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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Gay And Invisible Journey Through School

No documentation will be complete without the beginning. Although currently in my twenties, my mind constantly wanders back in time. I remember the period in high school (Age 13 - 17) where I kept everything to myself and struggled silently with my journey. I've come a long way. So before these thought-evoking memories disappear with age, here are snippets of my puzzle that might help some struggling gay kid out there. A comprehensive stage-by-stage documentation of a crucial period of discovery.

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Throughout my years of growing up, I've always had this inexplicable feeling that I'm weird in a way, different from people. Now the difficult part is that I can't quite put my finger on the exact feeling, but neither do I know how to describe it in words. It's just "there", you feel it, you know it but you don't know what the hell is it.

I was always less mature than everyone else and an extreme late-developer. People around me were always winners, achievers and steps ahead of me in everything. Which I think became the basis for my severe sense of inadequacy, insecurity and constant self-comparison.

As I grow, I notice how exceptionally well I always seem to mingle with girls. For some reason, most of my friends are girls and I share great friendships with them. Although exceptions do apply, but guy friends were always harder to come by because for some other underlying reason, I felt something was lacking in me. I felt inferior towards them and at times, found them very intimidating too. Perhaps boys were harder to understand due to their extreme natures of being either very reticent or very boisterous, while girls I encounter in general were always more emotionally attuned and easier to gauge.

Hanging out less with my own gender group certainly made me feel like I was somewhat less masculine and not cool enough to be taken seriously. It was only much later that a couple more guy friends started coming into my life, in which I don't know if it has anything to do with my delayed maturity or if this whole "don't-mix-well-with-guys" phenomenon was part of a self-defensive reaction by an unawakened gay gene who would have found them attractive. My inferiority complex and severe sense of insecurity made it hard for me to connect and be around them.

The other day, I came across the word idolisation and thought to myself: "That's it, that's the word! Idolisation." Since young, I've always harboured a steady idolisation towards guys. Handsome guys, heroic guys, mature guys, pleasant guys. High school seniors and guys in their twenties were my source of idolisation. Maybe because I struggle with confidence and felt somewhat inadequate about myself which led to my great admiration for them. There's just something about them and I aspire to one day be in their shoes. Tall, masculine, handsome, well-liked and ever so ready to take on the world.

Even until today, I could never comprehensively understand how this phenomenon can culminate with me being sexually attracted to guys at puberty. Where is the sense of idolisation coming from, what were their origins and how? Are there really other factors involved at shaping your sexual orientation or can this experience truly be vouched as the typical journey of a gay adolescent who is born with homosexuality at birth?

As kids, we perceive life through innocent eyes and also live according to how we're being told. We were young and completely oblivious to these feelings that just come and go. It was impossible for these experiences to make sense at that point because of my inability to digest and take in the realities of all that was happening to me. I now truly understand and appreciate the real meaning of blissful ignorance.

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At age: 13 - 14

I was about 13 or 14 when my idolisation for guys started getting a little out of hand. I found myself eyeing them in a weird way that has never happened before. It was frustrating too because I couldn't understand where this was all coming from or why the sense of admiration was getting so intense. I might be crazy.

I suspect my raging hormones were gradually developing then but there was still no attenuating outlet. These bottled up emotions would manifest itself in my mindless comments on how good-looking some guys are and how much I admire them, which I think caught the askance of my friends and some people. But as usual, the only logical justification I could come up with was admiration.

Then came a hang-out moment during recess in which I unknowingly went overboard and complimented a schoolmate on how good-looking he was. Honestly, I didn't know why I did that. I mean why would anybody in the right sense of mind say that, from a guy to another guy? Jeez! Unfortunately, another girl who was present in the conversation immediately started yelling: "Oh my god! You're gay, you're gay! He's gay!"

God! How I wanted the Earth to swallow me up! At that moment, my jaw dropped from the effects of that scene because I couldn't believe I was hearing that word. That "word-which-must-not-be-mentioned", that "word-which-triggers-a-million-lightnings-and-dark-thunders", is finally being used. On me! I hover in mild astral projection as my body absorbed the syllables of that remark. It was an embarrassing, "teach-you-a-lesson" moment etched in my head.

