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A Chat With My Uncle

Written by Jin on . Posted in Coming Out

Image Copyright of Sayoni


One Sunday I had lunch with my uncle. We get along fairly well and I am out to him, but we are not at the stage where we have copious open free conversations about my relationship status or my partner. Anyhow, during lunch, it was just the two of us because my aunt was out of town. We were having a routine, run-of-the-mill conversation as usual (What are you ordering; how was your trip to Bangkok, how much did you pay for a massage; did you know that iceberg lettuce lowers blood sugar; the car is due for servicing etc)


We were talking about my job and how much I have been traveling around the region, and he asked me “So with you flying so much, what does Jean think?” That caught me off guard. I replied, “Yeah, she is OK with my traveling” while my brain processed my myriad feelings. I hadn’t expected that question, and least of all from one of my relatives. I felt happy, optimistic, touched / warmed, grateful…


For me, that simple question spoke volumes. Maybe I set my expectations too low but remembering Jean’s name would already score him points in my book. I would have been happy enough had he merely asked “How is Jean?” But his question was an acknowledgement of our relationship. And the recognition that our relationship, just like any other relationship, would also be subject to the demands and stresses of life. It was an abbreviated form of “How does your partner deal with your frequent traveling? How has it impacted your relationship?”


That really touched me. Since I started my current job about 6 months ago, various friends have asked “How’s Jean taking it?”, and bless their dear concerned hearts. But none of my family have asked, and I didn’t expect them to either. I have resigned myself to the fact that, save one or two sane individuals, the clan wouldn’t be able to accept my orientation, and I say that because the small percentage who are in on the secret don’t even talk about it. Now my uncle has (in my book) joined the ranks of the “one or two sane individuals”.


This little conversation was a paradigm shift for me. It made me realise that there is yet hope; that people’s minds can be changed; and that just because change happens so slowly as to be unnoticeable, doesn’t mean that it is not happening. I am the type who subscribes to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And When Tell, Tell Subtly and Indirectly. So from this incident I am cheered, encouraged and inspired. Cliched as it sounds, sometimes we just have to do our best, and let God do the rest.

Acceptance- Multi-layers; multi-levels

Written by AnJ on . Posted in Coming Out

“Anj, have you experienced acceptance with respect to your sexuality?”

Before i answer that question, i have to explain what i understand of the term “acceptance”. To me, acceptance is multi-leveled and multi-layered- proximity and depth.

The levels:
1. Society
2. Work Sphere [E.g. Colleagues]
3. Extended Social Sphere [E.g. Acquaintances]
4. Immediate Social Sphere [E.g. Close friends]
5. External Family
6. Immediate Family

The layers, with respect to proximity:
1. Accepting the existence of gay persons in society
2. Accepting the existence of gay persons in one’s interaction circle
3. Accepting the existence of gay persons as friends [genuine respect for the person comes in]
4. Accepting the existence of gay persons as family [e.g. sister's partner is now your sis-in-law]
5. Accepting a gay child

The layers, with respect to depth:
1. Superficial acceptance [Pretending it's fine]
2. Greater acceptance [It's fine but some bits ain't so fine]
3. Complete acceptance

When we talk about acceptance, it means different things at different levels. At the societal level, acceptance is showed through policies and laws e.g. the right to wed. At work, it comes from work benefits e.g. health benefits for partners. As it gets closer, acceptance means that your partner is treated just like everybody’s partner at a social function. When it comes to the immediate family, acceptance can mean weekly family dinners.

Getting through the lunar new year

Written by Kelly on . Posted in Coming Out

On the eve of Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, I wandered on the way home through last-minute sales of dried seafoods, flowering-on-demand plants, mandarin oranges and tidbits. I inhaled the salty, pungent smells. I navigated through frenetic calculations. I cast heavy-lidded eyes over the scene, half-heartedly pondering the wisdom of $2 per box.

A quiet, hobbling figure was contemplating the same. Thin and bent, she wore a flower print, silky samfoo top, cotton pants and pushed a relatively new yellow plastic cart. It was devoid of the usual cardboard stacks. She shuffled quietly from one stack of dried squid cans to another. I got the sense that Chinese New Year would be a special occasion for her and she wanted everything to be the best that she could make it. My personal interest in buying was gone. A heaviness rose in my throat and I could no longer watch.

Just before reunion dinner, the streets seemed deserted by all except those of ethnic minorities and tourists. For that matter, most shops were closed. Those without family would find it the occasion only a time of greater solitude and inconvenience.

As on other festive occasions, the new year magnifies the best and worst of every family. Mothers and grandmothers put enormous efforts into preparing the house and meals to make it special. Every expectation, neglect and wound becomes more acutely felt.

Many of my friends hate the nosy questions from their relatives, unsolicited narrow opinions and undue comparisons of personal achievements. “Dear uncle or auntie,” they might say if courtesy permitted, “Stop asking these questions and comparing me with your children every year please. Both your children and I don’t appreciate that. By the way, I’m gay.” Whether or not the last bit is true, you must admit it has shock and stop value.

