Wednesday 30 June 2021

TIL Gurmit Singh's daughter Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk is 'an ícon in Singapore's queer community' and more power to her

You may have read about kids of local celebrities following their parents' footsteps into showbiz.

But you probably haven't read about Gurmit Singh's daughter, Gabrielle.

She did make the news in 2014 after she went viral with her open letter to Forever 21, calling out the misogynistic rap song being played in a clothing store targeted at women. She was 17 then.

That was seven years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I was researching my column about Gurmit's Lamborghini when I came across this 2020 Vice article about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, calling her "an icon in Singapore’s queer community".

Wait, what? Is this Gurmit's daughter? I cross-checked her very unique name. Yes, it is.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Gabbi is a lot of things. Primarily, they're a thing maker, body-shaker, and a rule-breaker; or at least that’s what it says on their website.

Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, 22, is an icon in Singapore’s queer community. The person behind the extremely popular Queer ZineFest, they're also the organiser of QUEERTHEYEAR! Cabaret, a night of unabashed self expression for queer artists.
Nowhere in the article was mentioned that she is the daughter of one of the most famous people in Singapore.

And then I discovered she was a contributor to Huffington Post from 2016 to 2017 and I was further impressed.

One of her articles was titled Growing Up Straight: A Timeline.

She also has a YouTube channel, which has 23 videos, the most recent published in February last year.

But the video that caught my attention was one published in June 2, 2018, titled "happy pride month - here's my coming out video".

It's a powerful, emotionally raw 13-minute video about her struggle with her sexuality and how she eventually came out to her parents, one of whom is, of course, Gurmit.

To start with, she identified as queer. She said in the video:
Personally, I’m not a big fan of labels. At some point, I said I was bisexual. Then I was like no, I’m pansexual.

And now I kind of just go by queer because I’m attracted to people. I don’t really care about people’s gender when I’m attracted to them.

So yes, I’m queer and it has taken me quite a while to get comfortable saying that I’m queer because I live in Singapore which is very conservative and then I grew up in a Christian household which is also very conservative.
She said that when homosexuality was talked about, it was “always in a bad light like we were sinners”.
In my mid-teens, like 15, I went through a phase where I was super super religious. I was cell reading. I was going to church. I was volunteering. I was reading the Bible every day… That was me trying to pray the gay away.

So I just laid low and pretended to be straight for a couple of years.
She sort of came out to her mother one night, but things got weird.
When I was 18, that was when I came out to my mum. I drunk-called my mother… she’s so lovely. She came and picked me up. In the car, I held it together.

And then we got home and I just started crying. ‘Oh my god, I’m a lesbian! I like girls! And I don’t know what to do and it’s so difficult.'

She kind of just sat by me and nodded and like patted my shoulder.

And the next morning, she didn’t say anything about it.

I never dreamed that my parents would be okay with my sexuality because they’re Christian and because the Christianity that I grew up with was not supportive of my sexuality at all.
But her struggles continued.
A few months down the road, I wrote an article about homosexuality. My parents read it and they were not very okay with it. But they were more not okay with the fact that I hadn’t told them. That I put it online before telling them.
She was probably referring to the Huffpost article mentioned above.
I felt really bad about my sexuality. So in order to work things out, I would start dating boys… Maybe I’m gay because I haven’t found the right straight cis man to warm my heart!

I just went out with a string of “normal” boys who turned out to be really predatory.
But when she went to university in the UK, she continued dating boys, which she described as "horrible". She also started dating girls which she preferred.

She finally came out to both her parents by sending them a video.
I knew things were still weird with my parents. I really love my family. So it really bothers me when things are off with us. And I knew things were off because of me.

So I made them a really long really dramatic video, like I cried a lot and my make-up got messed up. I made them a really long coming-out video where I said I needed to tell them things and address the elephant in the room.

I sent it to them and I basically just lie in my bed terrified that they might disown me.

They both texted me. They were really sweet. They were like “Thank you for telling us and feeling safe enough to tell us and we can tell that it’s something that’s very important to you and we’re glad that you opened up.”

So I came home for Christmas break. During that break, both my parents took me out individually. My dad was really sweet… He was like “I can’t control who you choose to love and I’m just going to support you.” And I was like yay!

I know I’m really lucky because I know a lot of friends who can’t come out to their parents because their parents would not be this nice to them. So I am very very grateful.
She said she came out to her parents a year and a half before making the YouTube video, so it was likely aound the end of 2016.

What I find poignant is that I know Gurmit went through his own struggles with his Sikh parents when he converted to Christianity, especially his father; and later, his daughter would struggle with her sexuality partly due to the Christianity she grew up with.

I hope she's in a better place now.

Also on Gabbi's YouTube channel is this amazing video of her performing her obviously NSFW poem, Things to Say While You're Sucking His Dick. It was not what I expected.

She is clearly a very passionate, funny, talented young woman with a cause.

More Singaporeans should know about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk and not just because of her famous father.