The paradox of shame and celebration

Jurong East Bus Interchange before the first bus of the day. Photo by Jaryl George Solomon


It’s 5:45am and I’m on the bus heading home from the gym. Today was my first upper body workout of the week. I have four more workouts to complete before my mind registers that I am realigning myself to a routine again. Working beyond home has not been kind to the routines my body has acclimatised itself to. I foolishly got too used to filtering my entire life through the WFH lens. Add to that, the act of working out is in itself hard to keep to. Somehow, I once convinced myself that the only thing stopping me from being loved is my body, and I had to adapt like all the other queer bodies stretching and stiffening within the heartland gyms. 

In contrast to the lead-heavy inertia I often battle with as I hurriedly catch the last bus to the gym, I feel incredible lightness whenever I walk to the interchange to get home. I’m always alone at my section of the interchange but I'm never lonely. I only feel lonely when I’m around people anyway. It feels right to be alone at a time when most Singaporeans are still rubbing sleep from their eyes. Nobody is here but me and the murder of crows that have claimed territory over this newly-renovated interchange.

When I’m seated in this saccharine yellow interchange, I think about how far my body has come. This body stacked with so much grief, pain and confusion, is also capable of bench-pressing, deadlifting and bicep-curling. This body often meek and shrunken in queer settings, confidently flits from one gym machine to another. This body is making an effort to be comfortable in its own skin.
My queerness, brownness, bigness—they’re all ultimately paradoxical. How do I tell people I am proud to be queer when queer men have constantly belittled me? How do I talk about the joys of being brown when all I have grown up with is my glaring inadequacies of being South Asian in Singapore? And how do I begin to advocate my bigness when all I’ve ever wanted was to comfortably fit into a size M t-shirt? My essay, “The History of Whales” is just another attempt at coming to terms with the paradox of shame and celebration in relation to my big brown queer body. So, I urge you to read my essay, along with the other wonderful pieces in Brown is Redacted to understand that we’re all just trying to make sense of all the paradoxes that exist within us. And until I come up with a better way to deal with the complexities of my body, I just have to sway a little more towards celebration than shame.
Best regards,
Contributor to Brown is Redacted: Reflecting on Race in Singapore


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