As you know, I had quite a few shoots when I was in Bangkok. I liked all of them but one in particular landed me a feature in last month's Thai version of Attitude magazine (with the original edition from the UK). Well it is a gay lifestyle magazine which has been toned down to suit the more conservative Asian market but that doesn't mean it has compromised on dishing out pictures of hot guys (*ahem*). When I organised the shoot I was not aware of the photographer's strong affiliation with the magazine but on hindsight I was glad to have contacted him (one of Bangkok's top photographers in this genre).
The column in which I was featured is called "Real Life"and I guessed it was dedicated more to non-models ie. real-life people (no offence to professional models, hehe). It came with an interview which I will be sharing with you guys here. The strange thing is that it was translated from English to Thai and now I want it translated back to English to see how much of the interview was "lost in translation", censored and put together into a coherent story out of discrete questions and answers. Not being a native Thai speaker, I think I will never really know even when it has been translated back to English (unless done by a good translator). I think I shall just let this rest for the time being and let you have a read of the Q & A (the phrasing of the questions have been reproduced verbatim).
Q: Could you please introduce your self: name, surname, age, occupation, etc.?
A: My name is Kim (surname is Tien). I am 32 years old working as a chemical engineer in a consultancy firm here in Sydney Australia.
Q. As you were born in Singapore, can you tell us how did your parents bring you up, and how was your childhood?
A: My father passed away from cancer when I was eight and I have felt that something was missing in my life ever since. I became very close to my mum but our family was not well-to-do so everyone had to work long hours and I was always left on my own in my growing up years. Somehow without much supervision from my mum, I grew up even more disciplined and always scored straight A’s in exams. Perhaps being gay, I felt that there was something wrong with me and tried to over-compensate for that in terms of academic results, which was not an easy thing to do in a competitive country like Singapore. There is not much I can remember from my childhood except loneliness and lots and lots of studying.
Many people tend to attribute their faults to their upbringing and childhood but I think we should be cautious not to push the blame onto the past too much. Instead we should bear the responsibility and take action to improve ourselves today for a better future. I like to look forward nowadays and not dwell on the past—it is much more productive to make plans for tomorrow and work towards those goals.
Q: When did you know that you actually like men and how did you feel?
A: My earliest memory of having same-sex fascination (there wasn’t really attraction per se at that time) was when I was four. I remember watching my father taking a shower and looking at him kind of differently. When I was twelve, I would play a game with a male friend at school in which we climbed over the wall of the toilet stall to look at each other take a piss. As I had my puberty rather late compared to others, I was always envious of guys who had started theirs and over time, that developed to a desire for their more-developed genitals and then a sexual attraction for the male form as a whole. I did not feel that that was anything wrong or weird then as I thought everybody had that in them. This went on till I was eighteen when a gay army friend finally enlightened me by linking my same-sex attraction to the word “homosexuality” and told me that was normal. He also urged me to try gay sex to see if I liked it.
My first sexual encounter wasn’t all that great as there was a fair bit of pain but my friend nudged me to try it again with another better partner. Things were right the second time round and I felt the love and affection from another man that I wanted all my life. Although I was devastated when I had to let him go, that encounter with him started a permanent change in me as I slowly identified myself as a homosexual person. That was when I came out to my mum.
Q: Do your parents and friends know about your coming out? Are you open to them?
A: The funny thing is that I came out to my mum before I came out to my friends. I just felt that there was something so special about my first loving sexual encounter that I had to share that with my mum, someone I love dearly—I didn’t even think of what repercussions there could be in my coming out to her. She was a wreck initially as the news adversely affected her health. She lost all appetite for a few months and kept blaming herself and wanted me to change. She even quarantined me from the rest of the family for fear that I had HIV (I blame the lack of HIV-education in Singapore at that time).
I struggled with my sexual identity for quite a long time as both my mum and I grappled with the same problem from totally different angles. After about five patient years of telling her that it was impossible for me to change and that being myself was the best and only way for me, she eventually altered her perception of my sexual identity and gradually started to not resist it. It was a slow and hard journey because it took a while to convince even myself that continuing being gay and not trying to change was going to be the only path ahead of me. Before I settled down with my current partner, she constantly nagged me to not be promiscuous but now that she has seen my partner many times (she lived with us when she last visited me in Sydney), the nagging has stopped and I daresay there is finally full acceptance of my sexual identity and my relationship with my partner.
Q: How’s the gay community in Singapore? Do Singaporean gays have freedom to express what they want to do?
