Meet 31-year old Singaporean Benjamin Lin!
For 31 long years, Benjamin was so deep in the closet that not a single soul knew about his sexuality. The fear of getting ostracised coupled with his inability to come to terms with his own sexuality pushed Benjamin so deep in the closet that he made extra effort to appear as straight acting as possible. Even something as innocuous as an Instagram ‘like’ posed a challenge to him.
Each “like” I clicked (of sweet gay couples) had to be accompanied by a “like” for a neutral post so that anybody who decides to spy on my “liked list” wouldn’t be suspicious.
That kind of paranoia certainly had its drawbacks. Benjamin had no one to confide in, nobody to gush to about his crushes/eye candies and to top it all off, he’s never been in a relationship before.
But after today, all the challenges that Benjamin had to face as a result of being stuck in the closet for so long are finally going to be problems no more. For the first time in his life, Benjamin Lin is ready to come out of the closet and Dear Straight People is incredibly flattered that he chose us as his medium for coming out!
Also, this implies that Benjamin no longer has to face that
annoying dreaded question of ‘When are you getting married ah?’ during the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations!
Growing up, there wasn’t exactly a “Eureka” moment when Benjamin knew that he was gay. His complete indifference to the opposite sex did however, allow Benjamin to realise that he was definitely different from all the other straight guys in his life.
In the early years, while the thought of being gay was there, I did not reconcile with it. I did not contemplate what being gay would mean for me and how life would work out.
As he got older, he personally witnessed how other guys with gay tendencies were tormented in secondary school and national service. He saw how some unfortunate schoolmates had their bag contents strewn all over the classroom floor and how his army mates’ private pictures were viciously spread around the Army camp. Benjamin confides rather candidly:
I am introverted by nature and was never the cool kid in school. I did not want to be more of a misfit than I already was.
Furthermore, during a time before the internet came into prominence, the complete lack of information pertaining to LGBT matters in the Singapore education system reinforced the idea in Benjamin’s head that there was something innately wrong with him.
There were times I thought of myself as a sicko pervert and I couldn’t come to terms with myself.
As a result of all of the above, Benjamin was stuck in the closet and had virtually no interaction with the gay community whatsoever. Whatever impression that he had of the gay community was completely gleaned from his anonymous observations of them online. With no one to offer him companionship in real life, the loneliness and emptiness that engulfed him during the nights got too much to handle at times.
Having to keep all feelings to myself is a burden which gets heavier with each passing year. Life seem bleak and devoid of all emotions.
With a rather stressful job and no emotional balance, I lost my smile and general interest in life.
But on 19th December 2015, Benjamin decided to make the life-changing decision to come out to his parents.
On my 31st birthday, I wrote a letter to my parents and fled home under the guise of a holiday. My intention was to allow them time to come to terms about my sexual orientation. Unfortunately though, they’re still in denial. My attempt at visiting this topic on New Year’s Eve was met with silence.
While that decision didn’t quite pan out the way he wanted, it did give Benjamin the courage to start taking steps towards accepting himself. On 26th December 2015, Benjamin made another life-changing decision to attend a GLBT event; namely the ‘GLBT Voices Xmas Gathering’ organised by Nicholas Lim. Fortunately, that decision worked out a lot better.
Having previously been only capable of observing the gay community online anonymously, it was a big step forward.
I am very thankful to the first two people I met at the event who bothered to include me into their conversation. It was through them, that my apprehension got eased.
So for the first time in his life, not only did Benjamin actually attend a GLBT event, he actually made 2 real life gay friends who are now both on his Facebook friends list! (Yay!)
Outside of his personal life, Benjamin is currently working as a ‘Project Manager’ in the engineering industry. He graduated from NUS with a Bachelor’s degree in ‘Project and Facilities Management. He doesn’t have much interests but he does like to read during his free time.
Read on to find out more about his coming out journey!
1. When did you first realise you were gay?
There was never any attraction to girls all along. Even when puberty struck, and friends of the same age were busy with their BGR and what not, I had totally no interest in the opposite sex. I was more curious about my male classmates. Somewhere around that time – approximately 15 years old, I knew deep down that I was different.
With all honesty, sorry if this is too much information, when one starts to discover the art of self-pleasure, the images and thoughts in one’s mind offers the clearest form of identity.
2. What are your reasons for staying in the closet?
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure of what I was. I thought I will outgrow it. I refused to acknowledge the fact that I might be different.
I also did not want to take the risk of being bullied or ostracised. I was certain I wouldn’t be able to take the pressure. In any case, as I grew up, there wasn’t any particular event which required me to come out – no relationships, no skeletons in the backdrop. The people around me never suspected so no one asked.
All in all, my parents were the biggest factor, followed by my relatives. Being typical Asian parents, they’re not open-minded about gays. I would put it down to a lack of exposure and information rather than outright opposition. I could not imagine facing my parents ever after coming out to them. The concept of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” is very prevalent in my family. Personal topics are never discussed. However, I can’t afford any falling out with them. Apart from a handful of friends, they’re all I have.
3. After being closeted for so long, why choose to come out now?
A couple of months before my birthday last year, I started to place serious thoughts about whether to come out. I felt like I was reaching the end of my “shelf life”. I had to either come out, come to terms with myself, and live life unimpeded, with or without someone special or bury this secret within me forever.
