A Singaporean Living With HIV: Avin, A Real Friend Who Continues To Inspire

Yesterday, the 2nd person in Singapore shared with Singaporeans that he is HIV positive.

The last time someone living with HIV came out openly to let Singaporeans know that he was HIV positive, that was 15 years ago.

Today, at the 8th Singapore AIDS Conference, the second ever Singaporean shared with Singaporeans that he was HIV positive.

This was especially important and meaningful to me, because Avin is a very, very close and dear friend of mine. Avin is someone I love and treasure. He is someone who has been there with me in each step of my journey to learning and he is someone who continue to bring cheer and joy in my life. With or without HIV, Avin is someone that means a lot to me and someone whom I’ve learnt to rely on, trust and place my confidence in.

Avin shared at the conference today that he is a person living with HIV. You can read more and see the video on his sharing here.

Many times, when we talk about people living with HIV, we talk about sufferers and victims. We call them patients. But Avin is so much more than that. In fact, people living with HIV are so much more than that. There are many people living with HIV who continue to live dynamic lives, who continue to pursue their dreams and passions. But yet, we continue to call them sufferers or victims.

One thing you need to know is this – with current advances in medication, if a person living with HIV takes his medication regularly, he will continue to live a normal life span. This means that Avin might continue to live a longer life than I do. Avin will continue to plan for his future, continue to pursue them and continue to plan for the next 10, 20, even 40 or 50 years or more. He has a long life ahead of him, just like any of us do.

Read more here.

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Racism within the Singapore Gay Community

There are some people who do not want to date people of the other races. Some Chinese guys do not want to date Malay or Indian guys.

I want to talk about one reason why this could be the case. For some gay people, we feel that as a gay person, we feel lesser of ourselves – because we cannot accept ourselves or yet to fully accept ourselves. And when that happens, we will do things which will compensate for that.

As I’ve discussed before, one way we do it is to associate ourselves with certain people who we think have certain ‘status’ – or so we think – within the gay community, and so by associating ourselves with them, we feel that our ‘status’ is uplifted, and this makes us feel more accepted of ourselves – we use external factors to resolve the inner lower acceptance levels that we have towards ourselves. Of course, there are some people who choose to not involve themselves within the gay community but associate themselves with the ‘straight’ community, with the thinking that by doing so, we can disassociate ourselves from the side of us which is gay, so that we do not have to delve into it further, but this is another story.

And so, in the same logic, for some Chinese guys, they would not want to associate themselves with other Malay or Indian guys because they feel that, if Malays or Indians are already discriminated in society, by associating with them, this makes my ‘status’ lesser. By all means, this does not apply to all Chinese people. And this does also happen the other way around.

But what’s truly happening here? For some gay people, they might not be able to come to terms with themselves and this is a strong self-stigma that they perpetuate on themselves. Any other perceived discrimination that they feel society might enact on them will much further accentuate this self-stigma that they already has. And thus, they feel that, by association, associating with people who they feel face discrimination, means also bringing on this discrimination that others face onto themselves, which means deepening the lack of acceptance for themselves. In effect, they are trying to reduce their lower acceptance levels for themselves by associating with people of higher ‘status’ and by disassociating from others who are perceived as facing other forms of stigma, this will prevent them from facing further stresses.

Unfortunately, our fellow Malay and Indian gay people have to face this added stigma – in part due to the coping mechanisms of others that they have subconsciously devised to deal with the low self acceptance levels.

What this also shows is the larger form of discrimination that exists in society. I was discussing with an Indian friend today. A Chinese guy had told him that Indians are “smelly”, “do not care about their hygiene” etc. I know this is not true because I’ve met some really hot Indian men, but if this people I had met had appeared in any colour, they would still be hot.

