Ivan Yeo profile
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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride indeed.com. [00:00:04] And Ivan, and from Malaysia, in New Zealand, about 10 years. And I am Chinese. So basically, I'm Chinese, but crowd in Malaysia. And that was back in probably early 80s. When I found out that k, and he really has a huge impact on how I view oneself growing up in a Muslim country, and also a very traditional Chinese family. I think the biggest thing for me was finding out who I am, there was this really intense fears of letting people know who you are, because then, you know, like, as a society, you wonder how it would be one to being ultra size, and not being included as a part of the society. And I think the biggest fear I have, was not sure how my future is going to be like, when I grow, and when there's time, when I need to fulfill my family obligations, such as getting married, and having children, especially when I was in a family, where I'm the only sinker I mean, that sink is the only son in the family and I have three older sisters. So that notion of fulfilling my obligation as a son was strongly held, not necessarily in my family, but in how society has have portrayed as now characters in, in the context of society, from TV, from newspaper, and I never asked my parents, you know, I was in my, they are my expectations that I will need to figure out that how roll because we never discuss about it. So it was sort of like my assumptions. That is what my parents would want me to do. Especially when I was a teenager, and you know, people start asking you to have a girlfriend, and then you became an adult, and people ask you, when are you going to get married? And when you say you don't have a girlfriend, and people don't look at you, like all? Why is it wrong with you, you know, Ireland sort of teasing you about? Also, do you want me to introduce your girlfriend, so especially when you have all the extended family that living in the senior area, so you do catch up with them from time to time, and that always, you know, like the adventure conversation that will came out and asked you When are you going to find a girlfriend at that released me because it is you know, like key, reminding myself what sort of audit I against with an and also do know who I can talk to, even though I told my sisters about my sexual orientation when I was about 16 of 17. But they seems to be belief that it is just a phase you passed after the war. So it never fully acknowledge is that will be my life. And when you only see what is being offered in a society, you really do know what else is out there. And that was the biggest challenge. [00:04:07] So when At what age did you realize that might mean [00:04:12] from the very early age. But I think that this more subconsciously. I mean, like during the age six or seven, I knew I always like to be close to men than women. And also know that when I was about eight or nine, I really like watching TV that have very strong male characters, like the maintenance IP show all that and I really like it. Now when I look back, I know why I like it so much. But at the time, I also really attract attracted to the physical male body, the muscular melody and all that. So I knew I was different from a very early age. [00:05:07] And when you around that age, Can you recall in a thing that was being said by people around you about [00:05:15] gays and lesbians. [00:05:16] Now not so much but somehow in this society you still get the kind of tease about you know, like, either you being too feminine, or toes subtle remark makki seems to be unacceptable for any male to be too close to another men. Or, for me, I was really tiny and skinny. So and growing up with three sisters that probably make my behavior seems to be a little bit feminine. And I always getting teased from that from the very early childhood. And also the questions being asked about you know, like why I didn't behave like a normal men. I not to show what normal men this but I also not very interested on what the society perceives men is good. I like the sport. I hate sport. But the reason why I hate sport was because I think I was being teased by school teacher and my peer about how lousy I was. And certain things that I'm good at such as drawing, dancing, singing, and so people sort of comparing me as how a guy should be and suddenly I did not live up to toes expectation as the men in in in the Malaysia society. So you get a feeling like you know, you need to be tough, you need to be mature. And my job to protect female from a very young age, my father, because he's away and he always told me I need to look after my mom and my sisters even thought house the younger I don't know how that is possible. But it always seems to be my responsibility to ensure that the Okay [00:07:23] Can you recall at that age, any other children or any other young adults that that could have been barely swim? [00:07:32] Yes, I remember my uncle, which is my mother's brother, older brother. He's a womanizer. And one time he bought this female to our praise. I remember they they want to use my mother's room. You know what they wanted to do? And so I remember my mom having a conversation with her friend saying that that woman doesn't look like a woman. And I also remember when I was about the same age my mom have a hair salon so she always have friends come over. And this woman who very very tomboyish dressing in order and every time when they laugh they sort of say something behind her and say you know like Oh, she's bringing another woman again don't know what they out to and making casual remark about [00:08:44] you know, like she's doing another woman the game [00:08:49] but in Malaysia because we have this male dressing up as female and also working on that street. So again, you hear all the conversation popping up for now and about so when so go to the street and visit all the transgender and paying them money just to few them and see whether it's true or not