Meet 20-year old Singaporean Indian Gabriel Mark!
Gabriel was raised in a very Christian family; his mum and aunts were singers at the church while his dad was a guitarist in the church band. Growing up, Gabriel engaged in typically ‘boyish’ activities. He was in the soccer team. He was part of the National Police Cadet Corps. He even had a black belt in taekwondo! However, when Gabriel started crushing on members of the same sex, he started to feel like something was ‘wrong’ with him.
I only knew something “was wrong” when I was about 9/10 and I had the biggest crush on this guy (which I totally regret now) and he was a soccer player…I knew my crush liked the team “Albirex Niigata” and I got him a keychain from their merchandise together with a love letter.
It wasn’t till Gabriel started secondary 4 that he started to become comfortable in his own skin. Unfortunately, being comfortable in his own skin drew the ire from some school bullies who retaliated by throwing Gabriel into the garbage bin and the school pond after school hours! Thankfully, he had a group of close friends in secondary school who were incredibly supportive of him and helped him through those tough times in school.
But the tough times didn’t just happen in school. At home, Gabriel’s family also didn’t react well to his sexuality. His homosexuality drew a huge backlash from his mum especially, who was convinced that gay men would all end up working as prostitutes. Gabriel attributes the misconceptions to the fact that because the Indian community in Singapore is very small, there is a tendency for them to keep to themselves and in Gabriel’s opinion, this becomes ‘a barrier to understanding the “outside” world’.
While his situation at home has improved tremendously since then, the emotional trauma that he went through is something that he wouldn’t forget easily.
To straight parents who have a child that is going through a gender identity/sexual orientation crisis, never let your child go through… trauma and that includes emotional abuse because words can be the most hurtful weapon you can use against them.
Apart from having to deal with homophobic straight people, Gabriel also had to contend with all of the racism within the gay community in Singapore itself.
Discrimination against Indians in the gay community is widespread but rarely acknowledged. Due to their minority status, there is a prevalent mindset among some Singaporeans that being of Indian ethnicity somehow makes one inferior. Gabriel explains that:
Ironically, the gay community should know first-hand how discrimination works but there is racism in this community itself.
For some Chinese (gay) guys, they do not want to associate themselves with other races because they feel that, if the minorities are already discriminated against in this community, then by associating with them, this makes their ‘status’ lower.
Despite the rampant racism against minorities in the gay community, Gabriel manages to take it all in his stride.
Honestly, there’s so much more to life than just relationships… I’ve dated a couple of French guys and mostly older men just because conversations with them seem more intelligent and they’ve more experiences to share.
In retrospect, all of the difficulties that Gabriel has had to deal with due to his race and sexuality have actually had a silver lining. The challenges that life has thrown at Gabriel has spurred his interest in helping others. Gabriel now aspires to one day, open up or join an organisation that helps kids, teens and young adults who are dealing with self-esteem or gender identity issues.
Currently pursuing a diploma in media production and design in Republic Polytechnic, Gabriel’s interests include writing and eating and he hopes to one day, get the opportunity to travel the globe to experience different cultures.
Gabriel has very bravely stepped forward to share his coming out story with us so read on to find out more about how Gabriel got to where he is now!
- How was your first coming out experience like?
My first coming out experience wasn’t even planned, I didn’t want to either. I came out when I was 17 because of a nosy teacher that felt that my personal life affects their career and correspondingly my academics…..My mum got a phone call from my teacher… (and she) called my uncle, my sister and myself for a family discussion. I remember being in denial of any gay activities I had done back then until I just felt like I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I remember my uncle screaming at me “Do you like men? Huh? Do you? Tell me! Do you?” and I was like “Yeah, I do, I’m sorry but I do” and then obviously all hell broke loose and I was grounded – no school for a month, no phone, no laptop so basically no interaction between the outside world and myself.
What came after was something that broke my spirit and I was on the edge of giving up – I was brought to my family doctor who recommended getting medical checkups which lasted 2 weeks to make sure that all of the “gayness” was because of hormonal imbalance. I was arranged to meet with a psychiatrist as well. Trust me, I wanted to commit suicide, everything just happened so drastically, so fast, I didn’t have time to breathe.
2. How is your family coping with it now?
After 3 years, all of this drama has subsided and I’ve grown to understand why my mum did everything she did. The last thing I ever want to do is disappoint my mum and I’m her only son and she was not willing to give that up. I remember sitting in my room and my mum came into my room just last year and she said “Do what you want, not here because you can’t be happy, too many restrictions”, and ever since, we never talked about it but I know she knows that nothing is ever going to change (in terms of sexuality).
My sister doesn’t talk about it either and yes, she’s in the same generation as me but she doesn’t really have gay friends or into the “pop culture”. I feel like you need to educate yourself in order to understand people “who are not like you”.
3. Have you ever personally faced any discrimination from other gay people due to your race?
Yes I have but there was one incident which really struck me and I know I should never let a guy affect me but I was talking to this guy just early this year and we really clicked, we went out and you know did regular “I like you things” and trust me, I’ve always loved romance and this was one of it but we were never a thing, we were just friends. Just as I was about to you know, be a thing, he goes “if only you were Chinese, we would’ve gotten married”.
I was just thinking to myself, “Are you trying to tell me that you actually like my character and everything else but my race hinders you from us being a thing??” It boggled my mind to think someone who I thought highly of (could) make such a juvenile, ignorant remark but just like every other human being, I go “HAHA, but I’m not!”
4. What is the general attitude among the Indian community towards LGBT individuals?
I think it’s pretty much on the negative side but I’m happy to hear that people of the Indian community are opening up more in terms of knowledge and mindset because clearly, this is not the 1950s anymore and things are changing in the world.
The negativity is due to the fact the Indian community is small and… news spreads like wildfire but also because most Indian people come from a religious background and no, not all Indians are hindu.
5. What advice do you have for gay people still hiding in the closet?
I’ve always felt like you don’t really have to “come out” to anyone. Everybody else will be ready when you are. The day you feel comfortable being yourself is the day everything feels carefree.
6. What do you think is the biggest misconception straight people have about the gay community?
From a personal standpoint, I was really hurt to keep hearing that my life will be ruined (because I’m gay). (Also), straight men thinking we want to get into their pants. Hi, yes, we have standards!
(In addition), gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. Gender identity is who you are, sexual orientation is who you love. It’s that simple.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Never feel like you have to change physically or mentally to fit into the gay scene. The main objective of this community is to celebrate individuality and that’s what you should be – be yourself. I’ve always said this to my friends “be yourself because that’s the best you can ever be (cliché, I know)”
I’m just going to pass on what my dad said before he passed on: “Never settle for less, whatever it is”
Once again, we would like to thank Gabriel for sharing his story with us.
You might also like to read: