Test 2

Please select your preferred language.





Remember Me

New to Fridae?

Fridae Mobile


More About Us

16 Apr 2010

DJ Big Kid reflects upon the impact of 'don't ask, don't tell' within families

Coming out of the closet is seldom easy. Just ask DJ Big Kid (otherwise known as Johnson Ong), a prominent name at dance parties across Asia and one of three ambassadors of the Pink Dot campaign in Singapore.

Big Kid is Singaporean, gay, and closeted to his family. In fact, this story might be his way of leaving the proverbial door open for future conversations with his loved ones. “I grew up in an environment where I was told being gay is wrong; that I needed to cast out the demons,” he said.

He suspects some members of his family might be aware of his sexual orientation. But so far, none of them have confronted him. He’s pretty certain that this same dynamic applies to many gay Singaporeans – a code of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ within families, so as to avoid difficult conversations.

“Parents have a certain expectation of their children,” he noted. “Because of these expectations, you feel that there’s a need to keep up the charade. If you don’t, then you’d fall short and disappoint everyone.”

As a country, we think of ‘family’ as being core to our values, yet the idea of having an LGBT family member would be unfathomable for most Singaporean families. Hence, we dodge, pretend and avoid, so as to maintain harmony, Big Kid said.

“I think, a lot of times, this issue drives a wedge between sons and daughters, with their parents. There’s that ‘need’ to hide who you are, that ‘need’ to keep up with appearances, and because of this, you cannot reveal your true self to the people that you love – your parents, extended family members, friends, old classmates… It keeps everyone in the family from having a truly close relationship.”

He recounts the story of a friend, J, who fell ill and had to be hospitalised. J is gay and was, at the time, not out to his family. J’s partner had alerted J’s family about the situation, and he would, subsequently, continue to provide regular updates to J’s mother about the condition of J’s health.

The way in which J's family had managed the situation stuck with Big Kid because it exemplified what he perceived to be a particularly "Asian" approach of tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. Everyone in the family knew what was going on between J and his partner but no one would talk about it, he said.

“It didn’t matter to the mother what relationship J had with his partner. What mattered to her was that this guy cares deeply about her son, which was something that she could recognise quite clearly. Next thing you know, when she’s making chicken soup for J, she prepares an extra portion for J’s partner.”

For Big Kid, the story reflects the way in which most Singapore families might manage and accept the presence of an LGBT member: “quiet acknowledgement”. However, he believes that family relationships will be stronger when family members communicate more openly – “So that they can be the ones you turn to,” he said.

For that reason, Big Kid said ‘yes’ to being a Pink Dot 2010 ambassador. “Last year’s Pink Dot was a fantastic effort… and it’s a simple thing that we can do once a year to say that LGBT people are a part of the Singapore family.”

Pink Dot 2010 will be held 15 May 2010, 5pm, at Hong Lim Park. For details and updates, visit pinkdotsg.blogspot.com.


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-04-16 20:47  
It is interesting that the tone of this article frequently suggests that this is a problem unique to Singapore or Asia, but believe me the reactions of families the world over are quite common. Anytime Singapore is mentioned, you could probably change the name to any country or region of the world and share a simliar experience.
It is my general experience that in the United States many families go through a phase of "don't ask don't tell". Prior to my coming out to my family, most of them came to accept the rotation of single male friends that came and went in my life and tried to integrate them comfortably into events in our family. Still, to this day, as a relatively open gay men, at the age of 41, many people I encounter still keep hoping I will find the "right girl" and settle down, etc, etc.
Additionally, even though my family readily came to accept that I am gay, the thought of a gay child or sibling is generally not something most families tend to prepare for. There is the same polite dance around the elephant in the living room, often even after confronted with the facts openly. All too often we as gay men and women forget that it often takes several years of internal study to recognize and accept our homosexual nature, the same too for our family and friends, they need to time to accept and process the information and that often takes a long time. These are normal feelings, as they had wishes for the success of their children, which is natural of course such as marriage, grandchildren and career success and to many parents, they have fears based on past experience that being gay limits some opportunity in life, based on the judgement of others.
I would suggest based on my experiences in travel to Asia and my friendship with natives of Asia, that much of the different reaction does relate to a less supportive social network for families of gay men and women in Asia. My grandparents felt very isolated when they found out they had a gay son back in the 1960s, but made the effort to move forward positively with the situation, but when I came out to my family in the 1990s, my mother had people she could turn to and also the life experience to know I could still pursue the best that life offered and that being gay is not necessarily a hinderance to living a successful life.
It is natural for a family to love their son or daughter. It is natural for them to wish to avoid addressing difficult issues that "change the rules". We need to exercise the same patience and understanding with our family and friends that we seek from them
2. 2010-04-17 00:51  
Don't ask & Don't Tell is more akin to the adage of "Need To Know Basis". It all really depends on the timing and how open both parties are towards each other (family and their son/daughter).

'Quietly acknowledging' is one of the phases (once they have found out) that the family will go through as compared to confronting the situation head on (will have more disastrous effects).

