Dealing with Rejection: Having Self-Belief and Hope

I chatted with a guy on Grindr today. He said that he was going overseas in the next few days for a long holiday and asked if we wanted to meet up for coffee in the evening. I agreed since I had nothing planned for the evening and I was quite excited to meet someone new.

We met in the evening. I had already eaten earlier as I was hungry. When he came, we went to Soup Spoon and he got himself a bowl of soup. Within 10 minutes, he finished the soup. I asked if he wanted to eat anything else. He said no and then said that he had to go back home to pack his bags.

I told him not to worry and I’m fine with it. And we parted. As I was walking to the train station, I started sinking into myself again. I started thinking – why am I not good enough? Why do people meet me and not like me? I am that bad … And for a moment, I thought to myself – life is so meaningless. Why am I living it?

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But right then, I woke myself up again.

This was a feeling that I hadn’t had for years now – the feeling of hurt and despair. I’ve been hurt now and then over the past few years but not with the added intensity of despair. It’s been a while since I allowed myself to feel loss, with the feeling of wanting to give up. I suppose the fact that he was quite blatant about not wanting to waste anymore time at the meeting came as a shock.

But then, I didn’t blame him. He did what was right for him – if he wasn’t interested, why waste any more time? I suppose I was shock as the usual social etiquette means that even if someone wants to do that, they wouldn’t or at least they might force themselves to spend that arduous one hour sitting with someone they didn’t really fancy, while typing on the phone, hoping to make time pass faster. He did what was right and I wasn’t prepared for it – which explained my response as well.

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Then I remembered – why do I make this about me again? Why do I allow myself to feel bad about myself? It wasn’t about me. The guy decided I wasn’t his cut of time and he did the responsible thing for himself to end the meeting, albeit slightly abrupt, but for me. My initial reaction was to make it about me, but it wasn’t – he has a preference and I needed to respect that.

So, I stopped myself from wading deeper into self pity and self doubt and started remembering again – I needed to believe in myself. And I needed to know, in my own way, I’m good enough. In my own way, I’m valuable. And I needed to know remember – this is one guy who doesn’t like me but it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the road. There would be another guy – that one guy who’s meant for me – who will appear. And I needed to see beyond myself to believe in who I was and to see into the future.

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Sounds ironic, I know. How do you not sink into yourself and yet be able to believe in yourself? When we start wading into our unhappiness and create ideas of our undesirability, it’s because we want to continue the story of reject for ourselves. We want to extent the idea of reject into a long drawn story so that we can continue to shower attention on ourselves. If he wouldn’t do it, we would. But that’s playing into our ego’s need for attention.

And I’ve learnt to slowly be aware of what I’m doing so that I do not indulge myself. I would start focus on what’s real about myself – who I am, and to believe in that. And to remember to believe in the possibilities of the future and focus on that – and to have the hope to see clearer and further.

We need to be aware that sometimes we feed our own egocentric want for attention and learn to let that go. And we need to find the strength within ourselves to see who we really are, believe in ourselves and have the strength of faith to hope and go on living our lives happily.

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Coming Out: Giving Ourselves and Others A Chance To Learn

When I told my family I was gay, honestly, I never thought they would behave any differently. I had expected them to accept. I had expected it to be a breeze. When they didn’t know how to accept, I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I rejected them. I wanted to move out. I stopped talking to them. I stopped treating them with respect. I thought they were quite silly and stupid as people. I was angry with them. How can they not accept something I think is so natural and essential to who I am – the very person that I am?

At that point in time, I was having my own internal struggles with myself. The very reason why I told them was because I needed support. I needed strength. I needed guidance to help me through what I was going through – why the guys I had dated left me, why I couldn’t have a relationship, how I knew I had self esteem issues but didn’t know how to deal with them and how I honestly wanted them – my family – to help me deal with it. I was in a complete loss and I needed their support and strength.

But after I told them, it never came. They couldn’t deal with it. Then I realised, after a long time – why should they? I needed them to deal with it because I wanted them to sort themselves out so that – they can help me. The primarily basis was for them to be there for me. But it isn’t about me!

Letting them know I am gay – I had a motive. But it shouldn’t have come with it. I needed to know that I needed to fully accept myself first before anyone could accept me. My journey to accepting me is mine and mine alone. And their journey to learn about their attitudes is their and their journey to coming to terms with who I am and then accepting me is theirs.

I was allowing too many things to confuse the issue. By the time I learnt how this works, I was thankfully quite comfortable with who I was and I could by then, accept myself much better. By then, I realised that I needed to let them find their own path and journey. And when I did that, they also had the comfort to do it.

Because, then, they needn’t hold on to the guilt that they couldn’t accept me. Then, because I’ve accepted and forgiven them for not being able to accept me just yet, I gave them the opportunity to breathe, to be away from my judgement, so that they could learn at their own pace.

Letting others know about who I am isn’t just about them accepting me, I realise. It’s a process of them learning more, needing my understanding, feeling the guilt of not being able to accept and trying hard to find a way to do so. When they are under all that pressure, it’s hard for them. And they cannot find their way.

It was important for me to find myself and accept myself, so that I could accept and forgive them, so that they could then find themselves and come to terms with it comfortably.

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Sometimes we are worried that others won’t accept us because of our own expectations – we believe that people have the same expectations. They might or might not, but where do these expectations arise from? Do they represent us or what we should want? They don’t.

The reason why we live is to transcend these expectations. To be who we truly can be. The reason why there are expectations is to challenge us to be as true as we can be.

Challenges occur not because life wants to make it difficult for us. When we come out, it’s not because we have to gain acceptance and it’s not just us who has to learn. Our closed ones need a chance to learn and whether we like it or not, us coming out is an opportunity for them to learn, for them to understand more – about life, respect and unconditional love.

 

Our coming out has a stronger purpose than it being just about ourselves. We come out because we need to learn to accept ourselves. But similarly, we come out because others need to learn about themselves, about their own attitudes, why they have these attitudes and how they need to have a better understanding of themselves and their attitudes towards life, themselves and others.

We might not recognise this responsibility but we have a responsibility towards others to ensure that they have this opportunity to learn. And as much as we do not know it, we provide them with this impetus.

At the start, it’s night feel uncomfortable, but when we learn to accept this journey, we can only grow stronger and more learned from it. When we deny that opportunity for us to come out to others, we deny the opportunity not only for us to learn and grow but also the opportunity for others to become wiser.

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You might say – why force this opportunity on them. It’s not about forcing, or not. It’s about choice, circumstance and chance. If the opportunity comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

I chose to tell my family and friends – it was my choice. For some people, others know by chance. There are different ways where we reach that platform or that decision to have to come out. But once we get there, the journey thereafter is the same – to learn, to grow, to underhand and to accept. Then, it’s about giving others the opportunity as we would need to give ourselves.

