Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Gets Better in Singapore

This is a gift from some of us in the LGBT community to our youths. You are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you, and there are listening ears and safe spaces for you. Stay strong, hang in there, call someone. It gets better!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Families and Enemies of Gay People (Last part of Pelangi Pride Talk)

Finally! This is the last segment of my talk.

I started this series of Youtube video by posing the question: "who is standing between me and my big gay heaven?"

The whole purpose of the talk is to share how I found a powerful, useful perspective on how to be gay and fulfill my dreams at the same time. Being dishonest about myself, keeping my secrets from family and friends - these acts contradict my intention of creating works of mass appeal.

In this segment, I hope you can see that blaming anti-gay people for the community's predicament can only go so far, but taking responsibility for our own lives is also a crucial element in moving the conversation forward.

The majority is sitting on the fence and watching. Live your lives as openly as you can, and show them what you can do. The gay community is my community. It has given me love, joy, tears, hope, despair and heartbreaks. Being a part of it has made me a better man, and I only hope that through my actions, I'd contributed to this wonderful community in my own small ways.

My humblest thanks to all of you who visited and gave your time to view the videos. - Otto

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Religion vs Family?

he last segment of my talk at Pelangi Pride is the most important. It holds the Holy Grail to the step forward for the Singaporean LGBT community. It is also the hardest part for many. Harvey Milk spoke of it in America in the 70s, and in the last few decades, gay Americans saw the wisdom of his words: COME OUT OF THE CLOSET - at least to your own family.

Coming out is never easy. It is also tougher for the parents than the gay children. We must remember: our parents went through very turbulent times in their youths. Thanks to decades of reinforced stereotyping, having a gay son or daughter is seen as a big setback. Sometimes, after surviving years of political and social changes, to be confronted by a gay child may seem like one more cruel joke Life plays.

Yet, I firmly believe that if a son or daughter is gay, then his/her parents are meant to deal with the issue. It's not different from, say, when a parent must learn to love an autistic child. Every child is perfect the way he or she was born.

Certain segments of the religious population may make things difficult for gays and lesbians in the public sphere, so I can understand why many people choose not to come out publicly. However, coming out to your own family is absolutely essential if there is ever a hope for local LGBTs. 

At the end of the day, if a religious leader turns family members against each other by his teachings - even if the family member is gay or of other faiths or non-faiths - then he is not a religious leader I respect.  


Monday, May 3, 2010

Giving Thanks - about Lee Kuan Yew, my father and Singapore

This is part 3 of the Pelangi Pride Talk.

"Acknowledgement" is a word we used frequently to say thanks. But the power of such an act (of acknowledging someone) may not be so clear to some of us.

1. What has the person done that deserves acknowledging?
2. What is stopping me from acknowledging that person? 
3. By acknowledging the person (preferably face-to-face), I recognise what is important in my own life (family, friends, society).
4. After acknowledgement, I also get to see what areas of my life that others cannot fulfill for myself.
5. And I get to focus on those areas and recognise that it is up to myself to get what I want.

A gay person may think that, because he/she is gay, he/she is not indebted to the family or society.

"Afterall, my family will never accept me."
"Society rejects me. They owe me for showing me prejudice."

While it is a perfectly valid feeling - being rejected and not accepted - I invite you to think about the years your dad and mom gave to your life. I invite you to consider the education you received, the teachers who patted you on the shoulder and said, "well done." Remember the doctors who made you feel better after you fell ill. Remember those who spoke up in support of you when they need not have to. Remember the laughter and tears shared with an ex-lover.

Did people reject me, or did I even give them a chance?

Friday, April 23, 2010


Remember when you first realise you're different from the school's sporty classmates? Remember when you first suspect you might have more in common with the class sissies the others like to tease?

I remembered. I resolved to be "normal". I stuffed my sissy boy into the closet.

Then for years I wondered why I felt incomplete!

Here's Part 2 of my talk at Pelangi Pride Centre. It's about how, after decades of banishing that sissy boy in me, I wanted him back in my life. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ellen Degeneres, Adam Lambert and Your Big Gay Potential

This is a small segment of a talk I gave at Pelangi Pride Centre.

Does being gay get in the way of an openly-gay Singaporean from being great? It should not.

Can a gay person create great works that contribute to the larger society? Most definitely. 

The trick is getting the context right. Coming out allows me to be authentic to myself and it shows in my work. In a competitive world, I need to be as ruthlessly real to myself as I possibly can. By living in fear about being outed daily, one can only compromise one's focus on being the best he/she can be.

That's what Ellen Degeneres did. It's what Adam Lambert did. Get the sexuality fears out of the way, and use your talents to create works that transcend your sexuality. Being gay should be a very small aspect of your life. It certainly should not be used as an excuse not to live up to your fullest potential.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Can Gay Relationships Last?

