The Unspoken Territory

As someone who studied in an all-girl school for 11 years, I was not a stranger to the idea of same-sex relationships. It was fun and liberating to watch some of my friends fall head over heels for other girls. I spent many nights thinking and fantasising about girls in a different way. Of course, heterosexual “puppy love” relationships were also common among us.

When I was 15, I had a heated discussion between my mom, my sister and I, where I blurted out: ‘I’m not even sure if I’m a bisexual or not.’

The discussion was not about sexuality per se; it was about Dad. My sister had gained a little bit of weight. Every time when she returned home (which was not that often), she was the target of snarky remarks on her weight and how no one would marry her. I took my sister’s side, and told Dad that he shouldn’t be fat-shaming anyone, let alone his own daughter. I cried as she cried, and that was when I blurted out that seemingly unrelated sentence.

In truth, what my 15-year-old self tried to suggest was that if Dad was already uncomfortable about my sister’s weight, what would happen if I told him that I was confused with my sexuality? Who I liked? Why did I like that person? What would a deeply conservative, Muslim father think about my preferences? Would he be snarky too?

I’d never asked him these questions, for I already knew the answer. When I brought up a topic about homosexuality at school, the only thing he could say was that I should avoid being friends with anyone who’s “songsang”, a Malay word for “upside down”, and a jargon for “being gay”.

A “songsang” person is almost always associated with the LGBTQ community. “Songsang” means Anuar Ibrahim, according to my parents. “Songsang” means my openly lesbian classmates. “Songsang” means unnatural, and is all about sex.

What they don’t know is that behind every “songsang” is a human being—capable of love, hurt, pain, and a myriad of emotions, just as much as anyone else. 

Up until now, I’ve never been in a homosexual relationship, and I’m contented being with my boyfriend. My parents are still uneasy with the fact that I’m close to quite a number of queer friends. 

But there will always be this lingering feeling to step into the unknown, to permit myself to just be, and most importantly, to understand the true nature of unpoliced love.

— SS