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Role models for gay youths. Where are they?
Articles - Youth
Written by lublub   
Friday, 31 March 2006 00:00
Hey everybody, take a good look around you…

Do you see anything positive about the gay community in the media? Do you see any real-life character that is publicly out, and who is an excellent example of a successful gay person (or at least a gay person who is happy and contented in life)?

No, right? There are none. This is at least true for the mainstream, mostly heterosexual, society in Singapore. Is it then unsurprising, that for most youths, part of their homophobia stems from the fact that to be gay is unthinkable? Because it seems like such a scary, unknown and helpless situation. Something that they cannot identify with in the mainstream media. People reject the unfamiliar after all.

Gay youths are often at a lost as to how to live their lives now that they know that they are different. There aren’t any guide books, or helpful resources in schools that will soothe their worries and affirm the normalcy of their feelings. Sexuality education does not touch on homosexuality at all. Teachers are perceived as the ’right’ role models to teach teenagers. However, by the decree of the government, they generally take on a homophobic stance despite their personal beliefs. Thus, many of us gay youths would feel apprehensive to approach teachers (even those who are obviously gay) for help and understanding. They are not the role models that they could potentially be, even though we desperately need them.

Who do we look towards then? For assurance and support? Mom and dad?? I’ve never heard of parents telling their kids nostalgically about their dalliances with homosexuality when younger, in case they feel that they might be steering the children in the ‘wrong direction’. Our parents are usually the end of the line in such matters. That last frontier of coming out to overcome. Though they may be our role models for various aspects of our lives, in that one area which we struggle with the most… they are absent. We see in them the hetersexual, nuclear family model. Something which we find hard to imagine for ourselves, for we cannot force ourselves to love in the name of compliance and conformity. What is straight love if it ain’t genuine? No, our parents are not our role models as we come out of the closet.

If learning to accept yourself and living as a minority is hard enough. Well, newsflash: Love is harder.

All around us… in movies, TV shows, books and magazines…. straight love overflows in abundance. There are millions of fictitious scenarios for hetersexuals to model their love and dating life after. In fact, there is a whole slew of properly mandated, tried and tested, dating SOPs (standard operating procedures) and formulae for the average heterosexual. There are a thousand and one dating tips and articles in teenage magazines, fantasy stories of prince charming and his beauty in chick flick movies, and even great works of heterosexual romance in our study literature (shakespeare anyone?). There are so many role models for the heterosexual romance.

But what about the average GLBT? There is no social scripting for us to follow. That can be a good thing actually, as we do not have to follow stuffy social rules and can be creative in the way we date and love. But first and foremost, it leaves many of us confused and completely clueless about love. Yes, love. We feel its emotions and that painful tugging of the heart strings… We are all pros at being that silent, secret admirer, harbouring our love for another in the safe depths of the heart. But do we know anything about finding love? Chasing love? First of all, most of us (well, at least for me) have a hopeless gaydar. And unfortunately, teenage magazines aren’t particularly keen on publishing articles such as, “101 tips: How to tell if she bats for the other team”. Our straight peers and friends too, though they may be our role models for academic excellence or atheletism, aren’t that helpful when it comes to lesbian dating. (How would they know?) We have no role models when it comes to love….

But the most important of all…we lack a certain role model in the public arena, which if present, would send a message to all scared and questioning youths that… despite what others say, you can have a future if you are gay. A gay person in the public eye, who has been successful in many aspects of his/her life (career, family, relationship or otherwise). Sure, one can say that we do not lack gay champions. There are many in the West. Ellen Degrenres, Rosie O’ Donnel, whatever. But they are too far away and distant. Living in a society so different and much less conservative than ours. Their situation is different. How could a gay youth look upon them and see a future? A future in the West perhaps. That’s the problem, you see? We need a gay role model in our society. Singapore society. In the Singapore GLBT community, you actually do see many. But in the larger context of greater Singapore society, none are publicly out…. for being out in public could possibly be social and career suicide.

As long as we lack role models, there will still be many youths who feel that to be gay is to be condemned. That there is no such thing as a ‘happily ever after’ if you’re queer. For us youths, it’s as though there is a big gaping hole in the imagination of your future. A hole that appears when you realise that the ‘husband, two kids, condo and car’ dream may not be exactly what you’re looking for. Or more likely, the ‘husband’ bit is not what you’re looking for. What do I dream about then? In place of this ‘dream’ which once seemed appealing but now seems more prison than paradise to me? What future do I have??? If I don’t fit into that cookie-cutter version of happiness I see perpetuated everywhere around me. The fact that Singapore society and coughahemcough, is still homophobic in general.. it seems that to swim against the tide is futile. Conformity seems a better, ’safer’ option. And the reason for that is becos we don’t seem to have a choice. There are no role models to prove to us that we have a choice to live as the people we are. That we do not need to suppress or hide in a life of pretense, in order to find happiness.

