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L3 Forum: Review

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Coming Out

Original article:

When do queer women realize that they are queer? How do they come out to the people around them? What do they think of long-term lesbian relationships? How are they prepared to deal with issues that come with aging?

Here are some of the questions addressed by four queer women from different generations, during the L3: Loving, Leaving and Living forum held on 5th Aug. The live forum was organized by, the community for Asian queer women, as an Indignation 2006 event. The forum attracted an impressive turn-out of 105 audiences, mostly women, but including straight and gay men as well.

The speakers were chosen from different age groups: Elsa represented the early teens; Anj represented the early twenties; Jean represented the early thirties and Meiling represented the forties. The contrast in perspectives was shown through a series of questions, a spectrum of concerns pertaining to the lesbian community, discharged by a feisty emcee, Kelly.

The general atmosphere of the forum was light-hearted, with laughter bursting within the audience from time to time, because of the witty comments from the panelists. However, the discussion was nowhere near frivolous. The panelists shared their life stories and perspectives with such spontaneity and sincerity, which was indeed commendable.

The coming out experience of the panelists was all different in one way or another, painting a stark contrast of the social context they lived in. The younger panelists, Elsa and Anj are out to their families, and coming out was not a continuous internal struggle for them, as compared to their senior counterparts. Jean mentioned how she got her queer education in clubs because there was hardly any source of information in the past, before the internet was common and accessible. She even attempted to ask the audience who had heard of those clubs, and obtained no response, much to the amusement of all. Meiling spoke with incredible forthrightness, when she told the audience her struggles over the years and what it took for her to come out to herself.

Despite that society has come a long way and has made much progress over the years, coming out is still not a bed of roses for the younger generation. Elsa narrated her stories of coming out to friends who are fundamentalist Christians, and the pain she endured when she was asked to change her orientation, by the very people she cares for. The way she narrated her story was hilarious, and the audience erupted in laughter at certain points of time. However I felt a lump in my throat as I watched the bubbly teenager share her traumatizing experiences. It was heart-wrenching to see how much a typical gay/ lesbian youth has to go through in Singapore.

The panelists also discussed the various issues in the community, such as the use of labels in identity, the butch-femme binary, homophobia, relationships, growing old together etc. Certain highlights consist of the following: An unanimous definition of cheating- nothing beyond the mental space. Varying degrees of being out, proud and loud- Notably, Elsa and Jean believed in being out in every aspect of their lives and Anj shared about the initial maelstrom in the family before acceptance. Meiling emphasized that aging gracefully means that one should start financial planning as soon as possible.

It was refreshing to hear the different viewpoints of the women, and how dialogues, exchanges and consensus reign despite the differences. The differences also served to illuminate how much progress we have seen over the years.

During the question and answer session, the audience was a little apprehensive at first but warmed up in no time. They shared their viewpoints on 'internalized homophobia', which took on a more macro edge: fear of minority groups within the queer community. In a particular question, 'What are we fighting for, when people who accept you will nonetheless see you as not normal?' the speakers were quick to point out that if past activists were non-existent, the forum would not have been possible.

The responses from the audience were so effervescent; the emcee even had to request that they might continue the discussions after the forum has ended.

In their closing speech, the panelists gave their heartfelt wishes for the community. From helping gay and lesbian youths to urging people to stay connected with their extended families, I could sense their dedication and passion for the community.

Last but not least, the organization of the entire forum was laudable as well. I certainly appreciated that the organizers managed to set up a public address sound system, so that the panelists' speech could be clearly heard from the back of the room. This was extremely helpful, given the highly echoing characteristic of the big and high-ceiling room. Intricate details such as brochures, posters and refreshments all highlighted the resourcefulness of the organizing team.

All in all, the session ended on a positive note, inducing hope in dykes who were present. It represents a tiny but significant step towards greater exposure for and understanding from the general public. Voices were heard, issues were discussed, friendships were reinforced, and queer women of all ages came together to show that we stand as one. That is Indignation for you.

Cheers for more.

Coming up soon: Audio recordings of the forum.

Movies and DVD

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Coming Out

I bought a few�DVDs from my recent trip to Ho Chi Minh. Before I continue, I know I should be ashamed. Coming from the media industry�I should not be�supporting the pirates by buying DVDs that has violated copyright law.

