When I started out 3 years ago to collect stories for I Will Survive from gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Singapore, my primary intention was to bring together stories that could be shared and read by others. I was excited about embarking on the work as I knew what I wanted to do, yet at the same time unsure of how I would be received or perceived. Still, along the way, I somehow managed through and was humbly surprised to have learnt so much from the people I had met; old and new friends, acquaintances and interviewees who readily opened up to me their stories and their lives.
Here’s more of what they have taught me:
7. Sometimes emotional pain can be unbearable….
Self-harm and suicide were occurring themes in several of the stories. Some of those I met had actually attempted suicide: Lance’s painfully honest descriptions come to mind.
Yet others engaged in other forms of behaviours that were harmful to themselves: Wendi spoke of a girlfriend who was emotionally unstable and would often cut herself in order to keep her in the relationship. Bradley struggled with alcohol and recreational drug addiction, and Kavin was diagnosed with an eating disorder. One of my earliest interviews was with Tarry who had lost his boyfriend to suicide, a few days before the boyfriend’s birthday.
Numerous international studies have found a link between LGBT-identified persons and suicide, self-harming and other related-behaviours. Often, the pain can come from the realisation that one is of a different sexual or gender orientation, and also from facing struggles that are either directly associated with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (eg: relationships, family pressures, bullying) or other issues that are entirely unrelated to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity (eg: illness, coping with losses).