BL came for Rainbow Massacre, a concert of gay anthems, organised by Pang Khee Teik and Jerome Kugan, hosted by Shelah, during Seksualiti Merdeka last year. The songs made him cry, he said, and it moved him to be around people like him: “i don’t feel alone. there are people out there who fights for our freedom to love. seriously, i don’t even get why we need to fight for the freedom to love.” Then he went on to say that he fought for the freedom to love all his life, growing up in an orphanage, being kicked out of the home, surviving in the city on his own. But that he is happy now. This is his story as told to Pang.
i’m sorry this is a shit ass long story. i’m really not sure what to write and the points are all somehow connected. this is the first time i’m sitting down in front of my computer pulling out memories after memories from my head. feel free to edit out anything you think is not relevant. and forgive my grammar. i suck
i could remember playing hopscotch in the sand with my cousins. running around the river at the back of my house. and playing “masak-masak” near the tree in front of my house. i could also remember my grandmother religiously bringing me to the temple for prayers every week but i would spend the whole time playing with other kids. and i also remember working. my family make slippers for a living and both my aunt and my uncle made sure we all chip in. i guess there’s no such thing as free meal. my dad was never home. i was about 3 at that time.
i remember looking up at my mum as she was carrying me away in a haste with my little clothes in a plastic bag. we were going to the airport and i did not say a word. the next thing i know i was living with my new dad and my mum in singapore. i was told to call him daddy and my mum had a daughter with him. her name is angie. i would go in at times to play with her and kiss her on her forehead when she sleeps.
it all happened when my stepfather’s son, Jason (from his previous marriage) told his dad that i was disturbing angie. he lost his temper and he hit me. alot. everyday. Jason would always come up with accusations to see me get the belt. i can only eat with maid. i sleep in the storage room where they keep the broom. i drink from the cup where everyone pees in. i do not know if my mum knows this but i remember begging her to let me out of the storage room because i was afraid of cockroaches. she say i deserve it because apparently i peeped at the maid changing clothes. things were happening so fast, i had no idea what was going on. i was just being a kid. i cried myself to sleep every night looking at a photograph. it was my family’s picture and i keep looking at my mum wondering what is going on.
one day my mum told me i cannot live with them anymore and she sent me back to ipoh to her friend’s house. i was about 6 and i understood from her friend whom i call aunty sau leng. she told me that my mum divorced my dad because he was a useless drug addict and that nobody loves me because i will grow up to be just like my dad. she also told me that i once had a sister but my dad sold her to someone for money to buy drugs. i was sent to aunty sau leng because my mum do not want me to live with my dad. i used to be able to remember his face.
i only stayed with aunty sau leng for a year because i was caught stealing money. she dropped me at a relative’s house and i remembered sitting outside the house for hours and i was refused to let in the house. from a distance i saw aunty sharon walking towards me beckoning me to follow her. she took me to KL to live with her and uncle neil. both of them were air hostess and they were rarely at home.
i was soon put to school at standard one. it was then when i learn smoking and drinking. i skived alot and hang out with friends at each other’s houses alot. it was then that i discovered that i knew i was different. i learn how to masturbate from a friend and we would just lay down together on the bed and touch each other and i liked it. we eventually stopped and went to other things like spending more time at the arcade and going on an endless trip in the bus around KL until school time finishes and we would head home.
my uncle is a very strict disciplinarian and he has a timetable for me to follow everyday since he cannot keep an eye on me, i have a time to wake up, go to school, dinner, watch tv, do homework and sleep. it was real brutal living with him because he reminds me of my stepfather, only worse. i was quite sissy so he would make me streak outside around the flat where we lived to toughen me up. my great grandmother lived with us then and when both my aunt and uncle weren’t home, i would steal money from her to buy cigarettes and i would refuse to eat at home. and when she refused to give me money, i would threaten her with a knife.
aunty sharon soon find out about this and told my mum. she came back from singapore and she had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized. one of my uncle also came back and hauled me around my ankle outside the balcony from a 8th floor flat. there were so many people shouting, i was getting dizzy. he finally let me go and i ran. i ran for my life. i ran out to the field and slept there that night. i woke up the next morning still afraid to go back, i wondered around the city some more before i went back to the apartment where we lived and slept at the lift lobby next to the rubbish. one of my neighbor recognizes me and took me back in to my aunt. by that time, everyone has left and i cleaned up. nobody said a word.
the next day, my aunt brought me to visit my mum at the hospital but the minute she saw me walk in she went hysterical. all my relatives was there and i was soon greeted with a punch on my stomach and everything turned black. later i learn from my aunt that my mum divorced my stepfather. i do not know why but i’m glad that at least she’s not with the monster.