I spent many sleepless nights pondering over this issue. The conclusion differed by nights. My largest obstacle was my parents – would they be able to accept it? I felt that it would be too big a blow to them. It was a “My happiness vs Their happiness” decision.
To me, coming out is not so much of announcing to anybody who cares that I am gay. It’s more of coming to terms with being gay, and having the freedom, the luxury to integrate, participate and mingle with the community without the fear of being spotted, the shame of being forced to come out and the guilt of doing something behind my parent’s back.
I yearn for the day where I can look a person in the eye, and answer truthfully when asked, that I am gay.
4. You’re the first closeted person to be featured on the Out Of The Closet series. Why choose to come out through Dear Straight People?
When I was researching for information on how fellow gays come out, especially in the Singaporean context, I chanced upon the coming out stories on Dear Straight People. The candid stories of real Singaporeans coming out and their experiences was interesting, to say the least. It offered a close insight as to what to expect after coming out. It helped to ease some fears. Coming out in Singapore doesn’t seem like a catastrophe anymore. If others could do it, why not me?
I hope that by agreeing to come out via Dear Straight People, my experience in coming out can be another source of information for fellow LGBTs who are caught in the quandary of whether to come out or not. Having been in the closet till my 31st birthday, the relief of coming out to the people who matter most to you (in my case, my parents) is indescribable. It really doesn’t matter if the party is in agreement. You will find peace within yourself.
In addition, I personally think it would be easier to come out to people I know via writing. Both parties would be spared the awkwardness. I think people would be more accepting and less judgemental if they can understand the turmoil a gay guy generally faces while growing up.
5. How do you think your family will cope with your very public coming out?
Frankly, I have no idea. I came out to them via a letter on 19 December 2015. I left the letter for them to read while I left home for a holiday. I thought it would be good to give them time to come to terms with my orientation. After all, to be fair, this would probably be the biggest surprise / disappointment I will spring on them. I am not sure if my younger brother knows. I mean, we are close in the sense that we will protect each other, but in this family, personal matters are never discussed.
I hope my coming out on Dear Straight People will not embarrass my parents. It is an indignity they shouldn’t need to suffer. It isn’t their fault that I am gay. I am just made this way.
6. How do you think your life will change after coming out?
I honestly think life wouldn’t change. I am neither famous nor popular. I do not have an online persona. I doubt people would take a second glance. However, I hope this public coming out will help me to regain some self-confidence and allow me to step out of the shadows to be more sociable. I look forward to better quality of life. I want to be comfortable with myself. I hope to make new friends from the community. I am not aloof, I am just quiet so please come and talk to me.
I look forward to be able to openly attend gay community events without looking over my shoulders every 5 seconds. I look forward to being able to seek my own happiness.
I have to be realistic though. I am certain that some people would have deleted me from their contact list before they even finish reading the first paragraph. To my dear friends, please do not erase me from your life. I was gay before we became friends. I was gay while we were friends. The only difference now is you know I am gay.
7. What did you learn from attending your first GLBT event recently?
It was my first foray into the gay community. It was nerve-wrecking. Having been closeted the whole of my life, I had no gay friends thus I went alone. I felt like an under-aged teenager trying to sneak into a club. I was self-conscious and afraid of being spotted. Having previously been only capable of observing the gay community online anonymously, I it was a big step forward. At that point in time, I was only out to my parents.
The gathering reinforced the idea that the LGBT community is no different from the straight community. We come from all walks of life; we work in the same fields as the Straights; we come in all shapes, sizes and traits. We do not wear a bandana screaming “Gay – Special treatment please”.
8. What advice do you have for gay people still hiding in the closet?
Coming out is not an absolute necessity. If you are comfortable living life status quo, so be it. Having said that, I personally felt a huge burden being lifted off me upon coming out. Each and every one of us have different reasons for remaining in the closet. Do consider if you are willing to forgo your happiness just so as to fit into somebody else’s expectation of you. Ultimately, we are the master of our own destiny.
The people whom we are closest to, are invariably the people whom we find most difficult to open up to. If you are thinking of coming out, think through all the scenarios of what could happen before coming out. Do not come out in a haste and shoot yourself in the foot by saying the wrong thing. We cannot make everybody happy. We come out to our loved ones as a matter of respect, and not so of asking for their permission to be gay. Hope for a positive response but if that doesn’t materialise, just move on, you have done your part.
Prior to coming out, please “test water” by having the person you are coming out to, comment on gay-related news. If the comments are extremely homophobic, you might want to consider some preparatory work. During conversations, occasionally share positive gay-related news. You might also want to casually mention successful and famous gay people whom they are familiar with. The idea is to soften their negative mental image of gays.
9. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions straight people have about the gay community?
That we chose to be gay.
That we are highly contagious.
That we can be cured of our gay tendencies.
That we are all indecent promiscuous creatures who are sexually hyperactive.
That gays are men with feminine traits who only appear by night at infamous spots. We are not viewed as the perfectly normal people who work alongside them, who are their neighbours, who they interact with in normal social settings. This is especially relatable to the older generation who have not had a positive personal encounter with an openly gay person. This mental image has been impressed on them by repeated exaggerated portrayals of gay men in the media.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to live life for myself. I want to be at peace with myself. I am gay, this is me.
My name is Benjamin Lin. Please love me for who I am.
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