I never gave up (excerpt)

Kenny, 17 years old, identifies as a bisexual teen, and is comfortable in his relationships with men as well as women. He is a student at a local polytechnic.

Bapok. Gay boy. Paedophile. Fag. Go date that old man.
In school they called me all those things, and “faggot” was a second name that I chose to ignore most of the time.
I came out as a bisexual to my friends when I was in secondary three, because I realised I liked boys as well as girls. That’s when it all started.  Because of that, I was jested, made fun of, insulted, pushed around and bullied almost on a daily basis in school. It was difficult for me because not many people could understand what I was going through. I was mostly on my own as I couldn’t yet come out to my brother, and I hadn’t yet decided to tell my mum. There were times when I would shut people off and took time out to be by myself, walking around Singapore, exploring and having time alone. I was feeling so down and I just wanted to make myself happy.
“Fag” was used on me so often I think I got immune to it.  For me, things in secondary school were much worse compared to what it should have been. I went to an all-boys’ mission school. As much as people might believe that mission schools are mostly gay-populated, the boys in my school weren’t very receptive of me.
For example, there was this classmate who thought I was hitting on him when I was just trying to be a friend. This was after I had come out to some people in school. After that he went onto Friendster and posted different bulletins describing how I would pay young boys to give me blow jobs, and how I would go into lifts and bedrooms with dirty old men and have sex with them. He even sent them out to his friends and got them to tag each other.
*    *     *
I often felt left out and ostracised. Out of a whole year in school, I was usually depressed for 363 days. Obviously, there were further cases of bullying.
There was this boy in school who was notorious for doing this and that with different boys in the toilets. He would sometimes come up to me and caress me in the middle of the school canteen. I told him to get lost and not to touch or even come near me ever again. It wasn’t genuine pity or sympathy he was displaying. Even if it was, I didn’t need it. I knew he was only trying to take advantage of me.
I also felt indignant. Another boy once tried to humiliate me in front of the whole level, while everyone was changing classrooms for Mother Tongue lesson. He called out to me,
“You gay right? You bi right? Come lah, I let you see my dick.”
I was really angry.
“If you dare to show me, I will dare to see.”
When nothing happened, I repeated my challenge.
“If you dare to show me, I will dare to see! Take it out! Didn’t you say you wanted me to see? Yes I’m bisexual, I dare to see. Not like I haven’t seen it before. Show me!”
Everyone was watching, including the teachers.  No one moved. They just stood and watched. He had nothing to say in response, so I added,
“Why, too small is it? Afraid I’ve never it seen before? I’m sorry, I’m not very interested in a schoolboy’s dick!”
Not only was I bullied, I was also molested. One of the other boys thought that he would have some fun with me by grabbing the front of my pants during break time, in front of lots of other students. When it happened I wasn’t shocked. I was repulsed and thought what he did was very childish.
*     *     *
Talking about all this anonymously allows me to share my side of the story without hearing judgements. When someone picks up a book and reads an anonymous story, they wouldn’t judge that person or think he did it for fame. They would just read it and understand what it is all about, that it is actually not easy being gay. Especially in Singapore, as I see discrimination everywhere.
I just want to share my story, as we all have our own stories. This was how I dealt with it. It doesn’t mean you have to give up. See what other ways there are to get around it.  Maybe there is another way to make it more bearable.
I just hope that anyone who is gay and facing life’s problems right now won’t give up, because I never gave up.
*     *     *
The above are excerpts from Kenny’s full story, which can be read in the book.
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So afraid for my life

Zakaria works as a civil servant in a government statutory board. He is 24 years old and grew up in a Malay-Muslim family.