again post sort of like Joker conversation came out as when I get older. Because my mom knew a lot of people and hair salons always been like a small social gathering that reflect on the the wider society and and people there my mom's hair on you hear all this? interesting conversations floating around. [00:09:44] In Malaysian culture, are there other specific words for gay, lesbian, transgender, and [00:09:51] yeah, MLA will be coy bond done. Content means that equivalent to the word CC, but this has this very negative connotation. Like you are not men, but at like a woman and you are the lowest of the societies. So people use that word and tease me as well. So it was really helpful. The word Ponton or in Chinese course Albanian, Serbian, basically mean, little white face. That means is like toy boy. Now, but again, he actually has much a cynicism about the word means that you know, like you couldn't leave out as men in a society and fulfilling your obligations to be the, the sole response, both the male character in the family is talking about someone who asked for money from a female. So again, it's really helpful words. Yeah. [00:11:09] So and being teased, what happened? How did you cope with that? [00:11:15] I wasn't happy. I mean, like, I scared to go to school, because I knew how my day is going to end out, it's going to be teasing and being pushed around. And also, I don't like to go out with friends. Or even if I show a little bit of anger, or, or having fight with my sisters, they will, they will call me those words as well. So basically taught me not to make people upset, because if people are upset, they're going to call me host names. And so we have who saw at, I became really cautious and try to please everybody, so that I wouldn't be tease, and even trying to add a little be more mature and trying to high certain behavior that has been pointed out by other people. So they wouldn't see that I am, while so coupon OCC and so I constantly modifying my behavior. So that I can match what other people expected as a male character in the society. And that was really hard because you're constantly trying to please your father, or your sisters or your maid. And you forget about who you truly are as a person. [00:12:55] And they work. Now, of course, [00:13:02] because I think, coming to New Zealand, I really able to embrace myself because the if people want to talk about feminine side, I do have my very sensitive and very feminine side. But I also have a very male orientated character, which now I able to recognize, I wouldn't want to put it in close contact, because not about sexist. But what I'm saying is able to recognize that I have so called the balance, I'm very, very sensitive and very emotional. And I am also very empathetic as well. So I recognize that as a gift now is don't see me as something, make me be came a weak person. But on the other hand, I also know that I'm very driven, and very goal orientated and what means I also [00:14:03] able to do a lot of [00:14:06] handyman work. I like getting myself busy with technology, or even homemade [00:14:17] caffeine and all that. [00:14:20] And so I able to embrace both sides, and having both as a balance in my life. [00:14:30] If you had stayed in Malaysia, could you have come out as a gay person? [00:14:34] No way. Really, I really do not know what to do. But having said that, the society also grow and develop at the same time. I mean, I heard from people saying that nowadays more like k Sona in Malaysia as well and is that you can meet other gay people in internet side by you very hidden. So I might able to go to those places. Yet I will never be able to review as who I am. As Ivan to other people, I will be always the guy who study something, I haven't have a girlfriend and not married and everybody was talking behind my back. I mean, everybody non gay and no one see as an issue. And they just see Ivan as Ivan. And I also able to live the life that I want, which is having a partner and also able to recognize my own unique identity and able to share with friends and people who really cared about me. And I think the most important thing is now my family know and my sexual orientation, and they also embrace it. And also they liked my partner. I think the hardest things for any hidden secret is you cannot be honest with people you love. And you cannot share the joy and and and the hardship when you have in your life. I mean, when I broke out with my previous partner, I was able to call home and cry and told my mom why life is so hard and all that. That was great, because when I first broke out with my first boyfriend, I couldn't tell anyone so I have to hide my emotion. Because family to pick out that you know that why you look so sad and bad, you cannot say I just broke up with my first boyfriend. But at least at the time I just brought with my ex partner I was able to call my mom and tell my mom relationship is hard. [00:16:58] And also told my mom that you know, like [00:17:05] really questions about you know, like, Am I really the ugly or you know, like, Am I really not worth any love and also able to talk to my sister. So that was amazing. Like, even now, every time when I call my mom and my sisters, they will always ask also house Jerry, they will be interested to find us Jerry's doing what am I doing what we both are doing. So it's a great feeling when you finally feel that you can really felt like being part of the family. instead of always having a second thought about you can only share certain part of your life but not the whole of your life. [00:17:49] Can we just go back a wee bit to like when you were growing up in Malaysia? And you were saying that you're you're being teased? How did that progress? What color? How did you get through those feelings? And how did you meet your first boyfriend, [00:18:06] I really have to say, I hate school. So much my result dropped really badly as I growing older, because I just don't like school, I try to find excuses not to go to school. For