Note To A Younger-Self Part II
A four-part, real life journey about coming of age and coming out
by R Ishi
I’m back. How’s the month been treating you? All is well, I hope.
Last month, Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions. Personally, I feel he is just trying to pacify the general public. Not splitting hairs, but he is only referring to civil union, not exactly church marriages. The world now is much open and acceptable of gays, to some extent, of course. There are many Pride Parades around the world and advertisements showing same-sex couples – so are adoptions and surrogacy for male-male couples. Also, hotels and holiday destinations targeting the pink dollar. Well, I won’t dwell too much on that. I guess I will never hear of such an acceptance or understanding from an Imam. Anyways, religion is complicated, personal and very much a sensitive issue.
Oh! Touching on religion, Mum and Dad decided they wanted to do the Hajj. Yes! That very big decision. And guess what? You are coming along! At 13 years old doing the Hajj, mind you and it is even not the smaller version which is Umrah – It’s THE Hajj!
And this time too, you already have an inkling that you are gay. Listening to some horror stories during the Hajj preparation classes, of pilgrims being tested or shown revelations by God while performing the Hajj, sounds scary. Well, don’t panic now. You completed the Hajj without any test. No hell and brimstone fires, I know, DRAMA! Only with a very high fever for a couple of days at Muzdalifah and Mum got very worried. It was heat exhaustion (maybe the breath of hell winds there, ooops) during daily hot days performing the rituals. You are in the desert area after all. You actually do feel calm about your gay self during the whole process. To be honest, there was a moment when you reflected on who you are at the Masjidil Haram, feeling that God will always be testing you daily but as long as you’ve made peace with yourself and cause no foul or harm to others, things would work out on its own.
Saying that, puzzles of life will show you why some things happen in life, and realising that being gay or an adopted child is not a bad thing afterall. You are able to overcome them. Perhaps life is already predestined and you are living the way it was meant to be. You will understand more later.
Though other religious or self-righteous people will have different opinion but it is your own faith, your life and it only involve you, your immediate family, and the person that you love. Always do remember you can never please everyone in your life. You need to believe God have placed within you components to make you complete; your gender identity and expression of love included. You will do your best. Life is a constant movement forward.
I guess the Hajj pilgrimage gave some enlightenment to its believers. Dad had an early retirement from the Police Force, to become a personal driver and then, delivery driver. A couple of years after the Hajj, Dad decided to be fully retired and became a much homely and available father. He spent time at home and also at the Kassim Mosque. He became the unofficial volunteer Imam at the mosque. Fajr, Maghrib, and Isha are his mosque duty timings. He had answered his calling; a wise decision. My regret was the emotional distance that was already there – I wasn’t really able to really connect with him. I do hope you will be more able to overlook his past and accept the new him. Be a good son. Sometimes one only realised of the person’s love and care when that person is gone.
On a lighter note, school itself is rather boring. In secondary school you had a crush on the school soccer captain; tall, dark, lean-muscled Malay boy. You didn’t stalk him – thank God! Just fangirling in your heart, whenever you see him across the canteen or along the hallways. Yeah, sounds like most American high-school tv series, huh! Sitting on the window side in class do have an advantage – spying your crush when there’s soccer practice at the school field. No one knows about it and will never know!
Funny thing is he remembers you by name. Years and years later when you bumped into him, he recognized you and calls you by name – I kid you not! A very “oooooh my” moment. I could only smile and act cool. (Oh, do look out for a romantic movie, Call Me By Your Name oh, and Love Simon, too.) He’s now married and a father of three. He still maintains his lean look. (okay, snap out of it!) I never did ask why or how he stills remembers my name. Let it remain a mystery, don’t spoil the fantasy!
(Update! Just peeped into his Facebook page – oh, you’ll know of Facebook later. Facebook is something like when photo album and gossip corner got married and have a baby). Yes! I do remember his full name too. Our names both starts with “R”. He’s got 6 kids now – 5 boys and a girl)
You’ve made a good friend in school. Your partner in crime – your alibi for returning home late. A best friend that you sometimes refer to as “my cousin”. How to spend the night out? Tell Mum and Dad you are invited to a birthday BBQ at a chalet. But can’t use that reason too often, maybe once a month. You’ll figure out more excuses along the way.
