Content warning: This story contains mentions of suicidal thoughts and may be triggering for some.
I really want to be able to scream. Properly scream.
That’s not entirely true. I can still scream, in the classical sense of the word. But I’m a musician—at least, I’ve been making money through music—since I was 16. And though I used to be more into making indie pop and alternative R&B, it didn’t get me going the way hardcore punk does. So in six months’ time, when my voice finally stops breaking and settles into its new range, I’ll be able to fry-scream and low-growl properly the way I want. I’ll be able to make music the way I want.
I’ve been on testosterone for half a year. It’s been going well, apart from the acne and the constant sweating and the cracking voice. I can still carry a tune, but I’ve been keeping track of my range and it’s smaller and shakier than it used to be. I’ll aim for a note and my body will pull the rug out from under me. Oh, you thought? Have a random note instead.
Messing with my voice was one of my biggest concerns when it came to the question of whether to start taking testosterone. If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said that hormone therapy was never going to be on the cards. But after I had my top surgery at the end of 2019, I was riding this incredible high. So I thought, “You know what? I didn’t think I wanted that either, but I’m here and it feels really, really good. Imagine if I could feel even better.”
Feeling better seems like a possibility now. I’ve been spending a lot of time with myself recently. If you’ve ever heard of the concept of dating yourself, that’s kind of what I’ve been up to: treating myself how I would like others to be treated, right? I’m putting romantic energy into self-care and my mental health. It’s been a long time coming, but I only recently started to be really alert to what’s going on in my own head. And asking myself what I can do better and how I can change my thinking.
“I’m putting romantic energy into self-care and my mental health”
So I spend a lot of time just thinking and vibing in my bed these days. Blasting music, hanging out with my rats (there are 10 of them, named Chicken, Lizard, Devon, Gravy, Henry, Ratiug, two both called Skinsacks because I can’t tell them apart, Ravioli and Goose). My bed is a hand-me-down from my mum, with a patchwork quilt that was made by my great-grandmother. It has one of those Ikea shark plushies, too.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is about how to reshape my onstage persona and my outer personality for when the world opens back up again. It’s tricky because I’m in a transitional period of my life where I feel like I change who I am drastically from month to month. But I know I want to work on reconciling my inner self, which is introverted, and the curated public version of myself.
That being said, the way I physically present myself to the world is one of those things that I feel good about. I draw attention; not always the positive kind. It’s the ink, the haircut, the general gender ambiguity. When I get more confident with that ‘outer’ me, or if I ever move to a city where casual fashion is a little more bold, I’ll be getting even weirder with my style—think crop tops, flare pants and high heels. I already have the pair of heels. I just need the right excuse to wear them.
But I know I’m going to have to make adjustments to that ‘outer’ me, so it feels like more of a natural state. That’s especially true if I want to move into a high-energy genre like punk. Another problem I’m working on: I know I love performing, but I also know that I have serious stage fright. Performing for my friends, it feels natural. Fine. But if the crowd is made up of strangers, I shut down. I feel like I take a backseat in my own head. I watch myself and think, “What are you doing?”
I spent a lot of my life feeling that way. Not recognising who I was and feeling very alien, in Singapore and my own body. I’m queer. I’m trans. I’m polyamorous. I’m neurodivergent. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been broke. I’ve been to juvie. The society we’re in was never built to fit people like me, so I spent a lot of time trying to minimise or erase those parts of myself.
That wasn’t good. Obviously. I grew up resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to make it very far that way. To be honest, I never planned on living past 16. But I hit 16 and I moved the line to 18. Then I hit 18 and I thought, “OK, let’s move it to 21.” The line’s still there; it’s probably always going to be there, in one way or another. It’s currently fixed at 27. But in the meantime, I want to make the most of whatever years I have between now—I’m 24—and crossing that line. I think I’m much better when I have short-term goals or something to look forward to.
I count my blessings now in a lot of ways. Being a part of the queer community in Singapore and meeting people who are like me has been a big part of that. I don’t want to be cheesy and go as far as to say that it gives me hope. But having somebody else get you? It makes things better.
I have a good support system now. Queer folks who hang out together, by rule of thumb, are really open. We’re direct and loyal. We’re all comfortable with one another. I have tattoos on my arms that are traced over the doodles that my friends have drawn on me. I make sure I know everyone’s love languages and deal breakers and communication styles, and vice versa.
I’m not sure how I got lucky enough to have these people surrounding me. I’m an organised person by nature so I help put events together sometimes, which helps to bring folks together. Formal events, like a cabaret called Queer the Year, and informal hangouts. Last month, we went to a park near my house and played tag. We got some strange looks from parents.
But a lot of my personality now, I think, is rooted in saying “f*** it” and having fun. To have good stories to tell, first and foremost. I’ve been driven around by Steven Lim, slept overnight on the New York subway and nearly drowned trying to surf with a fractured leg. Experiences first, consequences after, I guess.
“Messing with my voice was one of my biggest concerns when it came to the question of whether to start taking testosterone”
I had to say “f*** it” to convince myself to go through with top surgery. I came out as trans in 2015, but didn’t socially transition until 2018. I spent a lot of time after that trying to save up money for the surgery, making sure that it was what I wanted. Because even though I’d known I was trans for years, I still had doubts. What if I was faking it? What if it wasn’t really what I wanted? Maybe I could make do with what I had. But I got to the point that the surgery felt necessary for survival. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it made life a lot better. [Surgery] took a huge load off my mind and helped me be more present. I realised that I had spent my entire life, up to that point, dissociated from myself.
There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing in the future. I want to go back to busking; I used to busk in the tunnels under Clarke Quay. Just me and a guitar, no amp or mic, and all the tourists walking by. Some of them would stop by me, which always felt incredibly affirming because they didn’t owe me that. Not like an audience, where they have to clap or at the very least sit and listen to you.
Clarke Quay’s also where I’ve had some of my best stories. There was a morning in 2014 when my friends and I were still pleasantly drunk after a night of clubbing. And we were down by the edge of the river (a recipe for disaster). First I fell in. Then, after I’d climbed out, one of my friends jumped in the water. We tossed her a life buoy and she started swimming across the river. We sat on the bank and slowly let the line out, like we were fishing. I just kept calling to her, “There’s more string! Keep going! There’s more string!”
Photography: Darren Gabriel Leow
Fashion: Desmond Lim
Grooming: Greg’O using Keune SG and MAC Cosmetics
Stylist’s assistant: Joey Tan