Meet 28-year old Singaporean Faliqh, an openly gay Malay who used to struggle a lot with reconciling his Islamic faith with his sexuality.
Born into a highly religious family, Faliqh was so ridden with guilt over his same-sex attraction that he would often pray to God in a bid to become more ‘normal’.
For one year, I would try to pray the gay away and hope to become more straight but it never worked.
I felt bitter. I felt I had disappointed my family and let them down
His efforts proved futile and only served to send him deeper into an abyss of misery and helplessness. But with the help of Oogachaga – Singapore’s only LGBTQ+ counselling centre, Faliq was able to turn his life around.
But Faliqh’s journey to self-acceptance wasn’t easy. And he had to overcome many challenges first before he was able to become the confident young man that he is today.
At the age of 15, Faliqh experienced same-sex attraction for the first time. Disturbed by his burgeoning sexuality, he confided his troubles to a teacher in school.
The teacher told me that it was just a phase and that I shouldn’t act upon it.
I was so disturbed by my feelings that the teacher wanted me to meet up with my parents to discuss the issue.
His parents were brought in for a family discussion but they didn’t react well to the news that their eldest son was attracted to other men. While his dad tried to ignore the entire issue altogether, his mum was overcome with grief and disappointment.
My mum brought me to meet with various religious figures and also brought me to counselling.
She reminded me that if I acted upon those feelings, I will end up burning in hell so that scared me a lot for a period of time
For one year, Faliqh tried his best to become straight. He would attend counselling sessions during the day and pray to God at night. But needless to say, nothing worked.
My mum would remind me that if I don’t change for the ‘better’, my parents will pay for my sins as well. So that really got me on a guilt trip.
I tried to follow my mum’s advice. Tried to cleanse myself (prayers,read the Quran…anything) but it just didn’t work out.
By the time he finished secondary school, Faliqh had more or less given up on trying to turn straight.
After a while, I got frustrated with my mum reciting religious verses to me on a daily basis. I hated the idea of being condemned.
I would ask myself whether was it honestly my fault for having these feelings. If God had created man in his image, why was I different? Was it wrong for me to be loved?
It was only when Faliqh moved on to a polytechnic after finishing his secondary school that he saw positive LGBT role models for the first time in his life. There, he noticed that some of the seniors at his polytechnic were open about their sexuality. Encouraged by their confidence, the thought of coming out again started to cross his mind.
I was burnt when I came out in secondary school. My grades weren’t exactly what I hoped for due to the struggles. In polytechnic, I saw it as a golden opportunity for me to be myself.
But when I heard my close female friends talking about their gay friends, I decided to broach the subject of homosexuality. When they didn’t show any signs of homophobia, I told them I was gay.
They were surprised but they were supportive. Their acceptance and reaction boosted my confidence.
Not long after, Faliqh started dating men as well. But despite taking steps in embracing his sexuality, Faliqh still had to contend with anxiety issues.
At the recommendation of his gay friend Otto Fong, Faliqh turned to Oogachaga for help in dealing with the tension between his religion and sexuality. He started attending counselling sessions conducted by Bryan Choong – the then Executive Director of Oogachaga.
Bryan taught me coping mechanisms and listened to me pour my heart out. Although I was a hot mess. Bryan provided me with the tools that helped me get my life back on track.
We talked about my issues with faith and sexuality. He also went the extra mile by showing me articles that showed a different view of Islam and homosexuality.
To this day, I really appreciate the kind gesture.
After getting counselled intermittently for a year and a half, Faliqh was finally able to overcome his inner demons.
No longer that tormented soul struggling with his sexuality, Faliqh is currently in a stable relationship with his boyfriend of 5 years. He managed to graduate with a double degree from Murdoch University and recently started an online business selling hand-crafted felt dolls.
During his free time, Faliqh enjoys cooking up a storm in the kitchen. He particularly enjoys baking and cites shepherd’s pie and apple pie as his specialties.
Apart from cooking and baking, Faliqh also loves drawing and names Madonna as his favourite diva.
1. How was your first coming out experience like?
I was disturbed by the feelings I felt towards other boys in secondary school so I came out to some of my close secondary school friends.
However, they were not supportive and they were quite homophobic. They told me they liked me but they didn’t like that side of me. After opening up to them, the friendship we once had felt strained.
2. How did your family respond to your sexuality?
My family wasn’t very accepting of it at first, especially my mum. My parents are highly religious when it comes to bringing up their children. Being the eldest son, it’s not easy meeting the expectations of your parents.
But now my mum is so much more accepting. She said that since I’m an adult, I should be responsible for my own actions. Though once in a while, she will quote some verses.
My dad is normally the mediator in the family and he would often ask my mum to give me some space. I have to thank my dad a lot for his involvement.
3. How integral was Oogachaga’s role in your journey towards self acceptance?
Without Oogachaga, I have no idea what would have happened to me. For nearly a decade, I felt I was lost. I didn’t have a goal in mind. All I could remember was trying to please everyone but by doing so, I neglected myself.
With my previous (straight) counsellors, there was always a bit of a disconnect. They couldn’t really understand what I was going through.
But Oogachaga was like a safe zone for me. That space allowed me to express myself without feeling any guilt. Oogachaga’s counsellors allowed me to be myself and they understood where I was coming from.
4. Why is it important that Oogachaga continues to support the LGBTQ+ community?
In Singapore, there are no other services similar to what Oogachaga provides. And the LGBTQ+ community really needs the kind of services that Oogachaga provides. Having a specialised support service for LGBT enables us to better seek help.
It’s a safe haven for us and I’m now in a much better place than I was before. I did not regret ever reaching out for help. If people do not believe that we need such services, I hope my story shows them otherwise. There is no shame in seeking help.
5. What advice do you have for other people struggling with their sexuality?
Don’t be afraid to take the risk by coming out, asking questions and trying to find out more.
Sometimes, you can only get better after getting burnt. Because it pushes you to take a step forward. Not backwards.
6. What do you think is the biggest misconception straight people have about the gay community?
A lot of straight people think we are different from them. They think we are sex-fuelled people who can’t maintain long lasting relationships.
Frankly speaking, we are really not very different from straight people. We are capable of loving people as much as they do. We bleed as they do if we get injured.
7. Is there anything else you like to add?
I hope that by sharing my story, I will be able to inspire others. This is my way of giving back to society and also, my way of thanking Oogachaga for the help that they’ve given me.
Help Oogachaga support Singapore’s LGBTQ community
Founded in 1999, Oogachaga is Singapore’s only community based counselling centre for the LGBTQ+ community.
Run by a team of professional counsellors and trained volunteers, Oogachaga has been instrumental in helping people deal with issues such as coming out, identity, relationships, mental health, family, loneliness, discrimination, sexual health, suicide, and violence.
Unfortunately, some of their donors and funders have cut back, due to various reasons
Despite the drop in support, Oogachaga remains adamant in continuing its mission of providing support to the LGBTQ+ community. But the only way they can continue helping people like Faliq is if you lend them a helping hand.
Support Oogachaga in supporting the LGBTQ+ community by making a donation to their fundraising campaign here: http://bit.ly/Oogachaga
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Faliqh for sharing his story with us.
If you would like to keep up to date with how Faliqh is doing, you can connect with him through Facebook. You can also find out more about Oogachaga here
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