me, I would try even to hide myself and make myself as invisible as possible. So I'm not going to be picked on, I'm not going to be teased about and no one's going to look at me. It works. And I have to say if I think of my school years, I can only have some very vague memories. But a lot of things like people say that, you know, like they have friends who grow to give an order and never had a how I met my very first boyfriend was when I went to the north part of Malaysia because of my father. And I was able to meet a group of friends who really get along very well. And I have this friend who is one of the closers. And all together, we have like six people as a group. And he always seems very moody. And he always seems angry at me, sometimes he was really close to me. But I have to say, I have a crush on him. And I do not know how to tell him. But I knew he always seems to be really care about me. And also sometimes just flicked around and totally ignore me which I do not know what I have done. After the about a year and a half, my father decided to move us back to my hometown, which is south of Malaysia. And during the holiday break, because I miss him so much. So I wanted to call this him but but I told people that I want to visit the girlfriend, but he was the main reason. So when over, and he really want me to stay with him. And we both staying together. And there was a late night and we start having these conversations. And he sort of asked me I remember asked me if you have a secret, really be secret, and you want to share with someone, what would you do? I said, Well just tell the person I mean that you know, just being really honest, and tell the other person that you know how you feel. And then I also say saying I have a secret as well. So we start having this game. And somehow we both able to acknowledge that we have feeling for each other for some time. And there was my first love. And that was like the best day ever, to be able to find someone that you know, like, You both have a mutual feeling. But at the same time, it's was really hard because we have to be really secretive. And and when you have such a mixed emotion. And with such a young age, I still don't know how to cope with, you know, leaving the place and unable to see him again into nowhere, man, good to see him again. All that. So there was a really hard time. Yeah, but I'm I'm very grateful that I had that experience. Because that is a form of what I really want in my life, which is being true to myself and a able to find someone who love me and will be able to share that mutual love. [00:22:16] What I tweeted, [00:22:17] I was only 16. [00:22:21] And yeah, there was like 21 years ago. [00:22:27] So you can figure it out. Oh, I am. [00:22:31] Yeah, but that three amazing and also able to file that actually had the same feeling towards me. By the holidays, as I mentioned before, you cannot share that with your friends. I remember I told one of my very close schoolmates. At school when I came back in her first reactions, he and I was really sad. And because of I thought she was my best friend. And she sort of told me that, you know, like, all you passages, the phrase, and I was really devastated. And, again, you know, like all these little small things as we affirm about what you already believe, which is you're not going to be able to live the life that you want. [00:23:22] Were you having conflict within yourself in terms of I don't want to be gay, or were you quite happy being gay, but it was just a society that didn't particularly like that [00:23:33] is a very good questions, because the fact is, I know I am gay. And I also know that I have no interest at all, to a female. My my friends now solace asking me, you know, like, if I can have sex with a female and a very happy Elephant Man, who would I pick, I say the very act the Elephant, elephant men. And it's awesome. They haven't met any gay people, as in such an extreme. So tell people, if I if I having sex with a female, I will see myself as a lesbian. Or what I mean is, you know, I really have no, I really have never be able to see female as an opposite sex. And I think for some people, it might be really hard to understand. But sometimes I do when you have such a strong feeling about who you are, of course, you wouldn't be able to make me like make myself to sleep with another female. So I'm very sure, and very sure that I'm only interested in men, and in a relationship. And also, the only problem that I see was the society wasn't able, and not really, to accept a debt. And it taught me a lot of great deal of humanity, because I think it's not, it's not breaking the law of the society, any love is acceptable. And the winters go down to racial tension as well. In the end of the day, whether you bisexual, homosexual, or straight, so called Love is equal, when you love someone you want to be with someone, everybody should have the right to do so. So I was really lucky that I came to New Zealand and New Zealand have the law that recognize same sex relationship. MMO really grateful, especially from someone coming from a Muslim country and able to have in the same rights is amazing. [00:26:01] In Malaysia, at the time, where there are laws against homosexuality, [00:26:05] is if anyone's been file as having a relationship will be punished. They actually have been at least 20 years ago when the deputy of Prime Minister's being accused of having same sex relationship with someone and he was being sentenced to jail. And there's just one of the example. So it is against the law of Muslim country and in Malaysia as well. Having say that, my experience, I knew there were a lot of heat and scenes, because I was one of them, how people were having unsafe sex meeting in places where unsafe as well. And I really fell for people who have to go through that because I was in that kind of environment too. And, you know, sometimes when you do things, just because of the physical needs, and after you fulfill your need, and then you start thinking