After I told my friends I was bisexual, I was bullied, molested & ostracised. But I never gave up.
Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.
I Will Survive is a collection of real-life experiences of Singapore’s LGBTQ community.
It is published by Math Paper Press, a subsidiary of BooksActually.
The book examines the issues facing the local LGBTQ community and how they have overcome such difficulties.
Here, we reproduce an account titled “I never gave up”, by ‘Kenny’ (not his real name), on his experience of coming out as bisexual and the support he received from his teachers.
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.
Coming out as bisexual at age 15
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.
People generally need help with problems. But a crisis is more severe, something you might not be able to resolve on your own, and you might actually need people around to help. Even though I’m usually a very happy, easy-going person, I had a crisis of self-identity not so long ago.
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.
The classmate who spread lies online about me paying for blowjobs & having sex with older men
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 because 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 out and take 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 were mostly gay-populated, the boys in my school weren’t very receptive to 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.
“You gay right? You bi right? Come lah, I let you see my dick.”
I remember two other incidents vividly.
The first was during a Maths lesson when the teacher was explaining “angle bisectors”. Each time she said the word “bisector”, an echo could be heard, with the emphasis on “bi”.
Another time, one of my closer friends decided to tell another classmate that I was bisexual. That classmate then went on to announce this loudly to the whole class, ironically during Civics and Moral Education.
“Oh my God, Kenny is bi. Oh my God, oh my God! He loves men, oh my God!”
The immediate reaction of the entire class was to move away from me, leaving a Hiroshima-like nuclear zone around where I was seated in the classroom. It made me feel like I was some kind of alien or freak.
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 seen it before? I’m sorry, I’m not very interested in a schoolboy’s dick!”
Not only was I bullied, but molested too. 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.
Teachers & principal stood up for me
I was often having lunch or studying by myself back then.
The only people I had to support me were my teachers, because I had come out to them as well. Instead of believing something was wrong with me and sending me for counselling, they were concerned and tried to understand me.
So I actually built very good rapport with them, such that throughout the period of all the bullying, my teachers actually supported me a lot. They stood by me and whenever something happened, they, or the principal, would be there to stand up for me.
For example, the boy who touched me in class actually got three strokes of the cane.
The guy who wanted to humiliate me by offering to show me his penis was reprimanded.
The one who posted on Friendster was forced by a teacher to apologise to me.
My Math teacher got really angry with the class and warned that the next person who repeated the word “bisector” after her would have to copy out an entire chapter of the textbook.
The teacher for Civics and Moral Education also gave the class a tongue-lashing when no one wanted to sit near me. Those moments were really memorable.
Looking back now, it was quite a bad period for me, although at that point in time I probably didn’t think so.
My friends turned against me, even the ones I really cared about
I was so preoccupied in my own world. I would ask myself every day who I was, what I was doing, whether I did the correct thing by coming out to my friends, why I was getting bullied, and why it was so hard for others to understand who I was.
These were after all the same people who were my friends before I came out to them. Why couldn’t they understand?
In lower secondary school, it felt good to have friends, to be part of a popular clique and to belong. At that age, all you had were your friends. They were like your social passport; if you had good friends you could go everywhere.
Even teachers judged us by the friends we had. It felt nice to belong, because we could do things with friends and never had to explain ourselves because everyone understood one other. It was like when you were feeling down and out, and you knew someone would be there for you, no matter what.
I was still questioning and unsure about my sexuality before I came out to my friends in secondary three.
When you’re unsure about something, you obviously wouldn’t just go out and spring it on someone, especially when you know you might stand to lose everything.
When I finally decided to come out to them, I knew I might lose everything, but I was already sure about it, and so decided it was better for me to trust them and treat them like the friends I thought they were. I thought it would have had been better if they heard it from me than to hear it later from someone else.
At that time I thought the right thing to do was to come out to my friends. It was important for me because my friends were the closest people to me, almost as good as family. I wanted full honesty with my friends. I didn’t want to lie to them about who I was.
After I came out, I was angry and disappointed with my friends.
Angry because I was there for them in the past, when they were down or had broken up with their girlfriends. I was there watching them cry and helping them out.
After coming out, not only did they not accept me, they actually ostracised me and kicked me aside as if I was garbage. They even joined the rest in bullying me, just so they could fit in with them. That made me even more pissed off.
I was disappointed because I was there for them when they needed me; the least they could have done was to be there for me when I needed them.
I had hoped that they would understand me.
Even if they didn’t, they could have tried to hear me out, but they didn’t even give me a chance to do that. I tried very hard to reach out to the ones whom I really cared about, but instead, they decided to shut me out.
I was also disappointed with myself for coming out to them, because I was wondering if it would have been better if I had just kept everything from them.
Had I not told them, I wouldn’t have had to deal with all that. I probably would have lots of friends and still be very popular. But ultimately it wouldn’t have made much of a difference because I can’t turn back time.
My teachers were not pro-gay or anti-gay, but pro-individual
What worked for me was that my teachers were willing to stand up for me.
I wish that all teachers, when facing situations where their students are different, would try to understand instead of blame them.
Nowadays I hear about students who have come out at school, whose teachers are sending them off to counsellors as if they had done something hideously wrong. I don’t think that is correct.
As students we spend more time in school than at home. If we don’t wish to come out to our parents, the next group of adults we are in constant contact with is our teachers. Teachers need to understand their students before they send them off for counselling.
A lot of students need more than just that. We need things like human contact and someone to show that they really care for us.
The personal touch I got from my own teachers was very important, because in the midst of everyone ostracising and judging me, my teachers on the other hand, were showing more concern than anyone else.
I don’t think they were “promoting homosexuality” in any way. They were not pro-gay or anti-gay, but pro-individual. They taught me that everyone had a right to be themselves.
The importance of parental support
I wish parents and family members of gay people would try to accept them and not ostracise their own flesh and blood.
When you ostracise them, you’re also telling your child you reject them because they are different, thereby making them doubt themselves. Parents should instead be playing the supportive role.
Sadly I know many kids out there who are afraid to come out because their parents are closed-minded, and if they do, they would be sent to some place to be “turned straight”.
My mum could have easily not accepted me for who I am.
Instead she put away her pride as a parent, and talked to me and got to know me as a person. For that I am eternally grateful because it actually helped me out a lot. Which gay or confused child in this world wouldn’t want their own parents’ acknowledgement and acceptance?
So, why am I doing this?
Talking about all these 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. You don’t 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.
‘Kenny’ is currently completing his final year at a polytechnic, and has been dating someone.
Top image screenshot from The First Day YouTube video