Anyway, I must say quality of such DVDs are better in China than those from Ho Chi Minh city. Out of the six I bought, four are faulty. This is versus one out of twenty from those bought in China. Well, there aren’t many shops selling DVDs in Ho Chi Minh in the first place. I was talking about it with one fellow traveller I met while I was there. I said there are not�as many media�piracy in Ho Chi Minh as I thought there would be. She said no way! Didn’t I see�the pirated books and paintings?! Oh yes, she jolted my memory of the imitation Monet I saw in many of the art shops selling paintings. I must say most of those are of high quality reproduction -�the Vietnamese make great artists.

So, coming back to my main point, I just caught�”Jasmine Women” the other day.�The last ten minutes of the film had no audio. Nevertheless, I understood the whole movie. It is separated into three stories, where the daughter in each story repeats the mistake of her mother. No, Joan Chen and Zhang Ziyi did not�look like a lesbian couple despite them filling most of the scenes. As usual, Zhang was fabulous with her usual�outing as a nubile young play thing for licentious men. But what really hit me when I was watching the movie was,�Joan Chen does not seem to need to work to support her daughter. Well, she owns a photo studio but I did not see any photographers. What’s more, the photo studio gets passed on to the next two generations and no one seemed to need to work for a living at all!

Sometimes I do wish I can be absorbed into the movies. Life seems more interesting and work is usually minimal. I guess I am more conscious of it lately because of the heavy workload in my office.

Truth is, I am more interested to be doing my own work as opposed to my office work now. I am addicted to writing screenplays�after completing my first feature length script not too long ago. I am on to writing a Singapore style “Brokeback Mountain” for the fun of it. It is not exactly “Brokeback”, I guess I will explain it better when it is finished. Anyway I am not terribly original to begin with.

I wondered if a gay film will ever get enough funding to be made in Singapore. Of course that is discounting “Be With Me” since there is hardly any depth to the relationship between the two girls. I suppose if SQ 21 is getting a review in Life on Sunday Times, perhaps one day, Singapore�gay film will actually make it to the big screeens here.

But, when?

In the closet no more

Written by (Guest Writers) on . Posted in Coming Out

Today is the first day of me reading your blog. I feel somewhat connected to it, as though it were the story of my life, past, present and future. Everyday I wake up and I am faced with the prospect of living in a close minded society. I live in Malaysia and it being a Muslim country, there are a lot of restrictions and people are narrow minded when it comes to GLBT right. Our mere presence in this society is a burden to them for they see us as parasites, leeches. We bring shame to the community.

However, what they fail to see, I think, is that we are also human. We live and breathe the same air and we need and want the same things. Though we may never have equal rights as those of the straight, we dream of a day when we can hold our partners’ hand in public without glares and sneers from people around us. I have lived my life bending to societal views of me and my kind of people. I have never thought of confronting them about these issues as I find it pointless.

I was previously in a relationship with a closet lesbian. She confided that she indeed loved women however, she was afraid of how people would look at her. I was often ‘left out’ when it came to meeting friends. I was bleeped out as though I didn’t matter and it hurt.

I guess when society does it, you figure that it is society’s blindness and ignorance that makes them behave the way they do. But when your own partner shows you such disdain, such want to hide you and not even regard you enough as a friend to be introduced to her friends, you feel hurt. You feel betrayed. Suffice to say, the relationship didn’t work out. I tried being in the shadows, where she’d rather me be but I found that it was difficult to not be recognised by my own partner.

Recently, I met a girl. She is someone whom I’ve known for a long time but only now, do I have romantic feelings for her. It is amazing how in the short span of a month, she has shown me just what love really is. She is open about her feelings and isn’t ashamed of me. She introduces me to her close friends as her gf and they accept me for that. These are her straight friends, mind you. She has even mentioned to her sister that she has a gf. That meant a lot to me. It showed me that she was not only proud to have me as her gf but that she was proud of ‘us’. She wasn’t ashamed of being a lesbian and neither was she ashamed of being in love.

Me… I’ve found coming out easy. I told my best friend first and her reaction was pure joy. She did not discrimate. She loved me more, in fact. When people ask me if I’m straight, I reply that I do like boys but I now have a gf whom I love very much. Those that judge me, I ignore. Those that are happy for me, I feel happy for them.

