I have always thought so. The seniors at school were really pretty. So were the models in magazines and the teenage starlets on TV. I loved looking at their pictures, and I would spend countless hours on the computer looking at my pretty celebrity crushes. And at school, I would look at my seniors with a certain longing. My eyes followed their every beautiful and breathtaking movement. Sometimes, I looked at my own friends too with that same desire.
But my school seemed quite homophobic, extremely so in Primary school. In Secondary school, it was something that you could just feel in the air. I never told anybody about my girl crushes, because I was scared that I would be alienated. I wanted to fit in. I remember clearly that I sometimes prayed fervently to God at night, Please make me straight! I don’t want to be crooked! Please God, take away these feelings I have.
I tried to suppress myself, tried not to think of girls. And I always felt guilty when my gaze lingered too long on an attractive woman on TV or in magazines. I tried my best not to stare at the pretty girls in school, and the topic of homosexuality always made me tense and afraid. You couldn’t imagine the amount of self-loathing and self-hate I had when I had bad thoughts about girls. Do you know how much I feared the word ‘lesbian’? And when people said it, I felt as though a limelight was shining down on me and all the world was glaring at yours truly, even though I never identified myself as “a lesbian”.
Sucked in and influenced by all the anti-gay attitudes around me; I even made many anti-gay comments together with others. I was homophobic myself.
My best friend turned out to be a lesbian.
And she was in love with my classmate, constantly chasing her with flowers and gifts. However, my classmates were extremely freaked out when they found out. Those homophobic friends hurled emotional harassment on her. Writing angry fake letters to her and demanding that she stop her actions. They even tried to rope me into it because I was close to Capri. I even remember Capri sadly telling me one day that they had written another letter to her again, and she even showed it to me. I guess she didn’t know that deep down I was homophobic and didn’t exactly understand. But she was so trusting of me. After all, I had been her friend since we were young. . .
In the end, I bowed down to peer pressure; I mixed less and less with Capri. I didn’t want to be associated with her because I wanted so much to be accepted as part of the cool crowd. I viewed Capri as a person of less worth just based on her different sexuality.
Homophobia is really bad. And it is the reason that I hid in the closet much longer than was needed. There was even one time when Capri had won the “Most Courteous Girl” award due to nominations and testimonials from teachers and classmates. As she went to collect her award in front of the school during assembly, one of the coolest girls in the whole school made this very deplorable remark,
“How can she be courteous when she is a lesbian? She doesn’t deserve it.”
It would be years later that I would truly realize my folly of alienating my friend. But then, she had already emigrated to Malaysia and there was nothing I could do to repent for it. However, I still needed closure on this issue, especially since I began to understand the homophobia that she was going through as my own sexuality became undeniable.
In sec 4, our English teacher made us write an essay based on “a personal experience which made you change your world view”. I loved writing, and as I went home to ponder about the topic, I realized that there was only one issue major enough for me to write truthfully and passionately about. And that was society’s homophobia and the harm it creates unto gay people. I wanted to stand up for Capri this time, though I should’ve done that a long time ago. I wanted to fight for her right to be herself, for equality, for justice and fairness. For all the principles that I believed in. I wanted to give a voice . . . for the people who were silenced into hiding. But of course, I was still a little scared. What if people thought I was gay because I stood up for gay people? And the teacher had already clearly said not to write on controversial issues such as homosexuality in our ‘o’ levels.
I was really struggling inside, unsure, uncertain . . . yet again. Finally, I think I made the right decision. I wrote the paper. I poured out my heart and soul into it, pondering over every single word carefully, to ensure that my message got across. I even wrote a note to the teacher saying that I felt strongly about this issue and was thus compelled to write it. For 2 hours I slogged, only to produce an essay which would convince only one person -the teacher.
I finally gave it to another friend to read. A friend whom I knew would be more understanding. And she gave me amazing words of encouragement. That my essay was forceful and that I should be proud that I wrote it instead of being afraid of how politically incorrect it was. I told her that I was going to tear it up right after it has been marked, so that my parents wouldn’t think that I was some ‘deviant’. But she told me not to. Did I heed her advice? Sadly, I did not. I tore up that paper in the end and it remains one of my biggest regrets.
That essay was one of the major turning points that lead to the final acceptance of myself. As I argued for Capri and all the gay people of the world, I was sub-consciously arguing for myself too. I just didn’t know it then…. (end of Part 1)