When Opening the Door Is Far from Gentlemanly
I hadn't planned on coming out—it took me a decade to thank him
As part of National Coming Out Day on 11 October 2020, I've decided to share my coming out story with the hope it inspires someone out there.
I was involuntarily forced out of my closet 10 years ago. Right after I embarked in my second serious relationship.
My then-partner, Z (name redacted), often had family issues, so sometimes heading back home was an issue for him. The first time I offered Z to stay the night at my place, I introduced him to my parents as my best friend. No one had any idea that I’m gay, and I’ve always intended for it to be a secret.
Being Malay-Muslim, coming out was the last thing on my mind. It would have brought shame to the family, and I'd have committed an act of treachery upon my parents, who would have to bear the sins from my actions. What hogwash. I'm accountable for my own choices, decisions and mistakes, thanks.
My place—or rather, my parent’s home—had three bedrooms. Two of which were occupied by sisters and their husbands. As for me? I slept on a mattress in the living room with Z getting a separate one next to mine when he slept over.
There was a point in time my mum’s jewellery strangely went missing. So my brother-in-law, F, decided to hold a “family meeting” to uncover the “thief”, asking Z to be part of it. One might think, “Oh, they consider him part of the family now!”
“I’m holding this meeting to collect everyone’s details to be handed over to the police,” F said. “The frequency of Z sleeping over renders him a suspect.” My eyes briefly saw the back of its sockets when he said this.
Right after that, F turned to me and asked in front of the entire family, “Are you gay?” Backed into a corner unprepared, I boldly admitted. The interrogation continued, and he pointed to Z.
“Is he your boyfriend?”
“Yes,” I replied.
That was when drama ensued; my mum cried, my dad, voiced disappointment.
F’s reason as to why he outed me? He claimed to see Z and myself making out in the living room.
A complete slander.
As a discreet couple, both of us had enough sense to refrain from doing so, as anyone could have just walked in on us. It was like being on an open battlefield. When sleeping, we’d always keep a slight distance; close enough, but slightly apart. Did we share sneaky goodnight kisses? Of course, we did—but we never cuddled, made out or had anyone see us engage in hanky panky.
Right after being outed, Z was immediately chased out of the house. My family had not asked me to leave. Yet, I chose to pack my bag along with a tent and followed him out the door. I knew he had nowhere to go, and I could not bear leaving him alone in the streets.
For about three months, we camped out at East Coast Park, which was close to our workplace then, a garden gastro bar near Big Splash. Working shifts between 5 pm till 1 am (sometimes till 3 am) we would return “home” to our tent right after—for six days a week.
Saturdays were our lucky days because we got to sleep in the air-conditioned restaurant, for an early Sunday brunch shift the next day.
It was a trying time, and we were not earning very much. We often found ourselves completely broke, sometimes having to ask our friends to lend us some cash.
Things have improved now. There was a day when my mum said to me while we were watching TV, “Since you won’t be getting married, I’d expect you to be taking care of dad and me.”
While subtle, it was the right amount of acknowledgement I needed. Since then, my sexuality was a matter that was swept under the carpet, never to be discussed again. So if you were to ask me today, I am sort of grateful F outed me, as I would probably have done it myself. I simply did not appreciate how it was executed.
As for my relationship with Z? We parted ways in 2015. Both of us changed along the way and no longer suited each other.
A bittersweet love, nonetheless.
If you'd like to share your story with me, ask for ideas on coming out, or find out how to respond to someone who recently came out, feel free to find me, @layzrquill on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!