Austin Zeng | 26 Nov 2011
Like many other people, I first came out to a friend, when I was in Secondary Two.
I liked it.
Two years later, an English public speaking assignment. I stood up in front of my class and announced to them that I was gay.
They announced it to the school.
Well, not quite. All in all coming out was largely good – largely. The news spread quick and wide. Even the Chinese teachers, who tended to keep to their own Chinesetable in the canteen, knew in about a month.
Yes I caused quite a lot of scandal – especially when news leaked (by my own mouth at that) about who my crush was at that time. Ah the pain of the teenage straight crush! He turned out to be very very not gay – and very very annoyed.
Secondary school morphed into Junior College. Being from a boy’s school, half a school worth of skirts were added and this half a school worth of skirts quickly knew my name. The student council president – a female - at that time even warned my best friend about associating with me – after all I was that.
She later changed her mind when she found out that one of her soccer teammates was lesbian.
I think I changed enough minds by being out. I was the first living gay man that many of my friends knew and naturally questions were asked. I became a walking FAQ centre; unwritten slogan: any gay questions just ask me.
How come you like girls? Same for me for the guys.
“Eh, is that guy gay aaah?”
“Why don’t you just find a strong woman?” – asked by a straight girl.
Why don’t you too?
“Does it hurt?”
And so on.
Not everything went smoothly of course. I still remember the jocks – the type that many gay teenagers get crushes on – teasing me behind my back. The sudden habit of some people not meeting my eyes when talking to me – they knew.
But what does it matter? Like everyone else, I dragged myself to school every morning. Like everyone else, I tried to do my homework. Heck I slept in classes and failed my fair share of exams too.
At least, coming out was an opportunity. It is easy to dismiss gay people when we are figments of imagination – complete with broken wrists, broken voices and generally broken lives. It is not easy however to dismiss gay people when one is working with you on a project.
Looking back, I think that these were victories in a small way. The fact that I came out – in spite of all the fear and boys-school jockeying - was a victory. The fact that I scored better than most of the gossiping jocks was a victory. The fact that I sat on the EXCOs of two CCAs was a victory. The fact that I’m writing about my experiences now is a victory.
Singapore is changing. I was not there at the first Pinkdot – like many people I was afraid to be seen in such a gay event. But I was there at the second, when two thousand became four thousand. And if you were there amongst the humid heat of the ten thousand this year surely you would have felt it.
I think that this ten thousand people were formed by all the out people who dragged their fag-hags, fag-stags, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-arms in pink. And for all the rah-rah activism and rainbow flag waving that we do, sometimes the best activism is quiet – working in school with someone, having dinner with colleagues and them knowing that the person on the other side of the table is gay.
Now, coming out is not for everyone and not for every occasion – lest we get accused of stuffing our “gayness” down peoples’ faces. And if you think that coming out will get you kicked out of the house and/or earn you physical violence please do not – I myself have not come out to my parents.
But for those of us who have the wriggle room to do so – that one more person who we should really have told a few months (if not years) ago, maybe we should. Things do not always get better – but you will get stronger. And because you get stronger, in some way we all do.
I was an RI student when Mr. Otto Fong came out in his Bonsai plant blog post. The same Otto Fong who spoke this year at Pinkdot and who is currently happily partnered. I imagine what it must have been like to be typing that blog post which almost certainly led to his leaving the educational service.
But he does not regret, and neither do I. I refuse to be a Bonsai plant - why should I hide something that is perfectly normal to me? Either way the truth will win out – if enough people are willing to speak.
So my policy is this: I will live my life, and a good one at that. Let enough people know that I snog guys. Let them realise that guys who snog guys can have a good life.
And that maybe guys snogging guys is a perfectly okay thing in the world.
And let them ask, whatever was the issue in the first place?
The Importance of Being Earnest
Create on: 26 Feb 2012 at 02:02 AM
pinkslip 01 Mar 2012 at 06:00 AM
A terrific read, and truly inspiring at that :)