Growing up, HW has always felt different. He had no interest in girls when he was a teenager. When his peers were checking out boobs, HW was simply indifferent and not interested. Growing up in Singapore, he initially thought that he probably had not met any girl he liked, however, as he started to grow older, things got confusing and difficult.
Being born in a prominent family, it was hard to talk about these things when the country criminalizes gay sex. There was a layer of stress that stayed with him growing up. He felt uncomfortable and awkward when his classmates made fun of some of the boys and called them sissies. Although he did not join, he did not get them to stop.
Like all teenaged boys, fitting in was very important. HW always felt the need to pretend to feel things that they don’t in order to fit in. He felt the need to hide an important part of themselves, so their families do not feel disappointed. They did not want to be rejected and have their loved ones be angry with them.
The fears were real. In Singapore, there is a strong prejudice, discrimination and rejection towards gays. As such, he did not talk to anyone in his family, and not even his friends about the feelings he had.
“Perhaps this is a phase.” HW said. “Maybe I’ve not found the right partner.”
When the focus on education is such a high priority, it was easy to have many other classmates who do not have girlfriends. HW felt that it was simply, not his time to get involved in a relationship. Of course, when you have a stern grandfather, it does not help at all.
In Singapore, everyone had to join National Service. For HW, many Singaporeans may think that people from prominent families may get special treatment, and even if it is true, being in one of the most homophobic place on earth – the army camp – is definitely the worst place to discover that you are gay.
During basic training, many people from different backgrounds mix together in a platoon. They have to find ways to work with one another on their journey to become a man. Sadly, the common displays of dominance, the bunk is a common place for some men to bully others for being “girly” or too soft. The toxic masculinity culture, together with training that breaks your individuality and make you conform to the “army culture” makes HW’s days in the army even more stressful and unbearable.
There were times where HW had suicidal thoughts after he shortly discovered that he was attracted to men when he felt excited to watch other men shower as the bathrooms in the camp had no doors, and everyone can see each other shower.
Being surrounded by men, HW had many secret crushes on several hunks in camp. It was clear that his heartbeat slightly elevates when he looks at the well-built men in short shorts and their PT kits, exercising. There was beyond any doubts then that he sexually prefers men, but the fear of expressing himself on what he desires was so strong that he was constantly depressed and confused why he was born this way.
HW was numb from living in fear for so long. There was a lot of stress created and he could not share it with anyone. HW’s platoon mates keep making fun of one of the trainees, Chaz who looked very fair and had a high pitch voice.
One day, Chaz screamed when he stepped on a lizard in his shoe. “Sissy… Sissy… Sissy…” The platoon mates chanted and started making fun of him. The men then surrounded him and pinned him down as one of the men picked up the dead lizard and approached Chaz as he was crying and screaming in fear. HW could not take it anymore. He stood in front of Alan, one of the fittest and biggest guys in the platoon and blocked him from bullying Chaz.
“So do you think you are doing?” Alan said. “Is he your secret gay lover?”
“Stop it.” HW said.
“Hey, don’t think that you are white horse and we must be scared of you.” Alan said.
“That is enough.” HW said. “Let’s just forget about everything and let him go.”
Alan shoved HW to the ground. “Stand aside. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I know my weakness, I probably cannot defeat you in a fight. It is not a problem that I cannot win.” HW said with tears in his eyes. “I have to stand up against you!”
Alan was shocked. He did not expect such a response from a quiet guy like HW.
HW stood there, blocking Alan from reaching Chaz, prepared to be hit. As Alan approached, HW trembled a little but managed to hold his ground. The lieutenant arrived and everyone dispersed. Chaz got up and HW nodded at him. Something has changed, HW felt different. He learnt an important lesson today – he was who he was, that was something he could not change. It was useless to hide as he will never be happy, and it was important to fight for what you believe in – even if change seems impossible.
Anyone interested in continuing the story?