IndigNation – Airing The Closet, my reflection.

I attended my very first IndigNation fringe event yesterday. I mean, I’ve attended the ‘Pink Picnic’ for two years already (disappointingly, the crowd has been getting smaller and smaller with each passing year) but this year, since I won’t be able to attend the picnic (doing the patriotic thing of celebrating National Day overseas) I decided to attend one of the other events and this seemed promising.

On a minor note, the location was lovely and the crowd was pleasantly receptive and participative. But what I wanted to talk about here was the discussion topic and the stories I heard.

The topic of the night was about coming out, for those who have, who want to, who cannot and the hows and whys.

The three guest speakers, my friend Bian and two lovely ladies, Caryn & Jin-Ee, shared intimately and candidly their coming out stories (both premeditated and accidental) and the consequences of it. The stories were as varied as the ‘fallout’. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and reflecting on them. It wasn’t only them, the audience contribution was also food for MY thought. One in particular, a well put-together young malay lady shared about how her mum found her stash of ‘Weapons of Mass Distractions/Distruction (I was too busy laughing at the description that I missed out the actual words)’ (WMDs) i.e: her sex toys, and her secret lesbian stash (which incidently happened to me too about 5 years ago. No! I don’t have a secret lesbian stash but you get my meaning) and the awkwardness that followed.

But what she shared later, about the ‘Dont Ask, Don’t Tell’ situation at home, whereby her parents knew she was homosexual but they don’t speak about it, resonated with me a lot more. I am going through the same thing, I think my father knows (he’s had enough hints and encounters) but I think it’s either he is in denial or he doesn’t want to deal or talk about it. But I do get the feeling (I could be wrong) that he just wants to hear it from my own mouth. That’s my dad, he hates hearing gossip about his family from others and would very much prefer to hear it from you yourself. That’s how we got past the issue of my smoking when I was 20.

Another thing that stood out for me was one particular young man, straight, who brought up the issue of ‘the receiving end’. How do my straight friends react in a positive manner or how DO they react to begin with when the words ‘I’m gay.’ comes out of my mouth? My reactions have been varied – ‘I knew it all along.’, ‘No? Really?’, ‘Aaahhhh! OMG! I Love you for that!’, ‘And?’ and yes, I’ve had the smirks of disgust too. Needless to say, I lost friends who smirked but I gained better ones who hugged me and loved me regardless of who I chose to love. But I have been thinking, what on earth have I foisted on my straight friends and family with those words? *grins* I truly AM sorry if what I did made you uncomfortable in ANY way. I shall be more ‘discreet’ and ‘discerning’ in my coming out from now on.

But then again, these days, I can’t be bothered to ‘come out’. I mean, seriously, how does my sexual preference affect your relationship with me again? I am who I am. In jest, I always say, the only people who ask about my sexual orientation are those who want to take me to bed! :P

One last memorable comment, came from Caryn and seconded by an audience member. ‘Coming out’ applies when you live apart from your parents and family. With most Singaporeans, that is not the case. We live at home and we want to feel ‘at home’ at home. We don’t ‘come out’, we ‘come home’. I’m a homely person and I want to be comfortable at home. I want, very much, to come home.

It was a good night. I heard stories that mirrored mine. I heard stories that inspired me. I heard stories that made me reflect of my decision to come out to my dad, who I love the most and how it would affect him.

The moderator of the dialogue session, Valerie, said this, “The reaction that follows when we come out to our family stems from their love and their worry for OUR future in a very difficult landscape; that we might end up alone with no one to take care of us.’ My dad did say that once, how he was worried that at my age, I had no wife and no kids to look after me in my old age.

Attending this talk, was another major step in my life as a gay, muslim man. I have received words of encouragement from the community about how I have grown more mature and confident with each and every small step I take in time. To be honest, I feel that at this point, I cannot regress. I can only move forward to bigger and better things. It is with this hope that move forward and maybe, just maybe, meet someone who can hold my hand as we walk down this path together.

I’m 37 this year, incidentally, I’m out to some friends and to my sister. More recently, I came out to my two favourite aunts. The reaction has been positive thus far. Why don’t I come out to more people? I guess I think it’s my choice who I come out to. It is my hope someday, one day, to have my beloved dad at PinkDot with me. But I have to remember, what burden am I asking him to carry by telling him that I am gay?

Ian Johari

5 August 2012


1 Response to “IndigNation – Airing The Closet, my reflection.”

  1. 1 何鋭杰 13 August 2012 at 1:50 PM

    What exactly is meant by “doing the patriotic thing of celebrating ND overseas?”

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