Truth is, in our society, there is discrimination enacted in the form of colour. There are many reasons why this is so. I will quickly bring up some but this isn’t the purpose of this article – like how we enact judgment onto others (not just in terms of colour), it’s because we do not understand enough about others. We do not know enough about the lives to understand why they do what they do and thus we carry on judgments that others have about them, and assume them to be true. For gay people, we would understand how it feels – because others already have preconceived notions of what a gay person is, instead of giving themselves a chance to understand us for who we are, they might enact judgment on us instead. If we know this, we would know how people of other ‘races’ feel and we would know how not to enact judgment on them, wouldn’t we?

Of course, this is a larger structural issue. The lack of discourse about racial and religious issues, because the government had constrained such discussion means that even though on the surface, we are seemingly agreeable with one another, they are underlying unease that we perceive of one another.

But question is – so what if I bring this up? What can we do? So what if there are gay people who discriminate against others by virtue of their colour? Sometimes, I find this disappointing because if we are in a position where we know how it feels to be discriminated, all the more we should know not to discriminate against others. But this isn’t the case for some – if we are yet to be able to come to terms with ourselves, we will seek out other sources of affirmation for ourselves (by seeking out people ‘of status’) and reduce our association with others whom are perceived as discriminated.

If this is something that’s happening to you, what can you do? If you understand that some people might disassociate themselves from you because of their discomfort with themselves, you know that it’s not something that they are doing because of you. It’s something that they need to overcome. So don’t let it affect you. Understand that they need their time to find out more about themselves and come to terms with themselves. It’s not that they cannot accept who you are. It’s because they cannot accept who they are. So you have to respect that they are in their journey towards finding out more about themselves and you need to give them that time and space to grow.

But if we are unhappy still, then it says more about us. If we are unhappy that someone cannot accept us, then we need to understand and think about this – is there something we cannot accept about ourselves? Because if we believe in ourselves, we would know that if others cannot accept us, we would understand and know our worth to believe and have faith in when we are, and know not to allow the judgment of others to affect us.

What of those who judge – or actually, those of us who are unable to accept ourselves? Then, we need to understand how we use the distinction that we make among people, to define who we are, and how we use these external influences to cater for an inner need that we have. We need to understand this because it has implications on how we react towards others, and how we might cause hurt towards them by our sometimes subconscious thoughts and actions. Then, we need to learn to look within ourselves to understand why we are unable to accept ourselves and work around our internal feelings, so as to truly understand and gain acceptance towards ourselves.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some of us might have simply have cultural preferences. Some people might feel more comfortable getting to know someone of the same cultural background, only because they are used to growing up within a cultural pattern and want to continue in that. The key is – if we are aware that we are making a choice not out of the denial of who others are but because we believe in doing something without having to hurt others, and we have the awareness and authenticity to understand our thoughts and actions, then at least we are being responsible. So, this means being aware and having the clarity of what we are doing.

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Sex: ‘Cos You Are Horny, Or Fulfilling An Inner Need?

Gay people are all about sex.

Really? Is that all you want to give yourself credit for? That you are all about sex, and nothing else?

Do we choose to forget the loving person that we are? The person who would do romantic things and who would cherish love and relationships, and who would go all out for another friend? Have we chosen to forget these things about us?

And choose to think gay people are all about sex? Really?

Let’s stop for a moment and think about this. Whenever you have sex, are you really a lustful promiscuous person who doesn’t know what love is? Do you completely give up on love because you truly know deep within your heart that it’s not possible? Do you really want to give up all that who you truly are?

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I used to wonder – why do I just look for sex? Why are gay people only looking for sex? Is the gay community so wasted and so hopeless? Should I really give up on gay people? Should I really give up on us? On myself?

But deep inside, I know whatever I feel isn’t what I truly know. I know I want to love, to be loved, and I know we live to love and we live to be who we are, and be proud of it.

But be proud that we have sex? Be proud that sex is what makes us?

But as I learnt, I realise I’ve allowed myself to be sucked in to the thoughts of everyone else, and I’ve not learnt how to look within myself.

