KarMel Scholarship 2008
Honorable Mention: Best Coming Out
By Gregory Chin - MA
Desciption of Submission: “A personal essay exploring two contrasting halves of an identity, between humor and solemnity, between retrospect and optimism, and between ethnic background and sexual orientation.” - Gregory
Why Karen and Melody Liked It: We loved how he took a stand to come out to his Asian parents. We liked how his story inspires others that in order to get what you truly want in life, you have to take that first step to tell your parents who you are.
My heart was racing, but I hadn’t move an inch. My mouth was dry, but I couldn’t stop swallowing in an attempt to suppress the overwhelming nausea. My whole body was burning, but I was ninety percent sure that I wasn’t a fifty-year old menopausal woman (although in retrospect I probably had experienced the closest thing to a hot flash that a seventeen-year old boy could experience).
“I’m …gay?” my ovice cracked.
“… What?” my mother asked, turning to stab me with a sharp, surprised glance.
“I’m…gay,” I told her resolutely.
“Oh.. Wait.. How do you know? How do you know?”
When I first told my mom that I was gay, I could instantly feel a heaviness descend in the room. Then again, that may have just been the giant rainbow-colored elephant that I had just welcomed into the kitchen.
Needless to say, my mother was caught off-guard. She had no idea how to react to this intensely awkward and fragile situation, even with all of her life experiences and hours of watching Oprah. For a split second I thought she went to reach into her purse for a rape whistle or a cell phone to dial 9-1-1, but in reality she was just latching onto the kitchen counter to stabilize herself. Who knew gay children could cause earthquakers?
Of course, no parent imagines their son or daughter to be gay; to do so would be a wish for a social handicap. This fact is even more evident in Chinese culture, where homosexuality, and indeed sexuality itself, is more or less a taboo. Even to my American-born parents, homosexuality is a distant and far removed topic. Chinse sons are supposed to obey their parents’ wishes. Chinese sons are supposed to be devoted to their families. Chinese sons are supposed to find a nice Chinese girl to marry, produce beautiful Chinese grandchildren, and pass on the family name.
All of those ideals, however, were quickly discarded by my parents. Or rather, they were crushed into a fine powder, mixed with water, and molded into a giant statue memorializing their lost son (and more importantly, their lost grandchildren). It was the biggest insult I could have thrown at them. I had fialed them as a son, and even worse, they had failed as parents to raise me properly.
Even though I was supposed to feel a sense of shame in what I had just told my mother, in what I was doing to her, I realized that I felt better than ever before. My previous symptoms of nausea and weakness were gone; such were the usual motions that accompanied the “coming out talk.” I knew those symptoms wel, though. I had felt them countless times before, with both friends and family.
However, there was no explanation for their arrival or for their persistence. I mean, I felt no shame in being gay. Homosexuality is a part of me, an inseparable patch in the fabric of my being. And yet, somehow being gay had this temporarily adverse affect on me. Comin gout of the closet had released me into the lion’s den. And from my body’s reactions, those lions weren’t the nice, noble, bug-eating kind like those from a certain deceptively cheerful Disney movie. Hakuna Matata my ass.
Nevertheless, it had to be done. Coming out was, and to this day still is, a necessary evil for me. Even though it is a giant weight off my shoulders and the pros certainly outweigh the cons, the physcial reactions that I get just before coming out are excruciating. Telling people about my sexual identity makes me feel like Harry Whittington right before he was shot in the face by Dick Cheny: terror-stricken. Telling people about my sexual identity makes me feel like a choir boy alone after rehearsal: vulnerable. Telling people about my sexual identify makes me feel like Nicole Richie’s stomach: empty. IN the split second before I say “I’m gay,” I feel everything and nothing all at the same time. My body shuts down but I feel tense and aware. My mind feels numb but I am articularate and focused. The disconnect and harmony between my mind and body is, for a split-second, an oxymoron and a paradox.
And yet I subject myself to this torture all the time.
Sometimes I ask myself why I do it. “Why bother if you’re just going to make yourself sick and waste the four dollars you spent on that sandich?” At times this questioning makes sense, and the temptation of taking the easy route overcomes me. But when I move past my subconscious, past my need for instant gratification, I am able to look towards the future.
In the future, I see myself meeting my boyfriend, holding another man’s hand for th efirst time, having my first gay kiss. In the future I see myself falling in love with another man, marrying and devoting my life to him, and starting a family with him. Thanks to his diligence and strong work ethic, we’ll have a comfortable standard of living. Thanks to my genes, we’ll have drop-dead gorgeous offspring. Most impoortantly, though, I see the support of my family in my future. I want my parents’ approval, and as much as teens don’t like to admit it, I need my parent’s help, guidance, and respect. However, in order to truly gain those ideals, they have to know me for who I am first.
One day, my parents will understand me. One day, there won’t be such a schism between race and sexual orientation. One day, culture will not be at odds with sexual identity, and those of Asian descent will not feel like two contrasting halves. One day I will be whole. But one day will not come if I do not take the first step.
And so I tell them.