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God Says "NO"

“No sex before marriage,” my mother says sharply, looking fifteen-year-old me up and down. I open my mouth to protest. To ask why. But I stop myself short knowing I won’t get a satisfying answer.


I blame my mum a lot for my late blooming. My childhood was weird: conservative and liberal at the same time. Unlike most Asian households, I was allowed to pick my hobbies, spend my free time picking flowers and digging up worms, and academics were hardly a concern. However, at the same time, our household was very Catholic. Every Sunday, there was always a new list of dos and don’ts. Don’t swear. Say your prayers every night. Don’t ask why, just do it because God says so!


I never got a full explanation about the purpose of my period until I learned about it at school. Anything about changing bodies or sexuality or even love was tucked away, and my brother and I were shushed if we even made a squeak about these forbidden subjects.


I didn’t go on my first date until the age of 22. I didn’t know if we should have hugged, or shaken hands… or kissed? I didn’t even know how to talk about why we had come to eat sushi together after matching on a dating app. Was this friendship? Was this a date? That same night, I really wanted to call my mum and ask her: What does love feel like?


But, of course, there was an extra barrier.


Being queer and Asian has many challenges. Talking to your family about what it means to love another woman is awkward. Trying to discuss any LGBTQ+ issues – exhausting. Somehow the religious discrimination bill is my fault. When I first came out to my mum, her biggest concern was my sex life. I was instructed not to have sex until I got married. The issue: I came out before marriage equality was a thing. It was one big, fat catch-22. I spent many restless nights convincing myself that my sexuality was not only about ‘sex’. It took a big move across the country away from my family and many new connections later to help me learn that being queer was also about community, friendship, and love.


As a child, I thought that love was sinful and dirty. According to Catholicism, love was this thing that you didn’t get to experience until you got married. But love isn’t and shouldn’t be sexualised. Love is caring so much about a person, you walk them home late at night even though you have work in the morning. Love is creating so many memories that you can think back on and smile to yourself about. Love is accepting a person no matter who they are.


My mum has gotten better in recent years. I’ve been talking to her about the news and how we should be treating people with compassion, not judgement. She’s been coming ‘round to the idea that the world is changing rapidly, and quite frankly, we have bigger problems to worry about than who we love, how we dress, and pre-marital sex.


I’ve also learned some things. I’ve come to realise that everyone’s opinion is valid and that education is the key to change. It’s easy to just tell someone that their opinion is wrong and leave it at that, but everyone with an opinion has a justification for it. By finding that justification, it is much easier to discuss issues openly. Even today, I still find talking about sex awkward with my mum. But now, I’m glad that the discussion no longer ends short at “no sex before marriage”.

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