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Celebrating Pride 2022 – A Conversation with Mars, Mary, Badrika and Antasha

Being comfortable in your own skin takes tremendous courage and strength, especially if you do not quite fit into society’s narrow definitions of “normal” or “regular”. This Pride Month, we’re celebrating the courage of people who’ve found the strength to be unapologetically themselves and proudly own their identities.

We’re shining the rainbow-coloured spotlight on Marissa, Antasha, Mary and Badrika, 4 members of the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore, to talk about what Pride means to them in a county like Singapore, the advice they have for the generations to come and much more.

Tell us about yourselves!

Marissa a.k.a Mars: I’m 28 and I used to be a video producer at The Smart Local, but I’ve recently shifted gears my career and I’m now a firefighter!

Antasha: I’m 21 and I am a transgender woman. Apart from my day job, I consider myself a content creator, and I’m going to represent Singapore in Miss Equality World 2022 happening in Bali this year!

Mary: I am a makeup artist, and have done makeup for almost all of Rawbought’s shoots! I’m also a makeup coach and the founder of a body-neutrality movement called ‘thebodywithin”.

Badrika: I’m Badrika, Mary’s partner for the past 6 years. I used to work in the PR industry in Singapore but now I want to pursue my dreams in construction so I’m working on making it to Canada for a course there.

What does Pride mean to you, especially in a society like Singapore’s?

Mars: Pride is love, simply put. To love someone or to love yourself is to have full acceptance.

Antasha: Pride to me, besides freedom to love, as a transgender woman, it means freedom to be who you want to be, regardless of your gender identity, or whatever else you want to identify as. Just freely being able to identify as who you want to be, without any fear. 

Badrika: To me it’s about being comfortable in your skin. We’re taught certain social norms since young, a certain way of life. The moment you realise that it doesn’t fit you, you lose your self-confidence. So once you come to terms with, and accept yourself, you gain it back. That’s what pride is to me. 

Mary: To me, it’s always about freedom to love. This is a part of myself that I’m able to express freely, and show that it’s okay to love whoever I want. I shouldn’t be uncomfortable with who I love. 

What was your journey towards finding pride and comfort in your identity?

Mary: I identify as bisexual. When I was growing up, I always thought I had to be either gay or straight. I was very confused, and found it very difficult to ask anyone my age because everyone was also discovering themselves as well. As an Indian, it wasn’t an easy thing to talk about with your family either. So I did have a lot of difficulty trying to figure out who I was, and finding comfort within myself. I did a lot of research, like watching videos of people just coming out and understanding that okay, this is how it feels like. Eventually, I was 16 when I finally discovered what bisexuality was and that I could be bisexual. I finally felt comfortable in that realisation.

Badrika: I came to Singapore when I was 18, which helped me be a lot more myself. Because I’m Sri Lankan, so if it’s taboo here, it’s extremely taboo there *laughs*.  There was a time I was trying to “fit in” – I used date guys, had long hair, girly dresses, the whole shebang. Gradually I came to realise who I really was, and now i am comfortable in my own skin.

Mars: My journey is a little different from the typical coming out stories of struggle. It was a little more effortless, because being bisexual means that you can present as society’s version of “normal”, to a certain extent. I can be in a “normal” heterosexual relationship and people will just write it off as me being straight and my bisexuality being just a phase. So the acceptance only had to come within. I studied in an all-girls’ school for 10 years, and when you’re 15 or 16, liking someone from the same gender was pretty common, because we were all experimenting with our sexuality. But that kind of stuck throughout my teens to when I became an adult. So that was when I knew that this is not a phase, and that I still am attracted to both men and women. It also helps that my family isn’t very judgemental. My mum is pretty open. She’s straight, but I think she has experimented in the past as well. Something she shared with me really gave me a lot of confidence – she said that she definitely knows that being gay is not a choice because she tried, she tried really hard to choose to be gay but she couldn’t. *laughs*. That was when I knew that if it felt natural and effortless, then that’s just who I was. I asked her, what if I just liked women. And she was just like if you really like women, then you like women. That’s it. 

Badrika: Can i borrow your mum? *laughs*

Mars: Of course! *laughs*

Mars: That being said, we may not have a lot of conversations about being bisexual or anything. But just knowing that she isn’t against the LGBTQ+ community helps a lot in the acceptance within myself. I think I’ve just been very lucky and I’m very grateful for that. 

So just as an aside, did all of you have to sit your parents and “confess” to them? What was your experience like?

Mary: That was how I told my mum. My mum is very religious, but also homophobic to a degree. So when I told her, I initially thought she accepted it but now I’m starting to see that she didn’t, not really. But that’s okay. I’m learning the boundaries that i can have with the people who don’t accept me and i find love with people who accept me. So it was definitely a struggle coming out to her, about 1 year into my relationship with Badrika. It was pretty scary, I was literally crying on the phone as I did it.