We have not learnt to look within ourselves, and thus we judge ourselves and we make ourselves the hopeless people we’ve allowed ourselves to think, or actually – not to have thought carefully about.

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The real question we need to ask is not why gay people are hopeless – because this means we’ve already allowed ourselves to judge ourselves without actually understanding ourselves.

The real question we need to ask ourselves is this – why do we have sex?

Now, take a journey back to the first few times you had sex. Some of us were curious. Sometimes, it just happened – perhaps we felt a feeling for one another and wanted to express it. Sometimes we meet someone for the first time and we haven’t had the feeling of being with someone before, and we might want to start kissing the person, and we might want to move on to doing a bit more.

Would you judge me as promiscuous if I did these? If you had done this? Think a bit about it. When you have sex for the first time, sometimes it’s because you’ve been longing to be with someone for a long time and when you meet someone whom you think you could have something going with, you might want to hold the person, to feel loved and to love. Then we proceed to unbuttoning his shirt, to feel his chest and to feel him. And things unravel from there, literally and figuratively. Is this just lust?

Sometimes, we become curious and we start touching each other. What does this feel like? What does the other physical body feels like? Is this just lust?

Think about it. Is this just lust? Thing is, we’ve been told over and over again that men are lustful, that we only want sex and just because we have a protruding sexual organ which gets hard at the very instance we see someone attractive, it means we are lustful and that’s all we have on our minds – that we are brainless fucks who would just want to jack off, without emotions and feelings – that we are selfish bastards. Sure, sometimes we are – horny, I mean. But all the time? Do you truly want to give yourself that little credit to think that the person that you are is determined by the sex you do every time you are with another guy?

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I’ve thought for a long time about this. This is what’s going on – when we have sex many times, it’s not just because we are lustful disgusting creatures who just want sex. If you think a bit more deeply about your feelings and thoughts, you will understand that sometimes we have sex because we want to feel loved, or that we might be lonely, or sometimes we simply want to be intimate with someone. Being intimate sometimes makes us feel close to another, and somehow assures us of our value and our worth. I’m not saying whether these things that we do are the best way to do things, but this is what we do – sometimes we have sex because we are fulfilling an inner need within us.

But you might ask, why then do we think that we are just lustful creatures, instead of the emotional people that we are?

  1. First, society tells that to us – society says that if you have sex, you should be judged, that you are someone who has loose morals and principles. And we believe in this, we take on these ideas and when we do have sex, we judge ourselves based on these ideas – we think we have loose morals and are less than respectable because of that. But then, stop for a moment. If we put aside what society says, and if we truly look within ourselves – what was the real reason why we had sex? Because? Because we want love? We want to be treasured? What is it? We’ve learnt to so easily take on what society thinks and give up our right to think for ourselves. We’ve given up our belief and awareness of ourselves, simply because we allow ourselves to be part of society. Why? We do so because humans are group animals – we want to belong to a group of people and so whatever thoughts they hold, we want to hold so that we can belong. But the other truth is we sometimes don’t bother to think enough of ourselves – we give up our right to think for ourselves, and we give up our right to be who we are.
  2. Second, the reason why we think when we have sex, that we might be lustful creatures is because sex is the most obvious product of the interaction we have with each other. After sex, we cum and that’s what we see. Our mind empties itself as our penis do and that’s all we see and feel after the euphoria – what did I just do? Then, we start feeling the embarrassment and we start feeling ashamed. Then, we start to judge ourselves – I am horny and I allowed myself to let go without control. I am so wrong. I should judge myself. But, what actually did happen? At one fell swoop, we discredit ourselves for the complete person that we are and narrow down we we are to this – a horny uncontrolled person. Truth is, sometimes when we have sex with someone, it’s not just our dicks and balls that’s making the decision to want to have sex – that’s giving our sperm too much credit. What really happens is that emotionally, we feel certain feelings coming up within us, and because of them, we feel the need to express them, by saying nice things about the person, by smiling at the person, by glancing at the person shyly then looking away, by touching the person’s hand to let them know you feel the same, by locking your lips with the person, embracing and letting your emotions flow through the body. Is this just your balls talking? I don’t quite think so.