See – eventually it’s up to you. Sometimes life gives us an opportunity to come out or force it on us but it’s up to us whether we want to take it and run with it or whether we want to hide from it. It’s our opportunity or if we are not ready, we let it go. Another opportunity might come or it might not. But we live with that decision. Ultimately whatever decision we live with, we need to be responsible with it.

We are given an opportunity to learn and grow. Whether we take it, we have to be responsible for it. What we decide will determine whether others will have an opportunity to learn and grow from this. Even if they don’t from this, they will have other opportunities for them to do so – to learn about life.

But for us, it’s a matter of our growth and learning. If we don’t give ourselves this opportunity for ourselves to at least learn and grow, will we be able to grow? Eventually, if anything, it comes down to us – will we get to learn? Will we get to live our life or will we get to have to live the lives of others, that which they make ours?

Anything that happens happens for a reason. Anything that happens is always, first and foremost, about us. But there are always larger implications. Can we control that? We can’t. But who is to say whether what we do is right or wrong for others? It doesn’t. Who is to say we know what is right or wrong? Who is to say them knowing is infringing on their rights, when they are given the opportunity to learn from us, coming out, for example? How do we know we are not helping them, on the flip side?

Life is intertwined. The very beauty of it is that as we learn in our journey, so do others learn from us. That’s the beauty of life. We might not realise this as we might be muddled in our fears. But when we are able to see beyond, we accept the beauty of this, embrace it and learn from it and give others the change to learn as well.

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Are You Gay, Confused or Married (to a Woman)?

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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My Boyfriend Has Changed. I Don’t Know If I Can Accept Him

Today, a guy asked me this – he felt that his boyfriend has changed and that he felt that he never really did understand his boyfriend. He said that in the past, his boyfriend and he would compromise on things. But now, his boyfriend would choose to do what his boyfriend wants, and when he wants his boyfriend to change, his boyfriend wouldn’t. This caused him to “nag” further, which he said his boyfriend would then get angry about. At the same time, he would also get angry when his boyfriend wants him to change about things his boyfriend didn’t like. He also started feeling that his boyfriend would behave in one way in front of him, but in front of his friends, his boyfriend would act differently. I’m sure many of us would find this familiar.

So, I asked him – why does he feel that he couldn’t accept his boyfriend and why does he think that his boyfriend should change? I asked him too if he felt that his boyfriend is willing to change, or could change.

I also asked him – did he think a couple should try to change each other?

Also, did the two of them get to know each other well before they decide to start a relationship?

He continued to say that he doesn’t think that his boyfriend could change, but that he is uncomfortable when his boyfriend seems to act differently in front of him, and with his other friends.

And, I told him this – always ask why.

Why do you find it uncomfortable that he seems to act differently?

Why do you think that you cannot accept him?

What do you really want in a person?

He furthered by saying that he doesn’t actually know his boyfriend well, which was why he might be uncomfortable, and that he might not be completely accepting. He shared that he had got together with his boyfriend, because they felt that there were “feelings”. He also heard from others that for a relationship to work, a couple has to compromise. However, he felt that it was hard to compromise and accept. He said he felt selfish because a part of him felt that he wanted to leave his boyfriend, yet a part of him was happy to be in the relationship.

I added that he shouldn’t think in terms of whether he was selfish or not, as that shouldn’t be the question. I told him that we have to think for ourselves, because we have to do what’s best for ourselves. At the same time, we shouldn’t do it at the expense of hurting someone else.

He then said that he had read in one of my blog posts, that he understands that you would need to love yourself before you can love someone else.

I ventured further by saying that only by loving ourselves would we know what we know, and thereby we would be able to bring the right person into our lives.

He continued by saying that he still found it hard to accept the differences with his boyfriend.

So, I asked – “Is it then a question of knowing whether these are differences you can accept?

He agreed that this could possibly be the question, and left to think on his own devices.

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I concluded with the following:

You have to understand the context of how you entered the relationship. You might have started off not knowing each other well enough but had still decided to get into a relationship. So you could only get to know each other after you had started the relationship.

Ideally you would want to get to know someone, and find out if he is the one you want to be with before entering the relationship. But at this point, you’ve done it the other way around by entering the relationship first, then get to know the person.

But the same rules apply. When in a relationship, we should ideally accept the person for who he is. But what if there are things or differences which we find we do not appreciate? Then the question is are we able to accept?

Thing is, it’s complicated by the fact that we are already in a relationship, yet we are still in the process of truly understanding if someone is right for us – in that sense, we’ve jumped the gun. Of course when we are not in a relationship, we might think that if we are not able to accept, we could choose not to enter the relationship. But when we are in a relationship already, the question then is – do we want to let the relationship go, or to accept our partner? However, we might feel that because we are already in a relationship, we might feel that we should make it work – because we think that’s what a relationship is about.

It’s true that you should try to make a relationship work and learn to accept the person you are with, once you’ve decided to make a commitment to the person.

Then there are deeper questions. What is a commitment? How long do you need to know a person before you can decide if you want a commitment with the person? Does the duration matter? Or does knowing the person for who he is matters?

So, you have to think about whether you know the person, whether you can accept the person, whether you want to make a commitment or have made a commitment to the person and whether you want to accept the person, and decide whether to make it work.

A relationship is a commitment that we make to someone. There are some things we need to think about before we make that commitment. But first, we need to know what we want. And we can only do so by loving ourselves, and understanding our needs. Only then will we know who to invite into our lives. We should ideally get to know a person well before we decide to start a relationship. Otherwise, when we only start to really know a person after we get into a relationship, it would make it difficult for us to see the situation clearly as we feel that there are certain expectations that we have for a relationship, when the relationship that we have hasn’t actually reached that stage yet. Finally, when we truly get to know someone and decide that this is the person for us, we have to decide if we want to commit ourselves into this. Before we do so, we would need to understand if this person is someone whom we can accept and embrace for who his is, just as he would for who we are. And no matter what happens, we would then have the commitment to each other to make things work for ourselves.

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Are Gay People Just All About Sex?

Recently, I heard about a guy who had “lost his virginity”, as it was described to me. His friends cheered and congratulated him when they found out. They were happy for him, that he had finally had sex. It doesn’t matter who it was. Nor did it matter whether he used condoms. All that mattered to them was that he has had sex.

Someone asked, “Did you use a condom?” To that, there was no reply. I was told, “So what if you ask someone if they used condoms? They most probably wouldn’t say, or even if they did, they would have said that they had, mostly – because they wouldn’t want to let others know.”

Is sex so priced among the gay community that it is something that you would shout about? Is sex really what the gay community is about? Or is it just because everyone is doing it, and that’s why we feel we have to do it? Or is it because we’ve already gotten ourselves sexed, and perhaps, maligned, that we hope that someone else would have sex too, to be similarly conflicted like we are?

What happened to the idea that having sex with the person you love is the most magical that can be? Fluff? Perhaps. Wherever I meet someone who hasn’t had sex yet in his life, I would always tell him, “I think that’s good. In fact, I envy you. I had sex at a very young age. And then, I had sex with anyone. I never got to start out having sex with the person I truly love. Until now, I still don’t understand what sex feels like with someone you truly love. So, keep it that way. And when you finally find someone you truly love and have sex with him, it would be beautiful.” That would be what I would say. That would be the responsible thing to do.