Couples, gay or straight, are not statistics and are not subject to what the majority of their groups do in studies and analyses. They are people who deserve the support and encouragement to succeed in their relationships and to have the best possible chance at a long and healthy life together.” Chris Shultz

I wrote this in response to an article in called “Are Gay Relationships Different?” It is written by John Cloud, after his first relationship of 7.5 years ended.

This article prompted some discussion amongst my Facebook friends about gay relationships. A common opinion is that gay relationships are less permanent, and that straight relationships are often successfully anchored by children. In that article from, Cloud mused that if he was in a straight relationship, he would “almost certainly have had children” and his relationship would still be intact.

Hence, a Facebook friend commented that “death or heartbreak, all relationships come to an end eventually. So, he concluded that the “length of time as a yardstick for measuring the quality of a relationship would be a poor yardstick indeed.””

I found it understandable why some gay folks will see that perspective. When my personal experience was that my relationships failed, it would be hard not to have that nagging feeling that what some said about gays is correct: we can’t conduct personal relationships well. I went through that after several of my relationships ended in my twenties. I told myself that men aren’t meant to stay together – only women held the keys to a lasting relationship.

Now, I found that perspective deeply flawed and offensive. It is offensive to assume that many straight couples could only rely on their children to make their relationships work. It is offensive to childless straight couples. It is offensive to gay couples who never adopted and yet stayed together for decades.

It is terribly unfair that one would compare relationships that ended by heartbreak, to relationships that ended with the death of a partner.

“What is the difference?” one might ask. Afterall, all relationships end one way or another!

The difference is simple: in one relationship, the partners made a vow. In the others, no vow was made. This is not to denigrate shorter relationships. Even short relationships teach us valuable lessons – and sometimes these lessons informed us to cherish the next one. But, in short-term relationships, there is no commitment. Let’s stay together if we’re happy and it works for both of us. Once it stops working for either of us, let’s split. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In a committed relationship, a vow to love, respect and cherish each other is one that ends with “till death do us part”. It is a vow not to be taken lightly. It means that a partner vows to stay with another through thick and thin, riches and rags, in health and in sickness. My vow is to be with my partner when he contributes to our relationship. And my vow stands even when he is no longer able to contribute in certain ways (physical disability, aging complications). As long as he wants me around, and as long as I am capable of making decisions, I will be with him.

It’s interesting to note that in the article, the author used his own relationship as an example of a gay relationship that did not work out. Other than citing statistics that supported his point of view, he mentioned no other gay relationships – not even the ones that worked. It’s like someone who’d just climbed a hill and wrote about climbing Everest - without consulting a single Everest mountaineer. Personally, I have several Singaporean gay couples who are together for over a decade or two, and are still going strong. And I know of a couple from America, Neal and John, who’d been together for 30 years.

While it is true that many gay relationships do not work out, it is also true that gay relationships often lacked the community, familial and societal support that straight relationships take for granted.

Also, Chris Shultz, a friend of mine, noted, “It seems that same-sex relationships haven't enjoyed the social support and approval for long enough to draw meaningful comparisons between same-sex and different-sex relationships and their relative success rates.

I am reminded of what is a committed relationship - and what makes it last - in, of all things, an animated cartoon. In the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Oscar-winning animated feature “Up”, we were shown a compressed lifetime of a childless couple, Carl and Ellie.

When they found out that Ellie couldn’t conceive, the couple was devastated.

In every young gay man’s mind, we have visited that shocking, inescapable conclusion shortly after we dealt with being gay: since our future relationships lacked eggs for fertilisation, we would likely never have the chance to be fathers. While it might not have manifested itself as devastatingly as Ellie’s discovery at the doctor, it certainly was a blow to us nevertheless.

In the film, as Ellie sat sadly on the front yard’s swing, Carl approached her and made her a promise: they would embark on a trip to their childhood dreamland, South America.

Carl didn’t say, “oops, sorry you couldn’t conceive. That means we can’t have children. Our relationship would never stand a chance without them! I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you.”

Carl said, “ok, so we can’t have the adventure of having children. Let’s find a new adventure together!”

Some people argued that gay relationships should not work, because they do not satisfy the end goal of marriage: procreation. And some of us believed these people.

While the world needs a steady supply of children, it is also in dire need of many other things. What’s to stop a gay couple from finding an adventure they can both work happily towards? An adventure could be as simple as building a home together, creating a company together or even something as huge and noble as starting and running a charity or orphanage.

Sure, some of us can achieve these singlehandedly. But one thing I learnt when I climbed the Grand Canyon in Colorado, US, alone and witnessed a breathtaking sunrise there two decades ago: I wanted that special someone to share that awesome sight with me. Always.