Recently I’ve gotten to know some guys who were not able to come to terms with themselves.
(Coincidentally, today is National Coming Out Day in America and some other countries. It is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement.)
I got to know a guy last week. He told me that he was worried that he might be infected with HIV because he had unprotected sex with another guy. He knows other people whom he meets regularly for sex, and without condoms as well. (Just so my straight counterparts are reading this, this is also prevalent in the straight community. It’s just not talked about – just a reminder to understand the intention of this post, and not to latch on to the sexual behaviours discussed.) I had a discussion with him and convinced him to go for a HIV test, and not to allow himself to be worried unnecessarily. Before he went for the test, I asked him if he wanted to meet to talk. He said he couldn’t because his wife’s family had a gathering. I’m not quite sure if I have a word to describe how I felt when I heard that. Disgusted? I ended off by telling him that he has a responsibility towards his wife to use condoms. If he didn’t feel the need to protect himself, the very least he could do was to at least protect her.
Yesterday, I got to know a guy. He told me that his current relationship status was “complicated”. So I probed further. What do you mean by that? He told me he has a girlfriend. He identified mostly as being gay, but he felt that he should get married, have a family (defined by him as one between a man and a woman), and he wanted to have children. At that point, I got angry. I was getting to know guys over the week who presented with similar circumstances, and by that time, I wasn’t exactly patient. (Note that by being angry, it’s a reflection more about me than about him, but that’s another story.) He told me further that he had shared his situation with his girlfriend. She had told him that she wanted to be there for him, as he learnt to “heal” himself.
A few years ago, I met a guy. He told me that he likes me a lot and that he could see himself developing something with me in the long term. He told me that he would like to have a relationship with me for the next 2 to 3 years. Thereafter, he plans to get married to a girl and have children. Long term is 2 to 3 years? Seriously? You think that my life is so cheap that I could waste 2 to 3 years of my life with you, and then restart my life after that, because I’m actually willing to spend my time with a guy who wants to use the 2 to 3 years to satisfy what he thinks would be a lost opportunity for the rest of his life, while I babysit his needs? I happen to be someone who continues to believe in love and wants to have a beautiful life with my partner. So, I asked him why he had wanted to get married. His answer was this - as a guy in Singapore, he felt that he needed to study well, find a good job, then get married and have kids – because this is what all guys do in Singapore. You have your life planned out for you. You don’t have to think about your life. Just follow this path and you will reach fulfillment.
By now, you will know I don’t take the conventional path. I take the path that is mine to take. Just as someone else should take the path that theirs to take.
People have told me that it must take a lot of courage for me to want to let others know that I’m gay. They say that I must be brave. But I always tell them this - the starting point of me telling others that I’m gay isn’t because of that. It’s because I want to lead an honest life. I want to live a life that’s true to who I am. I want to live a life that’s meant to be how I’m supposed to live it. I want to be myself.
And I understand to some, that this might be seen as having courage. See, when you let others know that you are gay, you have to deal with how they might or might not be able to accept at the onset of knowing, and the journey they go through trying to understand, and eventually to hopefully accept. If you’ve read my previous stories, you would know that for more than 10 years, I had to learn to come to terms with my family as I felt that they weren’t able to accept, and I had to learn how to accept that. But we are good now. It’s a journey that you have to be prepared to take in the long haul, if you believe in yourself, who you are and your right to live your life.
But, see, this journey happens to anything in life. Learning acceptance is a lifelong journey. When you didn’t do well for school for the year, or for the time that you were there, you had to learn to understand why, learn to be strong and accept yourself for who you are – and eventually realise the other talents and abilities that you have. When someone makes fun of you for some attribute that you present, you have to understand why they do it, and eventually learn to accept and move on past them. Life is a journey of understanding and acceptance.
Letting others know you are gay is part of that journey. But for some guys, they choose to allow their journey to understand and accept come to a stop at thinking about gay issues – they choose not to think about it. They might bury this issue, while they try to move on with other issues in their lives. Yet, when you bury this issue which is a huge part of who you are, it will necessarily impact on the rest of your life. You would always feel unsettled and be bothered by it. It will affect your other life decisions. Because you aren’t able to come to terms with yourself, you create alternate stories to develop your life around. It makes your life a bloated oasis of disharmony. What then is true about who you are, you think?
That’s why I want to live a life that’s true to who I am. I want to be myself.
I read this somewhere – but truth is, when you let someone know you are gay, it won’t be easy. Most people do not have to think about gay issues for most of their lives. Most people won’t have a chance to understand what being gay is like. Most of what they know about gay people is what they’ve heard from the media or jokes they had made about other gay people. So, when you let someone know that you are gay, their immediate association to what being gay is what they’ve been hearing about. They do not truly know what a gay person is like. They do not know that apart from being gay, we are pretty much human beings with the same lives and journeys. They do not know that being gay to us is like being Chinese to them or having a hairy navel for others.