*****

I understand the torment that goes through living a life where sex overrules love, where sex takes precedent as a gay person. I know how a life like this might not necessarily lead to happiness. I’ve seen people who have decided to feel ‘jaded’ because they lose hope with finding love, since it looks like everyone else is having sex. I’ve seen people who simply decide to have sex and give up on a relationship, because sex is so much easier to obtain, and because relationships seem so hard to maintain. And so, we give up. I understand what a focus on sex can to do my life, and so, I always encourage someone who hasn’t had sex yet to value himself. And I commend him for knowing what he wants and believing in what he wants, in spite of what others say.

There might be some who chide him or mock him – why are you pretending to be so chaste? Why don’t you just have sex? What are you pretending to be?

But is he pretending? Why do we think he’s pretending? We think so, because, deep inside, we are upset that we cannot be like him. Deep down, we know we envy that he is able to be strong and think for himself. He is able to protect his beliefs, even though every other guy seems to be fucking any hole that can be found. But this guy – he believes in himself. He is assured of himself. He doesn’t need to have sex to feel better about himself. He doesn’t need to have sex to feel loved. He doesn’t need to have sex to realise his value. He knows that love exists and he continues to believe in it. And he knows the sanctity of what he believes in and lives his life, with hope, with belief and with strength and courage.

Are we envious of him? Do we perhaps sometimes look back in our lives and wonder – why did I start out having sex? If I hadn’t start out having sex, things might have been different. I might continue to believe in love, and I might have found the person I truly love and settle down with him. But no, we started out having sex, and because of that, we judge the gay community for being a dirty, disgusting community where it’s all about fuck. But the gay community is defined by who is inside it. It’s defined by us. If we allow ourselves to squander ourselves away, we allow the gay community to languish and become the hopelessness that we imbue it with.

If we want a gay community to be one that we can respect and which believes in love and hope, then we have to start with ourselves. We have to start thinking differently. We have to start realising that if we do not want the gay community to be all about sex, we have to start thinking that way. We have to stop encouraging our friends or cheering them on to have sex if they have not.

And why do we do so? If my life sucks, I want yours to be like mine. That’s what friends are for, isn’t it? Really? Friends will teach you about their experiences, and remind you that they didn’t have it easy. Friends will remind you that if there were some experiences that they weren’t happy about, they would let you know so that you won’t have to live lives the way they did. Friends would tell you that if it hurts and feel empty having sex with random people and that if they wished that they could have sex with someone they can truly love that they would, they would tell you. So that you can learn from them and not do what they have had.

If you are a true friend, when you see that your friend might possibly repeat the mistake that you had done, you would pull him back and speak to him, and remind him of what he is getting himself into.

But that means we need to be aware of ourselves. We find friends whom we feel have similar experiences with us. If we feel we are in the lowdown, we think that they are too. And when we see one another go through experiences which have made us feel wilted, we feel assured knowing that our bad tidings are shared, and that we aren’t the only one stuck in the rut. What kind of friend are we if we do that? What kind of friend are we to hope that someone else makes the same mistake so that we can feel good about ourselves? What kind of friend are we when we cannot stop to think about our situation, and realise that we had the short end of the stick, and know that we should stop our friend from also having to go through the experiences that we wished we never had to go through?

*****

What does it say about us? Eventually, it comes back to us again. We need to have the awareness of what we go through in life, to learn from it. We also need to have the responsibility as a person, and as a friend, to watch out for our friend, and that if we know that our friend is going through the same experiences that we had before, that we can be there to guide them along, and share with them our experiences so that they can learn from us and live a better life. We have to learn to be happy for others when they live a better life.

Is sex everything then? Is sex what the gay community is about? Is sex really what gay men are all about? Horny lustful bastards? Is this what you are? I know I’m more than that. I’m still trying to find out more about myself. Do I still have sex? Yes I do. I’m not writing this to sound better than anyone. I’m writing this because I want to know – how can I live a life that I can be proud of? How can I live a life that I can br happy with? Why am I having sex with people, yet have a nagging feeling that perhaps there’s more to why I have sex with someone? There’s a reason why I have sex and it’s not just lust. What is this need I’m using sex to compensate for?

I still believe in love. I still believe in the gay community. I still believe we can be gay, proud of ourselves and be happy. I know as gay people, we can live the life that we want. And that’s not because I’m believing for the sake of believing. I believe because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen myself learn so much more about myself. I’ve seen friends who continue to live happy, contended and fulfilling lives and friends who are still on their path towards searching for what they want and to believe in.

At some point, we have to take responsibility for ourselves, to be aware of the lives we live, and to be aware of why we do certain things, why we have sex and why we encourage other people to have sex. At some point, we have to stop following what everyone else is doing because that’s the cool thing to do. We have to decide for ourselves that we believe in ourselves and we will do things because we respect ourselves, and we know that what we do will enrich us further. We would know that there are friends, whom we call them as, who might not have the best interests for us at heart, not because they are not true, but because they are not aware, and while we give them the time to learn, we have to allow ourselves to move on with ours and live the life that we want – one that can be proud of and be true to ourselves with.

At some point, we need to be who we are. And be true to ourselves.

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Finding Love As a Gay Man in Singapore: Part 3

(This is a 3-part series about relationships among gay men in Singapore.)

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

As I grew older, I realised that if someone with whom I have a relationship with decides to leave, I shouldn’t take things personally when they do so. People have preferences about what they look for in a partner and we have to respect that. Sometimes they might take a bit longer to realise that we are not the person that they are looking for – and so they might initially develop a relationship with us, and when they do eventually decide to leave, we have to respect that. Because, we do the same to other people and that means we would be in a position to understand why another person would do the same. It’s what empathy is about.

Over the past few years, I’ve met guys and go on ‘dates’. We might hug and kiss at the first meeting. And sometimes, after the first meeting, these guys would disappear. They might do so because they might have realised that perhaps I might not be the guy that was what they were looking for. Or, they might have met someone else whom they might feel is more compatible. And that’s fine. I’ve learnt to respect that and not to take it personally. Them not wanting to see me anymore doesn’t say anything about me. It does mean that they simply have their preferences, and you have to look beyond yourself to respect their preferences.

Over the past few years, I’ve similarly met some guys and became the person who did the same thing to them. We would kiss and/or hug on the first meeting but I would stop contacting them after that. To the guys whom I might have done this to, I’m sorry for what I did. I had done so because sometimes, after the meeting, I had thought that we might have shown physical affection for one another, but on hindsight, I hadn’t know enough about them, and might feel that they could be unsuitable. Though sometimes, it could be because I might not have gotten over myself and might be worried that I would be hurt somehow if I had gotten involved, for whatever reason – something I’m still trying to understand – and so I refrain from being involved. And for the most part, I might have withdrawn because in a way, I was tired of the process of meeting people and having nothing turned out, so I left before I had to come face to face with the situation. So, I understand what I was doing to others, and similarly, I understood what others were doing to me – which helped me to understand why they did what they did, and to forgive them for doing so.

