Being a minority is tough.
Just like many other minorities in the United States, Asian Americans have their own set of challenges with racial identity. Having been born into two completely different cultures, we Asian Americans are forced to juggle between values of both Eastern and Western cultures while, at the same time, develop our own sense of identity. With collectivist principles fostered at home, we are taught to maintain order, peace and harmony, placing the family’s needs over the individual’s. Then, we enter the outside world where we are introduced to individualistic values, empowering us to value individuality and pursue our own happiness. With so many expectations to uphold, many of us feel they have no say in who or what WE want to become. Our parents tell us how to study, what schools to go to, what careers to pursue, to work harder, to strive higher, to do better…while society tells us something completely different. Although, our parents’ expectations are out of good intentions, many of their choices for us strip us of our individual goals and aspirations. Eventually, all these opposing ideologies will clash. Add being gay into the mix and you have a conundrum of issues…
Identity is such a key part of what it means to be human. Whether it be race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion etc., there are so many identities that play a role in shaping an individual’s sense of identity. However, when two or more of those identities come head-to-head, it gives birth to internal conflicts, years of unanswered questions, and one painful journey of self-discovery. Being gay and Asian American is definitely a complicated scenario, but, at the same time, being true to yourself is such an important part of life – so why not just pursue both identities? Well, remember, Asian Americans (whether it be explicitly or implicitly) are still expected to preserve their family’s honor, norms, and values, while simultaneously develop a persona that adheres to both Asian and Western ideologies. Maybe it’s best to throw sexuality under the bed.
Well, that may not be the case.
Suppressing any part of your identity isn’t the best course of action either. If you are currently closeted or have had hidden in one, you know first-hand how painful it is. People have no idea how dark, isolating, and mentally damaging “the closet” can be. There are all types of closets, but concealing one’s sexuality, in my opinion, is the most lethal. Innocent lives every year fall victim to suicide simply because of the never-ending torment that lies behind those menacing doors. Since society places so much emphasis on heterosexuality, anything that “deviates” from that path of righteousness is immediately deemed evil and sickening. So what happens to us queer folk? We’re implicitly thrown into a closet in order to maintain that social harmony and order – at the expense of our physical and mental health. While mentally incarcerated, shame and self-hate fester in our minds like psychological wounds, manifesting into a multitude of mental disorders and potentially life threatening decisions. Many of us have been there; I can definitely attest to this.
Okay, being in the closet sucks. Why not just walk out of it then?
Oh, trust me. I’ve considered it more times than you can imagine, but this is a lot easier said then done. To clarify, I don’t believe the closet’s doors are ever truly locked – everyone can make the active decisions to freely exit. On an individual basis, some people’s situations may be more difficult than others to come out. For Asian Americans, the pressure of maintaining cultural norms, family values, and fear of disappointment are strong enough reasons to stay hidden. And honestly, I don’t blame any one of them. You need to do what is best for you, and if staying in the closet is best, I fully support that decision. But don’t forget, everyone has the ability to shed their closet. However, at the same time, that’s painfully difficult and almost counterintuitive when that outside world hates you just as much you hate yourself while closeted. It sounds like there’s nothing else to do to save yourself…Suicide doesn’t sound like such a bad exit plan anymore, right?
Just as every heterosexual person has the right to life, so does every gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer individual. We’re all human, and I believe we all deserve the life we were given whether it be from my God or yours. Life is beautiful. You are beautiful. No person or society has the power to strip you of that which you inherently deserve. Fear, anger, sadness, and pain are all emotions just as happiness, acceptance and love are too. We all have the right to feel every single one of these emotions. So what did I do? I walked out of my closet. I fearfully but hopefully stepped into the world that hated me so much because I didn’t want to hate myself any longer. And you know what I discovered? That love is truly attainable. That acceptance and happiness actually exist. That my racial identity does not completely collide with my sexuality. That I am just as beautiful as every other person, gay or straight. Now it hasn’t been easy and it will continue to be difficult. But I rather live this life where I feel all these emotions, both positive and negative, than only endure the painful ones. Life is worth it.
This letter isn’t here to force anyone to make a decision or refrain you from making one. This letter is here to serve as hope. Yes, life does get better. Yes, you are strong. Yes, you are capable of change. Yes, you are loved. Though it may not seem like it now, racial identity and your sexuality can coexist as parts of your whole identity.
You are gay. You are Asian American. Be proud of who are you. Love yourself no matter what AND always know – you have a friend here at Borderline Free.