For our first-ever Voices issue, we're increasing the volume on and amplifying the message of those who still continue to fight for their right to be themselves and love who they want to love — our friends in the LGBTQ community.
In relationships, finding 'The One' is a journey. It's something as complex as defining our own selves, our own identities, and even our own strengths and vulnerabilities. But while it proves to be one of life's biggest challenges, it also becomes a saving grace for most people. This is because finding someone who inspires you to be stronger and be a better person makes every day a little bit easier to endure. Still, despite this being true for every couple everywhere, there are still those who want something else for members of the LGBTQ, especially with the more traditional and conservative ideals here in Asia.
But Rachael and Sher decided to break the wheel together. Currently engaged and getting married next year, they are just one of the many LGBT couples who are prime examples that love should know no bounds. Ahead, we chat with them on the most heartwarming moments of their relationship, from how they met, what their ingredients to a harmonious relationship are, and how they realised that they are the right people for each other.
Disclaimer: The photos in this interview are cropped on the request of the couple for privacy and discretionary matters.
Can you tell us the story of how you met?
Rachael: "We discovered each other through social media. One day, someone followed me on Instagram. And my Instagram is public so everyone could actually see my photos. So if you follow me on Instagram, it’s either you want to see what’s happening in my life or you just want to be noticed."
Sher: "I was going for ‘noticed’. Definitely noticed."
R: "We also kinda knew each other’s existence through friends. We’ve bumped into each other once or twice at events. But yeah, we followed each other on social media before actually talking to each other. She was like my everyday Insta-story viewer, she likes every picture and all that."
S: "Now, it’s my side of the story (laughs). So Rachael messaged me on Facebook because she tagged me on a post and obviously, I got a notification. But then she deleted the tag. And then she started the conversation with, 'Sorry, I tagged the wrong person,' because she has a friend with the same surname."
R: "But it was actually a ‘pick-up line gone wrong’ to get a chance to talk to her. At first, our conversations were like, 'I wanna talk more but I’m not going to push that I’m interested in you'. Like we were making it seem like we’re ending the conversation but in the middle of it, we’re still adding things in to keep the conversation going.
Then one day, I texted her. I don’t remember why anymore but she didn’t reply. And I was like, 'Ah, this girl is playing hard to get. It’s fine. Forget about it'. But then I found out from a friend that Sher had a HUGE crush on me. That was a few months after the whole messaging thing. Because of that, we decided to talk to each other already when we met again at an event a friend was having."
What were your first impressions of each other?
S: "I mean, physically she is gorgeous so that definitely sticks as a first impression."
Walk us through your first date. Who asked who and how was it like?
S: "Rachael was going through a rough time because her dad was sick in the hospital. At the time, we were already texting and communicating everyday. So what I did was I asked her out that night and told her that I’ll come to get her after work and we can have a meal. Then after that, we’ll just go for a really long drive. So we did that and stayed up until 5 AM. Just sitting in the car, listening to music, and just talking."
R: "We were both driving actually, so we weren’t sitting in the same car. She was driving her car and I was driving mine. And we just went somewhere because I didn’t want to be around crowds. So she was like, 'Just follow me' and I did. I was just driving blindly, behind her, to an unknown place. We ended up at Kallang Leisure Park. We stopped at the huge carpark, I sat in her car and we just stayed up until morning chatting. We shared our first kiss there as well."
Do you still remember that moment you realised that the other person is 'The One'?
S: "I think for me it was on our first date at the carpark when we talked about ‘us’. Like us as individuals — where we were in life, what we were doing, and what we wanted in the future. I realised that Rachael ticked all the boxes on my checklist and she fits very nicely into my lifestyle and my future. "
R: "I think mine was the week after the first date. Because I have a lot of responsibilities and for her to speak up and say that she wants to share these responsibilities with me, I knew it was a mature relationship; it was mutual love between two individuals. I wouldn’t say ‘coming together as one’ but having that ‘starting a future’ relationship feeling.
I’ve always had ‘no-future’ relationships and then I met Sher and I realised that she’s the one that I could step up with and have a future with — and then have three dogs as children and start a family. So yeah, it was a week later after that first date that I knew she was the one."
What do your family and friends think about your relationship?
S: "Yeah, friends think we are very clingy. The way we are around friends is that we’re always very close, we’re always teasing each other. We have our own inside jokes. And friends kinda get annoyed with us… but in a good way."