But it doesn’t mean that just because I knew what I did and because I did them, it would make what I did more right and which is thus why I would accept what others did. What it means is that I am still learning and that I’m trying to learn to find ways to act in responsibly a way as I can, so that I do not allow someone else, or myself to get hurt. And as I meet more people, I try to refine my thoughts, actions and behaviours with each new thing that I am able to learn and understand, so that I can treat others with respect as well.

For example, I would refrain from going for movie dates with someone for the first time, as I would prefer to get to know them first. A movie date would have made it easier for affectionate actions to take place. In the event that I do meet someone for a movie date for the first time, I would refrain from being affectionate with them. The reason why I refrain from being affectionate is because being affectionate similarly fast tracks the feelings that we have for one another, either from one party or both. When we do not know each other, the physical intimacy gives the illusion that you are closer than you actually are, when in fact, you don’t actually know each other. But because you had been intimate, you think it gives you reason for you to move the relationship faster than you should. Then, similarly, this fast tracking will necessarily result in the same issues, as described in the previous parts of the story – that when you truly get to know someone on an emotional and psychological level, once the physical intimacy wears off, you might take a second look at whether this is something you want. 

I’ve learnt too that sometimes, when we go on dates, we might show physical affection for someone else because we might be ‘lonely’, for example. So when we meet someone for the first time, for an activity which might occur in a potentially intimate setting, such as at the movies or karaoke room, because of the setting, it might make it easier for us to become intimate. Even though logically, we know that we do not actually have anything more to do with the person, except to be meeting for the first time and are basically strangers, but because of the ‘conducive’ environment, it caters to the ease of physical intimacy.

It is important for us to realise that when we show physical intimacy with this new person, for most of the time, it’s not because we actually like him, but because we might start romanticising about the situation that we are in, as well as about the person, and this thus leads us to imagining a temporal romance with the person – we might thus hug or kiss this new person whom we had just met. It is important for us to understand that this isn’t love, neither is it a liking that we have for that person, or that he had for us. Most of the time, it’s because of this temporal romance that we have created.

So, if we understand this, we would know not to feel hurt or be upset if the person might stop contact. Our temporal dream romance fades away as soon as the meeting or ‘date’ is over, and when that happens, we wake up, realise what we have done and with a clearer understanding, we might think that actually, we might not actually be interested in the person – and this works both ways. So, if someone ‘disappears’ after the first date, even with the physical intimacy involved, we would need to have the understanding to respect why they might do so.

Of course, in some instances, some people might be uncomfortable with us being intimate with them but they might not have known how to let us know and have allowed us to continue to be intimate, then if they decide not to keep in touch thereafter, hopefully, we have to awareness to realise that. There was this one time when I had met a guy to watch a movie. I had hugged him inside the cinema. I had assumed that he liked me because he had allowed me to hug him. But on hindsight, I realised that he didn’t. In fact, thereafter, as I started thinking through, I realised that he hadn’t actually hugged me back. In fact, he was shifting in his seat as he was quite uncomfortable! With that understanding, I realised then that I had created my own dream scenario. Naturally, my immediate reaction was – but when didn’t he stop me! Why didn’t he let me know? Naturally as well, how rude would it have been if he had told me to stop hugging him, when we were not even halfway through the movie? It would have been awkward, wouldn’t it? It would have also been embarrassing for the both of us (especially for me!), and I would actually have to thank him for simply doing what he did – nothing. He had made the best decision he thought he should, weighing all factors. And if I can understand and not allow myself to be personally upset, I would know that I should respect what he had done.

*****

For some guys, when they meet each other for the first time, and decide to get ‘attached’, sometimes they also have sex with each other on that first ‘date’. As described, this fast tracks the ‘relationship’. It makes you think that you are closer to the person, because of the sex, when in actuality, you guys might be physically more open now, but mentally and emotionally, those growth haven’t taken place. But we don’t see the closeness that we develop with someone separately – in physical, emotional and psychological components – we have the idea that just because we are physically close, somehow we are also emotionally and psychologically close, or at least we create the idea that it is. So we assume that just by having sex, we have become closer with someone. But as we get to know each other, the gap in our emotional and psychological understanding, with the physical closeness, is narrowed, and this new understanding might either strengthen the relationship or make us have doubts in the relationship – which is why now, I try to refrain from physical intimacy.

There are also times when I have chatted with a person and thought that this person might be someone whom a relationship can be developed with, if we get to know each other further. Sometimes, when we meet, we end up having sex. When that happens, I would usually rationalise that things might not progress further. Firstly, depending on the interaction, I might realise that the guy could have been mainly looking for sex. There is, of course, the possibility that I might have cut short further potential interaction, because of my assumption that a person who has sex with you at the first instance aren’t serious about developing a further relationship. See, sometimes, I wonder – if someone is seriously interested to know me further, he would want to get to know me by having a conversation with me first, of all things, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t allow sex to influence our understanding of each other. This is also one reason my expectations of the possibility of developing anything with someone is much lowered if we have sex at the first meeting – any further understanding of each other would be compromised by our assumptions about each other, because of the sexual interaction. But this is by no means, illustrative of all first meetings where sex occurred.

*****

However, for younger guys or guys who are less experienced, the following is something to be taken note of. Recently, my friend met a guy who asked him out for dinner. Later into the date, the guy started to ask him for sex. My friend is interested in a relationship and wasn’t looking for sex, so he declined. Having heard that, the guy suggested that they could have sex first and develop it into a relationship from there. I was considerably irate when I heard that. When I was younger, many guys had used the same tactic on me as well. For my first anal sex experience, the guy had told me that he loved me – we had only met for the first time – and he told me that he loved me and that I should let him do it. I did. That wasn’t the last time I allowed myself to believe when someone used this tactic. I’m a person who continues to believe, even if something has happened which I should have learnt from, but when faced with the same situation time after time, I would allow the same thing to happen. Some people might call this gullible. Some would be harsher and said I was stupid – though I am no longer as slow to learning! In any case, many guys whom I had met had said the same thing – if you love me, you would do it – that was the case for the first oral sex that I had given; or let’s have sex first, and we can develop from there. From my experience, most of the time, this means that it would be sex first and then it would be lead to – nothing.

So, for you guys out there, if this is a tactic that you use – “let’s have sex first and then we can start a relationship” – and if you jolly well know that you would most probably not take it further, then please, stop it. It’s disgusting. It’s not a nice thing to do. There are many young guys who will believe you though ironically, these are the boys whom you want to ‘trick’ anyway. And because of you and other similar experiences that they might subsequently undergo, you are the reason why they eventually stop believing in relationships and start becoming like you.

