I Will Survive 377A

IWS 377AI survived bullying.

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. After he came out to his friends in secondary school he was called names like “faggot,” and was even groped by another boy in class and humiliated in front of others. You can read Kenny’s story here.

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 he was in National Service, he was teased because of his effeminate behaviour, and was even sexually harassed while he was sleeping in his bunk bed. You can read Zakaria’s story here.

I survived religious oppression.

Mohd Ashraff is 37 years old. He works as a counsellor, and lives with his partner. When he was younger, he struggled with being gay and being Muslim. As he grew older, he has since learnt to reconcile his sexuality with his faith. You can read Ashraff’s story here.

I survived addiction.

Bradley was born in the United States of America and has lived for many years in Singapore, where he works as an English teacher. He is in his early 40s. While trying to deal with his loneliness and other personal issues, he resorted to recreational drug use and excessive drinking. He has since recovered, and keeps himself busy with work and volunteering. You can read Bradley’s story here.

I survived depression.

Lance is in his forties. He works as a consultant and often has to travel overseas for his job. While in National Service, he was diagnosed with bipolar depression, and over the years he’s had to be admitted into hospital several times and has even attempted suicide on a few occasions. His condition has since stabilised, and he’s worked in different jobs where his employers knew about his illness. You can read Lance’s story here.

I survived physical violence.

Wee Lee, 29 years old, works as a marketing executive, and has been in a relationship with his current boyfriend for many years. When he was younger, he was in a 4-year relationship with another guy who inflicted emotional, psychological and physical abuse on him. This included making belittling comments, preventing him from seeing his friends, slapping him in public, pushing him down an escalator, hitting him with bamboo poles and stabbing him with a knife. You can read Wee Lee’s story here.

I survived HIV.

Lester is 21 years old, and a student at a local university. He lives in an HDB flat with his parents and sister. As a teenager, he was constantly harassed by an older male sexual partner, and the police had to be involved. When he was 18, he became infected with HIV. He has now completed his university studies and working in his first full-time job. You can read Lester’s story here.

I survived suicide.

Tarry, in his mid-thirties, works in the IT industry. He likes to keep up-to-date with his electronic gadgets. Ten years ago, he received news that his then-boyfriend had jumped out of his flat and killed himself just before his birthday, without any explanation. Tarry is now working overseas and has a new partner, and regularly returns to see his family and friends in Singapore. You can read Tarry’s story here.

We have survived all this.

We will survive 377A.

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If you’re still unclear about what is 377A, read this article on SgWiki for a start, as well as others by Yawning Bread and Fridae.

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Hard to talk about issues

The personal, real-life stories in the book I Will Survive have raised issues that many of us may either have some experience with, or encountered in our friends or family members.

If you’d like some additional support or information, here are some local services based in Singapore (highlighted in red), as well as international resources, organised alphabetically by issue.

For a more extensive list of Singapore-based resources, please refer to the Resources tab. Please contact the Editor to let us know if you have any amendments to the listings, or suggestions for inclusion.

ADDICTIONS

National Addictions Management Service (NAMS)

We Care Community Services

BBC Health – Sex addiction

BISEXUALITY

The Bisexual Index

I think I might be bisexual, now what do I do?

What is bisexuality? (Psychology Today, 11 July 2010)

BULLYING

Bully-free Campaign

More students call for help against bullies (Channel News Asia, 8 May 2007)

1 in 4 secondary school students bullied (Sunday Times, 16 July 2006)

Schools take serious view against bullying (Ministry of Education, 21 October 2005)

Befrienders Worldwide – About bullying

COMING OUT

What if I’m gay? A coming out guide

Coming Out, Coming Home (Psychology Today, 23 July, 2010)

Support in coming out helps LGB well-being (Health.com, 20 June 2010)

National Coming Out Day

HIV/ AIDS/ STIs

Action for AIDS, Singapore

LiveLife

DSC Clinic

BBC News – The HIV/ AIDS Debate

NAM AIDSmap – Sharing knowledge, changing lives

The Body – The complete HIV/ AIDS resource

MARRIED & GAY

Married Gay

Married Male – Resource centre for the bi-married male

Gay Husbands, Straight Wives

Millions of women married to gay men in China (Fridae, 3 Feb 2012)

MENTAL ILLNESS

Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT)

Institute of Mental Health (IMH)

Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH)

Health Promotion Board (HPB)

BBC Mental Health

Befrienders Worldwide – About depression

PARENTS OF LGBT CHILDREN

SAFE Singapore (Supporting, Affirming, & Empowering our LGBTQ friends & family)

My Child is Gay (book by Bryce McDougall, 2007)

What to do when your child says “I’m gay!” (Psychology Today, 18 April, 2011)

