A father of a bisexual daughter and a mother of a gay son taught Pepper Lim the meaning of parenting.
Clyde is a taxi driver. He has a very talented daughter who is a singer. His daughter, Bonnie, is bisexual. While most of us pair up with another person of the opposite sex, Bonnie could be happy to pair up with anyone, male or female. I asked Clyde if there were signs to indicate that Bonnie was a bisexual. I had imagined Bonnie might act masculine one day and feminine the next. He told me “no”. She grew up just like any other girl. She went to school and hung out with her school friends. She visited her friends’ homes and they visited her home, like most teenagers. In her mid teens, Bonnie mentioned to Clyde that she liked girls. As Bonnie recalled, he took it quite well.
If my daughter had told me the same thing back then – when I was less exposed to such amazing people – I would have freaked out to say the least! I asked Clyde why he did not freak out. He told me his story. He had lost both his parents at an early age and as soon as he finished school, he went out to work. Everyone should be free to live their lives the way they want to, he told me. Why should I meddle in the lives of others? Especially if I don’t want them to meddle in mine, he explained further.
Whether he knows it or not, Clyde is a living example of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Clyde did not attend university but learned about life as it happened before his eyes. Or, as his daughter puts it, “His formal education came from the University of Hard Knocks. That’s the best kind of education!”
To think that I, with all my degrees, remained so ignorant about life till very recently. I am truly humbled by Clyde’s wisdom.
Justine is the mother of Alex. Since the age of 12, Alex has known he likes men. Justine said she did see some behaviour in Alex that were a little out of the ordinary: he liked to try on her make-up and wear her sari. I told her children are naturally curious and such behaviour does not necessarily mean that a person is gay. She laughed and told me it was her motherly instincts which told her so. At the age of 16 Alex knew for sure he is gay. Justine, being a supportive and understanding mother, gave him all the room he needed to discover his sexuality. I asked Justine how she could be so calm with it. She told me, “When you love your child, you will accept him as he is. All I want is for him to be happy.” I talked to Justine about the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people – at school, at work, by the government – but she told me, “I think Alex will be alright. He is intelligent and he has the support of the LGBT community. He knows where to go to for help. And I am always here for him.”
These parents really showed me the meaning of parenting.
I had come from a conservative background where children are expected to marry and have children of their own. I graduated from a Bible college, where it was further confirmed to me that God made humans male and female, and that their role in life was to populate the Earth. According to how the Bible was taught to me, homosexuality is a sin. I was taught that people who are LGBT choose to be this way, to live this kind of lifestyle and to deliberately go against the natural order of sexuality.
It was only recently that I came to realise how wrong I have been. As much as I was born heterosexual, LGBT people are also born the way they are. I am turned on by women and there is no way anyone could convince me otherwise. I like women, I just do! So it is with LGBT people. Gays like men because they just do. Lesbians like women, just because.
Yet I have read many reports of parents who disowned their own children because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Some of these children are kicked out of their homes as young as 16, some even younger. Hungry and homeless, some are driven to sell their bodies to survive and end up contracting HIV. What makes parents kick their own children out? Perhaps some may have felt pressure from their community or from religion. Whatever it may be, it is beyond terrible that a parent deny his or her own child food, shelter, education – the bare necessities of life. As parents, we are obligated to protect our children and equip them with skills and such necessities in order for them to grow into responsible, independent adults – no matter what their sexual preferences are!
So that is why I was heartbroken to hear Sam’s story. I met Sam at a forum. He looked like any other bloke, unshaven and loud. You can guess how surprised I was when Sam told me he used to be a woman! Sam is a female-to-male transsexual. He may have been born with female genitals but he had always felt he was male since he knew what was what. He told me his parents found out he was going out with a girl in high school and disowned him. Unable to cope with his parents’ rejection, he ran away from home to Singapore and began his transition from female to male there. Homeless, he often slept on the staircases of apartment buildings. He was often hungry because he had no money to buy food and was harassed by strangers when he used the male toilet. He told me, “This is who I am; I was born this way.” Slowly, he found a permanent job and started to piece his life together. With his own money, he has been able to begin the physical transition to become a man, which involves counseling, hormones, and surgery. The process is long and difficult but, with the help of understanding friends, it is made easier. Sam has a girlfriend now and last I heard, he was recovering from a night of too much drinking and eating.
My daughter is only two and a half years old. I may have dreams of her walking down the aisle with a handsome young man, but if she tells me she would rather walk down the aisle with another girl, or if she would rather be the man, I am going to be okay with that. It is her life; she can live it any way she – or he – wants.