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Home Is Where We Build It Together

In the vibrant tapestry that is Singapore's cultural rojak, those of us venturing through our thirties and forties, are embarking on an incredibly personal yet universally shared journey towards creating futures with those we hold dear. This adventure, woven with threads of individual experiences and collective dreams, is set against the colourful and distinctive backdrop of Singapore's societal norms, public policies, and rich cultural mosaic.

This April, my partner and I will be exploring the idyllic landscapes of northern Italy, visiting a house that represents more than just bricks and mortar to us. Acquired last September, this house symbolizes a future/retirement home for us—a dream woven from both necessity and our deepest desires.

Our narrative reflects the broader experience shared by many same-sex couples in Singapore, especially those in interracial/inter-national partnerships and particularly around the challenges of homeownership and finding societal acceptance. But beyond these specifics, our story is fundamentally about the human yearning for connection, love, and a true sense of belonging.

My journey into homeownership began with the purchase of a resale 3-room HDB flat in 2019 just after I turned 35. Back then, the idea of sharing this space with someone I love seemed like a distant possibility as I have been rather unlucky in love at that time. Yet unpredictably, my partner and I reconnected just before COVID hit and have been together ever since. Together, we've turned our HDB flat into something much more meaningful than just a house. It's our home, a repository of shared memories, experiences, and hopes for what lies ahead.

My partner who hails from the Netherlands, has been living in Singapore for the past 15 years and his life has become so intertwined with the Singapore fabric that our friends lovingly tease him for being a "localized angmoh". He is perfectly conversant in Singlish and enjoys local delicacies at a hawker centre, just like any Singaporean. However, our dream of a future together is often overshadowed by the uncertainty of our legal status in Singapore. Despite my partner's deep connections and contributions to our community and lengthy stay in the country, his pursuit of Permanent Residency (twice unsuccessful) remains a challenge.

Despite the repeal of S377a, Singapore currently still does not recognize our impending union. The opaque criteria for Permanent Residency are like navigating through a fog, leaving us guessing at what might make a successful application. Even if he were hypothetically granted PR, its permanence is not guaranteed since it is still subject to renewal. The difficult task of finding a legal foothold has intensified as we plan to marry next year in the Netherlands, a country that pioneered legal same-sex marriage in 2001.

Ideally, given a choice, I would choose to live the rest of my life here in Singapore. However, the possibility of migration looms as we contemplate setting down roots elsewhere as a contingency plan. This isn't about wanting to leave Singapore. Rather, it is about seeking a place where our union is fully embraced and celebrated. It's a testament to the belief that fostering a more inclusive society could amplify Singapore's allure as a global hub, attracting a rich diversity of talent and enriching the cultural fabric of our nation. Our love story, like so many others, is grounded in the universal desire for companionship and highlights the critical need for inclusivity, empathy, and the acknowledgment of diverse family structures as the bedrock of a vibrant community.

By sharing our journey, we aim to shine a light on the experiences of others in similar situations and foster a broader conversation about creating an inclusive Singapore. We dream of a future where policies mirror the rich diversity of the people who call this island home, allowing everyone to build a life with their loved ones, irrespective of sexual orientation.

Home, as they say, is where the heart is. For my partner and me, Singapore will always be our home. But for now, it may have to share that title with our quaint haven in Italy.

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