22nd January 2011, Saturday
I am trying to make sense of what has happened to me since last week, and where my life is heading henceforth. Last Saturday, I came out to my parents. I told them I am gay. Why? Because they confronted me with what passes today for “prophetic truth”, i.e. what the latest Indian astrologer had predicted in my ஜாதகம் (astrology, in Tamil). Of all the ways of my parents finding out about my sexuality, this one is the least expected. I still find it hard to believe. I had long since been suspicious of the dubious art, even before I turned to atheistic thoughts. Anyway this is what the astrologer predicted, according to my parents’ account last Saturday.
1) I am having this “weakness” in marriage.
2) Astrologer did not really know how to describe this “weakness”.
3) When my father asked, “Is it between man and woman?”, he said no. “Man to man?”. The astrologer at this point nodded his head or tapped the table with both index fingers in agreement (probably both).
4) Captain Astro (I shall refer to the astrologer in this way henceforth) then assured my mum that this is a “passing weakness” and can be cured through prayer.
5) For the next few months till October, I would experience “சனி தோஷம்” (bad / unlucky period, in Tamil).
6) I would not get married till 37 years of age, when I would meet a “strong woman who will be an asset to me”.
I had a long hard talk with them about how I had felt different, and attracted to men since Primary Two. I had the sense to conceal from them certain habits of mine, including going to spas. Even my brother had prudently concealed his own sexual exploits before telling my parents about his girlfriend. My parents belong to a different era altogether, one in which pre-marital sex of any kind was a big NO-NO. Mum took the news of her “golden boy’s” sexuality very hard. She could not understand how a Primary 2 kid could even have such thoughts. She thinks a kid at that age could not possibly “know” anything, so assuming I was gay at age, 8, is just preposterous. There’s the good, old “You know nothing, so shut up, 1980’s died-in-the-wool MOE teacher” resurfacing. Even now, she thinks her 30 year old son has insufficient experience to “decide or know” if he is gay or straight. She will never understand that it is not a choice for me, though I have pointed out to her that could never “choose” for myself a “lifestyle” that I knew would bring pain and suffering and no uncertain amount of shame to myself and my family. Logical arguments do not work with her.
She made me place my hands on Guruvayurappa’s (a Hindu god) feet – in the picture – and started sobbing uncontrollably, pleading with him to cure her son, crying, “I do not want a gay son” repeatedly. I have never seen her cry so pitiably in my life, and I doubt my brother had done anything to make her this upset in the past, – all the more my sense of guilt and shame to cause this much pain. At that point, between my mother’s tears on my back, I stared, and stared, and stared at Guruvayurappa’s face and one emotion prevailed in me. Anger. Anger at an impotent, non-existent god in whom my mother placed so much faith – faith that was not rewarded. Anger at myself for being born and causing her to cry like this. Anger at a family culture of rewarding “toeing-the-line” while punishing any sign of untowardness or deviance. Anger at Indian “traditional culture” that valued கெளரவம் (Tamil for honesty/honour) above love and respect for the individual.
Mum wanted me to promise I would never associate with gays again. To this, I gave no reply. I knew I could not keep such a promise for long. In this at least, I am certain. I cannot allow my parents, or stars, or complete strangers who look at the stars expecting life-altering answers – instead of over-strained irises and lenses – to dictate my life. As long as I live under their roof however, I still need to abide by their rules and that means at least pretending to pray (both in the prayer room and yes, at the temple – they actually want me to start going to temple every Saturday. I have reasoned with them, this is not going to help me or change me in the slightest, but they do not want to entertain the opinions of an atheist (and therefore ignorant) son.
I invited my brother over for dinner on Friday and came out to him as well. His immediate reaction was a painful grimace. He seemed to think I could change by mixing more with girls. Then he contradicted himself by mentioning his lack of shock at my revelations. He suspected I was gay all these long years, yet explained this away as my own tendency to “do what I like, only, and therefore stick to the same kind of people only”. If that were the case, I could definitely have straightened out since I only started to befriend people who I knew to be gay in NS! Since sexuality is most often determined before the age of 7-8, how could I possibly have been attracted to men all those years before NS, without having contact with a single gay? Will further explanations and counter-arguments help these people understand? No. They are oblivious to logic. I am considering showing them “Prayers for Bobby”, since movies have a way of conveying emotional messages more to my mum. My only fear is they will be so scared I will commit suicide after watching it.
Another option is really appealing to me now. Find a job overseas and leave this country and my bigoted family. The only problem is of course, getting the job first. Even if my family does accept me, what hope is there of setting up a “gay family” in Singapore? What is the point of living with a loving man if I cannot express that love in public, indeed in a society that does not even endorse consensual sex between 2 males? A more temporary solution is to find some friends and rent a place here. At the very least, it would assert my independence. But is all this worth sacrificing the many comforts and conveniences of living here with my parents? Money is also a key issue. Do I have enough to support myself? I cannot believe all this is happening just because of the incredibly lucky and intuitive guess of Captain Astro.