Family rejection contributes to negative outcomes

We wholeheartedly support the affirmative sentiments expressed by Professor Chong Siow Ann ("Coming out: How parents react is crucial"; Nov 21) towards members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community.

It is encouraging to see an established medical professional make a carefully researched yet compassionate case for accepting a minority group.

Coming out - the process of an LGBTQ-identified person self-disclosing his sexual orientation and/or gender - is a very personal experience and, for many, can also be one fraught with intense emotions.

Our professional experience of working with LGBTQ individuals and couples in Singapore over the past 15 years has taught us one thing: Relationships with family members constitute a significant part of their lives and is often a key consideration in the coming-out process. 

A young woman may feel anxious about disclosing her bisexual identity to her family members; while transgender people may worry about when and how to tell their family members of their current gender identity and the process of transitioning.

A questioning youth may fear informing his parents about the homophobic bullying experienced in school.

And a same-sex couple may agonise over whether to be open about their relationship to their respective families, as they make plans to commit to each other.

Numerous international studies have conclusively indicated that sexual orientation and gender identity on their own are not predictors for poor mental health and increased suicide risk for LGBTQ people.

In fact, it is family rejection, alongside hostile social environments and lack of supportive community resources, that contributes to negative outcomes.

Even as we offer professional counselling, support and personal development services for LGBTQ people, we also acknowledge the psychosocial needs of family members.

In our experience of working in multicultural Singapore, we have encountered mothers and fathers, as well as siblings, uncles, aunts and grandparents who go on to embrace their LGBTQ family members unconditionally.

For our team of counsellors, social workers and volunteers, there is nothing more heartening than having the privilege of witnessing this.

In this changing world where recent events have taught us not to take safety for granted, can we not begin to offer our LGBTQ children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and even parents and grandparents a physically and emotionally safe space in our own homes?

Leow Yangfa

Executive Director

Oogachaga