTQ+ community here in Singapore.
Content warning: non-graphic mention of sexual assault, non-graphic mention of conversion therapy
1. What prompted you to start Prout? Was there a defining moment, or was it a series of insights about the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore?
It stemmed from my experience growing up gay in Singapore and trying to find a safe space for myself to socialise. Unfortunately, the only space I found was on hookup apps and that was where I met someone who would eventually rape me. When that happened, I didn't know who to call and where to get help. It was not until much later that I started finding the support I needed. My wish is that for any queer youth, they can find help in a space that connects them safely through events and support resources. I was thinking about this as I was in an overseas accelerator program solving social issues and hence Prout was born.
2. You came out three times to your family! What was it like? What is your relationship with your family like now?
The experience was challenging and there were many times I had to tip-toe around coming out. It involved getting sent to conversion therapy at 14, then claiming I was cured, then getting found out again at 18 and my parents slowly resisting until I finally came clean at 22 that my sexuality was irreversible and that I am who I am. Fortunately, things have gotten much better and my family have become more accepting of me. There are still some challenges navigating tensions in a brown-skinned culture but at least I am glad to have my family's back -- and the promise we've made is that I use my privilege to help other queer youth who may not be as advantageous as me.
3. What advice would you give to our LGBTQ+ readers who might be contemplating taking their step out of the closet?
You should do this at your own time. If you do not feel safe or are living in an unsafe environment, do not come out if you think it will endanger your life. No one should be pressuring you to come out. If you need any help navigating this, please do reach out to a counsellor or support group in your community who can assist. You do not have to do it alone but do take extra care to do so only when you feel safe doing it. The hard truth is you need to be prepared if things don't go your way. Contact a shelter if you think you will need it should the worst happen.
4. As a part of the community, you’ve seen it grow and change. What makes you proud?
Folks ten years younger than me are so much more fearless and ready to push for change and seeing them self-organise and contribute to the community has made me realise that we push doggedly for change so that we can pass on a better future to the younger ones. I've also seen many attempts to engage folks outside of the community, especially those that may be against LGBTQ+ rights, and this heartens me. It shows that we can be compassionate in our shared humanity while still pushing for equal rights.
5. Where would you like to see the community (and Prout’s community) go in the next 5-10 years?
When I first started helping out in the LGBTQ+ community as part of Singapore's Inter-University LGBT Network, the chairman said that the push for marriage equality in the US took 50 years, from the Stonewall riots till the day same-sex marriage became legal. It took Singapore roughly a similar time period to be a first-world country. Going into the second decade of Pink Dot, I hope to see the community begin pushing for rights and protections that are important to us all: housing, medical, spousal benefits, the need for a queer shelter in Singapore and schemes to ensure the underprivileged among the queer community do not fall through the cracks.
6. Are there any individuals who have inspired or encouraged you in your journey?
So many people have cleared the road and I am really thankful for those who have blazed the trail that we walk on today -- Paerin Choa, Nicholas Deroose, Amy Tashiana, Alex Au, Sylvia Lim, Dr Russell Heng and the late Rev Yap Kim Hao. Their collective strength has inspired me to do what I can to move things one step forward.
7. What about media? Are there any forms of media (shows, movies, podcasts, books, etc) that have helped to shape your perspective?
Lynette Chua's "Mobilizing Gay Singapore" helped me understand the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in Singapore and Johann S. Lee's "Peculiar Chris" was the seminal book that led me to further discover my sexuality. I also listened to the Queercast podcast (still available on Joy FM in Australia) and gained a lot of knowledge from YouTube.
8. As a founder of two start-ups before the age of 30, what’s next?
I've committed for the next five years towards being more active for the LGBTQ+ community, whether it's helping to explain the need for policy changes or providing safe online and offline spaces for the community. How that happens is another story and frankly, I haven't gotten that figured out but the goal remains clear: however I can help the community, I would like to do so.
9. Anything else you’d like to add?
If you've made it here, remember that you are loved and cherished. Please take the time you need to take care of yourself and work on being the best version of yourself. If you need help, it is only a step away, whether it be through Prout or other channels. Learn more about your community so you know who to reach out to should you need help. You are not alone; we all walk this shared humanity together.
You may find Kyle online on Instagram as @alphaspectre or on Twitter as @kylemalinda