If you no longer believe in relationships because of your own bad experience, please do not get someone else stuck in the same rut as you. If you had a bad experience, you learn from it, and you learn to move out and on from it. Please do not let someone else go through the same hurt that you had gone through. This is especially so for our young gay guys. You have a responsibility as an older guy person to protect them, or to impart knowledge to them. As it is, many gay men are ‘jaded’ with the gay community. And if we have any decency, we will help protect the younger boys and guide them on a path which they can recreate to being one that we had hoped for but did not get to achieve in our generation. This is the least we could do. So, we should at least have the decency to do that.

*****

I am sharing this story because I hope that you would be able to have an awareness and understanding as to how you enter relationships and develop them. I hope that you would understand that it is important for you to learn to love yourself first, and be able to accept yourself, so that you can develop fulfilling relationships with someone else. I also hope that you would be able to understand the judgments that we sometimes have when someone decides to leave us, and if we have an awareness of why we have them, especially when we understand why we might behave in the same way as they would if in their shoes, we would be better able not to allow these judgments to take place by accepting others as they are, and respecting their preferences and decisions.

Finally, older gay men have a responsibility to the younger generation and the gay community. You have a responsibility to be aware and learn from your experiences. And you have a responsibility to use your experience to guide the younger gay guys and to guide then along. You also have a responsibility to protect them from behaviours or actions that might cause them to feel hurt, as you had in the past. And you have a responsibility to not be the one to cause this hurt to them. We have a responsibility to the gay community, because as we were growing up, we had hoped that someone else could be there for us. We didn’t have that opportunity. The least we could do is to give the younger generation this opportunity.

Indeed, for many young gay guys, when we had first started looking for love, we didn’t know of anyone else to look to or to learn from. We didn’t know of other gay guys with satisfying relationships with which we could learn from. And so, we become influenced in ways which are less than favorable – by people who didn’t know better themselves. Recently, I had met younger guys who had to go through relationships like this. But they don’t have to. I took more than 10 years to learn, and as you can see, I am still learning. So I hope that for those younger than me, they don’t have to take as long a time as I did, that they could learn to love themselves sooner, so that they can have the opportunity to find the guy who would care for them sooner, and continue to have hope for the gay community, and to guide their next generation along. I hope that by sharing with you what I had been through and the experiences that I had to learn from, you won’t have to make the same mistakes that I had, and be able to find fulfillment and joy in your life at an earlier stage than I had in my life. 

Photo source: Truebook.org’s Facebook page

 

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Finding Love As a Gay Man in Singapore: Part 2

(This is a 3-part series about relationships among gay men in Singapore.)

Part 1 can be found here.

When we develop a relationship with someone without knowing him properly (as some of us would say, to ‘rush’ or ‘jump’ into a relationship), most of the time it would be because we we trying to satisfy some internal need or emotion within us. We need to understand what this is. Is it because we are lonely, have not accepted ourselves fully or do not love ourselves enough, and which is why we hope to find someone to fulfill this inner need? We need to understand this. And when we do, we need to understand how we can overcome them and how we can learn to love ourselves and be stronger.

It’s true when they say you need to love yourself before you can love someone else. If we don’t love ourselves, we will mainly seek out someone else whom we hope can love us – and replace the love that we should have learnt to love ourselves with. When we seek out a substitute for our self love, we might then not really love that person whom we seek out but make that person into someone they are not. We might imagine him to be someone else who he is not – someone else whom we hope he is – and think of this imaginary him as the person who is loving us. Eventually, when it comes to a point when we start to really get to know him, we might decide that we don’t actually love him anymore – because he isn’t the person we thought he is – or wanted him to be. 

We had started on the wrong foot. We jumped the gun – we didn’t get to know a person first to find out more about the person. When we really get to know a person, only then will we stop seeing him as what we imagine him to be and see him for who he is know. At that point, we will come to a point where we will start thinking if this is someone we want to be with for the rest of our lives.

And this is why, sometimes, relationships don’t work out, and why we keep getting in and out of relationships. This is also how, because of our wrong footing, which result in relationships which didn’t work out, we thus start developing negative perceptions of the gay community and the future of our lives as a gay person. But, this doesn’t have to be – if we start off on the right footing – by learning to love ourselves.

*****

What can we do then? This means that we need to first be aware of ourselves and our actions. We need to understand how we feel about ourselves and about us being gay, and work towards achieving acceptance and love for ourselves. If you cannot accept yourself as a gay person, then how will you be able to go into a relationship with another gay person and be able to feel comfortable with it? You might start to have doubts about not only yourself, but the relationship as well. So, we need to learn to accept and love ourselves, and believe in ourselves. We need to work on ourselves first.

I’ve heard many times about how a guy is unsure about himself and whether he is able to accept himself. Yet, he hopes to develop a relationship with someone else. I find this worrying, because, how do we hope this relationship will turn out if we do not believe in ourselves, or in whether we actually believe in a relationship? If he goes into a relationship with another person, what he does and think will necessarily affect the other person’s life path, and we do have to also be responsible for their life journey. I have also heard of – in fact, I had thought similarly in the past – that since I don’t love myself, I will look for someone else to love me, so that I can learn to love myself. In most likelihood, that won’t happen.

If we don’t learn to love ourselves, a person coming into our life might spur us into loving ourselves, if we are able to be motivated to do so because of their patient in encouraging us. But that means we need to have the willingness and belief to work towards it. But what if we attract someone who similarly is unable to love himself? What if we are both feeding off each other? Where will it head towards? Based on my personal experience, you have to work on loving yourself, before you can enrich the relationship you form with someone else. A person might come into your life to spur you on, but you cannot rely on that to be the main source of teaching for you to love yourself. You have to have the commitment and willingness to start by working on loving yourself. 

When we meet someone, we should give ourselves time to get to know the person. If we want to rush into a relationship, we need to be aware that most of the time, it’s not because we truly love the person (we don’t know the person yet!), but it’s because we have a craving for our inner emotion to be filled. So, take a step back, be aware of it and slow down – stop thinking about yourself and start being aware of the person in front of you. Start getting to know him, to hear what he’s saying and start having a conversation with him. Start understanding what he is saying, what he is interested in, what his beliefs are, and really, who he is. And then you will start knowing him, and start seeing him for who he is. Then you will know if this is the guy you want to be with.

*****

When I first started getting to know guys, I was jumping into a relationship with every guy I meet. Every time, after a week or two, or maybe a month, they would then leave and ‘disappear’. Soon, I was doing the same thing to other guys – I was jumping into relationships with them and then I would disappeared. I had learnt to do what the other guys had done to me. It was because I was afraid that these guys would leave me before I did, and so I ‘preempted’ their move by doing so first – before they had the chance to hurt me, or so I thought.