about what you doing kind of quite scary too, because quite often, I might put myself in danger that you know, like, I would not wanted to, but because I felt I don't have the kind of [00:27:44] opportunity as being [00:27:49] equal in what society has providing. So you saw have to everything under under the crowd so that you will not get caught. And so for you. [00:28:01] So how did that relationship with your first boyfriend go? [00:28:05] Yeah, we're really pair. Because I think we both felt the same, like having such a strong feeling in age of 16. And the distance between me and him is almost like Auckland, and Christchurch, New Zealand. So we can only communicate through letters and letters, it's not safe, especially what you put in on a piece of paper. So his sister discovers his letters. And then in the end, we have to call for relationship. Because the sister told her mom, and we both were really devastated. Because I know I was feeling very depressed, I miss him so much, I was still studying school, my parents do not want me to move back to evil, which is this the south or the northern part of Malaysia. And they saw to understand why I want to move there. And he cannot leave the family because He's the oldest of the three children. So he has the obligation to after his final thought of business. So in the end, we just have to break it off. And that also made me believe at a time, you know, I, I really want to, but also knowing that there's not going to happen. So I really appreciate what I have now. I mean, like what I have now is impossible. I never thought I could ever have the life that I dream of yours years ago. And I think I am truly blessed. regardless what how how should I went through by Indiana's two things with it. [00:30:07] So around that age, did you have any idea that there were different ways of living in different countries? [00:30:14] I'm not really I mean, I we sort of getting a news in certain stages, like seeing how oversee your European start recognizing same sex relationship. For me, I was just like, this is this is impossible, how that can be. And of course, because the news also been announced from from Malaysia, and Singapore and audits, and again, even when people were talking about there seems to be something really disgusting. And you know, like, unbelievable, how can someone give a toast people toast right? So it was just sounds like an impossible, or something that you know, like, because they will also talk about how opposition's so really angry about the propose or legislation or something. So you thought that will never go ahead as well, I can't remember the very first country who actually have the rich selections passed through. But I was so amazed. And on the same token, I also know that that is only happened in southern part of the country. And that's when I start thinking about leaving Malaysia. And also probably if I can find a way to go to the country, I might be able to do that. [00:31:49] But I also do not know how to do that, [00:31:52] that didn't know that you can get so Koppelman arrested and become citizenship and all that. So again, all that was just like a dream. And during that time, there's no such things called internet. So it's not like no kids is Google and fire, heaps of information, how to get to where you want to. And I do have that circle of friends who has been overseas and was [00:32:23] able to get permanency overseas as well. So [00:32:28] yeah, for me, it's still like a dream at a time. [00:32:34] But there is a point where that dream becomes reality. And you came to New Zealand, and what were your thoughts, I mean, suddenly, you've got this whole kind of gay and lesbian culture, [00:32:49] just actually out in the open, I honestly think when you suddenly have so much freedom, the first thing you do is you really abuse your freedom. So I totally put myself out there, I mean, life is like you know, from nothing to suddenly you can have the sweet, you like, you want to make sure that you have all of them, you know, like because you don't know when you're going to get hungry again, or you're not going to have the opportunity to either sweet again. So that was really out of control. I mean, like, I basically leads us to anything that I could. And again, there was a really learning curve, because then I learned to know that I have to have a balance. I do do a lot of stupid things or fun thing at a time. But I also very much wanting to stay in New Zealand. And what really helped me through was my study because you know, the paper that I was doing, including social ology, and reading about the background, how New Zealand come to accept gay relationship and all that. So I knew I found a place where I can finally call home. And finally, feel like I could be equally being given and providing the same rights as everybody else. [00:34:32] And there was [00:34:34] a relief, and an amazing feeling that finally I don't have to carry the weight of my life of From now on, I can finally just [00:34:46] let it go and put it down. [00:34:50] And, yeah, that was truly the most amazing feeling there. Anyone could have. And that awesome, we really appreciate New Zealand as well. And seeing how, by providing the same rights, people able to grow and learn, and then equally contribute to the society itself feel that they have to constantly hide himself because I mean, I when I was in Malaysia, even as an adult, I still trying to minimizing my behavior and still trying to just just able to go by and and and not thinking about what else I can do ways my potential ways right now I will ask myself, you know, like, what else I want to do? Where, where's my potential, I still want to grow, [00:35:53] I still want to do more. [00:35:55] Whereas before, I was just still waiting for the time. [00:36:00] We're finally finally everything's finished. [00:36:05] Can you talk a wee bit about I'm interested in the ideas of being gay and whether it's, you know, just gay sex, or whether it's a gay lifestyle living with partners. In