PARTNER VIOLENCE

Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe)

Another Closet (Australia)

RELIGION

As Salam – online group for queer Muslims

Free Community Church (FCC) – a diverse Christian congregation

Heartland – gay Buddhist fellowship

What does the Bible actually say about being gay? (BBC News, 23 October 2003)

To be gay & Muslim (AlterNet, 9 April, 2002)

Gay Muslims (Channel 4 documentary, 2006)

SUICIDE, SELF-HARM & SUICIDE GRIEF

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)

Befrienders Worldwide – About self-harm

Youth Suicide – Gay/ bisexual men

TRANSGENDER ISSUES

Sg Butterfly – Singapore’s 1st transgender community portal

Transsexuality

WOMEN

Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE)

RedQueen! – for queer women in Singapore

Sayoni – to empower Asian queer women

Women’s Nite – a safe space in Singapore lesbian & bisexual women to gather & discuss

Women who love women (documentary, 2006)

Disclaimer The information provided here is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as (or be a substitute for) medical, personal or professional advice, or services. Any medical or other significant life decisions should be made in conjunction with a qualified professional, a list of which can be found under “Professional Resources”. The editor and any other companies or persons associated with the production of this website assume no responsibility for any omissions or errors contained herein and will not be liable for any complications, injuries or other accidents arising from or in connection with, the use of or reliance upon any information in this website.

A double closet

Lance is in his forties. He works as a consultant and often has to travel overseas for his job.

It’s like being in a double closet.  Being gay is one closet, being mentally ill is the other.
I have bipolar disorder. When I was diagnosed in 1988, it was known as “manic-depressive disorder”. The term “bipolar disorder”, which sounds more neutral, only came about 10 years ago as they thought “manic-depressive disorder” sounded a bit too psychotic. As the term suggests, it is a mental illness that results in severe cyclical mood swings, from feeling very low and depressed to feeling very high or elated. If left untreated or unstable, the mood swings can repeat themselves, ranging from monthly to weekly cycles.
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Talking about it now, more than 20 years later, I suppose it no longer hits me so hard, because I had been living with it all this while.
During one of my hospital stays, I became delusional and tried to run out of the ward, which was gated, locked and monitored.  When I finally came to consciousness again, I remember my hands and feet were being restrained with Velcro binders to the side railings of the hospital bed. Either I had passed out, or I was trying to run and had harmed myself in the process.
I went through regular sessions of electro-convulsion therapy, because that’s supposed to be one of the fastest ways to normalise the brain waves. One of my friends from secondary school said the sessions could have affected my memory, as there were things he remembered that I didn’t. I suppose it must have been quite traumatic for someone like him to hear that I had gone through all that.
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Back then, my mum was the only one looking after me at home. She once got so frustrated with me that she walked out of the house, saying she needed a breather. It was then that I swallowed my entire bottle of lithium-carbonate tablets. There must have been more than 100 pills. I remember drinking lots of water to wash the pills down.  Nothing happened. My desired result – death – did not materialise.
When my mum came home, she realised that all my medication had disappeared. Then I started throwing up quite badly. I was rushed to Accident & Emergency, which led to another extended hospital stay. Doctors had to put me on blood dialysis for several hours to clear my system of all the lithium-carbonate tablets I had swallowed.  Later, I remember the police coming to talk to me, and fortunately I was smart enough to say I had accidentally overdosed, instead of admitting that I had attempted suicide. They didn’t pursue the matter further.
My mum felt really guilty that I overdosed after she left the house. What she didn’t know was that I had deliberately tried to get her out of the house, so that I could be alone to proceed with my plans to end my life.
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Because of my mental illness, I had always known that my life would be a little different. At least now as a gay man, I also know that I’m not alone. I know there is a community of people out there. It means I’m not one-of-a-kind. I’m not an alien, and I’m not a freak.
If you’re reading this and you have bipolar disorder or some form of depression, go seek professional help. If you know of someone who may have a mental illness, advise them to get help quickly. Bipolar disorder is a treatable illness.  With the right medication, it is possible to live life normally, to study and to work. Get support for yourself, whether it is seeing a professional like I did, or receiving support from family and friends.  My parents do not usually give praise, but during one of my depressive episodes, they told me they were already very proud of me for completing my university studies after my first hospital stay. They felt it was already an achievement in itself. I felt very good on hearing this, especially since my parents were not usually open with their feelings. Having friends who may or may not know about it was important for me too. At least they wouldn’t give up on calling me or asking me out. That social support net was critical.
As for my sexuality, I always believe there is no one template of what it means to be gay. What’s important is learning to cope, and having the confidence not to feel like you’re a lesser person just because you are not part of the mainstream.
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The above are excerpts from Lance’s full story, which can be read in the book.