The truth is, we still have a long road to travel to achieve that level of gay-friendliness in our own homeland. Many more teens will stay in the closet, and try their darndest to emulate that model of happiness that the media churns out, their parents lecture to them about, and that which the government tries to promote. And they will not know that the idea of ‘a heterosexual married life being the only key to happiness’ … is a myth. Your happiness and life fulfilment isn’t governed by your sexuality.

We need our role models now more than ever.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 16:30
 

Comments   

 
# jjade 2010-02-02 21:43
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jade said,

April 1, 2006 at 7:44 am

We must not essentialise. First of all, youths aren’t stupid nor cloistered from the rest of the world. The internet is playing a prominent role in shaping the GLBT culture, allowing curious gay-identifying youths an arena for them to question and discover more about themselves and acquaint themselves with the wider gay community out there.

Most of my mates have met their partners online, usually thru Fridae. Many of them network on these same spaces. The GLBT community isn’t as hidden as it once was. The spaces are changing and so are initiation rites to the gay scene. It’s different.
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# Amajor_resonance 2010-02-02 21:43
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Amajor_resonance said,

April 1, 2006 at 8:13 am

Hey what you wrote strike a chord in me!

We need to know that it is perfectly possible to succeed in life even when we are gay, Successful career, happy family life and such.

I actually aspire to be a role model for gay youths next time, ahaha. But you are right, it is quite impossible to be out, loud and proud at the Singapore workplace, without risking your career. I’m in the engineering field, it is going to be a tough fight since I am a girl. Coming out at the workplace might be equivalent to career suicide.

I believe that there are successful gay people around. Since it is not very feasible for them to come out openly in front of media, we need to create more interaction platforms to bridge the communications among the LGBT community. Maybe for the disillusioned gay youths, their role models are just a click away from them, thanks to the internet.
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# jeean 2010-02-02 21:43
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jean said,

April 1, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Gay youths today constantly amazes me. You gals seem to have the clarity and vision to venture forward and find your way. Maybe there is hope afterall.
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# lublubb 2010-02-02 21:43
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lublub said,

April 1, 2006 at 1:36 pm

to jade:

its partly true what u said. But for me… an online space just cannot compare to a real physical place. And how many closeted youths (who have just come out to themselves) wld go meet an anonymous stranger on fridae? they might not even come out to their str8 frens.. much less meet a stranger.

And the prob still remains. Even if gay youths go on the internet and are savvy and all. There r still no role models that we can see, which is applicable in the s’porean context. do u see any like tt ard you? And isnt tt the reason why alot of GLBT feel tht there is no future to live in s’pore. That alot of us wants to migrate? cos we can’t see a future here.
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# Amajor_resonance 2010-02-02 21:43
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Amajor_resonance said,

April 1, 2006 at 2:38 pm

HI lublub,

I do know of some entrepreneurs and journalists in Singapore who are gay. Yes gay men. They have successful careers and loving boyfriends. One of them is actually my friend’s boss during our internship stint, and I met him a few times. He is in the F&B industry, and he is quite openly ‘out’. I am real envious of them.

But the lesbian women seem to be much more low profile than their male counterparts. I wonder why.
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# jjade 2010-02-02 21:44
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jade said,

April 1, 2006 at 10:00 pm

Perhaps our different backgrounds help us to see differently, and perhaps renders me unable to understand why we need gay role models. i work in the arts and entertainment scene where a large number of people are openly gay and lesbian. There are many, many successful actors, directors etc we see in the media day after day who are gay and out (not to the media, it’d be career suicide).

Instead of moaning and groaning about leaving Singapore, at least write or do something worthwhile. Get people together, write to the government, start dialogue groups, do surveys, statistics, on what heterosexuals think of homosexuals, do a kinsey, do something! Dont’ whine.
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# pleinelunee 2010-02-02 21:44
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pleinelune said,

April 1, 2006 at 11:05 pm

Do you think we are already not doing that? Why do you think Sayoni was started? Why do you think PLU was started – and more to the point, was rejected for their registeration thrice?
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# jjade 2010-02-02 21:44
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jade said,

April 1, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Sayoni – in my view and this is only my personal opinion – is becoming an arena for gay women to tell sob stories and back stories about their journeys as lesbians.