leading to that, all of them decided to put me away to “salvation army” because of my condition and no one would take me in because of my wild behaviour. when i find out about this, my heart dropped and for some reason, salvation army had a full house then and they are not taking anyone in. so they put me in an orphanage. i was 8 then. surprisingly, i adapted quite well i remember asking them if they had a timetable. they looked at me weird. at that moment i knew that i am at a better place. i grew up there with the other children not knowing what is it like outside the world of the orphanage but we had ALOT of fun.
i think back about the past alot. i kept telling myself that i deserve this. i deserve not having a family because i was out of control and that upset many people. and that they don’t have a choice but to send me away and this is the only way.
i went to school like any normal children with all the others from the orphanage. i learn alot in school. i have many many favourite moments at the orphanage especially when some university student drops by every wednesday to give us tuition or when visitors come by to give us coco crunch or when A&W mascot comes and give us a treat of burger and french fries, or when we’re all sponsored to go to sunway lagoon.
i was one of the youngest there and every night there was this guy who would always come up to me and touch me in my private parts. i pushed him away and he would keep insisting and at times forces himself on me. i couldn’t fight back and at last i gave in. we would do it every single night.
back at school, due to peer pressure, i had a girlfriend but we never talked. everyone did it and were waiting for me to try it. at last i mustered up my courage and went to her place when her parents were not at home. we did it but i knew i didn’t like it so i ignored her at school without telling her what happened. months later i heard she moved on to another guy and got herself pregnant. she then moved on to another school. i told myself i could never be with a girl. because i do not how to and because i don’t feel for a girl like how i fantasize about another guy. it was weird to me at first because nobody seems to talk about it and i kept it to myself.
soon the home grew bigger with more children coming in everyday, when one day when i was in form 1, two new boys came in and they were brothers. i spent alot of time with the younger one and we soon became best friends. we would talk and talk and talk and share our pocket money for pasar malam. i liked him alot. i know he liked me too and i wanted to kiss him badly. so one night a few months after we met, i came down from my bunker bed and slept next to him. i do not know where i got the courage from but i leaned in and kissed him in the lips. my heart jumped for joy when he kissed me back. we started doing it when his brother came in to the room and turned on the lights. we quickly put on our pants and i ran out scared shitless. the next morning, he told me that we couldn’t do this anymore and i cried. from then on his brother was always with him.
living in an orphanage may not be the best thing for any teenagers because i know what is it like to suppress and deal with feelings that is unknown to me, going to school everyday in a van that says, “pusat kebajikan untuk anak-anak yatim piatu” or when parents have to come to school every year to collect our report card or when we are required to write and talk in class or fill up forms asking about our family details.
i’ve always wanted to become a pilot and the orphanage encouraged me to chase my dreams but when i got the offer to go to a pilot school, they didn’t have enough finances so i was pushed to study form 6. back then apparently, form 6 was suicide. i dreaded school and hated the home because i cannot achieve my dream and blamed them for everything.
i barely passed form 6 and right after i finished, i ran away from the home. i worked at midvalley for about a year. the orphanage found out but they decided not to make any police report because they know that i’m an adult and i know how to make decisions. they called me later on about a scholarship to study at a private university. determine to make something out of my life, i agreed and went. the scholarship covers 3 years full tuition fees and accommodation. the orphanage sent me money every month for food. i was required to go back every weekend to attend church and help out. otherwise i will be called an ungrateful dog.
after a year at the university, during christmas, i went back to celebrate with them at the orphanage, the office manager came up to me and ask me to pack my bags and leave. On new years eve. i asked why and he say, “you are a bad influence to the other children”. i say fine and went back to my things and found all my clothes and bags were ransacked. my condoms were gone. at that moment i knew why he say what he said. i went back to the university hostel on new years day and nobody was there. i was without money and i hadn’t eaten for about 3 days. i found a packet of biscuit and wolfed it down when i saw a dead lizard in it. at that moment, i dropped the biscuit and i sobbed and sobbed. that was the lowest point of my life and i will never forget it.
miraculously, my housemate came back in that same week and i told him what happened. he loaned me some money and i soon found a job at a cinema.
during my second year of study, i was a very active student. i got elected to be the president of the student council and had alot of events throughout the year. the scholarship counselors was worried when they saw that my results took a dive towards the end of my second year. i had to juggle my part time job for food, my studies to maintain my scholarship and my responsibility as a president of the student council. i came to a point where i had to make a decision and i know it’s not going to be good and easy. i wrote a letter to terminate my scholarship and everyone was shocked to see what i was going through. i told them i do not have a choice but all i see now is that this is the best solution. i knew that having a job at a cinema will not bring me anywhere and so i worked at the university for a couple of years before i got myself a promotion.
