Zelle reflects on family members who are accepting of queerness and classmates who aren’t.
Being fortunate enough to grow up in a household where being gay, lesbian, crossdressing, or being trans wasn't looked down upon, I grew up knowing that in this world, there wasn't only one sexual orientation — that girls can like girls and boys can like boys.
I knew I was not straight when I was around 9 or 10. When I was 11, I figured out that the term bisexual existed and identified myself as bisexual in Primary 5. Obviously, even without outing myself, I was teased by everyone, not always menacingly, as 'gay' or 'lesbian'. I didn't take offence to it, I just ignored it because it wasn't really an insult to me.
In primary school, I didn't face any extreme reactions because no one really knew what those terms meant, the whole 'Sexual Orientation Identification' bandwagon wasn't really mainstream at the time.
In secondary school, I attended my first Pink Dot. Being quite an open person about my sexuality, I came out publicly on social media using the event photos. I received mostly positive reactions. None of my teachers that liked the picture had any bad things to say, my friends left supportive messages, and it was as if it was accepted wholly without question.
However, being in class with people who didn't agree with my sexuality, or questioned it, was not as pleasant. I saw people wincing when my sexuality was mentioned. Some made offensive jokes. Most of these people were offensive because their religious beliefs did not approve of my sexuality. Thus, I understood why they reacted but it hurt nonetheless. I simply explained to them my point of view, my beliefs, and that they did not need to support me. But, they should not be degrading me.
Then, I realised I wasn't the only one.
LGBTQ+ people popped up everywhere, more and more students discovered that they were queer. I have friends that are pansexual, bisexual, some gay, some queer, some asexual, and most of my friends were allies. Even those who weren't allies didn't speak up openly about it, no one was menacing, they didn't make fun of it, and when they did, it wasn't really offensive. I think the nonchalance towards the topic of sexuality now is due to the saturation of its mention in social media.
By now, people know what LGBTQ is, whether they like it or not. And due to the forming of safe spaces online, more and more people feel more comfortable with their sexuality or are discovering it. This is also helped by LGBTQ big-name celebrities like Ellen Degeneres or many more celebrities that attend Pride events or support LGBTQ movements online, encouraging their audiences, which includes students, to do so as well. Naturally, small debates would occur on the topic of same-sex marriage: Was it acceptable? Should it be legalised in Singapore? Would it hurt the current population crisis? We would go round and round, take multiple routes, state multiple arguments and stands but end up with the same result every time — we didn't know.
I also discovered teachers who are supportive of the LGBT movement, albeit not openly, but they do exist. My teachers are not bigoted in any way, a student being Not Straight wasn't a huge shock to them. In fact, one of my teachers emphasised on the fact that she will accept and love us no matter what we are.
As a Secondary 4 student in 2019, I am fortunate enough to live in a society where I don't have to live in fear due to my sexuality. The society we have now is slowly but surely becoming more and more aware and accepting of the concept of Not Straight. The older generations will take a little bit more nudging, it's unrealistic to say that in the foreseeable future everyone will agree on the social acceptability of homosexuality or asexuality, but we can hope for an improvement.
My story won't mirror everyone else's experience, maybe I'm just lucky.
I don't know what it's like to be discriminated against openly due to my sexuality, but that is simply because I chose to stick with people who wouldn't.
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.