You did on the phone?!

Mary: I did it on the phone because i had no guts to do it face to face! *laughs* I just felt that i had to tell her, because i thought wea could build a relationship and bond through that. She’s my mum, you know? So i really expected that. But unfortunately, I can see that she’s not quite there yet, because of her culture and how she was brought up, so I had to accept that as well.

Antasha: Before I started transitioning, I identified as gay. I attended counselling sessions in secondary school and basically came out to my mum as gay, through my counsellor. But I’m really thankful that my mum is quite supportive of me, despite what society’s view on the LGBTQ+ community. My mum also has a lot of friends from the community, so I think that made it easier for her to accept me. The way i came out to her as trans, well that’s a whole different story!

I used to make short videos on social media, and a few of them went viral, and my mum and stepfather happened to see them. Just like Mary, I spoke to my mum over the phone. At the end of it, she reminded me that no matter what, i will always be her child, and for me to always remember my roots, values and my morals in life. Though it was pretty horrible in secondary school for me, to the point i wanted to quit school because it was affecting my mental state. I love the performing arts and I’ve always taken part in school performances. But it came to the point where my school mates used to shout names at me whenever i stepped onto stage to perform. Though I had a great group of friends that supported me and kept me going, secondary school was hell. But ITE was amazing. I was all prepared to go through the same nonsense over again. But everyone there was really supportive! I started to grow out my hair and put on more makeup when I was in ITE, and I’m really thankful to find a bunch of people that supports me in whatever i do.

What advice do you have for others who are still struggling with defining who they are?

Mary: It’s the same advice that I’ve been following myself throughout the years. Find acceptance within yourself, and find boundaries among others. You don’t have to come out if you’re not comfortable doing it. If anyone makes you feel otherwise, then just know that they’re not the type of people that deserve to be in your life. 

Mars: I would say, everyone has their own journey, at their own time. Some of us may feel the pressure to define themselves very quickly, or wonder why they are slow in accepting themselves. It’s important to know that we all go through different struggles, or rather, our struggles maybe similar but the way they affect us can be different. So how and how long we take to accept ourselves will also look different. Just because someone is ahead doesn’t mean that you’re lagging behind. You’re just on a different path, and you need to go through other things in your journey before you get there in the end.

Practical advice would be that if you’re going to come out to family members, make sure that you’re ready for them not to accept you. If you go in with the expectation that they will embrace you, and if/when they don’t, it’ll hit you really hard. It’s a way to protect yourself, especially at this stage where the entire society is not where there is full acceptance, we just need to prepare ourselves for the worst to happen.

So you start off with pessimism?

Mars: *laughs* No, not pessimism, but just being realistic. I’ve had friends who came out to their parents at a really young age and got kicked out of the house. Coming out then might not have the best time, because they didn’t have the resources to look after themselves after. I’ve also had friends who came out when they were older, which gave their family time to accept them. It’s not the most ideal state, but it’s important to protect yourself.

Antasha: For the younger trans teens out there, who are still on their journey, I would say, take your time. It’s not a race. You should take your own time to discover who you really are, who you really want to be. Being trans is definitely not easy and takes a lot of knowledge and resources. I watched a lot of content from YouTubers like Gigi Gorgeous, Nikita Dragon, Bretman Rock, Barbie Gutz, Julie Vu when I was growing up. I still look up to them now, because they’ve inspired me to be who I want to be and put myself out there. Don’t be too harsh on yourself and don’t give up on yourself. I believe one day we will all get to celebrate the freedom to love, the freedom to be who you want to be, no matter your race, or gender or sexuality.

Do you feel the pressure to behave in certain way, because you’re representing your community wherever you are?

Antasha: Yes, I am part of the community and do represent it in a way, but that’s how I feel and what makes me happy. In a way, yes I do feel some pressure from society and from my own community as well, since I do represent it in a way, if it’s how I feel and it’s what makes me happy, that’s who I am going to be – my true authentic self! 

Mary: There is a lot of pressure, especially when you get interviewed. You answer these questions and you have to make sure that you’re not affecting anybody else. But I eventually realised even if I make a mistake in saying something, it’s okay. Because nobody is perfect! Just because you’re part of the community, it doesn’t mean that you need to know everything. 

Antasha: Also, its’ your own story to share. Each of us has been through different things in life.

