Alexander, in his own words: “Being a gay transgender man in Singapore has its challenges. When you’re younger, people don’t take you seriously. They just think you’re a ‘tomboy’ and that it’s just a phase. You have complete strangers staring at you sometimes, and your identity as a gay man who was assigned female at birth is questioned when you come out, and then dismissed as something that you’re “too young to know for sure”.
As a child, I would adamantly refuse to wear dresses and remotely ‘girly’ clothes and would cry at the idea of wearing them, but I was forced into them regardless. When introduced to my parents’ friends, I would correct my them when they told their friends I was their daughter by saying “I’m your son”. I remember being lectured by my mum when I was ten, and I was told not to call myself their son because it hurt their feelings.
My parents never brought up the subject of LGBT people, and LGBT issues weren’t discussed in school. The only source of information we had in secondary school was the internet, and at the time, mainstream media still had limited portrayal of queer people, which was largely based on stereotypes. I navigated through my early teenage years trying to conform to heteronormativity, but deep down I knew that something wasn’t right. I hated what puberty was doing to me, and each day in the shower served as a reminder that I wasn’t male. When I started being attracted to other boys, I was even more confused, but came to the conclusion that it would be easier to just try being a girl instead.
After finishing my GCE ‘O’ Levels, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with another trans man. We both worked part-time in the same restaurant and were of the same age. He came out to me one day over a text conversation, and I realised that his life growing up was very similar to mine. The only difference was that he liked girls, and I liked boys. That alone still made me question my identity, but after thinking about it for a while, I realised that if there were gay cisgender people, gay transgender people could exist too. Thrilled at how I had finally discovered my identity, I came out to my close friends and classmates in the polytechnic, but the thought of coming out to my parents and their potential rejection still frightened me. One day, I knew I had to stop hiding from them, so I came out to them that year, two days before I turned 17. Needless to say, they were shocked and distraught. They weren’t ready to accept me as their son, and they said that I was too young to know what I wanted. They still thought that it was just a phase.
Of course, the journey of transitioning still wasn’t smooth after coming out. There have been times when I felt that life as a trans man wasn’t worth living, and I had contemplated suicide. However, in the recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet people that have been so open-minded and accepting, and their support has brought me through the hard times to a better place in life. However, I know that there are trans youth out there who do not have proper support in their circle of friends, which is why I started volunteering with The Purple Alliance and helped to start a casual support group for trans* people in Singapore. It’s been almost two years since I started volunteer work, and I have grown a lot as a person in this period of time.
The LGBT community in Singapore is more diverse than one might think it is, but it is still largely segregated. When people think of LGBT rights, most tend to think about Section 377A of the penal code and marriage equality, but in reality, there is so much more work to be done. There is still discrimination within the LGBT community, and some people are still not educated on issues transgender people face. Hormones for trans people are hard to acquire and surgery is expensive and not covered by insurance. However, recently there have been more people speaking out for the transgender community. Things are changing, and as the years go by, the LGBT community will be closer to becoming one.
I recently turned 20, and looking at how far we have come as a community and how much more we can and will progress, I’m glad that I didn’t decide to end my life. If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would say, “Stop poking your head out of the big window and calculating how long it will take for you to hit the ground. Things will fall into place in time. You’ll witness plenty of great things in the years to come, and you will be a part of it.”