Figuring out my sexuality was a struggle.
As most LGBTQ will attest, there are no surefire signs, no criteria, no checkboxes you can go through to determine whether or not you’re it. The only way to figure it out is to live your life, feel what you feel, and eventually, piece it all together—at least that’s how it happened for me.
Just A Phase?
Growing up, I was always a tomboy. I went to an all girls’ primary school and my schoolmates would often tease me and make fun of me for it.
At the time, I thought nothing of it.
When I was 10, I became really close to a girl. We were best friends in school and would hang out together all the time. I felt like I liked her more than just a friend. But of course, at that age, I didn’t understand it. Thereafter, I had some innocent crushes on girls as a pre-teen and teenager, but I didn’t think too much of that either.
As I was trying to understand why I had such feelings, I spoke to my mum and siblings about these girl crushes. We all believed it was a phase I would eventually grow out of.
As I grew older, I had my fair share of guy friends, but I never liked them as more than just bros.
And as time went by, I gradually realized that I was different.
Keeping A Part Of Me A Secret
It was a very different time back when I thought I might be gay. It wasn’t a big social issue. There was very little talk about sexuality in the media and in society, and not many people were gay—at least, not that I was aware of. I didn’t personally know anyone who was gay.
Because it seemed so rare back then, I worried constantly about how people would perceive me and treat me if they found out I was gay. I was also afraid of how it would affect the people around me; I was scared that people would treat the ones close to me differently because of their friendship with me.
As a teenager, whenever I went to church, I felt like I had to change. I tried to change, tried to feel differently. And when I couldn’t, I buried my feelings and kept them to myself. When nothing worked, I got upset with myself.
I was angry that I didn’t change. Now, I realise it’s because I couldn’t. This is just the way I am.
Being gay and having no one to talk to about it, it was tough, trying to make sense of how I felt and why I felt that way. I avoided thinking about it, and when I did share my struggles with those who accepted me for who I am, it felt like no one truly understood.
For a long time, I felt alone and wished I knew someone who shared the same difficulties and challenges as me.
Eventually, after a long and hard struggle with myself, I came to terms with the fact that I was “different”. I knew there was no running away from me.
Loved, Supported, And It Meant Everything
My mum and siblings were the first few people I came out to. It wasn’t a complete surprise to them, considering that I spoke to them about the girl crushes I had in the past.
It was my dad I was more afraid to tell, because he’s a bit sterner. It took me a while longer, but eventually, I summoned up the courage to come out to him when I was 24 or 25. I still remember how scared and nervous I was up to the point I actually said the words to him.
In the weeks that followed, I could tell that he was trying his best to understand it – to understand why I was this way. I felt bad that I, too, couldn’t explain how this happened.
Not Everyone Understands
Even though the people that matter most to me accepted me for who I was, not everyone received the news well. I’ve had my fair share of nasty reactions from friends and even complete strangers on the street.
In fact, just recently, when I was out shopping at a mall, the mother of a little girl followed me just to tell me how offensive and gross it was that I didn’t ‘dress like a girl’ or have long hair. She wanted me to apologise for scaring her daughter with my ‘lesbian appearance’.
Apparently, the little girl had asked her mum why my hair was so short. It wasn’t about how I looked or how I behaved; my hair alone was enough reason for her to come up to me to confront me.
I ignored her remarks and tried to get away, but she followed me and made harsh remarks about my lifestyle, saying things like, “I don’t care about how you choose to live your life but say sorry for confusing my daughter and making her scared.”
Dirty looks from strangers are normal for me. So are harsh words from the people around. Even though I’m proud of who I am, things like these sometimes still get to me.
Still The Same Person, Regardless Of My Sexuality
Accepted or not, it was good to get everything off my chest; coming to terms with who I was and being able to say it out loud to the people I love liberated me. Those who stuck around realised that beyond the label of ‘lesbian’, I was still the same person with the same heart and character.
I am still the same Sam Koh, regardless of who I fall in love with.
I’m 29 years old, a barista at my own café and I’m also happily attached to my partner Roslyn. We’ve been together for about 8 months now, and I’ve never been happier.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of the people I know who have been forced to stay in the closet and to put up a front all their lives because their families do not approve.
Everyday, I know how fortunate I am to have people around me who accept me exactly as I am. I am more than grateful for a family who lets me figure out my life on my own.
LGBT In Singapore
Being lesbian has definitely left me feeling lonely and excluded at times. Still, I wouldn’t wish away the things I’ve experienced and the fact that I’m gay.
I, and the LGBTQ community, are not gay just because we want to be different. We’re not here to challenge heterosexuality. We’re not asking anyone to be gay. We just want to be accepted for who we are.
At the end of the day, we are just regular human beings who want to be able to love who we love, free of condemnation. To have people frown upon your relationship is just like having parents who don’t approve of who you’re dating, but worse. We have total strangers disapproving of our choices too. It’s frustrating.
Thankfully, times are changing and so are attitudes. Still, there is more to be done. I hope one day, people will be more open and accepting.
I hope one day, people will see beyond the labels and the prejudice, and realise that all we want is the freedom to love.
To show our support for the freedom to love, we will be publishing stories under our new series My Sexuality, My Right. In it, we share the journeys of Singaporeans who are fighting for their right to love, and who embrace their LGBTQ identity.