My earliest concrete memory of questioning my sexuality happened at Sec 2. I was developing feelings for a girl who seemed to have taken a liking towards me during this time.
What I remember was the rush of adrenaline whenever I saw her, the feeling of warmth whenever she smiled at me, and the crazy things I did in order to accidentally ‘bump’ into her. At that time, my dad (probably noticing my close friendship), spoke to me about how it was normal for adolescents to develop crushes on their same-sex peers during their development. This piece of information sustained and comforted me during early adolescence because it told me that I was okay and that those feelings would go away.
My next significant memory happened in late adolescence. A girl whom I liked (at this time, I convinced myself I only liked her as a friend) fell down and hurt herself. Upon physically helping her, I experienced such an overpowering, indescribable sensation in my body that I had to excuse myself to go to the ladies. Safe inside the toilet cubicle, I exclaimed to myself, ‘God you are screwed! You are so gay’’
I didn’t tell anyone during this time because I had no idea what was happening to me. I did not want to have these ‘special’ feelings towards any girl and I desperately clung onto my dad’s words years before that it was a natural part of my development and would go away. Even when I hit my 20s, I reassured myself that I was a late developer and my attraction to boys would come when I had ‘developed’. Even when I was with my first girlfriend in my 20s, I would question my gayness because a part of me felt that my relationship was ‘a friendship gone wrong’ and did not mean that I was gay. I resisted the concept so much that I kept this relationship a secret for so long, even among my closest friends, even among friends who were themselves gay.
It has been a journey of self-discovery spanning at least 13 years and it was largely undertaken alone because of the lack of helpful information for people growing up gay in Singapore. Much of my journey happened when I was older and read materials from the medical community and other research-based articles surrounding sexuality. But ultimately, my self-acceptance came from my growing belief in myself as a capable and strong individual with the capacity to contribute meaningfully to society. Increasingly, I saw myself defined not just by my attraction to girls, but by my professional development as a counselor, my growth as a person, and the difference I made in the lives of the people I interacted with.
Coming out to my family was a big thing for me because I knew I could only do that if I was sure about myself.’ I’m not someone who shares a lot with my family, but once I had accepted my own sexual orientation, it was never something I wanted to hide from them. There are two reasons I came out to my family. Firstly, being gay was not something I was proud of, nor was ashamed about. It was simply who I was and what was real to me. I didn’t see any reason to have to hide it. Secondly, I wanted my family to get to know my partner, whom had become a part of me.
My family didn’t react quite as I had thought. There were supportive moments and raging outbursts, but for now the dust seems to have settled in denial. Now, if not for the memories of those moments, it feels like I had never come out. I had expected news of my sexual orientation to spread like wild fire after my aunties (who are the family ‘loudspeakers’) got to know about it. But alas, it has become the ‘family secret’. I was advised not to tell other family members and basically it is never talked about. Suddenly, I am not keeping my own secret anymore, but rather, my family’s secret. Sometimes, I wonder if it was at all worth while coming out to my family. A process that took years of self-discovery, self-acceptance and courage seems to be belittled by a family who would rather act like it never happened.
My friends are terrific. To the extent that it is an issue to my family, it has always been a non-issue to my good friends. One particular memory touches me to this day. I had been hiding my previous relationship from my very close friend for about 4-5 years. She knew both me and my ex but was never told of our relationship until it had ended and I was already with my current partner. To add insult to injury, I told her via sms that I was gay and was seeing my partner. Bracing myself for a dramatic and possibly angry response, I waited in anxious anticipation for her reply. Her reply sms came in a short while later. It simply said ‘I’m happy for you su.’ It is in times like these when I realize that with true friends, coming out is never an issue.
I am 27 years old this year, and I am happy being who I am. Work is fulfilling and enriching, family is peaceful for now, and I have a loving relationship with my partner. Sure, many areas of my life can be improved on, but my sexual orientation is not one of them. I am often perplexed at how much tension, discomfort and anger my sexual orientation can cause people around me. My sexual orientation is not something I think about everyday, nor is it something that I am trying to ‘advertise’. Some say it is abnormal, yet it is normal to me; as normal as how I like Chihuahuas over Shitzus or how I like pink over black. It is not something I became, nor is it something I chose after careful consideration; it is simply who I am. My being straight might have made my family feel happier and it might have given me an easier time growing up but then, I would not be the daughter I am, the friend I am, the person I am today. It might have made many happy, but it would not have been me.
- 27, Post-graduate student