When my father came out of the psychologist’s office, his eyes were red and puffy. As he sat down next to me, it was obvious that he had been crying.
“Pa, what happened?” I asked.
“Oh nothing, nothing,” he replied.
“Well if there’s nothing then why are you crying?”
“They just wanted to know how you are in the family, whether you get along with your siblings.”
Why would someone cry when asked that question? We are from a religious family, and I was shocked to see him cry because I think of him as a strong, stoic man. I wondered what kind of news would have brought him to tears.
I guess the psychologist must have told my father that I am gay and was getting bullied in the army. It’s not something that’s easy for any father to hear.
After that, he drove me in his taxi all the way from the Military Medicine Institute near Kent Ridge in the west to the Changi ferry terminal in the east. He was quiet throughout the journey, and when I got out to board the ferry to go back to Pulau Tekong he said,
“If you have any problems, just talk to me okay?”  It was such an awkward moment for both of us as we didn’t know what else to say.
*     *     *
Pulau Tekong is home to lots of big insects. One night, they caught a really huge bug and chased me around the bunk with it. Sadly, I think they got real pleasure from terrifying me – seeing me running around, shouting and screaming. Eventually, when I thought they had grown tired and stopped, I went to bed – and found that the bug had been left there.
The taunting went on all the time. I grew used to being called names like “bapok” and “sissy”. They would imitate my voice and said things like “Hey, how are you?  How are your friends at Changi?” They were referring to the transsexuals who would hang out at Changi Village; these guys thought that I was in some way like them.
All the little incidents built up. I couldn’t take it anymore; I felt like I was not valued at all in the platoon. It was as if I was just someone they could make jokes about and laugh at whenever there was a chance.
Things got even worse one night when I was asleep in the bunk after a hard day’s training. I suddenly awoke and found that someone had clambered on top of me, and was pinning me down with his body. I was absolutely terrified.  I screamed because I didn’t know what he was going to do next. To make things worse, everybody else in the bunk just laughed. After that horrifying incident I had problems sleeping at night, because I was so afraid for my own life. It felt like I had lost all sense of safety, and worried that it might happen again. What would they do next? What if they decided to tie me up the next time I fell asleep?
I was sad and disappointed that they could find something like that funny. In a way I also felt sorry for them. I refused to show them my real feelings, so I just smiled and said I was OK. It was hurtful because it felt like they thought they could take advantage of me and not treat me like a human being.
*      *     *
I certainly didn’t ask for any of this harassment, and neither did I ask for all the bad things which came along the way. I declared I was gay to my officers back in BMT because I wanted to get away from the bullying and the hardship of trying to cope with people who were taunting me with their words and behaviours, telling me I was weak and affecting my confidence.  I tried to hang on, but after awhile the emotional distress and pressure from all the taunting got way too much, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I just didn’t know how to deal with it back then.
I was sent to see a psychologist at the Military Medicine Institute. Hers was the first female face I saw in the army. She was stern and strict and not the friendliest person I had ever met – at least not on our first encounter. But I continued to see her for the next one and a half years while I was in the army. She was very helpful and taught me the skills I needed to help me cope with my situation.
It’s a myth that all gay men are weaklings and that we can’t handle National Service. Some of us can’t, but some of us can. Another myth says that all gay men are effeminate.  Well, some of us are, but some of us are not. Many people also think that gay men are sexual beings, that we enjoy talking about, thinking of and doing sexual things all the time. That’s not true. It’s also untrue that gay men can’t contribute anything positive to the environment they’re in at that point in life, even if it’s the army.
Straight guys in the army really need to respect us gay guys.  Please don’t judge us for who we are, and don’t expect all gay guys to be the same.  The next gay guy you meet may be different from the last one you met. After all, we’re human beings and we’re also different individuals at the same time. Just respect whatever each one of us has to contribute to the army.
At the same time, I also believe that gay men in the army who need help with coping should go and ask for it, because help is there.  It may not be available immediately but it can be found. There are lots of avenues for help in the army. It’s also important to be yourself when you’re in the army and disregard the bad things that other people may say about you, because you know yourself best and if you feel that something is not right and you don’t agree with it, you should stand up and speak out. Keeping it inside yourself will cause you a lot of distress instead.  I think the army is a place where you can learn a lot of new things and skills on how to deal with different kinds of people and how to survive. I think I learnt all that in the army, the hard way.
*     *     *
The above are excerpts from Zakaria’s full story, which can be read in the book.

I never gave up

Kenny, 17 years old, identifies as a bisexual teen, and is comfortable in his relationships with men as well as women. He is a student at a local polytechnic.

Bapok. Gay boy. Paedophile. Fag. Go date that old man.
In school they called me all those things, and “faggot” was a second name that I chose to ignore most of the time.
I came out as a bisexual to my friends when I was in secondary three, because I realised I liked boys as well as girls. That’s when it all started.  Because of that, I was jested, made fun of, insulted, pushed around and bullied almost on a daily basis in school. It was difficult for me because not many people could understand what I was going through. I was mostly on my own as I couldn’t yet come out to my brother, and I hadn’t yet decided to tell my mum. There were times when I would shut people off and took time out to be by myself, walking around Singapore, exploring and having time alone. I was feeling so down and I just wanted to make myself happy.
“Fag” was used on me so often I think I got immune to it.  For me, things in secondary school were much worse compared to what it should have been. I went to an all-boys’ mission school. As much as people might believe that mission schools are mostly gay-populated, the boys in my school weren’t very receptive of me.
For example, there was this classmate who thought I was hitting on him when I was just trying to be a friend. This was after I had come out to some people in school. After that he went onto Friendster and posted different bulletins describing how I would pay young boys to give me blow jobs, and how I would go into lifts and bedrooms with dirty old men and have sex with them. He even sent them out to his friends and got them to tag each other.
*    *     *
I often felt left out and ostracised. Out of a whole year in school, I was usually depressed for 363 days. Obviously, there were further cases of bullying.
There was this boy in school who was notorious for doing this and that with different boys in the toilets. He would sometimes come up to me and caress me in the middle of the school canteen. I told him to get lost and not to touch or even come near me ever again. It wasn’t genuine pity or sympathy he was displaying. Even if it was, I didn’t need it. I knew he was only trying to take advantage of me.
I also felt indignant. Another boy once tried to humiliate me in front of the whole level, while everyone was changing classrooms for Mother Tongue lesson. He called out to me,
“You gay right? You bi right? Come lah, I let you see my dick.”
I was really angry.
“If you dare to show me, I will dare to see.”
When nothing happened, I repeated my challenge.
“If you dare to show me, I will dare to see! Take it out! Didn’t you say you wanted me to see? Yes I’m bisexual, I dare to see. Not like I haven’t seen it before. Show me!”
Everyone was watching, including the teachers.  No one moved. They just stood and watched. He had nothing to say in response, so I added,
“Why, too small is it? Afraid I’ve never it seen before? I’m sorry, I’m not very interested in a schoolboy’s dick!”
Not only was I bullied, I was also molested. One of the other boys thought that he would have some fun with me by grabbing the front of my pants during break time, in front of lots of other students. When it happened I wasn’t shocked. I was repulsed and thought what he did was very childish.
*     *     *
Talking about all this anonymously allows me to share my side of the story without hearing judgements. When someone picks up a book and reads an anonymous story, they wouldn’t judge that person or think he did it for fame. They would just read it and understand what it is all about, that it is actually not easy being gay. Especially in Singapore, as I see discrimination everywhere.
I just want to share my story, as we all have our own stories. This was how I dealt with it. It doesn’t mean you have to give up. See what other ways there are to get around it.  Maybe there is another way to make it more bearable.
I just hope that anyone who is gay and facing life’s problems right now won’t give up, because I never gave up.
*     *     *
The above are excerpts from Kenny’s full story, which can be read in the book.