Time as it 'heals everything' also will 'reveal everything' as the family learns more and ultimately understand the sexual orientation of their son/daughter. It can't be rushed as a revolution doesn't happen overnight.

But 'avoiding' and 'quietly acknowledging' it forever will add strain to the parent-child relationship if they keep on seeing past that elephant in the living room.
3. 2010-04-17 01:58  
If u talk abt issue abt yrself, ppl ask y u talk so much abt u
When u talk abt others, ppl respond how much u know abt others.

Just like I was in a chat room ,when I admit I m ugly, ppl said I hv low self esteem. I wonder if u admit u did wrong then u r weak?

Beh tahan, LoL
4. 2010-04-17 03:42  
When I came out to my parents last X'mas they thought gay ppl still put earrings on their right to signal that they're cruising...

I guess there's a need for open communication along with patience and sensibility on both sides. I think the strain comes from either side not really know what the other thinks, hence making negative assumptions about each other.

Like the author himself illustrated, even though our parents grew up in a different generation and have pretty set ideas of what to expect.. it's not like they're incapable of understanding things like the possibility of having a same sex partner.

Anyhow - if we don't push the boundaries, who will?
5. 2010-04-17 03:57  
Me: Mom, I'm gay.
Mom: Couldn't you at least be bisexual?
Me: I tried.
Mom: John and Mary tried for ten years and they finally got pregnant!

Me: What are you asking me to try here?
Mom: I just want you to exhaust all your options.
Me: I'm not Ricky Martin.
Mom: Who's asking you to shake your bon-bon?

Me: Mom, I'm gay.
Mom: Go take out the garbage.

Not exactly, but that's pretty close to how it happened for me. Not saying every Mom is going to be like that. Just sayin'.
Comment edited on 2010-04-17 03:58:21
Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2010-04-20 10:20
7. 2010-04-17 08:18  
Post#1 'Kuman10127' flippantly comments about this article that ..."it frequently suggests that it is a problem unique to Singapore or Asia".....

Kuman, . Everbody writes about their experience from their perspective. Nowhere in this article do I read into it that the writer or DJ Big Kid suggest that this universal subject is unique to Singapore or Asia. It was written from the perspective of a gay man in Singapore.

Nice article. Good luck to 'pink-dot'

8. 2010-04-17 13:02  
Jupiter - There is nothing flippant about my comments. In fact my comment was very polite and respectful. I simply stated that this is in general a relatively universal experience no matter where one hails from ( as opposed to the comment quoted here "it exemplified what he perceived to be a particularly "Asian" approach of tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. ").

9. 2010-04-17 13:21  
Where's the like button.. lol
10. 2010-04-18 17:42  
“I think, a lot of times, this issue drives a wedge between sons and daughters, with their parents. There’s that ‘need’ to hide who you are, that ‘need’ to keep up with appearances, and because of this, you cannot reveal your true self to the people that you love – your parents, extended family members, friends, old classmates… It keeps everyone in the family from having a truly close relationship.”]

how true for the aforementioned statement..

how dreadful when they know about it and pretend and hint or evade or worse - tell you to be alone for the rest of your life ! really 哭不出來
Comment edited on 2010-04-18 21:38:14
11. 2010-04-18 23:33  
people should be made aware of ... contributors like Kuman ... and the few others ... they should be flagged ... or Fridae should make a point to allow general readers to block or ignore posts from certain ... quarters ... especially those with hidden agenda / motives ...

reminds me of the tag line ... "clear and present danger"

good day now


ps: DJ Big Kid is kind of cute ... and Hong Lim Park is hilarious! All the best to Pink Dot 2010! Together, for a constructive and progressive GLBT community!
12. 2010-04-19 00:40  
I wonder what "hidden agenda" or "clear and present danger" comes from my remarks in this or any other post I have ever made.
I always support the dignity of each individual and the right to live a life unmolested by interference by others.
For example my first post on this subject related to being understanding and patient with those we love about the "coming out" process and that it is a universal experience that is very similar no matter where one lives
. If we expect others to be accepting and understanding towards the fact we are gay we need to be equally accepting that it is a process for a family, friend or community to come to understand and hopefully accept and even celebrate our different natures.
Everything goes both ways. If we expect respect, we should offer respect, even if we disagree with others.

I hope the author of post #11 expresses what danger this attitude fosters.
13. 2010-04-22 23:51  
I downloaded some of Big Kid's music from his site on facebook recommended by a friend, my twins already know how to work my ipod and love to listen to his mixes

I think he's really good and he will have lasting power

I guess I got to start saving to afford him in another 10 years to fly he over for my daughter's future bat mitzvah, my half Jewish Asian twins think he's totally cool

Kuman's a cool chap by the way... lots of gay men have conservative view points and that's really cool

Please log in to use this feature.

Select News Edition

Featured Profiles

Now ALL members can view unlimited profiles!


View this page in a different language:

Like Us on Facebook


 ILGA Asia - Fridae partner for LGBT rights in Asia IGLHRC - Fridae Partner for LGBT rights in Asia