Mars: It does take a little bit of courage to put yourself out there. For me, one of the things i was struggling with, was whether I was truly bi enough. I felt like I hadn’t dated enough women to claim that my experiences were truly representative of bisexual people. So initially i wondered if i should identify as straight, but that was weird because that’s not who i truly was! I know I like women and I know that I like men too. So as long as you’re attracted to both genders, you can identify as bisexual. Dating experience doesn’t matter. My experiences as a bisexual woman may not be the same as the next person, but I think that’s the whole point. We are a community of diverse people coming together and resonating with something. So that took off the pressure of being a good representation of a model bisexual. As long as you’re not saying anything harmful towards the community, then i don’t think anyone can find fault with that. They might not agree, but i think it’s okay to have different opinions within the community

This year’s Pink Dot 2022 theme is The Change We Want to See. What changes do you hope to see in our society?

Mary: I’d like to see brands representing the community properly. It frustrates when I see a brand talk about representation and inclusivity and they just have one person on the team who they think is enough to represent the whole community. If you want to be inclusive and diverse, and include people in the community, then please do your research. Are you doing something that is performative, or are you really standing behind the meaning of a movement? I think brands need to step up.

Badrika: There’s lot that still  needs to be changed. For a start, representation in mainstream media. The magazines that you buy, the TV shows you watch, we should be represented fairly so it becomes normalised and accepted.

Antasha: We don’t expect you to accept us fully now. We understand, it’s hard. Just show us a little bit more kindness and love from one human to another. I would also like cis-gendered people to be more thoughtful about the questions you ask us trans folks. They can be over the limit and very insensitive sometimes. You’re lucky that you’re dealing with me, my other trans sisters might not have the same patience *laughs*

Mary: i think it’s important to educate them when they do something like that.

Antasha: Yes, definitely. It’s good to have people from the LGBTQ+ community sharing their stories publicly, because not many know what transgenderism is, what HRT is etc. So if you’re not sure, ask. It’s not wrong to ask, but there is a wrong way to ask *laughs* Just be polite, and tactful and you’ll be fine.

Mars: I’d like for us as a society to have a lot more open conversations and empathy towards one another. That’s how the conversations we have can be little more thoughtful, the questions we ask and get asked are a little more tactful as well. I feel like the lack of empathy for us is what encourages rudeness and insensitivity because people haven’t really thought about how someone will feel receiving that question or comment. So mutual empathy, love and acceptance is what I’d like to see in our society hopefully in the near future!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, we really appreciate everyone’s honesty in opening up about your experiences and perspectives. We hope that this has inspired others, whether to be an ally or to find the strength within themselves to start their journey towards finding pride and comfort in their own skins.  Happy Pride Month!

How to Prevent Pilling On Your Clothes

If you’ve ever done your own laundry, you’d have noticed some of your softer tops and bottoms coming back with little balls of “fuzz”. Yanking on them can pull them out but can leave your tops feeling a little more threadbare than usual. Those are called “pills”. Pills on your clothes are clumps of loose fibres that have tangled together in tiny balls. They form when there is abrasion during use and wash. Some fabrics are more likely to pill than others, especially softer fabrics that can have weak fibres. If you’re looking to start your journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, or just want to make your clothes last longer to get more bang for your buck, here’s how you can prevent pilling on your clothes.

Sort Your Laundry

We’ve all been there – the temptation to just ball all your clothes and dump them into the washing machine can be very strong and many of us succumb to it regularly. However, sorting your laundry, not just by colour, but by how delicate they are, can help to reduce the likelihood of pilling. Separate your delicate items from sturdier fabrics like jeans and denim to prevent abrasion and fibre transfer.

Be Gentle

It’s quite self-explanatory, but you need to be gentle with your more delicate fabrics. Follow the care label that comes with your item. Head to the brand’s website to check for specific instructions on how to best care for your item. For softer clothes, it is generally recommended to hand wash them or to use your washing machine’s gentle cycle to prevent too much abrasion for too long during the wash cycle. Using gentle detergents without too many strong and harmful chemicals can also protect your fabric’s integrity and keep the fibres from breaking down and pilling.

Wash Inside Out

It’s quite a low-tech solution but it works surprisingly well! Just turning your top or bottom inside out before washing it can significantly reduce the pilling on the outside of your item. This helps to protect the outer layer from abrasion against other clothes and trimmings like zippers and buttons.

Avoid the Dryer

If you live in a country without much sunshine or in a house without space to hang your clothes to dry, then having a dryer is inevitable. But, as far possible, avoid using the dryer for your more delicate items, as they increase the amount of abrasion your clothes are subjected to. If you can, put them on the shortest setting and remove the delicate items from the dryer as soon as possible.

Some people also recommend adding fabric softener when you’re rinsing your clothes, as it can coat the fibres of the fabric and lessen abrasion. Ensure that the fabric that you’re washing can handle the fabric softener without any damage.