When you let someone know that you are gay, they won’t know how to manage it in the first instance. Imagine if a very close friend comes up to you and tells you that he or she has just found out that he or she is adopted, for example. Would you know how to respond to that? You wouldn’t – only because in your whole life, you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn about adoption or what it means to be adopted. You wouldn’t know what to say, or what would be the right thing to do. So, necessarily, you stick to what you know. And for some, they might start to pity the person. They might start to sympathise and feel that the person is incomplete. Because we don’t understand.
So, similarly, when someone learns from you that you are gay, they will stick to what they know – what they have heard from the media, and from others. I’ve learnt over the years that if you give others a chance to get to know you as a person, their mindsets and beliefs will change. They will start to recognise you as a person, and not as someone who is gay. Eventually, they will recognise you as this person who has skills, talents and abilities and who does things well, and by the way, he or she is gay and gay people can be amazing people as well. I have a chance to turn things around for people. I have a chance to allow others to look at gay people in different ways. And that’s why I set up this blog – I want to allow others to have an opportunity to understand gay people and to see us as just like anyone else, just as I would others.
But I cannot do it alone. Your friends are yours. Your family is yours. At some point, them learning about you is the dramatic journey that they have to go through to understand more about you, as a person – and this is beyond being gay.
When a guy tells me that he is worried about letting others “find out” or to let others know that he is gay, because he says that he knows that they won’t accept. I’ve heard this many times – I know that they won’t accept. I know that they cannot accept. I asked this guy once – how do you know that they won’t accept? Have you told them? There was this one guy who told me that his group of friends have many friends but he just knows that they won’t be able to accept because even though they are open, they find that the group of gay people that they were hanging out were too “bitchy” and didn’t like them. When I asked further, I realised that he was the one who was uncomfortable that they seemed ” bitchy” and thus he had made it such that his friends were uncomfortable as well. See, he wasn’t able to accept himself and thus he had created ideas in his own mind that others won’t be able to do so. He wanted to justify his own internal fears by creating a reality that wasn’t present.
This is what I realise – for some gay people who claim that others simply won’t accept who they are, and they just know it – they don’t. In the first instance, they have not allowed themselves to accept themselves, and so they put it on others that others won’t accept. Why do we do that? So that we don’t have to think about ourselves, so that we won’t need to understand why we cannot accept ourselves and learn to manage it. It’s always easier to say that others cannot accept and because it’s them who cannot, we cannot do anything about it. But truth is, we’ve learnt to put the blame on them so that we can run away from understanding why we cannot accept ourselves, and to learn to do so.
Why can we not accept ourselves? The reasons are the same as to what was described above. All we have heard about gay people is what the media and others have spoken about. Even though some gay people might also have many gay friends, we might still choose to hold on to ideas that the media talks about that makes fun of or demean gay people. And we hold on to it. We believe it, and thus we believe that as a gay person, we are “not right” as well. But can you fault people who do so? Humans are group animals. We want to belong and be part of a group. When we think society says that being gay is weird, even as a gay person, we might want to think similarly, because we want to belong to the larger group. Being part of a larger group makes us feel safer, more secure, more protected. And if we can feel protected, perhaps denying who we are might feel better than having to accept who we are, and have to feel separated. It’s a trade-off, we think.
I’ve learnt to put myself out. I’ve learnt to be as true as I can to myself. Sometimes, I worry that others will judge or say things about me. And sometimes I am concerned. I think that when I try to be myself and if someone is pointing, that they are laughing at me. But, if you truly understand, you would understand that your worries arises not from what people think, but from what you think. If you feel that you are not good enough, you are going to think that others won’t think that you are good enough. You would think that they are going to make fun of you. I’ve learnt that when I believe in myself, others will similarly believe in me. And even if they do, I’ve learnt that it’s because they don’t know me, they don’t understand me. Should I have to reach out to all the 7 billion people in this world to gain their acceptance? I only need my close group of people who love me to be supportive of me, and to embrace and accept me. That’s enough.
Eventually the question is this – do you want to lead your own life or do you want to lead a life that others want you to live? You can choose to live a life that others want you to – but if you fuck up, they can wash their hands off and move on. They can find someone else’s life and ask that person to lead a life that they want the person to lead, and wait for that person to fuck up.
Your life is yours to lead and live. If you allow ourselves to dictate how you should live your life, you allow your life to be lost to you. If others truly know how to live our lives, then I would invite them to live my life for me. They wouldn’t know how to. If they had to understand how it feels to be gay and to have to not be able to like guys, because that’s what society supposedly wants them to do, they won’t do it – stop liking guys. Sooner or later, they would start having sex secretly, or they might lead very angry and repressed lives.