A: The first thing you need to know is that anal sex between males is still illegal in Singapore—that just sets the stage for how the gay community and gay life in Singapore is. Singapore is quite a conflicted country trying very hard to open up and liberalize to the tune of globalization for the sake of boosting the economy while at the same time being quite oppressive with regards to human right issues ranging from capital punishment to gay rights. On the one hand we can do a lot of things freely like visiting the many gay saunas and clubs, taking part in gay social activities and even organizing large-scale events like Pink Dot. On the other hand, the country can smack you with the gay-sex law that still remains in the books so that the government can use it as and when they like. Although they keep saying that the law is not actively enforced, it is not always the case.
As a gay person living in Singapore, I felt my freedoms were constantly under threat and my expressions routinely censored. In that climate, I simply could not flourish. However many gays in Singapore are still happy with that and are contented enough with whatever the government does (many of those people remain in the closet). I am sure they would want the same rights as the heterosexuals but a lot of people are not willing to stand up and fight for them. This is the main reason why I left Singapore for Sydney—I just couldn’t take the hypocrisy of the government anymore. So if you ask me do gays have the freedom to do what they want to do? My answer would be yes and no, depending on how much you want to do. I want to get married to my partner—good luck waiting for that to be legalized in Singapore.
Q: How did you move to Sydney? What are you doing in Sydney?
A: I have done a 6-month exchange programme in Sydney when I was doing my undergraduate studies and had always loved the city. When I met my partner and decided to relocate to Sydney to start a new life and be with him, it all became apparent that I must get my permanent residency quickly. I applied for it online under the “Skilled Migration” scheme as someone with chemical engineering skills—one of the many that Australian citizens at that time didn’t have enough of. I got my permanent residency within 7 months in April 2008 (I am very proud of that achievement) and I moved to Sydney 2 months later. I now work as a chemical engineer for a consultancy firm based in an oil refinery.
Of course that is only what I do as a profession. What I do in Sydney is so much more—song-writing, modelling, involving in gay activism like marching in same-sex marriage rallies, as well as attending the many gay social activities Sydney has to offer eg. nudist retreats, gay Asian men discussion groups, parties and so on. I live a busy and fulfilled life in Sydney.
Q: What’s the difference between the gay community in Singapore and the gay community in Sydney?
A: A core difference that is seen across the entire population is that Singaporeans are more close-minded. People might think that Singaporeans are more reserved because Asians tend to be conservative whilst Westerners are more liberal and open-minded—that is only true to a small extent. I feel that in the past generation, Singaporeans had been brought up in a very spoon-fed, regimented and artificially-constructed society which stunted their development to think critically. As a result when compared to Australians, Singaporeans do not think outside the box as much since they have not really been given a chance to experience life outside the box. Of course Singapore has a very fast-paced life and things are very different and definitely more relaxed here in Australia. This gives people here more time to be themselves and do things they want to do and not because they are forced to do them.
All of the above translates to the gay community as well and so in Sydney, gay life is more individualistic, vibrant and not so underground. For one, gay sex is not illegal here and in fact, gay de-facto relationships here have the same rights as heterosexual marriages. The gay community in Sydney is more engaged in fighting for their own rights simply because it is allowed here. In this open and free-for-all environment, you can really see the diversity in the gay community ranging from the bear and leather groups to the nudists and drag queens. People here are less afraid to come out and shine as themselves (though I think they can certainly drink less which will consequently lead to less alcohol-related social problems). In Singapore, the gay community has been moulded by society to be more one-dimensional and now that I have seen Singapore from outside the box, that single dimensionality is rather boring.
Q: Singapore and Sydney, which one do you prefer?
A: I shall answer this by creating a simple pros-and-cons list:
Pros of Singapore: great food, lower cost of living, my family and close friends are all back in Singapore.
Cons of Singapore: gay sex is illegal, I can never see gay marriage legalized in my lifetime, the weather sucks, and people are close-minded.
Pros of Sydney: excellent weather, more vibrant gay community, a more relaxed pace of living, my partner is here, and I think we will be able to marry in at most 5 years’ time.
Cons of Sydney: one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, racism is pretty strong, and I miss home occasionally.
So like all things in life, there is a good and a bad side to everything but if you want me to make a strict choice, I think I would still prefer to live in Sydney at this point. Life has also showed me the fluid nature of things so ask me in 2 years’ time and I might give you a different answer.