Malaysia? Did you have any kind of concept that you could actually live a completely gay life? Or was it very much just, you know, kind of six x? [00:36:30] I think is I talked about this before, when I was in school, and this, the school teacher [00:36:38] asked everybody what you want to be when you grow up? My answer was actually become a housewife. But I cannot tell that I knew people was going to tease me about it. So I just make up something can remember what I say. But that is the nature nature instinct of one what I want, which is the life where I have a husband, and where I can have children [00:37:08] where I can, [00:37:11] being loved and equally share my love with someone. At the age, of course, you didn't think about sex. But as you grow older, as your physical change, and hormone change, and all that, I start having the craving of, you know, like one that intimate relationship with men. [00:37:36] And I think there's a very natural [00:37:38] human instinct as well. The only differences is, the person that I thinking about is Mel instead of female. The curiosity that I have is how he felt like being [00:37:53] keys [00:37:54] by a men, how you felt like being whole by men, how it felt like being in love. In a relationship with a man, all I saw all three of my sisters go through relationship with their boyfriend, [00:38:08] and that envy so much, you know, you see them [00:38:13] getting married, dress out having that pre imposed relationship. So of course, not just sex is what I so call lifestyle is a having a companionship, where you know, it will create a safe Heaven, when you can go home and relax and be yourself with the person that you love and care the most. [00:38:40] And create the life that you want. [00:38:45] And really speak about me and my partner, sometimes I have a very bad day at work or something, get me down by now, this person is waiting for me home, when I come home. That gave me the safe feeling that I need us. And so that that is how I described about everything. [00:39:14] So do you think you'll ever go back and live in Malaysia? [00:39:17] No way. I thought about that, then, I was very clear with my parents as well. As I told my parents Look, if I'm here, Jerry, our relationship is to recognize anything happen. We have the rights to whatever that I need to be done. But if we go back to Malaysia, our relationship will not be recognized. So it doesn't mean a thing for our relationship. And if anything happened, and there will not be having the same mechanism that we can solo our each other whatever they need to happen during the time. So I was very clear with my families. And one thing is one of my sisters scientists recently came out as well and say that, you know, he's key. And my sister, first thing she asked me was, you know, like, what you reckon I say first I want you to know is not a face, it is what it is, forget about whatever he could change, love him and treat him equally as your another son. And I also told my sister look, you know, like the best is when we both able financially to get him to oversee and let him have the same opportunity. And I was really grateful that my sister was able to accept that immediately and also able to recognize that [00:40:59] the this already right and [00:41:01] probably will be a little bit difficult if he's still in Malaysia so we will try to find a way that able to let him being educated in oversee country in able to do what I'm doing now. [00:41:17] So again, [00:41:18] different my sister so recognize that you know that being k Malaysia will be really hard for him. And her heart was aching there was for her word, knowing that what I have to go through and now seeing her son have to go through the same thing. But at the same time, I also felt some feel some comfort because knowing firsthand that, you know like you can still be who you are in the end of the day, you just need to have some plan are you going to do enable in order to enable and facilitate that humans growing process is not going to demonstrate on the individual [00:42:03] that must be very hard to have to leave your home country knowing that there's probably not going to be a way of you getting back with your partner. [00:42:12] Yes, it is. And it was really hard as well when you think about it because you knew you wouldn't, you're not going to have the same opportunity as other people you know, like if let's say my partner is a female at least we can look at way you know that if there is going to be a better opportunity in career whatever that we can go back and do it of course we can still do it. That means a lot things will need to be change. Like when we go out beside family I cannot introduce Jerry as my partner is like he will suddenly become a friend who flattening with you. And then he'll become this funny or friend that go to whatever places you go to together with you. So it's not going to be healthy when you have to hide something especially so important in your life. So yeah, in I mean like in New Zealand, at least, you know like we both are being recognized and not as a couple and able to do things together that we do not fear of how that's going to have [00:43:23] repercussions in our life. [00:43:28] But also feeling sad about knowing that I will have to leave my mom my father and my sisters behind missing a lot of be occasions when this Chinese New Year or seeing my nephews and nieces growing out [00:43:50] and sometimes [00:43:54] sometimes a few years ago I finally able to put it aside because I always felt quite sad when I think about I wouldn't be able to be in part of their life because I I love my sisters sons and daughters and and just suddenly missing out a lot of that [00:44:16] talent joy. [00:44:19] Again, I just have to accept the fact is sometimes you you give just have to you know you gain something lost something so and yeah, there's always [00:44:35] some sacrifice that [00:44:38] I will have to meet us from time to time.
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