I’ve started using the term “wife” more often and each time I use it, I feel a little braver, a little stronger and just that little bit more out of the closet.
People who know me will be surprised to read this, but coming out does take courage. Even for someone who is out and proud like me. I’ve been out for 9 years and I’ve always advocated being true to yourself. I subscribe to the theory that the more LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) people someone knows, the less likely they are to feel homophobic. This in turn will help to normalise the way society views the LGBTQ community. So I have tried to be out in both my personal and professional life. Yet there have been occasions where I have found myself omitting to mention the fact that my partner is a women.
Probably because of the way I look or the fact that I have a daughter, no one ever suspects that I am not straight. Society assumes if you look fairly feminine and have a child, you are automatically married to a man. Most people are surprised when they first find out that I’m LGBTQ or Bisexual to be exact. While I don’t intentionally hide the fact that I am bisexual, I don’t like to actively mention it either because I don’t want it to define who I am. It’s easier to just allow people to assume I am straight because I don’t really have the time to explain to the coffee shop auntie or the supermarket cashier why Zoey has 2 mommies or why I have a partner who is not my husband. In fact, we did try to explain it to a kaypoh auntie at the supermarket check out line once. We ended up having to settle for me being 妈妈 (Mama) and Irene being 干妈 (Godma) because she simply could not understand the concept of a child having 2 mothers.
This has changed now that we are married. Where in the past, I would refer to Irene as my partner, I now remind myself to say “Wife”. This is because while she is still my partner, she is also the mother of my child, the person I have chosen to grow old with and we have a legal piece of paper that proves it. She deserves to be called my wife and not be hidden like a dirty secret shoved right into the deepest corners of the closet. If I have to explain it to every little old auntie I meet at the supermarket, so be it. It is better than not validating our love, our lives, our family.
The interesting thing is coming out does get easier. Over the years I’ve found people tend to be really supportive. Whether I am the first LGBTQ person they know or they have gay/lesbian friends, the reaction is normally either curiosity or support. I’ve yet to meet someone who expresses hate or fear. Either that or I’m simply oblivious to it.
Coming out is a long process and every little step counts. Part of the reason why this blog exists is to show the world that LGBTQ parents exists and we exist in Singapore. Discrimination will only stop when enough people stand up to fight for the rights of LGBTQ. I believe the only way this will happen is when the majority realises that they know someone who is LGBTQ and this person eats, lives, works and plays, just the same as everyone else. This can only be achieved when more people are brave enough to come out and stand up to be counted. So I promise to say “my wife” instead of “my partner” and do my part in Coming Out every day.
Mrs & Mrs Chiong with little Ms Chiong Coming Out of San Francisco City Hall.