R: "We are like glue. It’s quite hard to separate us. They know we’re like a package. Like when you call me, she’s always sticking with me."
S: "Family-wise, my grandma is very, very accepting. I was born and raised in Sydney (Australia) so my grandma always knew about my sexuality and she was very accepting and very open."
Speaking of family and friends, do you still remember how was it like when you first came out to them?
S: "With my grandma, like I said, it was easy. It was very natural. She always knew but she was just waiting for me to say it first. So I sat down with her and said, 'Ma, I’m gay. I’m in a relationship with a woman,' and she was like, 'It’s okay, sweetie. As long as you are happy, I’m happy'.
And then I came back here to Singapore to reconcile with my parents. I did tell them and obviously, I didn’t get the most positive or most welcoming response. But that was something that I was prepared for. Because I know that at the end of the day, this is who I am and it’s always gonna be who I am. I didn’t want to hide Rachael because we are always together. Our lives are around each other and I’m so sure of her. And I just want to be able to say that, 'This person is going to be my wife,' to my parents.
Right now, my mum is still in this denial stage — which I think is very normal for someone with an Asian background and knowing how it is for her generation — so it’s a bit hard. But I think she’s slowly accepting it and I pray everyday that she will. As for my dad, being Indian, it’s a bit harder. He still hasn’t come to terms with it.
I think at the end of it, the message that I want to put out there is that we should always be true to ourselves and be happy with who we are. Because self-acceptance is very important. "
R: "As for me, I think I came out too many times (laughs). The first time was to my godma (godmother). I got the whole 'It’s not right… Why are you doing this?' speech. She's Indian and we don’t really have a Bible thing for it or something so I know it was just a way to throw me off and use religion against me because I was still young then. But years later, I came out to her again and I got a very nice response. She told me that as long as I was happy, I should just go with the flow and see where life takes me.
As for my dad, so my dad already knew; you know Indian dads, they sort of know everything. He just came up to me one day — and I haven’t told him anything yet then — but he just told me randomly, 'I know what you’re doing. I think you’re possessed'. That was the first thing he told me and until now, I don’t know if he’s kidding or not. But I came out to him properly when I was much older and his response was simple. He told me, 'You know what, it’s your life. It’s up to you. I can’t judge you. I can’t make decisions for you. So do whatever you wanna do. Just don’t take drugs, just don’t go to prison'. And that was my dad’s logic in raising me so I get where he's coming from. That’s that for my family.
For everyone else, they weren’t okay with it at first. But I was still there, I was still myself. I just laid it out for them and eventually, they accepted me. And they are accepting Sher."
Have you encountered any misconceptions other people have towards the LGBTQ+ community? What do you think of these?
S: "Society — or mostly straight people — when they see LGBT couples holding hands or laughing in public, they always think, 'Who’s the guy in the relationship?' Physically, they always look for the 'guy' on the other half who has short hair and all that. Or if a gay guy acts soft, they would assume 'Oh, he’s the girl in the relationship'. And I think that in a way, society has that image of the LGBT community in mind but that’s not how it is.
Another misconception is that when someone comes out or is in a gay relationship, they say it's just a phase. They always say stuff like, 'You’ll get over it. You’ll meet somebody of the opposite sex and live happily ever after.'
R: "I also think that in Asia, there’s still this perception that gay people have no future beyond relationships. Like gay marriage is still not legalised yet in almost all Asian countries and they see it as impossible. So I think the two of us are breaking the wheel."
Do you still get stares in public when you are together? If so, how does it make you feel?
R: "We get stares all the time because we’re very open. The thing is, there are two stares that we usually get: one would be disgusted, the other one is if they look at us as sexual beings. And the first one, I’m like 'Sure, look at me with all the disgust in the world, I don’t give a crap'.
But when you look at us as sexual beings because society sees two women together as objects of sex, I don’t think that’s fair. It’s like they’re literally seeing porn walking down the street. That’s why we hold hands everywhere we go, but we don’t kiss in public."
Lastly, what does the future hold for Rachael and Sher?
S: "Well, we are going to get married in eight months in Sydney. From there, we’ll continue our studies, pursue our passions, and just settle down."
R: "Yeah. Get a house, get as many dogs as Sher approves of. And that’s about it."
This interview is edited for clarity and brevity.