I am an Indian, born and raised in Singapore. My parents and their families are from Singapore too. Our family is a conservative and quiet one. My parents are super protective of me and that means I attend minimal social gatherings.
Throughout the past 21 years of my life, I always wished I had more freedom.
I never got to attend class gatherings, friends’ birthday parties, hangout with my friends or even go out with my friends after school. As such, I always took to lying to my parents. That was the only way I could spend some time with my friends.
Even then, it never felt enough.
Although I was always home before 6pm during my JC days, my parents always chided me for going out. Some days I genuinely stayed at school to study. As such, I never made much friends and was casted aside as an introvert or abnormal.
I was in a CHIJ Convent for primary school. At that time, I did not know much about the LGBT community. Without much access to the internet at that time and under the close watch of my grandmother, I was never exposed to anything other than school materials. At that time, TV was not an option too as my parents felt that TV time took away my focus from my studies even at that young age.
I had a small group of friends – close to 8 of us. We hung out during recess, played together and studied together. We were a closely knitted group.
Within this small group of friends, I had a favourite friend who just stood out from the group.
At that young age, I did not think much about it and associated it with the fact that she was my best friend. However, towards entering Primary 6, it started getting clear that we only had 1 year left before we went our separate ways. I started feeling lost and upset because I had become so dependent on this group of friends that I almost did not know how to talk to new people.
Fearing that I was going to leave my close friend after primary school ended, I gave her a handmade card with some cute messages. When I presented her the card, I gave her a hug and told her ‘I love you’.
She reacted harshly towards me.
She tore up the card and threw it on the ground, exclaiming that I was disgusting.
At that time, I was really hurt because in my head, those were my feelings and I expected a mutual gesture in return. I even remember piecing the card back together – as a matter of fact, I still do have the card.
After that incident, everything spiralled downwards. We no longer spoke and I withdrew myself from the group. Eventually, I went through Primary 6 and isolated myself from everyone else. It was painful, considering that we went through so much together. Even then, I did not think that I was abnormal. In my head, I thought this was all a result of being overly-attached to my friend.
Moving on to secondary school, I started becoming more aware about relationships because I was now in a co-ed school. Worried that I wouldn’t be able to make new friends and be rejected by others, I remember crying when I had to go to school.
Up until the second week of school, no one came to speak to me.
In that second week, a male friend came up to me during a campfire. He was very bubbly and lively and introduced himself. He was happy to talk and I was happy to listen – because it meant that I could speak less.
Over the weeks that we spoke, I started feeling a sense of joy being with him because he was extremely humorous. Since it was my first time interacting with boys, I was very excited. All the stories that I have heard about relationships sounded very enticing.
I started growing fond of him.
The issue was that I was fond of spending time with him more than I was fond of him. I didn’t hesitate to ask him out within the 3 months of school – I have no idea where I got that courage from. We were not dating because I didn’t know what dating was. But we always spent time together, be it studying, eating or simply just chatting.
During the parent teacher conference in Secondary 1, my teachers told my parents about the feelings I had for the boy. Parents being parents, they came home and chided me. They demanded that I stopped talking to him and even confronted his parents. With all this having happened, I felt embarrassed to even talk to him but he always portrayed his bubbly self and never said anything about the confrontation with his parents. By then, I was too embarrassed and told him that maybe we should remain as friends.
I did this in fear of my parents too.
Afterwards, my parents became stricter with me. They started fetching me after school everyday. I hated my life so much at that point that I started self-harming. I was lucky to have had a friend who realised that I was doing as such.
She started trying to talk me out of doing it and always checked up on me to see if I was okay. Eventually, we became closer she ended up being my best friend. I still spoke to my male friend but it decreased over time.
At this point, there was war in my head. I was so confused as to what I was doing in life. I was always getting angry with everyone, always upset and crying.
I decided to find comfort in the girl who was my best friend. I started confiding in her and we became closer. Although, we were in different CCAs, we always had it on the same day. As always, we would spend 10 minutes before CCA started to get changed and prepared.
On one particular day, I felt like I needed a hug. Upon hugging her, I remember feeling a weird feeling. It was that day, the first time she kissed me.
The first time a girl kissed me.
It was on that day, at that moment, when I realised that I liked girls too. That moment made me think back on life to see if I had any previous occurrences and I realised then and there that I did, but I did not know to categorize it. Love is love, be it with a man or woman.
That fateful day, we started ‘dating’ but things didn’t end well for us.
We were not particularly in a relationship but we both had feelings for each other. Somehow friends around us came to know and… this is where it came spiralling down, yet again.
Friends started ostracizing me. She somehow managed to get through the gossip as she appeared to be much friendlier and more confident of herself.