For the rest of the afternoon in class, I replayed that scene again, and again, and again in my head while the teacher went on about the early history of tin mining in the background. As usual, the only justification I could formulate for myself was extreme admiration. It is extreme admiration! Like I always have remember? Like how I aspire to one day be as good-looking and as attractive as that senior across the block. Like how for some inexplicable reason, I'm drawn to him and I want to look at him. I want to hang out with him and be his friend. There's nothing wrong with that, right? 

"Except for that weird part where you wondered how it'd felt like if he kissed you!", an inner voice jumps out of no where, in which I smother mercilessly with disregard. "What the hell was that?"

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At age: 14 - 15

When I was about 15, my hormones kicked in and I started having strong desires to touch myself. It was through casual conversations with guys in my class that I discovered masturbation. (I am a heavily sheltered kid and an extreme late developer.)

Before I knew it, I sorted myself out for the first time in the bathroom looking at a Men's magazine. I remember how mind-blowing it felt, but yet there was a quivering chill that exploded in my heart during the resolution phase. I knew immediately that something just wasn't quite right or didn't felt right. I remember thinking to myself: "It's okay, it's my first time exploring, it won't happen again." But what won't happen again? The masturbation or the Men's magazine? I went straight to bed and slept it off that night. (Being an adult now, I could decipher that the quivering chill was indeed a wave of extreme guilt for masturbating and for using a Men's magazine.)

That week went by as I found myself committing the same act and repeating the same consolation line over and over again in my head. Gradually over the course of a few months, my fantasies evolved immensely and grew to encompass the good-looking guys from school, handsome men and male celebrities. I didn't stop because whatever it is that I was doing, was indeed an effective outlet to channel and relieve the tormented blockage that was in my heart.

Then came a point where my instincts were banging on my door, telling me something isn't quite right here. "Because I'm jerking off all the time thinking about guys? Okay. So what is it then? What is this? Am I a hundred percent sure this is normal or not normal? What are the other guys going through? Is this a phase? Do all guys go through this secret silent phase but they just don't talk about it?"

We live in a world where guys are meant to be with girls. So not knowing exactly what was happening to me was terrifying. Jerking off to guys, is that even possible? Does it even exist? I told myself it's okay, I'm still young and studying in school. I don't have to think about this now. Perhaps things will change "when I grow up". I still have a couple more years to think about this. In the meantime, I'll stick to what makes me feel good.

Throughout time, I started developing guy crushes too and it was hard. Real hard. One crush after another, it gave me nothing except internal conflicts. I remember gazing surreptitiously at my crushes and got caught a couple of times in that awkward moment. But I still had no concrete idea as to why am I acting so weird and different from everybody else. "Pull yourself together!"

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At age: 15 - 16

Then it started to dawn on me that guys do actually think about girls when they jerk off. There was no such thing as "a phase" or any of that guy idolisation crap. They have NEVER and DON'T jerk off thinking about other guys because it's gross and fucking disgusting. Which is the source of all gay innuendos that now seem to conveniently circulate the school grounds, like pamphlets on a street fair.

"Shit. So it's just me huh? I am a sick weirdo. What the hell is happening, am I insane? Mentally ill? I must be. I am a disgusting mental case. How could something like this exist in a person in this world?" The thought spiralled me into limbo because I didn't know what to do, what else to do, what I could do. I remember how it felt like to hear myself swallow my own silence.

Although I couldn't quite comprehend this "unusual difference" that was manifesting in me, but first thing I told myself, I'll never, I repeat, NEVER tell anyone about this. This humiliatingly scandalous, horrible secret that I harbour crushes and am sexually aroused by guys. No one MUST know or can EVER know. It will be the end of me, of my life. It's best to have it all locked up inside and try to handle it on my own as I figure things out. 

My instincts were telling me that an atomic detonation on my life was in order if the truth ever gets out. I risk turning the world upside down where all that I've been, everything that I have, that I am, was heavily on the line. My existence, my present, my future. So I kept everything to myself and instantaneously felt the enormous weight of this baggage I didn't even realised I unknowingly shouldered, on my back and in my heart.

