~ By Suchen Christine Lim ~
It is not “someday”, but today.
My best friend and her husband, both devout Christians, are happy now that their lesbian daughter (in her late thirties) has found a loving, supportive partner for life. Their daughter and her partner live with the partner’s family, and the couple visit and dine regularly with my friend and her husband, like any good, married daughter and her spouse.
A few months back, my former student took me out for lunch, and told me about his long-term partner, who is English. The two men, who work in the medical field, have been together for more than 12 years, and his good news is that their families have accepted their relationship. My former student’s family is Singaporean and Catholic, and his partner’s parents are English and Anglican. Since we were having a Japanese lunch, we toasted his good news with sake.
A few years ago, I had a similar happy surprise when I met a former nun and her partner at a tai chi class. The couple told me that they have been together for more than 15 years. With the blessing of their Catholic families and friends. My heart leapt. What wonderful, loving families they have.
Since the publication of my book, “The Lies That Build A Marriage” and the TV film, “The Morning After”, I have had the opportunity to meet several gay and lesbian couples who have been together for several years, some for as long as 25 years, which makes it a union much longer than many marriages between a man and a woman these days. One such couple I had the good fortune to meet are two highly talented musicians in their early fifties who celebrated their 25th anniversary three years ago. Both men had met when they were young twenty-somethings. Today they are a mature, loving couple, and it is such a joy for me to be in their company as I listen to the music they produce with their eyes, their laughter, and their gestures. And I can’t help but wish and pray that some day, my son will have a long-term relationship like theirs. I know some time this year I will be drinking a toast to their 28th anniversary.
There is another gay couple I know in Singapore who have been together since their varsity days. The two men are highly respected professionals in their mid-forties, and they are quietly bringing up their three lovely children with the support of their parents and extended families.
These two long-term relationships remind me of my family’s amah and her life-long partner. The two women shared a home in Jalan Besar and adopted a daughter who became my playmate. As a child, I was fortunate to have had such a loving amah who took me to her home when she went back to visit her partner and their daughter. During such visits, I don’t remember my superstitious, temple-going mother ever making a fuss about sin and morality. My amah and her partner lived together till death parted them, and I celebrated their life-long devotion to each other in my short story, “My Two Mothers.”
Today, these loving, long-term, gay and lesbian relationships in our midst are often hidden from view. When more of them become visible to the public, there will be no need to turn pink every year. Some day we will not need a pink dot to clamour for social acceptance. Some day, the heterosexual majority will feel secure enough about their own values and morality to accept the gay and lesbian relationships in their midst, without feeling threatened. It will happen. It is already happening, albeit quietly, for real change takes place below the radar and twitter of the Internet and the media.
Today, there are already many families in Singapore who have accepted (often without much fuss) the long-term gay and lesbian relationships of their children, siblings and relatives. For deep down, most of us in the heterosexual majority can see beyond the sexual orientation of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunties. Deep down, we see beyond the laws of church and country. It is not so much the social acceptance and legal freedom to love, but the fidelity and the commitment to each other to work at nurturing our partnership for the long haul that transforms a couple’s relationship (whether it is heterosexual or LGBT) into a marriage.
This article first appeared on Pink Dot's website. Suchen Christine Lim won the inaugural Singapore Literature prize in 1992 with her third novel, Fistful Of Colours. Her fourth novel to date, A Bit Of Earth, was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004.