At this stage, I suffered the brunt of it.
There was too much emotional baggage to handle and I started resorting to self-harm again. I felt suicidal at so many points.
Few months later, when I entered Secondary 3, I fell for another girl and through those few years we were together, I learnt a lot about myself. Eventually, around the time of graduation, she left saying that she needed to figure herself out.
It was painful yet again, but by then I was numb to this feeling. I no longer felt strong suicidal feelings because I always turned to self-harm immediately.
Throughout the 2 years, I faced so much name-calling, gossiping and judgemental looks, but I told myself: If this is who you are, this IS who you are. Why do you have to hide yourself for others to speak otherwise about you?
It all felt so numb at that time.
It felt like I was being rebellious on purpose. It was the toughest years of my life. Through all these, I had so much difficulty hiding it from my parents. But can you believe it, they never knew. They never knew.
There was a point in my secondary school when a few friends told me to try and date guys. They felt that by spending most of my time with girls, I would end up liking them. Some friends introduced me to their other friends and others helped me make friends on Facebook. It came to a point where I had to meet a stranger – a guy from Facebook. Same age, from a different school. Initially, I was scared but I thought to myself, maybe my friends were right, maybe if I dated a guy or kissed a guy I would be attracted to them instead.
However, things with the guy ended badly. Nonetheless, the end of the relationship left a beautiful message for me. This is who I am and I should love myself for the way I am.
Then came the time of Junior College. Once again, I had to make new friends. Lucky for me, I made a friend pretty quickly. Since I already knew that I liked girls, the minute I saw this girl something within me lit up and I knew that I had feelings for her.
In JC, the LGBT community was more spoken about and I was more aware of the happenings and events in Singapore. I could better understand myself as I had more exposure. As such, I built up my courage and told her I liked her.
To my greatest surprise, she accepted my confession.
She accepted me for who I was. She was beautiful. However, within me there was still a feeling of hesitance. I didn’t want to lose her friendship over this. Things between us didn’t necessarily flourish but we learnt a lot and she respects me for who I am. It’s been 5 years and we have been the best of friends ever since. It was only in JC did I meet people who understood me better and therefore, I was able to comprehend my feelings. I was more comfortable sharing my issues and I felt so much at ease that I didn’t have to hide who I was or what I felt.
Now in University, I still learn about myself daily. I have had little conversations with my parents about the LGBT community, but they seem like they are still against it.
I am trying to understand myself better every day. On some days, it still feels like I am alone. However, a recent occurrence made me feel so much more confident and supported. I am not one to openly share my feelings with people and especially talking about LGBT issues, I do not because I understand that not everyone shares the same opinion as I do.
Recently, however, I was very fortunate and blessed to meet a lecturer who strongly supports the LGBT community. I don’t know if this was pure coincidence. She is so empowering and through having conversations with her, I have learnt so much.
All the opportunities that I have not seen or taken up all these years. The newfound courage to love myself for who I am and to stay true to who I am. It’s a beautiful feeling to be able to express how you feel to someone you can trust and even more when they actually understand you.
Sitting here, writing this, I realise something.
If I had been given more exposure when I was younger, maybe I would have been better able to understand and cope with situations that arose along the way. Without proper support and knowledge, so many people are harming themselves. If people were more open to speak of such issues, we would not have to deal with this much traumatising emotional baggage at such a young age. I will love myself for who I am.
Besides knowledge and exposure, a big factor of ones’ life is support. If you have someone or a group of like-minded people for support, then there is nothing to worry about. You can turn to them in times of need. This was definitely one thing I feel that I lacked in my younger days which caused me to go astray for a while. Lucky for my good friends, I managed to get back on track. Now at University level, I am so proud and happy to be able to have the support of my friends and lecturer.
Currently, I am not out yet. However, once my education and financial situations are stabilised, I would definitely do it. Sometimes, I still ask myself what if one day, the world felt that being queer was the way to go and instead, people who were straight had to come out. What would people do then? These hetero-normative questions that people constantly throw at us… Now, I take part in LGBT community events and even visit the Pelangi Pride Centre to read up more.
Sharon is 22 years old and is currently pursuing her degree. Although she is not pursuing a degree in the Arts, she wishes to play a part in supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore by raising and highlighting issues through research work. She believes that if everyone played a role in showing their support, be it minor or major, we could certainly bring about change in Singapore for the community. Every little change would help bring about greater change. Blessed to have found great support from a teacher, she finally found herself and is keen to represent the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore.
Being Queer in School is a series of community submissions that seek to explore what it means to be queer in the Singapore education system. If you have anything to share with us, submit to us through e-mail.