In case you weren’t aware yet, LGBT is a universally recognised acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Yes, all sexual orientations that aren’t heterosexual, aren’t mainstream, aren’t conventional, if you will. To some, being LGBT is weird, abnormal or unnatural. Some frown upon LGBT individuals and steer clear of any form of interaction with them. Some others welcome them with open arms. (bless them!)
Whether or not an LGBT individual is out to his or her family and intimate circle of friends, one thing is for sure – it takes a massive amount of courage to step out of the closet. In lieu of Pink Dot 2016 today, we decided to find out what it’s like to be LGBT and to explore coming out tales. Nine Singaporean youth* shared with us their honest coming out experiences.
Meera, 29, bisexual
When I was nine, I was seated beside another girl in school. We grew on each other. She was more than just a best friend. She was my first love. I had my first kiss with her. I couldn’t stop after that first experience. We were together for two years. The boys made fun of us but we always insisted that we were friends. I did not know about sexuality or the different types of sexual orientations. All I knew was that I loved that girl.
My mum found the love letters. They were childish but explicit. It was a culture shock – especially in a Muslim household. I was made to go for cleansing. I was caned and hit. But after each time, I would cry and explain what I felt to my mum. She sort of got tired of scolding me. She stopped trying to change me and started to listen. After about six months, she finally told me it was okay. I was eleven. But she also warned me that I had to keep it a secret. My father was to be clueless about it.
Pavithra, 24, transgender
I was a soft kid from young. I had the benefit of not having a dad, so my mother was the main person I looked up to. When I was five years old, I was sexually abused by my male neighbour. At that age I didn’t know what I was doing but I liked it. That was the incident that triggered me to be attracted to men instead of women.
It was my closest cousin to whom I came out. She had been a role model for me and she understood me from a young age. When I told her about my sexual orientation, she was shocked but she was the only one who was so supportive about my decision. She even went to talk to my mother to convince her to accept me for who I was. I have never regretted confiding in her.
To me, there is nothing abnormal about the life I am leading currently. Yes, I may look very different from other girls but my lifestyle is very much decent and successful like any other woman. I am currently living with my family and earning a decent salary. My decision to live as a lady was never wrong because right from the start, I had believed that I didn’t want to cheat the world and most importantly, myself. I have no regrets.
Kes, 25, gay
I always thought I was different because of all the name calling that happened back in school. I was in my early teens then. I first confided in a group of friends whom I used to be close with. It was all done in a very casual manner and I was glad that there were no major reactions. They were not dramatic in their reactions as they were all mature and accepting individuals. If I hadn’t come out to them then, I wouldn’t be proud of myself now.
Always be proud of who you are and what you do. If people respect you as a human being, they will respect your emotions and salute you for staying true to yourself.
Nat, 29, lesbian
I remember when I was in JC, there was a girl in my CCA, S, whom I really enjoyed talking to. The connection with S was very real. Every morning I would walk over to her class at morning assembly just to see if she was in school. If our eyes met, we would smile at each other. It didn’t help that we shared the same birthday. Our mannerisms and thinking were so alike that I started to feel jealous of her boyfriend. That’s when I realised it was starting to become more than a friendship.
My classmate noticed that I paid extra attention to S in JC. She’s the one who told me that I may be attracted to S in a “more than friends” way. I vehemently denied this the first few weeks. It was a great revelation to me as I’ve never been attracted to anyone before. This classmate happily told my entire clique of friends about my situation which they all found rather adorable. In fact, the only person who couldn’t come to terms about my sexuality was me. As I look back on my JC life, I’m really glad for the support from this classmate of mine. Her lack of concern that I was attracted to someone of the same sex as me was indeed the best type of concern a friend could show.
Even today I still wish I was “normal”, that I would like boys, that I would get married and have children – just like my parents wished. It’s not easy growing up gay in a traditional household. My parents’ disappointment at me being single still is very real and I would never be able to tell them my true sexuality as it would hurt them even more than just being an old single woman. At the end of the day, I can’t bear to lie to myself and to everyone else that I’m heterosexual.
Veronica, 27, bisexual
I suppose I realised I was different when I was in polytechnic. I felt some sort of attraction towards the same gender. I found that weird initially and thought that I should stop myself from feeling that way. But I couldn’t resist it. Prior to that, I had dated only men. I started dating women after that emotional awakening.
