(Update: You can download the word document version of the guide here)
This preliminary version of the guide was launched on 1 August, at the opening of IndigNation 2009, Singapore’s pride season. Anj Ho, the leader of the team who put together the Guide, gave a short address, reproduced here:
When I first saw the design of cover for the guide, I laughed.
It reflects the question of someone wondering apprehensively. 'What if', and then tapers off to a whisper, 'I'm gay?' Half-hidden, almost as if one is afraid to ask, and even more afraid to say the words 'I'm gay'.
Then the words in small print: 'a coming out guide', small enough to embolden the cautious questioning person to pick up the guide and walk away with it; clear enough so that those seeking will not miss it.
It speaks to those whom we hope to reach:
essentially, anyone who finds difficulty in communicating about her or his sexual orientation.
The first memory I had of experiencing great injustice was an article in TODAY, written by one of our infamous law professors. [I shall refrain from speaking the name, but you know we only have 2, so it's not hard to guess.]
She quoted a study in which Exodus ex-gays reported being free from homosexuality, reinforcing homosexuality as a mental illness and the possibility of a 'cure'. She conveniently left out numerous other studies that spoke of reparative therapy as harmful and ineffective. Spitzer, the researcher whose study she quoted, was up in arms against anti-gay groups who misused his study.
This is the problem. There is a massive amount of information, but sometimes, we hear some parts more often than others. At other times, information is not readily available or digestible. How do we ascertain that what we received is accurate or not?
We need to critique the information we have, or else we will fall into the trap of whoever speaks the loudest or seems the most credible, is seen as 'right'.
Another incident took place in a small forum. A group of gay people, who were attached for some years, sat on the panel. Someone from the audience asked, 'How long do gay relationships last?'
One by one, the panelists shared, that for some reason, most gay relationships dissolve by the 7th year. Someone added, that since lesbian relationships are so intense, you have to multiply the duration by a few times to match the duration equivalence of straight relationships. The forum ended on that note.
If gay relationships cannot last, I have nothing to say, but this is not true. It is one thing for an anti-gay person to think so; it is quite another for a gay person to internalize all these.
What I have shared are some of the common myths of gay people. In Sayoni's coming out guide, we address common myths and point out how to spot myths.
Having such knowledge before coming out is critical to a gay person's sense of self and esteem. It enables one to weather the possibly arduous coming out process better. The guide is certainly not exhaustive, but it's a start.
Following these, we also looked at the pros and cons of coming out, to oneself, at work/school, to friends and family. We rounded off the book with a few coming out stories. We are still waiting for more stories to come in.
I am grateful to Sayoni for this opportunity to be part of the coming out guide and to the Global Fund for Women for supporting this project. I would love to acknowledge the writers and the designer in this 7-person team for their time and effort. Thank you also, to everyone who contributed stories. Without all of you, this guide would not have been possible.
Please feel free to give your feedback and comments on the guide over the next three months. This guide will later be published and made available at various locations around Singapore.
With this, I thank you for listening.