I’m sure there are a lot of women who need such solidarity, but from an activist POV i feel (i reiterate, only my POV), Sayoni at this juncture isn’t it yet. But ya know, Sayoni is young and growing so we’ll see where it goes as an activist site.

And my dear pleinelune, my statement was reserved to an above post by lub lub. It was a reply to her statement on the pathetic state of gays in singapore and how so many of them want to jump the coop.

As for my opinions of PLU i’ll keep that for another day. I really like them because they’re so focused on engaging the larger society on an intellectual level.

Time to sleep! Night!
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# jeean 2010-02-02 21:44
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jean said,

April 2, 2006 at 12:52 am

Hmm.. actually Sayoni is not meant to be an activist site. It is meant for women to share their stories, journeys and opinions. If you want intellectual stuff, yup, yawning bread and plu is the place to go. There is no need to duplicate what plu is doing and yes i like plu too!
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# jjade 2010-02-02 21:44
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jade said,

April 2, 2006 at 7:06 am

The writings do not seem to indicate that. Opinions and sob stories are good and really interesting reads, but there’s no point in whinging when no variable alternative is suggested, apart from “many of us want to fly away cos it’s so bad here”. Come on, it’s bad all over the world if you’re a minority. Don’t do that the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-i t’s-pathetic-here thing without looking at the rest of the world. Part of my annoyance stems from generic sweeping statements that i see appear here time and again. How many of us actually want to fly and how many of us are focussed on changing society? Miss p herself seems to indicate Sayoni’s position as an “activist” site. No doubt this is also a good place to relax and enjoy company within the community and to hear from each other, that i’m certainly impressed and grateful for. But for me, this place seems to be slowly taking shape as weepy zone. Scary! Then again, i tend to forget this is a blog and not a news archive so expectations shouldn’t be too high. If this isn’t an activist site, don’t pretend to be one.

Again, whatever i’m writing are merely personal opinions. It isn’t personal and i’m not attacking the mods of this place. I think everyone behind the scenes is doing a great job striving for an exclusive womyn-only space for lesbians to gather. Good luck.
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# jjin 2010-02-02 21:45
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jin said,

April 2, 2006 at 9:11 am

Hi,
i think that Activism is just one part of the pitcure. To be a happy healthy community we have to accomplish other pieces in the puzzle too, like Building said community, Getting to know each other, Fostering unity etc.

Sayoni’s platform is great for playing the role of letting us get to know each other, by sharing our stories. We are all on a journey, Sayoni is too on a journey of its own, and the lesbian community in Sg is on yet another journey. Sayoni fills its niche by having a space where others going thru similar life-journeys can find comrades. This is the smallest step to building solidarity and unity.

So, whatever is posted on this Blog, represents what We each think, what We each feel, and What we each want to say. And regardless of whether the posts are in the form of (so-called) “weepy sob stories” or “pseudo-activism” they still fulfill the criteria of Binding Lesbians through Common Issues.

A community first has to find its voice before it can start shouting about things.
And before any individual voice can shout in defense of a community, it first has to realise that
1) this community exists, 2) i am part of this community, and
3) this community is precious and worth defending

I think that once lesbians start finding that they Belong in the community here, activism will come more naturally, and concurrently, there will be more reasons for people to stay.
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# pleinelunee 2010-02-02 21:45
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pleinelune said,

April 2, 2006 at 9:52 am

Jade, we are a space for queer women – which encompasses everything from a discussion platform to support groups, and when we are ready as a community, activism. When we first started this, what we were aiming for is that we induct more women into activism, and to do that, we first had to empower them with knowledge and connections. Like what jin said, activism is not possible until we build that sense of community.

We are new… less than three months into the way. Be a little reasonable, woul d you?
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# jeean 2010-02-02 21:45
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jean said,

April 2, 2006 at 12:30 pm

Heh heh heh. Miss P and Miss J. Thank you for the expectations, i’m sure the other writers are reading into this interesting conversation. I think that one of the things we try not to do is to ‘direct or control’ what the writers choose to contribute or to perpetuate the ‘myth’ of reality. There will be a constant flow of new and different voices and I trust that the community will learn to navigate themselves along the way just as your discerning voice contributes to a part of the overarching theme of diversity.

So the question is, will you be our alternative voice? In all sincerity, come aboard and write, i’m sure there must be a thing or two we can learn from you as well even if we disagree along the way.
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# Pure ego 2010-02-02 21:45
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Pure ego said,

April 2, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Well… This marks my first comment on an article. Haha…

Reading through all the comments I realised it kind of digressed from lublub’s concern about lack of role models for gay youth to having a website for gay women and to different views of the identity of sayoni.