I didn’t exactly confess to anyone about my newfound sexual orientation. However, I dated a girl – so she obviously knows that I am not straight. Lately, I have found that some of my university friends who are females are also confused about their sexual orientation. I have no regrets about discussing such issues with them as I feel that everyone should just accept each other for who they are.
I think being bisexual is a gift. The ability to admire everyone regardless of their gender is, in a way, something special. So, I think I would rather just be this way. There is no need for me to change myself. The people who are close to me have accepted me for who I am. That’s all that matters to me.
Gabrielle, 21, lesbian
I had a close female friend when I was in secondary school and whenever she came near me or hugged me, I used to have butterflies in my stomach. I used to imagine us being together and always wanted her to be by my side. I was sixteen then. We had the habit of kissing each other’s cheeks and there was once when we accidentally kissed on the lips. My heart started racing then and I became nervous. It was then that I started questioning myself.
The first person whom I came out to was my best friend. She was one person whom I knew would never judge me and she has seen me through everything. She was highly supportive of me and assured me that she loves me no matter what my sexual orientation was. I do not regret having come out to her one bit.
To me, I am normal. Love is based on feelings. I do not have to abide by any social “norms” when it comes to love. Everyone has the right to love, be it someone from the opposite gender or the same gender. Love is love – it’s something everyone feels.
Appleboy, 27, gay
I was eleven. We were helping our teacher with moving her things from her current staff room to a temporary one. At one point of time when we were playing with the OHP trolley, I was in close proximity with one of my male friends and it got me happy and excited. I never really questioned my sexuality then as I didn’t think much about it. I have subconsciously admired other guys since secondary school days. But I never knew what to classify those feelings as. I just knew that I was different from others.
It was only during my NS days when I came across gay camp mates who made me realise that I was gay and that led to me accepting myself. It was through them that I learnt more about the gay community and understood what my feelings were.
I first came out to my best friends who were initially shocked as they thought I was just a soft guy. But they never rejected me or ridiculed me. It took them some time to accept the news and they asked me questions on my sexuality and tried to understand me. That’s when I realised that true friends don’t judge you.
The most significant coming out moment was with my younger brother. He was obviously shocked but surprisingly he asked me questions about how I turned out to be gay. I educated him about homosexuality and he accepted me. The one thing he said that made me so happy was, “No matter what, you’re always my brother and I’ll love you as my brother.” I never regretted coming out to him as he was always my close buddy since young. We never hid secrets from each other and at that point of time I felt I truly had no secrets from him.
I would never ever change anything about myself as this is how I have been made by God and I accept it. I love that I am more open minded now. I love how I’m so vibrant and colourful. I love myself for who I am.
Jacintha, 30, lesbian
I first realised that I was different from others when I started to develop feelings for another girl at the age of thirteen. However, I didn’t question my sexuality as the incident was more of an affirmation that I was a lesbian. I first came out to my friends and they were able to understand my perspective since we were from an all-girls school. I am very grateful for them being so supportive of me and not abandoning me.
I have come to accept myself for who I am and I would never change myself to “fit” into society just because being straight is the “norm”. I believe that every person feels differently and it is healthy to accept yourself as you are while freeing yourself from judgments of others. We don’t need to change because people cannot accept us. We can only change if the heart agrees.
Celine, 26, lesbian
I realised that I was different from others when I was about twelve. I found myself being drawn more to females than males. I became certain I was a homosexual when I realised that I had too much of feelings towards a particular female. I came out first to the person whom I had feelings for. I knew that she was also attracted to me. Hence, she was accepting towards me when she knew my feelings.
The girl whom I had feelings for was notorious in school. My affair with her was made known to the teachers and the others in the school. My parents merely thought that she was influencing me. The other friends whom I had at that point of time were supportive and did not have any issues with me being a homosexual. Even after the matter was made known to the rest, I had no regrets as I was able to be more certain about my feelings.
Now and then, being homosexual in Singapore appears to be against the societal norms. Although these societal norms do not pressurise me to change, not all my partners have been able to accept such a notion. Having said that, I sometimes wish that I could be “normal” so that I would not have to deal with such situations. However, I generally do not see myself as being abnormal and I accept myself the way I am.
* names have been changed in order to protect their identities