What transnational couples really need

They say that marriage is a major milestone in one’s life. A marker of true adulthood.

Whoever ‘they’ are, they’re right. As Facebook puts it, marriage is a “life event”. It’s a big deal. It’s also one of the hardest things that two people can do with their lives.

Our wedding in Scotland this July.

Our wedding in Scotland this July.

As if that’s not enough, there are things that can add another layer of difficulty. Being a transnational couple is one of those things. You would imagine that, with globalisation and international movement being a fact of life in today’s world, it would be easy for two people with different nationalities to marry and make their home anywhere. That assumption is wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, one does not get permanent residency just on the basis of being married to a citizen of that country – at least, not in the UK (where my husband’s from) or Singapore (where I’m from).

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Coming to terms with Scotland’s No

I’d known for over a year that I was invested in the Scottish independence referendum. I didn’t realise just how much until I found myself standing in the kitchen, crying over the cat’s food bowl as media outlets began, one by one, to call a No victory.

As I wrote in this Yahoo! blog post just two days ago, the Ayes were never meant to have it. I knew that even as the polls gave the Yes campaign a lead. I told myself that over and over again; “it’s probably not going to go through”. But as it became increasingly clear that Scotland was not going to be independent, I realised I had actually put a lot more stock into a Yes win than I had let even myself believe.

Initially skeptical, Calum and I were inspired by the energy and vision of pro-independence campaigners. Not just from Yes Scotland, but the whole range of other groups: National Collective, Radical Independence, Common Weal, Women for Independence, Scots Asians for Independence, Labour for Independence, the Greens… the list goes on and on. The 2013 Radical Independence Campaign opened my eyes to how another society – a more democratic, fairer society with more participation – could actually be possible.

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Unpacking the “one” Singapore

Throughout the month of August the children beamed down on us from their perch on lamp-posts. “Happy 49th Birthday, Singapore!” the banner said against a backdrop of red and white. A sweet message from the children. The happy, friendly, politically-correct-and-racially-representative children. 

Hey, this is Singapore, and we all live in racial harmony, right?

If only it were that simple. Racial harmony – a true harmony that goes deeper than just the lack of fights and riots – is more than billboards and posters of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CMIO) children. It is more than swapping national costumes one day of every year. It is more than a Chinese Singaporean eating roti prata and knowing how to sing Chan Mali Chan. And it is way, way beyond holding the same red passport.

Yet we’re taught that it is that simple. “Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religious country,” I remember reading in my primary school Social Studies textbooks. “We live in racial harmony.” Cue photos of a Christian church (Eurasian), Buddhist temple (Chinese), Hindu temple (Indian) and mosque (Malay).

Through such a simplistic narrative we have spent years weaving a lie for ourselves. A lie that fills us with a mixed sense of relief, pride and accomplishment every time we see a news story about sectarian violence or racial riots happening somewhere in the world. “Thank goodness Singapore doesn’t have that problem!” we say. 

We may not have that problem – the problem that keeps parents awake at night worrying about the safety of their children simply because of the colour of their skin – but we’ve definitely got problems. Problems that desperately need to be discussed, if only we’d stop and open our eyes to them.

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