It's tough being gay, non-binary, and just generally awesome and cute, so here are some answers to questions people always have about how I manage to exist without going insane!
what is a kristang or a portuguese-eurasian person? are they singaporean?
The Kristang or Portuguese-Eurasians are a creole community indigenous to Southeast Asia, and yes, we are most definitely Singaporean, counted in official census data under the broader category of Eurasians, who are generally mixed race people of European and Asian descent also born, bred and raised in Singapore. Not all Eurasians are of Kristang / Portuguese-Eurasian descent, and not all Eurasians and Kristang / Portuguese-Eurasians are able to speak Kristang; the language is critically endangered in all the remaining places it is still spoken (besides Singapore, it is also still spoken in Melaka, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Kampong Tugu in Jakarta, and a number of other cities around the Southeast Asian archipelago; our sister language Maquista is also still hanging on in Macau!). Like our other creole cousins around the world in Angola, Belize, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States and many other countries, we are mixed, rojak and champuradu, and we are very often loud and proud about it!
how long has your family been in singapore and southeast asia?
For literally forever on both sides of the tree, and my ancestors have done some pretty spectacular things too! My great-great-great-grandfather, John Edwin Richard Tessensohn (1855-1926), was the first ever Eurasian to sit on the Straits Settlements Legislative Council starting in 1923, helped found Singapore's Eurasian Association in 1918, and was a major patron of the golden heyday of Kristang theatre in Singapore from 1892 to 1926; Tessensohn Rd in Singapore is named after him, and he remains celebrated as a pioneering Singaporean who helped the Eurasians find their voice, strength and spirit as a community in colonial Singapore. His great-great-great-grandfather and my great-great-great-great-great-great (six greats!)-grandfather, Adriaan Koek (1759-1825), was the last governor of Dutch Melaka, but so well known and respected was he that he was also colloquially known as its Raja Muda, and called many of the rulers of the surrounding Malay states friends. Not to be outdone, my great-great-grandfather Wong Ping Nam (1867-1940) was one of the founding fathers of Senai, developing the city into a major commercial hub and trading centre, and also sponsoring a theatre there as well! And don't get me started on my amazing great-grandmother Mabel Martens nee Tessensohn (1905-1999), my grandparents Maureen & Peter Martens and Alice & Linus Wong, my aunt Melanie Martens, and more. You could say it runs in the family, but you definitely have to say we love this place with all our hearts.
what guidelines do you follow when it comes to discussing complex or challenging issues like sexuality and religion?
I am guided first and foremost by science and empirical data as articulated by Singapore's Health Promotion Board FAQs on homosexuality, as well as by the revised Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act which lays out clear provisions for the protection of LGBTQ+ Singaporeans and people living in Singapore. I grew up in a Catholic family and was educated in some of the best Catholic schools the country has to offer, and although I left the church under no uncertain terms, I continue to maintain many deep, powerful and vulnerable relationships with friends who are religious, and who respect and cherish the relationship I share with my partner. Singapore is known the world over for its striving toward such ideals of harmony, appreciation and cosmopolitanism, and I have always and will always firmly champion and espouse them in my own work and with all clients, regardless of their race, religion or sexuality.
besides the gay thing, what makes you stand out as a tutor, coach and consultant?
I generally don't beat around the bush unless I really have to, which means that I really will directly tell you that stressors from your parents may be affecting your ability to write a functional GP essay, or that you may need to see a therapist because the problem is beyond my expertise as a life coach. I am extremely solution-focused, and I don't want to waste your time; in my classroom and my life, I have always tried to do what makes the most sense, whether that's solving everything within one session, or even you going to see somebody else because they're a better fit. You got a life to live, and a bazillion problems alongside it, same as me and the rest of the planet — my duty to you as a tutor, coach and consultant is to work with you to figure out ways to deal with those problems as efficiently and intelligently as possible.
why do you show us so much of your body?
Besides the generally well-known benefits of promoting body neutrality, self-love and self-care, most of my personal trauma, as well as some institutional and intergenerational trauma, has to do with my body as a brown, gay, non-binary person born biologically male, and this is my way of showing you that I am committed to the lifelong journey of conquering all of those fears, shame and self-loathing. (After all, a good life coach always recognises that they have things of their own to work on, and a really good one will let you know a little about those things so that you can see that they are human too!) I have been severely psychoemotionally and/or sexually abused during at least four periods of my life: 1996-97, 2008-13, 2016-19, and 2021-22 (and if you knew or worked with me during those periods, I hope this helps to explain some things!). All four not only involved attempts to crush my psyche, agency, independence and willpower in deep, lasting and malicious ways, and to violate my boundaries overtly and explicitly, but to turn myself against myself, and judge myself as disgusting, shameful, horrifying, useless, worthless, ugly, corrupt, unsafe and fundamentally broken, to the extent that at the nadir of the second period, I nearly committed suicide on 1 February 2013. However, after the third period, in 2019-20, I entered therapy for a year, and thanks to the tools I gained was able to resist the mainly institutional fourth period with much less difficulty, while beginning the long journey of freeing myself from the influence of intergenerational and systematic trauma that continues to grip my abusers. In that way, I am deeply empathetic and committed to outcomes that are restorative, healing and forward-looking, as far as is possible within Singapore; my proud, terrified and unflinching display of my body in spite of all that it and I have faced is a testament to that, every single day :)