Signel | Standing up for yourself

The following is an archived post from my original Geocities page (which is still LIVE, surprisingly). I will be copying the files over and archiving them one by one. This was my first ever geocities posting, but not my first contribution to the web. I will be looking for some old postings to various bbs’s and discussion groups pre-1997 and posting them as I find them.
There is a new mailing list for queer folk in Singapore called SiGNeL…the Singapore Gay News List (I think…I’m usually suspicious of acronyms), which is scant a month old, and has already drawn almost 200 subscribers, and a slew of controversial posts (sometimes vitriolic, sometimes academic). If you wish to joing the list, send an email to signel@usa.net indicating you would like to subscribe, and that you are over 21 years of age. Yours truly is one of the occassional contributors, and what follows are some of the letters I’ve written:

I want to share a story about a special friend of mine, who through her example, spurred me on to a new sense of responsibility for who I am, and how I react to homophobes around me.

About 5 years ago, I came out to a dear friend of mine, Christine, in a cafe. She and I hung out lots, and knew one another well. When I told her I had something to reveal, but hesitated…she started looking worried, but urged me on…saying that nothing would bother her. When I finally said, “I’m gay,” she heaved a sigh of relief. I asked why…and she said, “I thought you were going to tell me that you liked me and wanted to date! This is nothing!” We both laughed about it…and she went on to ask me several questions about my up till then very private life (I was 18, she was 24, and I was the first gay person she knew).

Christine claimed that even though she knew gay people existed, she never knew any personally, and so she was never aware of them. A few months later, she commented that, “Now that I know about you…all of a sudden, I notice gay people everywhere….God, you guys are really all over the place!” It was awareness that brought her this new perspective. She was immensely supportive.

What blew me away, however, was her staunch support for gays and lesbians everywhere. She broke up with a boyfriend because he made a disparaging remark about lesbians. She told off her sister and relatives when they started making homophobic jokes once. Her cousin and her got over such a heated argument about the acceptability of homosexuality that her cousin asked Christine to get out of the car and forced her to find her own way home (Maureen, the cousin was very religious and strongly opposed to homosexuality).

I was shocked at how Christine would stand up for me when even I might not have done the same. In her situation, I owe nothing to the gay cause. She had absolutely nothing to gain, and everything to lose. Her friends and her family are very conservative…yet, she stuck to her principles and what she believed in. Which is more than what most of us would have done. When I asked her why she stood up so strongly…she said, “Because Stuart, you’re my friend. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. We’re all people, and any form of prejudice or bigotry simply is unacceptable.”

We’re afraid of being branded gay if we stood up against people making homophobic remarks. Well, wake up and smell the coffee, Jose, we ARE gay. Christine has not been the only straight person I know who would stand up for equality of gays and lesbians. Even here in the army, I have a straight male friend who constantly challenges people who say something disparaging or even mildly homophobic. And this is in the army.

When do we start standing up for ourselves? I know I no longer take shit from people. I’m not that dense. I only need to be shown once that being proud, and not being subjugated, beaten over the head, made fun of, pushed in the corner, is the right thing to do.

As Johann Lee (author of “Peculiar Chris”) once said to me when he stopped me at Zouk, way back in 1993 – “Closets are for clothes!”