i met many many wonderful people who came into my life even for a little while and some stayed until today. i’ve learn so many things and often reflected in my past and was determined to make a better future for myself. i found my first partner during my student council days and we were together for almost 4 years when he left to the states to further his studies. i was a closeted gay when i was with him and never dared to come out because all my friends were straight. i was active in sports, i love football, i speak and act like all my straight friends and no one knew except for a few close friends. i was embarrass because they always make fun of gay people calling everything gay. lame jokes, gay. stupid people, gay. and i knew that i cannot come out to them.
recently i got in touch with an extended cousin of mine from singapore. we wrote alot to each other while i was at the home and when facebook came about i added her and then through her all my other cousins and other relatives. one day while i was chatting on facebook with my aunt, she told me my mum is sitting in the room with her and if i would like to speak with her. i was at lost for words. i said yes. i asked her how are you and she say that she’s not fine. and then she stopped typing. i called my aunt in singapore and she told me to go pay her a visit.
i took one week off and i needed to register for a passport when i realized i left all my official documents at the orphanage. i contemplated for awhile but i knew i had to go back to get my certs but when i did they say they have nothing on them. i didn’t know what to do so i went to the immigration office and they told me if i lost my IC i had to get a new one and i would need my birth cert to do it. the officer was a real nice lady she printed out my birth certificate. it was then that i learn my parent’s name and their age.
on the way to singapore, in the bus, i was rehearsing how should i address her and what to do when i see her. looking at the cert, looking at her name, i was tempted to call her by her name but i fell asleep tired of thinking about it.
reaching there at my aunt’s place, i saw her from the front door and we stood there for awhile looking at each other. i carefully studied her face and immediately recognize her. we hugged for what seem like an eternity. we did alot of catch-up and i knew better then to yell and scream “WHY” at her the moment i see her. i wanted to build a relationship we never had and have always wondered what is it like to have a mum, to have a home to go to, a reunion dinner to be at or teach me how to deal with feelings and face problems in life and a hand to hold if i fall down. and now that i do, it feels weird. i’m still working on it.
i found my life partner after i got back from my visit in singapore. i met him through facebook in 2009. he is 22 years old and helping with his family’s business. i still remember telling him to get ready for the ride of his life being with me. he didnt believe at first but now he is a testimony to how we both struggled and yet he stood beside me every step of the way. due to my independent personality, i hate asking help from anyone or trust anyone. but he has changed my life.
i told him about my mum and he was glad to meet her. the next trip i went, i brought him with me to see her. you have to see the look on her face! pricelesssss. she asked why i didn’t try harder with girls. and then why i didn’t try more girls. i laughed it off and say this is it, this is who i am thinking in my heart that i should seize this opportunity to tell her once and for all. i know she is disappointed but this is my life. my life partner is my rock and my strong foundation up till today, we have been together for almost 2 years. he kept encouraging me and persuaded me to get a better job that pays more than the university so i moved to damansara and got myself a job as a corporate communication guy in a big company.
just last year a friend of mine invited me to a “gay thing” in KL and it sounded interesting to me because i have never been to any so expecting nothing i went. the minute i was there, there were so many people like me around and for once its not in a club. rainbow massacre changed my life that night because of what it stands for. the message it was giving out to suicidal, people who faces objection from coming out to their parents, rejection from the community for being different and intimidated from being afraid of what the world thinks of them. and here these people are boldly speaking out and promoting and fighting for our freedom to love one another. the song that particularly spoke to me that night was ‘proud’ sang by aaron khaled, with the line “please don’t shoot me down, though you can see it now, someday i’ll make you proud”. i cried. for once i feel so proud of who i am. it felt so liberating. it is so much easier to come out to people whom i just met but then again that’s the real challenge being gay because that’s when i will know who my true friends are.
i honestly do not know if i had to struggle if the orphanage home did not kicked me out for being gay but i am happy that they did because then i will not be who i am today if i hadn’t gone through shit. i am more open now with my life, with who i am and i’ve learn to be proud of it because i made a decision to not let it define who i am but each to his/her own person. i am my own person. finally i am not alone.
This is the story of my fight for freedom to love and to survive and i am happy now that i have an equal opportunity as an adult to strive for what i want to do, my passion in life and not regretting what has happened because i’ve learnt that things happens for a reason. i want to share a beautiful song that i can relate to, a song that touches my heart and everytime i hear it and everytime i sing it, it brings a whole new meaning altogether to me. its called ‘Stand’ by Juwita Suwito. “today feels different somehow, living on the edge of a breakthrough…”
For obvious reasons, some names have been changed and BL is the writer’s pen name. Illustrations by Jun Kit.