But it was also because as I started meeting more people and jumping into a relationship every time, I started to have a realisation. I might want to jump into every relationship, but I don’t actually like everyone whom I jump into a relationship with! And because I started realising that I might not actually like the people I was jumping into relationships with, I started disappearing. (And I am sorry. I wish I could go back and say sorry to the guys but I didn’t know fully what I was doing and I didn’t know how to say sorry, because I didn’t know what I was sorry about.)

But what was happening, as I understand them now, was that even though I was beginning to realise that I don’t really like some of the guys I had met, I was still looking for someone to fulfill my inner need to be loved. Gradually, I was realising that what I was doing was to create the feeling of love with each new person I meet, to satisfy my need for love, more so than develop a relationship with someone because of the genuine love I feel for him.

Yet, I should have learnt to love myself, and not look for someone else to love me. It just doesn’t work that way. And so, after one or two weeks, I would disappear from their lives. I was a jerk, in their eyes. But in mine, I was leaving someone who I didn’t like, who I was hoping can fulfill my inner need. I had dissonance with myself.

There were also some guys whom I had disappeared from whom I had actually liked, but because I didn’t believe in myself and thought lowly of myself, I left because I felt I wasn’t good enough. I had low self esteem and this was partly a result of the meetings with the guys whom I had met initially and who ‘disappeared’. I had thought that I wasn’t good enough and that something must be wrong with me, which might have explained why they had left. I might not know how to love and that’s why they had left! I was boring! It was only when I became much older, when I became of age of some of their ages, did I realise that perhaps they didn’t know what they wanted or were doing, and thus left without a word, because they didn’t know how to explain why they had wanted to leave. Only then, with this realisation, did I learn how to forgive them and then, myself.

*****

So, back to the boy whom I had met today. He was crying from just breaking off with his ‘boyfriend’ of three weeks. They had gotten together immediately, after their first meeting. And then his ‘boyfriend’ had disappeared after three weeks. From what I had explained so far, you should know by now, why this happened, what not to do, and what to do when you face a similar situation. The boy that he had met might have been uncertain about what he wants and eventually decided to leave. They had also entered into a relationship too quickly without truly getting to know each other and one, or the other, might then realise that this relationship wasn’t what they had wanted.

But how was he to cope with the hurt? His friends had told him’, “This guy is only one guy. There are so many other guys in the ocean. He’s not worth it.” I smiled and said, “That sounds like just a bit of an angry way of looking at it.”

I asked him, “Have you done the same before? Have you disappeared from someone’s life before?” He said yes. And I asked, “Then you would remember why you had done it, and similarly why this guy had wanted to leave.” Truth is, this guy would most probably have ‘disappeared’ because he realised that this relationship might not be what he wanted, and he didn’t know how to explain to this boy, so he left quietly. See, if a guy doesn’t think that things might work out between us, he wouldn’t tell us! We wouldn’t tell someone if we think that things might not work out. We wouldn’t know how to! We would speak to our friends, wouldn’t we? And even if we had felt sorry about leaving, we would keep quiet because we just don’t know how to put it across. And we didn’t want to look like the bad guy.

So, I asked him, “Isn’t it hypocritical of us to want someone to explain to us and not ‘hurt’ us when they leave us, when we don’t do the same to someone else we leave? If we would do the same to someone else, isn’t it hypocritical for us not to understand?” Sometimes, we get upset because of our ego. We think only about ourselves and how others should meet our needs. And we get upset because we want to feel surrounded by our inner sadness, to feel that we are important, in some way. We give ourselves too much credit and we think that everything is about us, just a bit too much.

I told him not to take the ‘break-up’ personally. I told him that this is part and parcel of us getting to know people, and when it is time, we would move away from each other’s lives and meet other people. We need to be aware that people have preferences and when they realise that we might not be what they are looking for, they might decide to leave. And we have to respect that. Because we do the same to other people! So, we need to have empathy to understand others, also because we would do the same and would wish that others understand us as well.

I was quite blunt to him as I said what I said next – “What you have with him is not love. You do not know him. You got into a relationship immediately after meeting. What do you know about him? You only know him for 3 weeks. This is not love. It’s a feeling that you had created because you want the feeling of love. This isn’t love.” And if you remember what had been said so far, you would understand why I had said this.

As I learnt more about myself and my actions and behaviours to others, I learnt that if someone were to leave me, I would like to be able to know why the person did so. So, I thought to myself that if I were to have to leave someone, I would need to be responsible to explain to him why I thought I had to leave. But how should you do that? Should you tell someone that you think that he is not compatible or that he is not the person that you are looking for? That would sound hurtful, wouldn’t it? This is the main reason why many of would shy away from explaining, because we wouldn’t be able to handle the reaction of how the person would feel if we had told them that.

Eventually, I learnt to explain that I am still unsure about what I want, and so I think it might be good if I leave because that’s the responsible thing to do. I might also explain that after getting to know someone further, I might think that it might be better for us to ‘slow down’ and get to know each other first, before developing further. I had tried to frame things to be as a result of my perspective of myself, because of my uncertainty of myself, as it would be more acceptable to put the uncertainty on me than to think of the rationale as lying in someone else. Truth is, we need to know that we play a part in a relationship, and we need to admit that.

Similarly, I know that when people choose to leave me, they might not know how to explain their reason for wanting to do so, so since I would have an understanding as to why they might want to leave, I have learnt to respect that they have their reasons, and why it might feel difficult for them to have to explain to me their reasons. So, I have learnt to let it go, and accept that they have to leave. Most importantly, having an understanding and respect for their leaving allows us to move on with acceptance. 

In the next part, we will look into what happens during dates and how we can manage them better.

Part 3 of can be found here.

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Finding Love As a Gay Man in Singapore: Part 1

(This is a 3-part series about relationships among gay men in Singapore.)

I was talking to a 23-year old guy today. He had just broken off from his relationship of 3 weeks, and he said that at one point, he was thinking about committing suicide.

When I was young, I had similar experiences – not the suicide though. So I thought that I could write about this, if it helps.

I started ‘dating’ guys from when I was 18. By ‘date’, I mean I would go out with them and hopefully get to know each other further to develop a relationship. But at that time, that would mean meeting them for the first time and becoming boyfriends instantly. Sounds familiar?

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We might decide to become boyfriends with someone because maybe he looks good, he might have a nice personality or we felt we could ‘click’. It has become a bit more complex now, as compared to my time. Then, when you see a ‘good looking’ guy (note: “good looking” is used loosely in this article. There is no fixed and objective definition, nor is it meant to be a favourable or judgmental term), for most people, we might think that it’s ‘cool’ to be attached to a good looking guy – eye candy everyday, so why not, we think. But it’s more complex now. Some guys want to date good looking guys and be part of a good looking clique. There could be a variety of reasons – for example, you may find people of the same characteristics with you so that you can identify with one another. So, for some people, it’s because they play DOTA. For some, it’s because they have the same interests – perhaps fishing. For some, it’s because they share characteristics of being considered good looking, and they might feel there’s something more common to talk about.

