Crossing borders as a gay family

In his first guest blog for us, James of 4 Relative Strangers, blogs about his family holidays

"Deciding where to take your family for their holidays is always challenging. And when you are a same sex adoptive family; and by that I mean we are all the same sex, two dads and two sons; there are added challenges to the decision of where to go.

Ideally it needs to be somewhere at least LGBT tolerant, if not outwardly ‘friendly.’ However we don’t all have the luxury of choice. We have to travel annually to Singapore; my partner, Dylan is Singaporean, and his family desperately wants to see their grandchildren/nephews once a year. We usually aim for Chinese New Year so the boys can spend Christmas with my family and Chinese New Year with Dylan’s. Singapore is not the most LGBT friendly country. You only have to look at the debacle of the ‘Tango Makes Three’ issue – where the Singapore government banned all books from public libraries that ‘positively promoted’ families which differed from the usual ‘nuclear norm,’ including single-parent families and families with same-sex parents. It caused an outrage amongst the more liberal members of society but, in the end, Singapore is an authoritarian state and the Government always gets their way.

Unfortunately Dylan’s family doesn’t have the space to put us up so, as we have lots of friends there (I met Dylan when I worked in Singapore), we usually stay in a serviced apartment. This gives us flexibility to invite people over and shields us from the prying eyes of nosey reception staff.

People are often nosey though – I like to think they are just curious as here we are, a mixed race couple, one white British and one Singaporean Chinese, with two white boys. Dylan often jokes that when we are in Singapore people just assume he is the maid. I laughed until I heard a Singapore Airlines stewardess ask him if he needed a break - I was expecting him to look after the children all the time and even the ‘helper’ needs a break! He explained that he was the father and he was actually giving me a break from parenting as we take it in turns. Interestingly, she barely raised an eyebrow, but was soon heard at the back of the plane gossiping about the ‘gay family’ on row 48.

So this year we opted for a self-catering apartment which shared the neighbouring hotel’s facilities. This was fantastic as the boys could use the pool and we could use the pool bar. We came and went unnoticed. The boys played with other children and Dylan and I had some time to ourselves, away from the bustle of the city, friends and family.

To be honest, we didn’t encounter much in the way of prejudice – with one exception - a waitress in one of our favourite restaurants who, after serving us a couple of times, finally plucked up the nerve to ask us where the boys’ mother was. Dylan explained that they were his children – to which she asked if he had married an English wife. Dylan told her he had an English husband and we had two children between us. The waitress froze, went into slow motion, slowly and carefully placing the chopsticks in front of us, and then left – refusing to serve us again.

What can you do? You can’t complain, you have no right to – there is no equality for LGBT people in Singapore – in fact its still illegal to be gay there. So we just shrugged and waited for someone else to serve us. I asked Dylan why he told her anything, ‘Why should I hide?’ he said. I guess that’s true.

The boys didn’t seem to notice, maybe they are too young and maybe Dylan and I are still used to being treated as second class citizens but for any LGBT family looking to visit Singapore, I would say go – enjoy – but don’t be too open. Whilst Singapore does have an active gay scene, it is still underground; there are still occasional police raids but they don’t usually target tourists, just local National Servicemen (yes, every Singaporean male is expected to do two years National Service).

On the whole, being gay or lesbian is tolerated, as long as you don’t make a fuss about it. Of course, the concept of two gay men raising children is quite foreign to most of the population there and I often joke that going out with the children is like being constantly ‘outed.’

That said, we had a good time but, if I am being honest, if we didn’t have so many friends and family there it probably wouldn’t be a repeat holiday destination.

Follow James Williams here:
www.4relativestrangers.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter:@4RStrangers
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