Let your clothes give you the joy, happiness that you deserve by taking care of them well. Making your clothes last longer is also friendlier to our precious earth as you don’t have to replace and repurchase for longer.

Paying the Sleep Debt: Can You “Catch Up” on Sleep?

Adults these days are pretty sleep-deprived, almost chronically. Only 27% of Singaporeans get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep every night, earning the top spot on the list of most fatigued countries in the world. The hustle and grind of daily life result in long working hours, irregular schedules and even sleep anxiety leading to late nights and early mornings. Sleep debt is then accumulated throughout the week, with people hoping to pay the sleep debt back during the weekend by sleeping in. Did you know that sleeping in on weekends to “catch up on sleep” can do more harm than good? If done wrongly and excessively, that is. Let’s look at how you can avoid sleep debt and “catch up” in a safe and healthy way for the long term.  

What is Sleep Debt?

How do you know if you’ve been accumulating sleep debt? Sleep debt can be calculated as the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting every night for a good night’s rest, and the amount of sleep you actually get. If your body functions at its best on 7 hours of sleep, sleeping 5 hours one night, and sleeping 9 hours the next doesn’t mean that you’ve “caught up”. That missing 2 hours of sleep adds up throughout the week and can mess up your sleep rhythm in the long term.

One of the main consequences of accumulating sleep debt is fatigue, needless to say. Increasing disinterest, mood swings, lowered immunity and the slowing down of cognitive functions are some of the other major effects of not getting enough sleep consistently.

How to Fix Sleep Debt?

Pay more attention to your sleep patterns and habits. Many of us disregard our sleep hygiene as a trivial part of our daily routines without realizing the huge part it plays in ensuring our holistic health. Make sleep a priority in your day and plan your day around it. You can improve your sleep hygiene by slowly upgrading every element of your sleep routine. For example, if you’re used to sleeping in old ratty T-shirts, upgrade it to a comfortable set of pyjamas, made specifically to get you a good night’s sleep. Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Upgrade your sleep environment and make sure all your senses are best engaged for the best restorative sleep.

How to Catch Up On Sleep Properly

Your sleep debt can’t be paid back in a single weekend, you need days of consistent efforts before you start to feel better. Sleeping in a little during the weekends and taking a short nap is recommended, but again, it might not be enough to fully recover from the lack of sleep during the week. If you get 39 or fewer hours of sleep in one week, you need to get three to four extra hours of sleep over the course of a weekend, plus one to two extra hours of sleep every night for the following week to pay off that sleep debt.

If you’ve slept fewer than seven hours per night for years, it may take a few weeks of sufficient sleep to repay your sleep debt.

Sleep health is one of the most important, yet largely neglected, element of our overall health. It’s time we all get onboard with prioritising our sleep every night for a better day.

Desk Detox: Reorganise Your Workspace

Countries are opening back up, things are almost back to normal, which means that many of us are back in the office, either full-time or in a hybrid arrangement. After almost 3 years of working from home, you won’t be alone in feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after a day at the office. Refreshing your physical workspace both at home and in the office can help to clear your mind and reduce the mental load just a little. Here’s how you can do a ‘desk detox’ by reorganising your workspace.

Clear Your Desk

The first step is to clear your desk at home and in the office. Start with a clean slate and take stock of what you need and what you can discard. Clearing the clutter that you’ve accumulated can help you to clear your mind and bring some focus. Keep only what’s necessary for your nature of work. Rethink your desk layout if you have to, and arrange your items in a better way that helps your workflow.  

Sort Your Items

Instead of leaving loose items on your table and creating a mess, invest in some desk organisers to reduce the impact the clutter can have on you. Files, trays and drawers are your best friends when it comes to creating some order over your belongings. Remember to keep using them and putting your items back when you’re done using them.

Get Ergonomic Furniture

Standing and walking desks were all the rage during the height of the pandemic when we were stuck working from home. There’s no need to slide back into the sedentary office lifestyle now that you’re back to “normal”. Invest in a standing desk arrangement or build a makeshift one with shelves and boxes at the office and more comfortable chairs so that the posture that you’ve worked hard to fix in the last 3 years can be maintained.

Do a Digital Declutter

The desk detox also involves your virtual desktop. Clean up your digital storage and sort your files into neat folders to streamline your work. If you have different devices for home and office workspaces, ensure that all your files are backed up and updated on the cloud for easy access. Make sure you’ve archived, deleted and saved the relevant files, bookmarks, tabs etc.

The most important thing to remember though, is that you’re not the same person you were before the pandemic, and neither is the world. Certain things might have changed for the better, some for the worse and many things have changed permanently. Be kinder to yourself and those around you, if you see yourself struggling to readjust and focus on your work.