"Monster, devil's kid, weirdo, disgusting creature, social defect?" These terms bombarded my head. I mean how do you even tell people these things, let alone confide in a grown up about a problem like this? What if people found out? Would I still be considered as a human being and be allowed to live with everybody else? It was unthinkable, unimaginable. The inability to anticipate the possible repercussions, of not knowing what will happen to me, made it the worse feeling in the world. This is no cheat-in-the-exam fear, but life-changingly real.

The fact that I was still young and still in school, made it much easier for me to push it away and believe that the "straightening solution" lies in the distant future when I'm much older and have to think about it.

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Age: 16 - 17

At this age, being gay is heard of but not accepted or understood. Living in a society where this subject is a huge taboo, I just know the word "gay" is not something I want to be because it's filthy, it's unheard of, it's shameful, it's embarrassing, it's disgusting, it's horrible, it's disgraceful, it's scandalous, it's not allowed! It means I'm a guy who behaves like a girl.

When the realisation finally sank in that my masturbation habit wasn't going away, and that I still harbour overwhelming idolisation and sexual attraction for guys. I was crestfallen and once again sandwiched in limbo. "Damn it! What am I going to do?"

What's going to happen to me when other teenagers and peers of my age need not shoulder such a heavy burden? Their existence seem so privileged, comfortable and filled with promises. It was clutter-free. Free from dents, free from the unpleasant sides and free from life's unjust. Once again, my fears of not fitting in, of not being good enough, and of falling lower than everybody else was validated. "What am I going to do about myself? About these shortcomings that never fail to show up in my life to put me in my place?"

I won't have the heart and strength to put myself through judgement and ostracism, not after all the struggles and determination I went through for the past 15 years of growing up, trying so hard to prove myself worthy of recognition, in which I succeeded. I am not prepared for life to once again play me out like this.

"Shit. I'll have to smuggle this secret with me if I'm ever going to salvage what's left of my future. My long, can't see the horizon future. I can't get married, but neither is being gay an option. So I'm going to have to be alone for the rest of my life. It's okay... I'll be okay. It's fine..." But deep down inside, there was a familiar pull in my heart. Underneath that swallowed silence, I felt so alone and so scared. I knew that it was not okay. 'I' was not okay.

Living in the closet was not easy. Whenever someone talked about homosexuality, or weaved a gay comment into their speech, my heart shatters into a million pieces on the inside because I knew that that was me. That is what I am and no matter how many nights I sleep and have slept, how many days go by, nothing was going to change and I wasn't going to wake up to a day when my world would right itself. It hurts like fuck. But what was I going to do? There was nothing I could do except maintain a straight face. I remember questioning God, is this your idea of looking after me, a good boy and a genuine soul who has lived all his life believing in hope? I don't understand, is this a game? A game to see how much I can take?

My situation got tougher, especially during breaks and after school hours that take place in the public school canteen. Despite enclosing myself tightly in the closet, the fact that it was made of glass certainly added salt to my vulnerable wound and further provoked my insecurities. As adolescents who grew into teenagers under the watchful eye of everyone at school, people gradually picked up on clues and labeled me gay according to conspicuous clichés such as: being surrounded by too many girl friends, being the odd one out among my straight guy friends, being the late-developing kid who had strong admiration for guys etc. It hurts and it's saddening because it all turned out to be the underlying truth I was harbouring.

I resent the fact that it's bad enough as it is being gay, that people could see right through my closet. Many have even speculated and thrown the gay card on my face before I myself could even reach an acceptable point of readiness to grasp the real deal of what this really means. For me and for my life. It was harsh. But I guess I had to learn that that was how quick and unforgiving the world was going to be, and that society runs selfishly on majority. That you are responsible for your own survival and your adaptability to life.

Looking back, I was a heavily sheltered kid with no guidance, living in a country and society where nobody tells you anything and no help is provided. I marvel at how despite all the adversities and events that landed on my shoulder, I somehow remained calm and emotionally strong. Denial and repudiation was the primordial reason that kept me intact throughout my fragile journey in school. My reluctance to acknowledge, and to let "gay" sink in to me was what kept me going and prevented me from collapsing under the pressure. It was an internal sustaining fortress that shielded me from my myself because I knew that somewhere in my mind, there was no way I could have handled the truth and the situation. Nevertheless, I survived school and got through it all. Denial then followed me to my next chapter in life, college.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Letting Go Of The Life We Have Planned

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Most Essential Things Are Invisible To The Eye

Yesterday while hanging out in a book store, my mind dislodged itself from the present and veered off course on its own. I thought about me being gay, my existence in life, this invisible blog and my unwillingness to walk away from the superficial aspects of being gay by constantly dwelling into the hopeful fantasy of one day finding a hot guy and having a life with him. 