You started drinking quite young – at 16. Due to your height and built, you tend to look older than your actual age; now it’s quite the opposite – ahemmm! You started with Shandy (IKR!), then moved on the beer but you will hate that bloaty feeling afterwards. Then progressed to hard liquor. Over the years, you’ll will learn to drink like fish to water. Nowadays, you just settle for wine. The first gay club you went to was Niche at Far East Plaza. Years later you will discover Sunday Boys Nights or Shadow Nights. Clubs that had them were Rascals, Heartthrob, The Gate, Music World, Studerbaker, which was renamed Venom then to ChinaBlack, Happy, and Centro renamed to Butter Factory. Another gay-friendly place is Zouk at Kim Seng Road. Zouk is where you practically grew up in, attending the parties every other week – with your group of Indonesian partner and friends. Most recent place now is Taboo but currently closed and “looking for a new location”. GOD, I feel OLD writing this.
National Service was a breeze. You served in the Police Force – trained at the Police Academy in Thomson Road, Singapore. Your squad mates seemed to understand who you are. Occasional gay jokes but nothing seriously offensive from them. Too bad, no eye-candy or hunks. Oh wait, thinking back, the Drill Instructor (DI) was sometimes a bit too friendly, perhaps flirting too. (GOD! I was so dense when young, no offense)
On a Saturday afternoon when you were rostered to stay overnight in-camp alone, after all the troops left, the DI came to the barracks for a chit-chat, saying to stay indoors and not to go out late night. Gave me newspaper to read. Passed me some snacks. And he was like delaying his departure. Maybe just showing concern. What would happened if I had initiated the first move? Hhmmmm? NO! You better not get yourself in trouble.
At that moment, my plan was to lock myself in the room until dinner, then hide in the bed till morning and book-out on Sunday when my takeover reports in. No ghostly encounters during the whole 3 months in-camp training; though lots of spooky stories were told. That is a good thing. (Word of advice. Even on normal days when the troop mates are around, I’ll suggest you still stay indoors, no roaming around the premise at night. Police Academy is spooky. Go toilet early before lights off. Your buddy will never accompany you).
After completing the Basic Military Training (BMT), you are posted to the PNS Records Office, subsequently to the Computer Systems Division in Central Police Station – always the nerd!
*Reservist was a culture shock. Best of all, this gay boy got the Marksman award on every revolver test; easy SGD200 incentive. I can shoot straight – need I say more?!!
Your first reservist reporting was at the Beach Road Police Station, now demolished. Then when the Multi-Task Group (MTG) was formed, you will have a permanent team and posted to Geylang Police Station. You will have an OC and AOC (Inspector rank) that would leave you (unofficially) to do the patrol pairing of teammates and fix of patrol locations on your own. Clever if you can keep this a secret from your fellow team mates, or they will keep bugging you for team-ups with the same partners and locations. The thing is you are holding no rank but commanding (indirectly) your Corporals and Sergeants. A few teammates are aware of this but they didn’t bother you.
Other MTG Units also wondered why this Special Constabulary – no rank guy is attending all the MTG meetings. You might do slightly longer office hours but still have lots of free time in-between, however must still be in full-uniform and armed. Your OC and AOC often disappear for the day after morning briefing, contactable via mobile. The bad part is that you will need to compile all the daily recording of screenings, incident reports, cases attended etc. You’ll complete your National Services liabilities on a good note.
There’s no regret in serving National Service, No major hiccup being gay during the active and reservist period. Everyone maintained that “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. All your colleagues and mates accepted you as one of them. Most important is to work hard, do a good job.
Ok, ok, nothing scandalous in here – maybe more next? Will spill some tea later…
*A reservist is a person who is a member of a military reserve force. They are otherwise civilians, and in peacetime have careers outside the military. Reservists usually go for training on an annual basis to refresh their skills. This person is usually a former active-duty member of the armed forces, and they remain a reservist either voluntarily, or by obligation. In some countries such as Israel, Norway, Finland, Singapore, and Switzerland, reservists are conscripted soldiers who are called up for training and service when necessary.