If someone tells me to lead a life which they believe in – that I am gay but I can become straight for them, I know they do not have my interests at heart. They have their interests at heart. And eventually, it’s this – what is best for me and for myself? How should I live myself that is fair to myself and what is truly about me? How can I live a life that I can be proud of and respect myself for? How can I live a life that I can answer to and be happy with? When I am 65, do I want to look back and regret having lived my life for someone else, or do I want to know that I have lived my life, knowing I’ve done what is best for myself?
And this doesn’t just go for me as a gay person, but for all other aspects of life.
I am not saying that all gay people should be proud of being a gay person and live that proud life. What I am saying is this - whatever choice you make to live your life, you are responsible for your own life. So, you make that choice to be responsible to yourself and to others, and to live the choice that you have made. If you decide that even though you are gay, that you want to get married to another girl, then you should at least have the basic courtesy to live your life responsibly, and be responsible for her as well.
This is my other bugbear. A girl is not an object for you to hide yourself behind. If you are not able to come to terms with yourself, you cannot just marry a girl and leave her alone. If you decide to enter into a partnership with someone, you need to have the responsibility to be there for the person, to love and care for the person. I’ve heard of gay men who enter a relationship with another woman, where they have never had sex. There was a married couple who never had sex for more than 15 years. Eventually, she had an affair to justify for grounds of divorce.
If a gay person cannot take responsibility for his own actions, I would abhor it. It’s about basic human decency. If you decide to enter into a marriage with another woman, it means you are allowing someone else to enter into the life that you have, or put up with. So, you have a responsibility for that other person. If you do not want to take the responsibility for that, then you should not allow someone else to enter your life. If a gay person cannot accept themselves or be responsible to another, then they should remain celibate, rather than marry a woman and hurt her eventually. Women, just like men, by the way, have feelings and emotions, and who want to love and be loved.
Let me step back quickly here to explain further that this cannot be the sole responsibility of the gay person. See, society has to take responsibility as well. The general society has to. If a gay man feels unable to accept himself, sometimes he simply doesn’t have the strength of mind to do so. Sometimes, he feels that much pressure from what he feels from society that he allows himself to give in to societal demands. And he marries a woman, even if there’s an internal struggle within him. When that happens, can he be solely faulted for his decisions? When he marries a woman, doesn’t know how to love her or treat her responsibly, who was the one who urged him to get married? Who was the one who showered him with expectations to do so? We have a responsibility to someone else – in fact two other people – to ensure that they do not enter a relationship which is not of their best interests. If we still continue to encourage them to enter a union which is not in their best interests, then we have made them do so because we are trying to satisfy our own needs. But this is a broad question. We are talking about issues of ego, respect, understanding, and acceptance here.
How far can we let our ego go, so that we understand that we cannot be asking others to lead a life that we believe for ourselves, because other people are not us?
How far can we learn to respect another person for the life that he or she wants to live because he or she knows what’s best for themselves?
How far do we want to understand the lives or others, to learn to respect and accept their choices and who they choose to be?
How far can we be human?
I’ve asked myself many times too why some women might enter relationships with gay men, knowing or having suspicion that the man that they are getting married to are actually gay. Of course, there might be some women who simply didn’t know. Some women might feel that they could actually try to “save” the guy. Some might have done so, out of the strong love that they have for the guy. Some might do so, simply because of the time that they have spent being in the relationship and it would have been a waste to let it go. Some might do so, because if you were to let your family or friends know that you are no longer today, you might feel that you cannot deal with the embarrassment. And for the girl who had wanted to wait for the guy to “heal”, why did she thought that way? To save him? Or was it an initial coping mechanism in the interim, while she learn to take in the new information, and decide what to do next?
Again, when gay men get married to women, everyone has to play a part. The gay man wasn’t able to accept himself, so he allowed himself to be subdued by societal expectations. You (as part of society) might play a part in not wanting to understand him, and had enforced your opinions of what you believe of your life on his life. And for the woman, she has to think for herself as well – is this a life that she wants? How can she be responsible for herself? How can she live a life that’s truly hers, even if it means leaving the guy might bring embarrassment, for example?
We are held back by many of society’s expectations. We feel that we cannot be ourselves because of that. If we choose not to live a life that we can be true to and happy with, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make. If we start finding fault with others or society, then it’s time we start looking at ourselves and perhaps think about how we want to do things differently. We owe ourselves that.
Whoever we meet in life and bring into our lives, there is something that we learn from them. A gay guy might get married to a woman who might have suspicions of him being gay. But they continue to enter the union. There are lessons that the both of them have to learn from another. It’s not a lost cause. But they need to take responsibility for their actions, and to learn from their actions – whatever the lessons may be.
Eventually, regardless of the choices we make, and who we choose to be with, there is only this – we need to have the self respect to love and accept ourselves. And we need to be responsible for the choices we make. If we cannot, then we should make a choice that we can be responsible with. Otherwise, we shouldn’t have to make someone walk into our lives with choices that we make which we cannot be responsible to them about.