I thought to myself:
"Why won't I stop it? Despite recognising my ineligibility to superficiality, why am I still yearning for the day to one day be with a hot guy rather than a good guy? A good guy as we all know it, is the real deal regardless of his physical appeal. A hot guy unless good on the other hand, is still an impermanent element that could lead to wanting the wrong things in life."

"We live in a world where you can only have one, the hot guy or the good guy. To have them both exist as one, and be yours without a single catch, is not going to happen to you. When will you wake up and accept the fact that you are not that special or chosen to relive the same destiny as Charlie from the chocolate factory? Maybe it's time to put a bottle cap on that fiery determination."

Then, I had an idea. I shut my eyes for a good couple of minutes with the intention of temporarily suspending my gift of sight and wondered if a handsome, hot guy standing in front of me would now matter as much as before I closed my eyes?

With the absence of sight, my instincts and secondary senses were now individually more focused, magnified and attuned to perceive the world as it is. I felt an immediate shift in gear to my mode of operation as my mind grapples with the idea of relinquishing it's reliance on visual perception for judgement. For the first time, I knew how it felt like to genuinely appraise and listen to life with just my heart. The difference in clarity was indeed very substantial.

The hot guy is extremely pleasant on the eyes and a great element to sex. But my world is now pitch black and at a continuously blind moment like this, I realised I no longer cared about the physical appeal of the guy standing in front of me. In fact, I want a good guy who is loving. Because then when we kiss, I know I will be kissing his heart. When he stands beside me, I'll know it's because he genuinely wants to because he loves me. And when we're being intimate, I'll know that I'm touching and feeling him for the person that he is. His heart, his mind and his soul.

I felt so vulnerable, but in a good way. I reopened my eyes and tried to allow the value of what I've just experienced, sink in. But once again, will it get past my stubborn "head" (whichever one) for wanting to look past superficiality?

Later on while browsing through the best seller's section, I stumbled upon the cover of a novel with a tagline that says: "There's no point wishing what happened didn't happen." The novel depicts the struggles of a teenager, who realises the new found hardships and change in her social environment upon turning deaf. 

My immediate thought was: "Hey, that sounds familiar". That tagline resonated a lot with how I've always felt in life, as a person who constantly ponders about the hardships and struggles that come with always having to face one life-changing circumstance after another. In trying to cope, my mind keeps going back. Hoping that whatever it is that went awry would go ahead and right itself, wishing whatever that happened didn't have to happen to me because it's corroding my faith and taking a toll on my confidence in life.

Before Bed
Then, that night before bed, I was mindlessly browsing through an e-book catalogue and came across a free version of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. I downloaded it and saw a single page spread in the book with the following quote:

"It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, for the most essential things are invisible to the eye." - Antonie de Sainte Exupery

Wow, I thought. Not only was it a profound saying in its entirety, but to have me stumble upon it unintentionally at the end of a day like this? And especially after my personal experience and everything that happened at the book store? The day's journey was pretty much summarised in that moment of discovery. Sometimes, I really don't know if I should just marvel at the coincidental happenings within the passage of 12 hours, or believe in guardian angels.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

What if I Told You I Don't Want to be Gay?

A while ago, I was having an extremely low moment where all sense of logical thinking flew out a window and needed to call one of my friends. She didn't pick up. But after 10 minutes she called me back.


Me: [despondent]

"You called?"

Me: [despondent]
"Yeah I um..."

"What's up?"

Me: [sigh]
"Well I was..." 
"I was just having a bad moment that's all."

"Why, what's wrong?"

"It's okay let's just talk about something else."

"No, tell me!"

Me: [sigh]
"I was just thinking, what if I told you I didn't wanna be gay?"

