Safe inside/outside | 內外自逸
After all the years of being alone, moving around different cities, having to make new friends all the time, and not knowing (m)any LGBT persons through the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m safest ‘inside’ my head.
My choice of safe space most definitely has a lot to do with the environment that I grew up in. Malaysia and Singapore aren’t receptive, much less accepting of LGBT individuals. Sodomy is still criminalized (‘how can any man subject himself to this?!’), while lesbianism is made a mockery (‘It’s not sex as there’s no penis involved’). The official stance of these countries is that “homosexuality is a Western ailment, we don’t have it here”. And in these societies, an unmarried child is a huge loss of ‘face’, but a homosexual child in the family is an indignity beyond reproach. These beliefs may not be as strong as it was ten, twenty years ago, but the fact that no one prominent - no artist, no politician, no corporate figure - ever came out in public is a testament that hetero is still the (only) acceptable sexuality.
I’ve always been an unconventional child, at least in the eyes of the people I grew up with. I was a tomboy, but not so much in my behavior but more in my personality and temperament. No, I don’t get into fights nor did I climb trees. Yes, I love and do lots of sports, including the usual basketball, volleyball, handball and field hockey. No, I don’t like girlie things - pink, skirts, dresses, and make-up. Yes, I can live with just jeans and T-shirts/shirts. My parents were both strict and (emotionally) distant. I was never allowed to go to playdates and my family moved around a lot. Unable to find an outlet for my sensitive heart and conflicting emotions, I began to escape into the only place that I have access to - my own head.
Thus it is not surprising that after all these years, I am such an expert in living inside my head, and even more so after I realized that I am gay in my mid thirties. (Read about my coming-out here) Inside my head, I can totally be myself. I don’t have to worry about how others see me. The constant self-checking and self-censuring of my words and actions, to make sure no one suspects that I'm not straight, are both mentally exhausting yet essential to ensure no unwanted drama. The multitude of masks that I have to put on when I go out to face the world are suffocatingly necessary. As an introvert, I do not need much human interaction to get through life. I am perfectly happy living in the worlds I’ve created, especially the worlds I get to create and explore, all in my mind, while reading or watching TV shows/movies. So when I need to vent or just chill, I’ll happily ‘hibernate’ in my room and live inside my head.
July 19, 2016 was the night I went to my first Taipei LGBTQ+ weekly Meet-Up group gathering. As a recovering control freak, I was nervous as hell as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had come up with many excuses to give myself a reason to chicken out. But in the end, I am very grateful for whatever cosmic forces that made me traveled all the way from Tamsui to the gathering that night. It was the first time that I’ve seen and been in a space with so many LGBTQ+ people! Suddenly, I went from knowing just one queer person to being friends with so many. Everyone there was very supportive and accepting. I couldn’t sleep that night. My mind was replaying most of the conversations and many of the stories I’ve heard earlier. I realized that I’ve found ‘my people’.
During these gatherings, I can hug, touch and be physically affectionate without having to worry about my actions being misconstrued. I don't have to crack my head trying to frame questions to ask or answer people’s questions in a ‘heteronormative-way’. Even if I don’t feel like talking, I am contented to just sit back and soak up the atmosphere, to just observe and enjoy the camaraderie and sense of community that is permeating within this safe space. It is heartening to see that everyone can be themselves in this small judgemental-free corner that we’ve created. Here, being queer is not something to be hidden or to be censured. This is the one place and time to truly let our hair down and be as queer as we want to.
Truly, I am grateful to have finally found a space, outside my head, where I can take off the armor and masks that I had to put on to face the world, and just chilax with my fellow queers. I can stop worrying about my being queer, stop filtering my words and just stop pretending. So join me at our Taipei LGBTQ+ weekly Meet-Up group gatherings every Tuesdays.
Come, come and be yourself.
(Editor: Art M.)
我一直都不是大家眼中合乎常規的小孩，至少在我成長過程中身邊的人是這麼認為。我一直是個所謂的「男人婆」，並不是我的行為如此，而是我的個性及性情使然。我並不會動不動跟別人打架，也不會爬樹。但不置可否的是，我的確熱愛運動，舉凡籃球、排球、手球或曲棍球等等。我也並不喜愛所謂「女性化」的事物－粉紅色、裙子、洋裝或者是化妝品，我常常喜歡只穿件襯衫/T-shirt 搭配牛仔褲。我的雙親一直都很嚴厲，且 （在情感上）也都滿疏遠的。他們從不允許我去朋友家玩耍，且我們時常搬家。我敏感的心及激盪的情緒始終找不到一個出口，因此我決定逃離這一切喧囂，藏匿於我腦海中的世界。
2016 年 7 月 19 日，那晚我第一次來到我在台北的 LGBTQ+ 每周聚會。身為一個還在康復的控制狂，我當天極度緊張，不曉得我會遇到什麼樣的狀況。我開始編很多理由，想給自己一個怯場的理由。但到最後，無論是這宇宙間什麼神奇的力量，我很感謝這樣的力量給了我動力，讓我遠從淡水一路到參加聚會的地點，出席當天晚上的聚會。那還是我生平第一次在一個地方遇到這麼多 LGBTQ+ 的人群！剎那間，我從原本只是一個單獨的酷兒，一下子認識了好多不同的朋友。大家都釋出善意，給予支持且非常歡迎更多不同的人群。我當晚徹夜難眠，腦海裡不斷地重複當晚跟不同人的對話，以及大家所分享故事。這一刻，我意識到我終於找到「我的族人」。
來加入我們吧~ 一起來每個星期二晚上在台北（公館）的 LGBTQ+ 的聚會。與我們同樂，更重要的是─開心自在地做你自己！
(翻譯：Andrew Wang； 編輯： NC Kwong )