By Kyleen Jan
Despite this fear of disappointing my parents, they eventually did find out I was gay. All because of a heartbreak. Ironically, I never felt more loved and secured than after the girlfriend officially cut things off. But first, I felt broken.
How she did it doesn’t matter –I was devastated. If you’ve gone through heartbreak, especially one that you never saw coming because you know it was so good, then you know what I’m talking about. You never thought you’d be able to cry that much or eat so little. You understand why people become “fuckboys”. You realize how much of them has become you, how much emptier the room feels once you remove all of their belongings. To be honest, I can’t even remember who I was before I met her.
After the breakup, I was a mess. I tried my best, but my grades took a hit for two weeks. That was atypical for me – even during times of stress, I’d normally be able to prioritize, get my shit done, and keep my head up. But not here. Eventually, I ended up calling my parents, sobbing, telling them everything.
They picked me up a couple days later. My mom came out of the car with her arms open, ready to embrace me. I cried into her shoulders. I cried with my head in her lap. I cried at dinner.
But here’s the important part: my parents didn’t question why I was dating a girl. They didn’t kick me out or say something ridiculous like “this is a sign from God that you shouldn’t date girls.” All they thought about was how to help their daughter pick herself up again. That weekend was absolute hell for me because of the breakup, but also comforting because it answered a question that had been burning in my mind since high school:
No matter what, my parents were going to love me as their daughter, regardless of who I like, what I do, or where I go. They’re good parents. Not all parents are like that. See, even if the other people I love in my life don’t love me back, decide to act like I don’t exist anymore, don’t have their heart in the right place, or are disloyal - even if those loves fall apart, my parents’ love for me will always be there. That realization was profound for me. I cried even more.
It took a damn breakup for me to “come out” to my parents, I suppose. But I think most Asian parents love their children, if they’re parents like mine – mothers and fathers who traveled thousands of miles from another country so that they could build something bigger and better for themselves and their children in America. And I believe that parents like that are big enough to look past the sexuality, are big enough to know that their sexuality is not a bad thing, and that it is better to support their children rather than shun them. Because they love them. Loving isn’t hard.
Just like Asian families don’t discuss things like sexuality openly, it’s well-known that Asian parents and children do not say “I love you” to each other. For us, the words feel awkward, almost too large to fit in our mouths. But they say it through things like packing lunches with home cooked foods, with after-school math tutoring instead of yet another sleepover, with paying every goddamn cent of their education, and in my case, embracing them with a hug and meal when everything else feels like it’s falling apart.
Most of what held me back was that self-doubt and fear that they’d kick me out instead of accepting me when the words “I’m gay” came out of my mouth. To be honest, I wish I had the courage to tell them in a setting that didn’t require the breakup. I wish I could have taken her home and introduced her to my parents. That didn’t happen in the end, but still.
So here is my advice for other Asian American queers
Take your time. Nobody’s forcing you to come out. You’ll probably have to come out at some point. If you believe that your parents are good parents and you’ve got a gut feeling that they’ll probably accept you for you regardless of your sexuality, then they probably will.
I think one things that I have always told myself is that I am not just gay. I am a student, a friend, a daughter. I study, I love concerts, I love photography, and I love food. There is so much more to me than just my sexuality, and I should not hold myself back from succeeding in those other areas due to the fact that I’m gay. Become the best person you can be, who just happens to be gay. Don’t let things like “but you don’t look gay” stop you because that’s just stupid. Because in the end, sexuality is just sexuality. People just love to make a big deal out of it, which gets old after a while.
There’s actually a lot of us Asian American queers out there. I’ve met quite a large number of them. There are definitely more who are closeted by family, culture, religion, self-doubt, or some combination of those factors.
Just be yourself. The right people – the ones who will support you, who love you, who honestly don’t give a shit that you’re gay or who have known forever – the good ones will stay in your life. You’ll be a lot happier like that.
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