Truth is, when we have sex, there are so many reasons why we do it, but we don’t realise it. We’ve learnt to think that if you have sex, you are just thinking with the dick. When you have sex, it means you are just thinking of one thing – sex and cumming. But as we’ve discussed, there are many reasons why we feel motivated to have sex – and if you think carefully, much of it is driven by the emotions we feel. But we think that as men, we cannot think about our emotions – it’s not the man thing to do – so we’ve brushed off our emotions and we’ve decided to think that we’ve allowed our dicks to control us. See, we take on the whole society group think into us – men are sexual beings. Period. Men do not have emotions. Period.

No. Period. No more group think. That’s lazy and irresponsible to ourselves. It’s time we acknowledge it and be clear about it – sometimes we have sex because our the emotions we feel make us feel like having sex. We need to acknowledge this and understand this, because having an awareness of this will allow us to stop judging ourselves negatively, and stop our spiral into an abyss of disbelief in the gay community, and in ourselves.

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But then, why can the straight people control themselves? Why don’t they all have sex like we do?

  1. First, really, you think they don’t have sex like we do? They do – they just don’t talk about it. We’ll explore this in a bit.
  2. Second, we think that it’s because they are women and women are more emotional than sexual, so they don’t have sex as quickly because they don’t want to, or need to. Really?

As we’ve explored just, society says men are all sexual creatures, and on the other hand, they’ve assigned the role as women as being only emotional. We’ve dichotomised the roles of men as sexual and physical and women as emotional, so that we can have clear distinct roles. The question we need to ask is this – are these roles real? There are many theories but I won’t dwell on them here – one reason is that the association of emotions has been popularised as being weak, so we need to assign emotions to women, since men should be in power – men should rule, so let’s make men all about being not emotional. We are rational, not emotional. Then, yet, we are also sexual, power-driven, conquering, mighty, and so on. The whole discourse of men as masculine and women as feminine – and emotional – is a discourse created to control and divide.

So, for gay men, we’ve learnt to take on these roles too. But we are starting to understand that we don’t have to take on these roles. If you look around you, you realise that gay men don’t choose to subscribe to either a masculine or feminine role as much now, as we might in the past. We don’t think that there needs to be someone in the power to take care and someone in the position to be submissive. We are beginning to realise that the very fact that we don’t belong to the social norms and dichotomy of a male-female hegemonic propaganda, that we don’t have to assume such dichotomised roles – we can be ourselves.

If you can follow through the thinking so far, you would understand this as well – the reason why it looks like straight couples are more controlled and not sexually as free is because of this – there are social norms and rules which govern the straight people. I’m not saying that these rules are natural or good. But they exist. And because of this, the straight people play by those rules. As a woman, I shouldn’t have sex with you and I should “preserve” myself because if I do, there are social judgments that people will laden on me. They will call me a loose woman and I will be ashamed, and it would be difficult for someone else to love me then. And so, when men date women, the both of them understand these social rules that they have to operate within, and so, they do not have sex as readily.

It’s not because women are emotional and men are sexual, and which is why they don’t have sex as frequently – it’s because there are social rules which they feel they have to abide by, but understand that these social rules change over time and are continuously redefined.

So, the reason why gay men have sex, as compared, in a less restrained way, is because, we do not have the rules that the straight people operate within. This is because it’s always easier to develop rules for a group of people who are the majority in society. And truth is that the beauty of the fluidity of the gay people means we get to set our own rules and choose whether to follow it or not.

But at this point in time, we don’t realise it. We follow the judgments that the straight people have on themselves when they have sex, and we assume the judgment on ourselves.

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What I hope to say is this – We have sex for many reasons, and as I’ve described, many times, it’s because of an inner emotional need that we want to fulfil.

