This National Coming Out Day, we believe it’s important to share our personal stories of coming out to friends and family. But, these aren’t the only stories that matter. For many folks in the LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander community, coming out to family seems like an insurmountable task. It’s important for us to share these stories too so that folks know that they aren’t alone and that support is available.
Below is a story from a GAPIMNY member:
Being Asian in the United States is tough. You’re caught in a constant struggle to find your identity. In my family, I am the first-born son, and my family’s expectations for me are to succeed financially and carry on the family name. I think for some Asian people, it’s tough to figure out your identity because of how connected our community can be. It seems like anything could potentially make its way back to your family. This is why when I finally said, “I am gay” to myself, I was terrified and downcast.
I am a Chook Sing Zai; an American Born Chinese (ABC). My mother is also an ABC as she was born in New York. My mother grew up very poor. She would help my grandmother make clothes and belts after school and weekends to make money. All of her clothes were sewn by my grandmother. When my mother became a teenager, she spent her weekends and free time helping out at the store my grandpa owned. Since then, my mother works in an accounting firm, a 9-5 job, but still spends the weekends working for my grandparents’ store helping them out anyway she can.
It’s this hard work and sacrifice that hangs on me like a second skin. On top of my mother’s sacrifices, our family has endured a lot of medical emergencies, which has put more pressure on me to become the provider in the family. It’s these experiences that taught me that family is everything. At the end of the day no matter what, family sticks together. I lived and breathed this until I entered high school, when I realized I am gay.
When I found out, I hated myself so much. I began to withdraw more and more. I was afraid I would be kicked out of the house. I felt like I cheated my parents who worked so hard to give me what they never had. I loathed myself so much. I even contemplated suicide. I was lost and afraid. My family was my entire world. Ever since then I’ve begun to distance myself from the family.
In 2011, I had learned to crochet and had made one of my first gay friends a pink and white scarf. I gave it to him on the corner of Canal and Elizabeth Street. I told him I had to go and I gave him a hug. I felt so weird about hugging him because it felt as if all eyes were on me in Chinatown. In reality, I bet no one cared at all. I felt so sad and ashamed that I began crossing Canal Street as the red light was blinking. I was one step away from the pavement when I felt a large force ram into me.
A car hit me.
The force was strong enough to knock me, a big two hundred sixty pound guy, off my feet, landing three feet away and rolling a little bit further. I got up, got my hat, and got onto the sidewalk with stabbing pains in my legs and back. I then checked to see if there were any bones broken or internal bleeding. The driver and a few bystanders asked if I was all right. I said I was fine and continued walking. I walked all the way to my aunt’s house about ten blocks away.
I kept the pain inside because I was afraid of being found out I was gay. I laughed painfully during my trek to my aunt’s house because I would rather get hurt and nearly die than to tell my parents I was associating with a gay person and got hit by a car. I realized how little I valued my life and how I really hurt myself.
Eventually, my parents found out about me being hit by a car when they received the bill after I decided to go to the ER. My parents felt that I had betrayed and hurt them. I hurt them because I did not tell them sooner. They were so angry with me they felt that I had no trust or faith in them to even tell them that I had been hit by a car. Their words hit harder than that car did and I realized they were right.
I kept my parents at a distance because I fear they will reject me. To this day, I still do.
Every year when we visit the ancestors at their gravesites and offer food and incense I always say a prayer. I say a prayer to my deceased grandparents that they don’t hate me for who I am and that I wish for them to accept me and decisions I make in life. Each year I pray hoping that they approve of me doing the things that make me happy.
Each year I hope the distance between me and my family can shrink. I wish so badly with all my heart I could tell them and for them to accept me. This is why I am grateful that groups like the Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY) and the Asian Pride Project exist. I was able to share my story with people that could really understand where I was coming from. The Asian Pride Project has launched PSAs targeted at folks like my parents to get them to understand that family is family and that LGBT folks in their family deserve their love and acceptance. After watching some of the videos and reading the stories I cried a bit. They showed me that families and people can change. Most importantly the Asian Pride Project and GAPIMNY gave me hope that one day me and my family can have a healthier relationship full of love, respect, and understanding.