To my friends who’ve loved me and accepted me for all that I am, I love you guys. I do. There is nothing more I could ask from you. You have given me love and support even in times when I’ve not asked for it. To my baby. Happy 2 months anniversary. I want you. I need you. Thank you for being the wonderful person that you are.

For you, my first love

Written by ilashes on . Posted in Coming Out

This is a piece of guestwriting by ilashes.
I was what, nine? You would have been hardly older. You were the new girl, the kid who transferred from another school. The maroon skirt had not itself accustomed itself to you. You were tugging on the white shirt, tucked in as per regulations. You looked up, with a brilliant smile on your face.

I would never forget that smile. Even after all these years, that smile remains the one thing I remember the most about you. You never frowned, you never got angry or sad. Always happy, always smiling.

I took you by your hand, showed you around the school. I was so eager to befriend you, knowing how lost you were in this strange world. I treasured every moment with you.

It was the giddy scent of your skin, the wonderfully smooth porcelain complexion. It was every word I had with you. It was your rosy cheeks, your bright, beautiful eyes.

One day, I found myself writing a letter to you, expressing how much I valued our relationship. I do not know what possessed me to write it. But I wanted to do something special, give you something indicative of how much you meant to me.

I put down my pen, and stared at the letter, written in blood-red ink. I did not know why I was writing this. I did not know why I felt like this. I could not have known, not at the tender age of nine. The words on the paper stared back at me – I crumpled it up and tossed it into the dustbin.

Maybe you sensed it... maybe you realized all wasn't right with the way I adored you. Maybe our paths simply diverged. Maybe I distanced myself from you, confused I was by my feelings.

A few days later, you passed me by, with nary a glance in my direction. Watching you walk past with another girl that was just too much. Poison dripped from my tongue, surprising my acquaintance with my antagonism towards you. Her questioning glance made me look away, half-guiltily. How could I explain why I was hurt? I didn't even understand it myself.

I understand fully, now, of course. Every emotion, every childish crushing feeling. I only understood that anger after I fell in love again, with another girl, forcing me to face myself after years of denial.

I still remember your face, you know. I've forgotten the faces of every other playmate I've had at that age. But I remember every single thing about you, down to the distinctive scent of your skin.

It doesn't matter you were never mine. But I thank you, my first love, for opening my eyes to this world. Thank you for making me realize who I am.

Coming out, the most powerful form of activism (Part II)

Written by irene on . Posted in Coming Out

As I explained many things to her, I debunked a lot of myths and stereotypes about the LGBT community along the way. To me, coming out is much more than telling people that I am gay. It also means an obligation on my part to educate people around me, to pave the way for better understanding of the LGBT community in society. Furthermore, the most important significance is to let people whom I care for, to understand me for who I am.

I complained to my friend that there is still a lot of negative social stigma associated with gays and lesbians. She replied, 'Actually the situation now is considered good. If you told people that you are gay, like 10 or 20 years ago, people would just immediately conclude that you have AIDS.'

It is so true, and it dawned upon me how far we have come and how much our brave predecessors have achieved. Suddenly I felt so blessed being able to acknowledge to myself that I am gay, and tell people that I am gay without fearing persecution. However, the future journey is arduous, and far from complete. It is really up to us, to take more steps forward.

I am beginning to see that the most powerful form of activism is actually coming out. It is more powerful than gay pride parades, blogs, talks and forums, petitions and any other form of activism. It changes people's misconceptions and mindsets fundamentally, because they know me as a real person, and I am exactly the same person before and after they found out that I am gay. Nothing has changed, and being gay is only a part of my overall identity. My sexual orientation is not a fashion statement which I feel compelled to wear on my sleeve, but rather a part of myself which I prefer not to hide consciously, if the circumstances permit.

Only when queer people are not merely names in the afternoon/ evening tabloids, but family and friends of every one of us in the society, then we can remove the negative social stigma. I can see it happening right beside me. I have friends who used to have negative perceptions of homosexual people but they are becoming more open-minded and accepting. I have guy friends who know that lesbians are not just butches and femmes and understand that lesbians are not waiting for the right men. I have lady friends who have no qualm about joking with me that they will love to marry me despite being well-aware of my sexual orientation. I love the way how it manifests to become a deep-rooted understanding, instead of superficial acceptance while sweeping everything under the carpet in denial.

I feel stronger and less vulnerable every time I come out to another person, and I do hope that I will be strong enough one day to take the step in my family. I will be invincible once I achieve that.

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