First LGBTQ Relationship At 35
What if I told you that there is never a “perfect” timeline in life, and everything was constructed by society? That would probably cause you to do a double take, but you have to admit that more people ‒ especially females ‒ don’t get married by 30 and have two kids by 35 anymore.
Single ladies aside, there is another group of people who don’t fall into the conventional “Singaporean dream” – the LGBTQ community. Some of these individuals might even only discover their sexuality later in life.
Just think of Rebel Wilson who was assumed to be straight throughout her career, but surprised many when she came out as bisexual at 42 years old. Similarly, just ask local content creator and endurance athelete Cheryl Tay, 36, who fell in love with her female bestie Grace when she was 35, and later, got married. We spoke to her to find out more about her journey to true happiness.
Only dating men until 35 years old
For context, Cheryl only had relationships with men that each lasted between 3 months to a years her whole life. She met them mostly on dating apps, and mentioned that she “really put [herself] out there” in an attempt to find the right person.
For a long time, Cheryl never understood why her relationships kept failing – she only realised later on that she had the tendency to rush into them. During our conversation, she admits that she falls in love easily, and instead of knowing a person well enough, she wanted to cement the relationship as soon as possible.
Such dating habits continued until she was 35 years old, when she developed romantic feelings for her female BFF Grace.
Meeting Grace and starting her first LGBTQ relationship
Prior to being partners, Cheryl and Grace met each other through a mutual friend at a housewarming party in 2018. Since Cheryl found Grace easy to talk to, the two clicked instantly and often hung out together also because they lived close to each other.
At that point in time, Cheryl had yet to develop any feelings for Grace, and for the next 3 years, they continued to hang out as friends. Until one day, Cheryl felt something for Grace when the latter leaned against the former on her shoulder.
“Ever since that incident, my heart was racing every time I met up with Grace,” Cheryl explained.
As if a scene straight out of a rom-com film, Cheryl decided to kiss Grace one day when they were chilling on a sofa. Since Grace had no idea that Cheryl was interested in her, she wasn’t sure how to react and requested to take it slow despite liking the kiss, so as to not ruin the friendship.
“I shared with Grace my feelings, and instead of accepting them immediately, she wanted to make sure that I was being serious,” Cheryl said. “Since it would be my first LGBTQ relationship, Grace felt that I should take it more seriously and make sure that it wasn’t just a phase.”
Both of them took it easy at the start, and after “testing waters” for two weeks, Cheryl felt absolutely fine with engaging in a same-sex relationship with Grace.
The reason? Cheryl found Grace different, and because she had known her for 3 years, she already had the luxury of knowing Grace inside out. That included Grace’s likes and dislikes, go-to eateries, and living habits. Simply put, Cheryl actually knew her partner before entering a relationship for the first time.
After confirming their status as a couple with each other, Cheryl and Grace didn’t hard launch their relationship, but their friends noticed their lovey-dovey moments on social media and showed support for their new start.
“My friends have been very supportive, and they are happy to see that I’ve found someone who’s compatible with me,” Cheryl shared.
Receiving a marriage proposal 6 weeks after dating
Relationship milestones like saying “I love you” and settling down differ from couple to couple. While some might find it too fast to say “yes” to a proposal after dating for 6 weeks, it wasn’t the case for Cheryl and Grace.
The proposal happened after they disembarked from a yacht with their friends ‒ Grace suddenly held Cheryl’s hand before going down on one knee at the dock. Since the proposal came out of the blue, it even caught their friends who were present by surprise.
“I went ‘WTF!!!’ in my head, and was shocked by Grace’s actions” Cheryl recalled. “I couldn’t register what happened because I started crying.”
Amidst the tears of joy and cheers from their friends, Cheryl accepted the proposal after Grace made a short speech and asked to marry her. It was definitely a moment to remember, and their friends managed to capture the tear-jerking moment on their phones and made it into a video.
“I was sure that Grace would be the one, but I wasn’t expecting her to propose so fast into the relationship,” Cheryl explained. “At the same time, I’m glad she made the move because I knew that both of us were ready to bring our relationship to another level.”
There’s a reason why Cheryl was confident that Grace was the one. At that point, they had been living together since they got together as a couple, and Cheryl found their lifestyle and values compatible.
“I believe it is necessary for couples to live together even if it is for a short while to identify any potential deal-breakers,” Cheryl elaborated. “You need to know if you and your partner match each other’s lifestyle.”