For some people, if you feel that you are not able to be accepted as a gay person, you might want to hang out with people who have a ‘higher status’ among the gay community, so this association might make you feel less discriminated, by compensating with discrimination with perceived status. And so, some people might want to hang out with the so-called good looking guys, so that you might feel more acceptable within a community which you feel you might not yet find acceptable. So, for some, they want to belong to the good looking clique because of the status it confers, for example. I will explain this further below. But there are many reasons, of course.

Some guys are unhappy when a clique had ‘formed’, and they might feel that this clique is keeping themselves exclusive as THE group of good looking guys. Some guys might feel left out, and they might start judging these group of guys, or get upset with them.

For some of you reading this, this makes the gay community sound superficial. First, it sounds like we only like to date people who are good looking. Second, it sounds like we only want to hang out with people who are good looking. But of course, I’m only bringing discussing the issue of being ‘good looking’, as an illustration here. The reality is a lot more complex. There are many variations to gay relationships and friendships. I have brought this up, because of the relevance to the topic on finding love and because of the prevalence of how often I’ve been hearing about ‘looks’ recently.

The truth is guys are visual, so visual cues are necessarily used more frequently as key identifiers, and unfortunately, separators to define other groups of people. But visual cues are used among other identifiers, such as feeling comfortable with one another, a sense of humour, among others.

But identifiers are used by any person – straight, gay, Chinese, Malay, man, woman etc – to make sense of one another, and this is not unique to gay people. What perhaps makes it unique among the gay community is perhaps, how homogenous these cues have become. The main reasons why such cues become adopted at such a high frequency is because of the high intensity of interactions that gay people have with one another, especially in a cosmopolitan setting, like Singapore. Also, there are only a few specific venues where we see a higher concentration of gay men come together. Plus with the high level of usage of the Internet and mobile applications, the speed at which these social cues and behaviors get seen and adopted by other gay people become very quick.

So, in short, because of the high population density of our city, gay people meet each other at such an intense pace and speed that they learn to think and behave from one another very quickly. This also explains why it looks like many gay people dress up in the same way, or seemingly believe in the same ideas in the same way.

Back to good looking guys who seemingly hang out together, if we are able to take a step back, we understand that visual cues are only one of many reasons that are used when people identify one another to be friends with. There are gay people who come together because they can talk about the same things, who like to do the same things, such as going clubbing or going to watch a movie, for example.

But why do we get upset when we see people whom we think are good looking hang out together? There are several reasons. I would explore a few here. To come back to the topic of visual cues, even as there are other identifiers, visual cues is one of the most ‘influential’, because it’s the most easily identifiable cue. You can just see a ‘good looking’ guy – just like that, with your eyes. Thus being good looking has somehow been alleviated to become of a ‘higher’ status in that sense, due to the overt influence and identification. So, when we see a group of people who are good looking hang out together, we become jealous because first, we feel that since we are not part of the group where there is a ‘conferred’ status, we might think that we are not good looking enough. Second, we thus compare ourselves to them and it makes us feel lesser – lesser because of our comparison to the perceived ‘status’, and not to their looks. There are, of course, other reasons.

I’ve tried to launch into a lengthy explanation above about guys who are considered good looking and I hope that you are now better able to understand the complexity of how we perceive people. Being good looking is one identifier, out of many others, and because men are visual and visual identifiers necessarily get used more often because of their overtness, being good looking thus becomes alleviated to being a key identifier to define another person, because of the ease of identification. And because we’ve allowed ‘overt’ cues to be more influential, it has become seen as ‘superior’ to be considered good looking. And because of the intensity of how often we see each other, the idea of being good looking as an identifier which is seen as superior is spread very quickly, such that we adopt the idea that one needs to be good looking to be of worth.

If we can understand this, then when we see a group of people who are considered good looking hang out, we should know that they might do so because it’s a function of the social processes that were described above. We would know that we needn’t compare ourselves to them and feel lesser of ourselves. We need to be aware that we are comparing ourselves to the perceived conferred status, and not because of their looks. We do not need to think that if we aren’t part of that group, we aren’t good enough. Because there are many identifiers for group formation, and we’ve used one or the other ourselves, we shouldn’t thus judge another group for doing the same – it’s how all of us make sense of things – by understanding people through identifiers, or characteristics.

What this also mean is that we need to learn to have self belief and believe in our self worth, such that we have the confidence to believe in ourselves, and know that we don’t have to compare ourselves, just to make us feel better, or worse. Think about this a bit.

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But I digress. The purpose of this article is to discuss about relationships. Why did I go into a lengthy discussion on looks? Because for this particular story in finding love, when we are young and we see someone for the first time, if he is good looking, we want to be with him. And because of the above reasons, we might want to be with him because it might confer a status symbol, for example. Also, we get to be attached to a good looking guy! It doesn’t matter whether we have something to talk about or if we can actually communicate! It doesn’t – because he is good looking and since we are visual, staring at him takes the cake – at least for when we are younger. So, that’s one reason.

But there’s also a deeper reason. Why do we want to ‘fall in love’ once we see a person for the first time and want to become boyfriends? The funny thing is, we get together immediately and thereafter, we might think that we don’t actually have that much to talk to him. You can’t really talk to him, like you can talk to your good friends. In fact, sometimes, you even have to come out with things to talk to him, and rack your brains in doing so. Then we tell our friends, “But I don’t really think I can communicate with him. We don’t really have much to talk about and I can’t talk to him like I do with you. But I love him and I want to be with him, but I don’t really know if we can work out.”

The reason could be this – when we see someone for the first time, we want to get into a relationship with this person immediately because, actually, we could be lonely. We could be looking for the feeling of intimacy. We might want to feel loved, and not so much to love itself. And since this guy comes along, he’s hot and lean and fit and all that, and we think he looks really good so we think, we can be with him! Then, we conjure up ideas in our mind about how I really love him because there is this connection – because he is the guy I want to be for the rest of my life, because I feel that he understands me etc.

But does he? Is he really who he is, or are you imagining it? Are you creating your idea of who he is, because you want him to fit into your idea of a Prince Charming, or is because that’s who he really is? After some time, we get to know him better and then we start to think, “You know, he’s no longer the guy I used to know. He has changed.” But of course he has. Wait, actually he hasn’t. Your understanding of him has changed. You had created all those ideas of who he is, because these ideas are what you want in a guy – the romantic notions you’ve learnt to dream about, and you had supplanted them onto him. As you get to know him further and the initial ‘honeymoon’ (as they would call it) fade away, you finally actually start to get to know him, and you start to really understand him and see him for who he is. And if you had never really known him then, you might or might not like what you are starting to see.

So, what’s the issue here? First, we have to understand how we look for love. Second, we have to understand how we go about developing a ‘relationship’. As said, we might go into a relationship because we are lonely. We might feel that we don’t love ourselves, or we don’t feel loved, and so we hope to find someone whom we hope can love us, who can replace that emptiness or loneliness inside us. And so, when someone comes along, we hope he can do that. And so, we start imagining beautiful things about him (which if we had just gotten to know him, are most probably not true about him) – what are we doing here?