"What if you told me you didn't wanna be gay?"


She: [deep sigh]

"I mean what would you say to me if I told you I don't wanna be gay? I know that I admitted this to you but what if I tell you now that it's not what I want to be?"

"Well I would say it's who you are, and unless you can find a way around to accept yourself, you're never going to get out of the state of mind you're in. Unless you can find a way around it, you're going to have to kill yourself for real... But I would prefer that you didn't because I wouldn't support the latter."

Me: [sigh]
"But I don't know how. I don't, know, how."

"You have to accept it."
"There's just no other way."

Me: [silent]

"We can be here for you, and we'll always be here for you. But we can't walk this life for you. No one can."

Me: [deep sigh]
"I know..."
"Can't believe this is something that I really have to get through, and it sucks." 
"It really sucks."

She: [silent]

"I refuse to go through with being gay because in my mind, being gay is tough. And tough not just in the straight-majority world that we live in because I'm starting to think that that isn't so much of a problem any more, but in the gay world itself."

"I know it sounds stupid, but part of the reason why I keep holding on to that thought is because I think I'm alone in it. That unless someone is in it, it's difficult to understand how it works or what goes on in this life. The gay world I've experienced so far is not a fun place to be. In fact, it's cold, abrupt and 'hey-nothing-personal-you-just-don't-have-the-right-packages'. I don't have the heart to face it because it's damaging me more than it's making me feel welcome."

"I don't wanna put myself in there because I know that it will only push me further away from what I'm trying so hard to build for myself, which is self-contentment and inner peace. Physicality and discrimination has never been more prevalent in the molecules of our air than in the gay world itself. I kinda felt it when I first ventured into circles with gay people and I have never felt so low and so worthless about myself. Kinda feels worse than what the normal world has ever made me felt. But yet, I can't shut myself off from the gay community because I have to be in it to be okay with it."

"The other thing that I found difficult is when you're gay and coloured. I mean no one is going to tell you that there is a problem with being gay and white. It's when you don't measure up to those standards then things get difficult." 

"I can understand why our world spins this way because it is what it is and it's nobody's fault. But what I wanna know is that, what's going to happen to someone like me who weren't so lucky with having things easier you know? Like coming from where we live."

"I can have all the personality and character but when I put myself in the community, I feel an invisible person amongst the other guys who are more than okay with being who they are. So I really don't know how this is ever going to work out for me... "

"It takes time... It will work out. Maybe not now but later on it will."

"You know, I really wish I didn't have to put myself through this whole 'trying to find my peace with being gay' thing. Sometimes, I want to belong to the straight world, even if it means being closeted. I feel like I'm waiting and loitering outside a towering gate, looking into having things be so much simpler and easier again. But it will never be."

"We're all riding on different boats. However at moments like these, I really wish I was granted the golden ticket to be on your boat. When I look at you guys, I feel so singled out and alone because although we might be friends on a similar ship, but I'm not exactly on 'your deck' with the others. We are so close together, but yet I'm the one who ended up being different."

"As usual, I didn't manage to cross over. Once again, I feel like the kid who wasn't lucky enough to make the cut. It goes to show that all of the inadequacies and fears that I've felt while we were in school, were every bit real. It all caught up to me."

"Listen M, I... "
"I really don't know how to help you... But I'm here to listen. "

Me: [calms down]
"Look it's okay... I'm so sick of listening to myself talk about this. But as usual, I just wanna thank you for being you. Thank you so much for always being there and for always listening to me. I know that at the end of the day, I'll have to take care of myself and figure things out. I don't know what I did wrong, but I guess this is something that I have to go through in life. I just hope that things will start working out for me."


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A Story About Knowing Your Value

A long time ago, I sent an email to my mother containing the following story. I've completely forgotten about the existence of it all until she brought it up to my attention today. I re-read the story and felt a slight lift to my despondency.

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a Rupee 500 note. In the room of two hundred people, he asked, "Who would like this Rupee 500 note?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this note to one of you but first let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the note up. 

He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well", he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air. 

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth Rupee 500." 

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

You are special. Don't ever forget it! Never let yesterday's disappointments overshadow tomorrow's dreams. "Value has a value only if its value is valued".