My strategy is to avoid the small talk and fortunately, my closer relatives don’t ask the usual questions. I talk with my cousins; generally eat too much and too long. This year, I got to play with my energetic nephew and niece. If given unwelcome advice, I simply nod and smile, the words slide off my ears. So the worst that happens is that I get a little fatter.

Gaydar- we are highly skilled!

Written by AnJ on . Posted in Coming Out

This article got me laughing at various points. It gives a scientific edge to a phenomenon that was previously confined largely to pop culture.

For starters, the term “gaydar” is generally defined as the ability to identify members of the gay community. It is perceived as innate, not learned. Sentences like “my gaydar sucks” or “she has a fantastic gaydar; she can identify straight-acting gay men!” are often heard. The more normative a correctly identified gay person looks and dresses, the more skilled you are perceived to be. Now to the article…

Woolery (2007) wrote of gaydar as a cognitive high skill. Because sexual orientation is not something you know by simply looking at someone. And lesbians were found to be best at identifying gay folks when presented with only a photograph [compared to straight women and men, as well as gay men] according to Ambady, Hallahan and Conner (1999) and Berger, Hank, Rauzi and Simkins (1987). Gay men run second in line. Across all participants, the more information one was given, the greater the likelihood of “getting it right”. This edge over heterosexuals is only apparent when information is sparse e.g. a photograph without additional details. And this, argues Woolery, shows a “keener, more finely developed skill” among gay women and men.

The article goes on to suggest that gaydar is a form of impression formation, with several factors like experience, stereotypes, contextual factors etc coming into play. Since first impressions are categorical and heavily dependent on apparent physical cues, Ambady, Hallahan and Conner (1999) proposed that our superior gaydar is due to a better developed schema. [A schema is like a network of related ideas in your mind, such that thinking of one thing will spark out thoughts of related stuff.] I assume categories are like sex [female/male] and the like. So when we see someone with boobs [physical attribute], we think “female”.

So, those with wonderful gaydars are considered experts. And experts operate differently from novices: they know the most relevant features to look out for and they make quick judgements based on these to-the-point observations.

How do we develop a novice-gaydar into an expert-gaydar?
By apprenticeship! Apprenticeship can be formal or informal. Since no school has ever incorporated a module entitled “gaydar” into its syllabus, it’s fair to say that our apprenticeship occurs in our everyday life [informal learning process]. Social activities with lesbians and gays help develop one’s understanding of the gay culture, which has an impact on our ability to recognize gay individuals. Woolery supports this with the observation that gay folks who travel to countries with different cultures and those who come out later in life tend to have poorer gaydars.

When will gaydar cease to exist?
Woolery wrote that gaydar exists because of the need to solve a problem: we need to identify fellow gay members especially in oppressive environments. So she argues that in the best scenario i.e. no discrimination, the gaydar will cease to exist. [I don't know about that. Because it's not just discrimination that brings salience to a certain identity. There are other factors too. For example, if you are proud of your partner and your relationship, for example, your gay identity might remain salient, resulting in a desire to set yourself apart. Hmm... i guess it might come true if the whole world is gay. Then gay signals will no longer be useful as markers of differences.]

So hurray ladies, we are highly skilled experts!

Main article:
Woolery, L. M. (2007). Gaydar: a social-cognitive analysis. Journal of homosexuality, 53(3), 9-17.
[All references in this post come from this article.]

Women’s sexuality- is it really fluid for most?

Written by AnJ on . Posted in Coming Out

Engine search:

Can you change your sexual identity?


- if you are schizophrenic

- self-delusional

- or you don't know what sexual orientation is.

Sexual orientation is something inherent for many people. That’s not something you change; that’s something you come to be aware of when you experience physical attractions. So if you want to change your sexuality identity with integrity, your sexual orientation has to be re-wired. And that, i believe, is 99.99% impossible for the person who has derived her sexual identity through thorough consideration of all her physical preferences.

It has been argued that sexuality for men is stable and sexuality for women is fluid over a life time. But these studies define sexuality at specific times according to self-reports.
Here’s a problem-
Your participants may not know how sexual orientation is defined [and hence discrepant definitions].
For most people, they make the error of defining it according to the gender of the partners they have been with i.e. the person whom they have romantic attraction towards. But being with a guy doesn’t make you a straight; just as being a woman doesn’t make you gay. And having been with members of both genders doesn’t automatically qualify you for the title “bisexual”.

Another thing to note is this- emotional attraction is a far cry from physical attraction and physical attraction is really the foundation of sexual orientation. [And your sexual orientation is only part of your sexual identity. You can read about it here.]

Sometimes i wonder if gender differences in relational dynamics are the culprit.
For example: Even if there are “Towel clubs” for gay women [i have yet to hear of one successful "towel club" for gay women here], i am guessing there won’t be many. And even through there are agency-managed male escorts and prostitutes [for straight women], there are not many.

If romantic attraction for women is determined by emotional attraction for a much larger part than physical attraction (as compared to men), is there little wonder that they found most women to be “bisexual” over a lifetime?

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