We have a notion of what a relationship that we hope for is, so we cancel the process of getting to know someone, by implanting what we want from that imaginary perfect person onto him, to replace the process of knowing him. Then we fasten the process again by deciding to ‘love’ him, based on this ideals that we’ve implanted onto him. Effectively, we’ve tried to develop a fairy tale romance that we’ve always dreamed of and pasted them onto this person we just got to know. In fact, it can be anyone! And that is why we go in and out and in and out of a relationship, one after another, because we keep going through this process of supplanting our ideals onto each person we meet. And we ask, why don’t any of our relationships work? Why do we keep getting attached and breaking off? Is it because we are not good enough? Why do I keep meeting the wrong guy? Am I not many to have a relationship? Do I not know how to love?

No. All these ideas are have become part of a story that you’ve inadvertently created – developing ideals and replacing the person you know with them, without giving the person a chance for you to really know him. And as explained, it could be because you are wanting to find someone to replace an inner emotional need inside you, more than looking to find someone and learning more about them.

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If you stop yourself for a bit and think, the truth is, for some of us at least, we want to feel love and so we try to turn any person whom we meet, whom we think satisfy our basic wants of a guy, and focus our attention of turning them into our ‘love-giver’. So, we have to be be aware of this – do we feel an inner need inside us? A loneliness, a wanting to be loved? And many of us do. Truth is, we grow up being unclear about what it means to be gay, or what it means to like guys. We are unsure – when we have a relationship with another guy, what should we do? Is it like a straight relationship? So as we learn to understand what other gay people and relationships are like, we make sense from by learning from the people we meet.

Then, when we get to know more gay people, and start to date some of them, we realise that if they are meeting us for the first time, and when they decide to be together with us, then we think – oh, so this is what a gay relationship is like! You meet a guy for the first time and then you immediately become attached! So, you learn from them! And then, things keep on not working out, and like many other gay guys, you start feeling ‘jaded’. You start thinking that gay relationships cannot last. You start thinking that, maybe I should just have sex, maybe I don’t want a relationship – I don’t want to go through the hurt of breaking off with someone again and again. And so, we stop looking for relationships. We start just having sex, since, hey again, everyone is just having sex too! And then we look down on the gay community – we think that it’s all about sex, we think that gay people are promiscuous and we think that gay people are hopeless. We become part of the community we criticize and we live with it. And we became disappointed with the community and with ourselves and we start to lose hope.

But wait! Why haven’t we even stop to think why this is the case? Why don’t we even stop to understand what we are doing? We go with the flow because since everyone else is doing it, it must be right – gay relationships cannot exist, it’s all about sex and I will be lonely for the rest of my life.

If you’ve read carefully throughout this article, you would know where I’m trying to get at by now. We have learnt from the people we meet and follow what they do, without reflecting on what it really means for us, and why we do certain things. We need to look into our lives, understand how it had been developing and how our beliefs and mindsets have developed from them – and whether we can, with this renewed understanding, do something about them.

In the next part, we will look into this further and discuss how we can better manage relationships which don’t work out.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

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My Enneagram Personality Type

Enneagram Test Results

Type 1 Perfectionism |||||| 30%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||||||||||| 74%
Type 3 Image Focus |||||||||| 34%
Type 4 Individualism |||||||||||||||||||| 82%
Type 5 Intellectualism |||||||||||||||||| 78%
Type 6 Security Focus |||||||||| 38%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||||||||| 74%
Type 8 Aggressiveness |||||| 30%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||||||||| 82%

Your main type is 4
Your variant is self pres

Take Free Enneagram Personality Test
Personality Test by SimilarMinds.com

type score type behavior motivation
4 20 I must be unique/different to survive.
9 20 I must maintain peace/calm to survive.
5 19 I must be knowledgeable to survive.
2 18 I must be helpful and caring to survive.
7 18 I must be fun and entertained to survive.
6 9 I must be secure and safe to survive.
3 8 I must be impressive and attractive to survive.
1 7 I must be perfect and good to survive.
8 7 I must be strong and in control to survive.

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Why We Need to Engage Others to Learn to Understand Us

Engaging others to understand us and exerting our rights to be are two very different things. It’s not political – engaging is real. I have worked in HIV long enough to know what engaging means. People don’t understand gay people – they don’t. Just like a white person will never understand a black person and a man will never understand a woman. Should a black person exert their right over the white person or a woman exert their right over the man? Similarly, should a man exert his right over the woman or a white person exert their right over a black person? No. 

Unfortunately, people don’t understand gay people. They don’t and we have to help them learn. I went through more than 10 years of having to engaged my own family before they understood what being gay meant. Is it their fault that they couldn’t understand me? No, it’s not. Firstly, they are not gay. Secondly, they are influenced by what the media says. Can people be blamed because they don’t understand? No. Similarly, when someone cuts into our path, can I exert my right of way and tell him to get lost? No, because he/she might be in a rush, is rushing to an accident, and for whatever reason has to cut into my path. So, no exerting our right is very different from engaging, and really, understanding. If we insist that we should exert our right onto someone else, then we are being pushy and demanding and rude as well. Then we are not understanding someone else’s point of view, but only want others to understand our point of view. How does that make us different from the other person? It doesn’t. We are just like them – we think we are right.

Obviously, I think being gay is my right and I think it’s about returning my rights to me. But if everyone is as aware and not self-centred, life would have been smooth from the beginning of time. But no. And it’s not just them who are self-centred. We are too. When we talk about rights, we are talking about getting people to understand us as well, and for us to understand them as well. Rights fought by demanding it will be fraught with anger, and misunderstandings. Look at Myanmar. Aung san suu kyi has learnt that for change to happen in Myanmar, she has to work with the government. Some people think she is selling out herself. Is she? If she continues to fight head on with the government, it will only make things so much difficult to move. But when you can convince someone of your sincerity and you can help them to understand you, and work with them to effect change, things will change. Otherwise, the Christians will never understand the gays and the gays will never understand the Christians. It is not about your right against mine. It is about understanding one another to learn to respect one another. If we focus only on rights, then we are being ego-centric and we are not learning to be the better person at all.

If we show anger to those who make us feel angry, there is going to be no end to this. The Europeans learnt this at the end of World War Two and since then they have tried very, very hard to try to find a common solution to things and to try to find common ground – to understand one another so that they do not have to cause another upheaval. Unfortunately, they have not learnt to adapt this learning onto their relationships with other countries, such as the Middle East and have allowed their Eurocentric views to cloud them. The principles are the same – if we learn to understand another, and try to help the other to understand us, we can come to a common understanding, and we will learn to respect one another and eventually learn to accept one another. This is true for the world, and this is true for being gay. 

So, we can continue to want to be angry and fight. Or we can learn to be understanding, be respectful and through that, with our sincerity, convince someone of who we are and allow them to come towards accepting us, because we can then show them that we are so much better than who they think we are.

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