Yet, because society says it’s wrong to have sex and if you have sex, it means you are a horny person without thoughts and you should be judged, labelled and shame for doing so. And because of this, we forget that the real reason why we have sex, and we assume the judgement of society and shame ourselves.

Then we go into this downward spiral – why is everyone I meet just having sex? It’s wrong to just have sex (because society says so) , why don’t they see that? Yet, we continue having sex – because the real reason we do is because we have an inner emotional need. So, we are trapped within an inner need to feel loved and thus we have sex, and the social judgment that we assume onto ourselves. But, society’s judgment wins out and we forgot to think about our own inner need.

And we start judging one another – so and so just has sex. He’s disgusting. We’ve learnt to judge others based on societal beliefs and continue to have sex based on our individual inner needs, then judge ourselves with societal beliefs. Can you see where this is going now?

And when we go to a club, we gossip about this person who just has sex and how he’s so promiscuous, because we enact social judgment onto him. Yet, we have sex ourselves but we won’t enact the same judgment on ourselves – because it is us we are talking about.

At some point, we decide that love isn’t possible in the gay community since everyone is just having sex. We don’t realise that we when we have sex, we are trying to fulfil an inner desire. And when this doesn’t get fulfilled, we keep looking for it – a fulfilment of our inner desire. Yet, to do so, we have sex with more people. At some point, we become blind to the fact that we have this inner desire that we are using sex to fulfil, and we think that all we are looking for is sex – when what we are really looking for is a fulfilment of our inner desires.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Are gay people just really all about sex? When we have sex, are we just horny people who have no emotions?

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In a way, the straight people have social rules to police their behaviours. The inadvertent effect is that this forces them to think about their actions and to understand their actions. If they want to move on further with someone – to have sex – they are made to reflect on their true feelings to one another. They are made to be responsible towards themselves, and to others.

For the gay community, we might not have the same rules that we have to operate by. It confuses us, of course. We don’t realise that we are just like the straight people – that we have emotional needs too, and sex is a way of addressing that. We don’t have the time lapse, created by social rules, to have to think through carefully about our feelings. And because there aren’t any rules, our feelings get enmeshed with our sexual behaviour and we aren’t able to have a clear understanding of ourselves. Instead, we draw on societal beliefs – sex means we have loose morals – to judge our behaviours which is yet not bound by societal rules.

Within the straight community, they’ve created a set of rules and a set of judgment around that – so that’s how the whole package works. But for us, we cannot choose to not take on the rules but take on the judgement – then we are only giving ourselves the short end of the stick. We are beating ourselves unnecessarily.

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I want to talk about this because of this:

  1. First, it’s high time the gay community stop beating ourselves. We beat ourselves and we look down on ourselves. It isn’t helpful for our own personal growth, and it isn’t helpful for the gay youths who are learning to grow up being gay, and who are also beaten by our own self-beating.
  2. Second, we are also people with respectable feelings and emotions, who similarly want love and want to be with someone. And we’ve got to recognise this – because as a gay person, we can find love and we can be with someone as long as we understand ourselves, what we are doing and responsibly find a way to achieve this.

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What does this mean for us then?

It means this – if we are aware of what we are using sex for, then it means we can be more aware of how we manage ourselves. If we know that when we meet someone, we might allow our emotions to get the better of us where we might then have sex with the person, we can seek to understand our emotions and to be responsible in how we express them. We might not have sex with someone so easily, if we want to be responsible to ourselves and to the other person.

As time goes on, when we can be responsible to ourselves, we will become responsible to others. We will then be a gay community which respects the rights of others and our fellow gay people and help us grow in a way that gives us pride to be who we are, who we can be and allow us to guide our gay youths towards a path of hope, self-belief, possibilities and a new sense of self-worth, respect and pride to being gay.

All we need is an awareness of ourselves and what we are doing, and an awareness of how we can act in a more responsible manner, in understanding our beliefs and towards another person.

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