Since Cheryl was so certain that Grace was her life partner, it only seemed right that they celebrated their union by throwing a party with their loved ones. Soon after their engagement, the usual planning ensued – from booking a pre-wedding photoshoot to hosting a hen’s night.
Obstacles faced as an LGBTQ couple
While things might appear to be like a bed of roses on the surface, it’d be a lie to say that Cheryl didn’t face any difficulties after entering a same-sex relationship. It took her a while to finalise a wedding location because many places didn’t want to associate themselves with any LGBTQ event.
“I was upfront about my intention of booking a venue because I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time,” Cheryl explained. “There were a few smaller boutique hotels that were cool with hosting our wedding, but I also received numerous rejections from big hotels and event venues. Some didn’t even bother to reply to me.”
Although Cheryl already expected some locations to turn her down, it still hurt when she received an official rejection time and time again. In the end, she decided to have her wedding at a bar because she wanted her guests to experience a one-of-a-kind wedding.
Unlike a standard wedding in Singapore where guests mostly stay seated, Cheryl’s wedding treated her guests to a free flow of alcohol, arcade games, a karaoke machine, a pool table, and even a photo booth ‒ she wanted to make it an occasion where everyone got to have fun, including themselves.
While the memorable wedding was a high note in the couple’s lives, there’s still one thing that Cheryl wished for – her parents’ approval and attendance.
Ever since she announced her relationship with Grace to her parents, they found it hard to accept that their daughter was in love with a female. To make matters worse, Cheryl was also dealing with hate comments left by trolls on her social media accounts.
She tried her best to ignore the negativity around her, but it wasn’t easy to just move on knowing that there were people against her relationship – especially since some disapproval was from her loved ones.
“The comments on TikTok have been horrible. Some even left hurtful words like ‘Hell has a special place for you’”, Cheryl said. “I even blocked my mother on Instagram because she began to comment that I was posting “too much” about my relationship with Grace.”
For conservative elders like Cheryl’s parents, it’s not always easy to acknowledge their child’s sexual orientation. When Cheryl first shared the news with them over their dining table, both of them were shocked and even left her alone without saying anything.
“My parents didn’t speak to me for months, and even though we do so now, they still pretend that Grace doesn’t exist”, Cheryl recalled.
Even when Cheryl casually brought up the subject with them, she noticed that her parents always avoided the topic, and never once invited Grace to any family gathering or event. That was when Cheryl knew that it would be elusive for her parents to accept her sexuality, and ultimately Grace as her life partner.
Despite the lack of support from her parents, Cheryl shares that she’s a glass-half-full kind of person. “I’m glad that they didn’t disown me, and I still get to visit and take care of them,” Cheryl said.
Now, Cheryl only hopes that her parents would understand that she is happy, and that it doesn’t matter who she is with.
Future plans as a couple & advice to others
Despite having dated only men for her whole life prior to Grace, Cheryl shows that a person’s sex doesn’t always matter since she is much happier than before today. Some people might only realise their sexuality at a later stage of their life, and to that, Cheryl says that “there is nothing wrong with discovering something new about yourself even if it challenges traditions ”.
Since Cheryl’s job as a content creator also requires an online presence, she knows that it is inevitable to receive hurtful comments probably for the rest of her life. That said, she never once regrets her decision in confessing her feelings for Grace, and finds that there is nothing shameful about it.
When asked for advice for other LGBTQ couples, Cheryl suggests “not feeling guilty for prioritising [their] happiness over what others think”. Additionally, she recommends talking to friends about it, and finding a support group if they are not comfortable in sharing with their close ones yet.
Although Cheryl plans to move overseas in the future with Grace, the couple is deciding to stay in Singapore for the time being to take care of their parents. She also hopes that more people in society could view every individual as equals and not judge others based on appearance and sexual orientation.
Concluding our chat, Cheryl also feels “Singapore still has a long way to go, but compared to the past, things have definitely changed for the better”.
Cheryl’s Story Show That A Person’s Happiness Is The Most Important In A Relationship
Cheryl’s story has shown us that a person’s sex and relationship length do not always matter when it comes to loving someone. Similarly, every relationship will encounter ups and downs, and it all boils down to how you rise above and overcome obstacles with your partner.
All images courtesy of Cheryl Tay.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.