I would actually like to address lublub’s concern. I have a few straight male friends who did not like Brokeback Mountain, obviously they were uncomfortable with the theme for they cannot identify with it. Probably just like how you thought you cannot identify with heterosexual love on screen? Then another straight male friend came along and told me he loved Brokeback Mountain. I told him about how a few guys I know who weren’t comfy with the movie’s theme. He said it’s easy, he could relate to it via emotional terms.

What I am trying to say here is, there is no role model for falling in love. Love itself is just a feeling shared between two people, regardless of sexual orientation. When I go to the movies, I identify with characters that I can empathise with, even when I read books, regardless of the chacracters’ orientation.

I do not dispute that we all need role models in life and so do gay youths. But we can choose to look at role models in a different way.

For example, if I ever do adopt a kid, who will be my role model for bringing up a child? Frankly speaking, you can read on such things and speak to gay people about it, but the truth is the ulitmate role model would still be my parents. That is because i will bring my kid up and try to fulfil whatever the child needs that I wasn’t given from my parents. Of course then there is the issue of whether the child can accept my orientation when he/she grows up to understand about sex. That is when I feel a counsellor should come in, and education is very important. The problem with this world I guess is the lack of empathy and too much apathy.

Lastly, you don’t need a gay role model to want to be successful in your career. Just know that these people whom you read about or come across as sucessful is really superficial because no one who is successful will reveal their dirty secrets in the media. Like a lot of comments here reiterated that for gay people to be upfront about their sexuality is career suicide. But the same applies to straight people. Do you think straight successful people who have got warp sexual taste would come out and admit that they are paedophiles?

I think you know where I am going with this. As long as you are ethical and know the direction you would like to take (such things take time to map out too), role models are just secondary to how we want to lead your life.
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# Pure ego 2010-02-02 21:45
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Pure ego said,

April 2, 2006 at 3:48 pm

Sorry I meant how you want to lead your life, not how we want to lead your life at the end of the last paragraph!

Opps!
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# pleinelune 2010-02-02 21:46
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pleinelune said,

April 2, 2006 at 5:59 pm

“Do you think straight successful people who have got warp sexual taste would come out and admit that they are paedophiles?”

Homosexuality cannot be compared to paedophilia, the difference being the difference between mutually consensual relationships and rape.

Anyway, the main point lublub was trying to make was that gay youth need role models, because they need to be reassured that they are not “perverts”, esp when they are going through the coming out phase. When you see healthy, successful people who are like you around you, that’s a contrast against the traditional AIDS-ridden-drug-using-lame-wristed stereotype presented to us. It is the same as having role models, perhaps, in a not-so-affluent racial group.
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# lublubb 2010-02-02 21:46
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lublub said,

April 2, 2006 at 9:35 pm

Hello all! Thanks for the comments! Once again I�m reminded of why there is so much diversity in the community and how (interestingly) we all differ in our opinions although we play for the same team! I appreciate the honest comments and please don’t feel like you have to be politically correct when stating what you say. And I also hope people won’t feel like their being ‘personally attacked’ when their statements are challenged. Becos that is not the whole point of this place, we ain’t here to nit-pick on the minute details of what people say.

Firstly, I’d just like to clarify that I didn’t mean to ‘whinge’ or ‘whine’ when I wrote my statements. As I begin exploring my sexuality and all, I felt that the lack of gay role models somehow made me stay in the closet longer than necessary cos there was no one I could look up to. Thus I am reflecting on what I felt was lacking in my past that perhaps could have helped me then. Cos I really had no one. Also, I know that there are a lot of people in the media who are ‘out and proud’. Sadly however, there are many of us who do not mix in such circles and therefore we don’t see any of that.

Moreover, my focus here is on youths. And in the social circles of youths, most of the people we see are teachers, mutual schoolmates and peers our age, relatives, religious teachers etc. In my entire schooling life, I did NOT see a single adult who was gay-affirming. (Maybe that�s just me but I�m just relating my personal life experience here and this is how it has shaped my perceptions of things so far). Perhaps for others, it was more positive and that is why some people might have had gay role models. But I know for a fact that I didn�t and I don�t think I�m the only one either.

But many who commented are right in saying that gay role models aren�t completely necessary. And in fact, when people take the harder path of coming out and coming to terms with their sexuality without a clear guide, it can make them stronger. Which can only be a good thing =)

Also, about the issue of taking action instead of whining. I would like to say that� don�t we all voice our grievances about something first before getting together to do something about it? I also feel that making a statement itself to highlight the issue.. is already the first step in action.

Yep! Just my thoughts. And if you feel that I make sweeping statements. PLEASE do say so or I will not realize that! =)
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