Q: Have you been to Thailand and experienced the Thai gay community? How do you feel?
A: I have been to Bangkok many times and the reason why I keep visiting is Thailand’s good food, cheap shopping, professional massages and friendly people. The gay community in Thailand (especially Bangkok) is very active and gay culture is accepted and can be seen everywhere but ultimately Thailand is still a conservative country. This throws up a unique combination that seems to clash at first in people’s minds but Thailand could somehow make it work. There are plenty of discos and saunas to meet both locals and international visitors and I love all of them.
In my last trip (when I had the photo shoot with Airry), I encountered a situation in the gay saunas that frustrated me a little bit. In both Babylon and Chakran, hot Thai boys went straight for the Caucasians regardless of whether they are just of average or even below-average standards and totally ignored the other more attractive Asians around. I guess this was because Caucasians are much rarer in Thailand and so they tend to be more “exotic”. After living in Sydney for 3 years, my taste in Caucasian men is now quite sophisticated (you see, they are really a lot of cute and hunky white guys here) and so it was harder for me to accept why the Caucasians were more highly-desired than me in the Bangkok saunas. Well that was not a big issue and it certainly did not ruin my trip and my very good impression of the Land of Smiles.
Q: We saw that you created your own blog, what are you writing about and how many people frequent your blog?
A: I created my blog (http://kim-thenextphase.blogspot.com) straight after I relocated to Sydney because I wanted to use it as an avenue to keep all my friends and family back home abreast of what’s been happening to me in this other continent. I cover all sorts of topics on my blog ranging from interesting things I have done, my observations and opinions on current global affairs to my latest shoot pictures and songs that I have written. I think it is a combination of down-to-earth honest sharing of my life, nice music and of course a sexy body that attracts people to my blog. I do not have a huge following like many other bloggers but I do have a faithful bunch of people who would visit now and again. You can be sure that I will post this article on the blog for all to read (I need to find someone to translate it to English first). I am quite proud of myself for being published in a gay magazine for a second time (the first one being Australia’s DNA magazine).
Q: We heard that you had done loads of nude photo shoots, what made you to do that?
A: I am someone who embraces his body to the fullest and who is very proud of it. I am also a nudist. I have blogged about the reasons behind my being a nudist and they are all related to my frank and totally-transparent nature. Only when we are not restricted and hidden behind clothes will our guard, inhibitions, dishonesty and hypocrisy be torn down. It is only then can people truly communicate with one another on a real level. Many people are very insecure with their bodies and have things they dislike about them and to me, that is the reason why there aren’t more nudists in the world. People plagued with body issues are generally rather unhappy in their lives and this in turn affects the people around them.
All this explains why I am a nudist but obviously not all nudists do photo shoots like me. But let me not be humble for a second—there are not a lot of nudists with a rocking solid body like mine too. With this powerful coupling of a hot body and a nudist spirit comes an almost therapeutic sense of security which exudes in everything I do and that includes nude photo shoots. I love it when people like my pictures and give me positive comments. I cannot deny the fact that I like the attention my body gives me, which is another reason why I do those shoots. Between you and me, I will let you in on a secret—it makes me feel all hot and horny when I know that there are people who jerk off to my pictures!
Q: What’s the favourite part of your body? Which part of your body do you think is attractive and seductive?
A: To be honest, I think my favourite would be my brain. I am a person who thinks in an extremely logical and analytical manner yet I also have a sensitive and artistic side as evidenced by my music and photo shoots. This balance can only be achieved by the brain that I have now so naturally that is the favourite part of my body and I love it to death.
As for an external body part, I think it would be my abs for they are very cut and defined (after countless hours of hard work—there is no doubt about that!). I think nice abs makes a person look more muscular than he really is. I have gotten most compliments for my abs as well as my arms and to a lesser extent my ass—different people are just drawn to different things. Frankly I sometimes even get turned on by myself (am I narcissistic or what)! Ultimately without a personality that pulls everything together, a beautiful body is nothing but a beautiful body and I can honestly say that I have the whole package—inside and out!
I am glad they liked the "whole package" bit and made that the title of the piece. Other notable albeit discrete English words and phrases include "DNA", "Pink Dot", "Skilled Migration" as well as the full address of my blog—I expect lots of traffic with this article (hehe). Hopefully with this increased traffic, some kind soul out there would drop by and help me translate the entire article. In my next post I will be sharing the rest of the pictures from this photo shoot so keep your eyes peeled for them!