Even growing up in Hong Kong I felt different from the other children. But when I came to the United States, it was even harder to fit in. My parents sent my brother and I over in order for us to start school while they wrapped things up in Hong Kong.
While I was in high school, I started having questions about my sexuality, but I didn't know how to deal with them. At the Catholic school I went to, subjects such as sex were hardly ever discussed. Catholicism buries sexuality under the rug by teaching everyone to abstain from sex. For a while, I seriously thought about entering the priesthood. I saw it as the easy way out. By becoming a priest, I thought I would never have to handle issues dealing with my sexuality.
I had no information about gay culture or about gay people while I grew up. Writing became my only way to explore, to vent, to escape my everyday reality. It was the only way I could deal with my questions and explain things while remaining sane. Most of the protagonists in my stories were women. Since I never felt like a man in terms of the way society defined what a man was, I wrote about women because they were the opposite of men. Writing showed me the possibility of enjoying life.
It wasn't until I started working at McDonalds during my senior year of high school when I met someone my age who was openly gay. My flamboyantly gay co-worker showed me that it was possible to live a happy life as a gay man. So I guess you could say that I came out to myself while working at McDonalds. After I came out, more and more of my co-workers came out as well. The McDonald's I worked at probably had the most queer workers in the city!
So for awhile, I had a supportive circle of gay friends, but they were mostly Latino. After I came to UCLA, I still tried to remain in the background. I was out to my friends, but not to the community at large. I first came out in a Latino surrounding and was more comfortable with the Latino queer community. Even at UCLA I had a hard time coming out to the Asian community because I associated Asians with my family.
My introduction to the gay Asian community started after I took a gender studies class. I met a group of queer Asians while taking the class. A couple of months later, while I was working at the library, I saw one of the guys from that group, and he wanted to talk with me. He was really serious about it; he even followed me into the back areas where I was working in order to talk with me. He wanted to talk with me about becoming a mentor for some high school students, and about going to a couple of MAHU meetings with him.
I decided to come out to my brother during my 4th year in college. I was leaving for an internship in Sacramento, so I was determined to tell him before I left for the summer. I finally got the courage to tell him, but his only reaction was to be completely quiet. Right before I left, he came up to my window, grabbed my shoulder and told me that he was "okay" with what I had told him. As I drove away, the tears started pouring down my cheeks. By the time I turned the corner, I was crying so hard I couldn't see.
The last big thing I had to do was to come out to my parents. I had it all planned out. I was going to come out to them after our big trip back to Hong Kong. After all, I figured, why tell them before and ruin the trip for them? Before the trip, I went to a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting, where someone approached me about talking to a queer Chinese friend of his. His friend was living with an uncle who refused to accept his sexuality. The guy wasn't allowed to go out, make phone calls, and was locked up in his room. I agreed to give him my number at home, where I was still living with my parents.
I came home one day, and there was note from my mother on my bed. "Eric- call Tony, and come see me." When I went to talk to her, she asked me, "Why do you hang around with gay people?" My mother had answered the phone when Tony called. I think he assumed she was my wife, and he immediately began to tell her about all of his problems.
When I came out to my mom, she started crying and made me tell my dad. I sat the both of them down and made sure that I came out to them in Cantonese. I didn't want to come out in English because I didn't want them to associate my sexuality with being "American." All I can remember were her tears. I didn't know I could cause that much pain. It just didn't make sense to my parents. I told them I didn't care who they told in the family, and all they really wanted was that I promise not live with another man while they were alive. But if I did that, I knew I wouldn't have achieved anything. We don't talk about my sexuality very much nowadays. My parents have accepted me because they know that if they don't, they will lose me.
I guess my coming out experience was fairly positive, but it's still something I am going through. Coming out is a continual process because you meet people every day. However, coming out should not be viewed as the end-all, be-all. It is only the first step to living a happy life as a queer individual. The most important thing to remember is that it should not be a lonesome process and that there are resources for support out there. Coming out to yourself is very related to understanding your relations with others.
No one's coming out experience could be exactly like mine, but eventually everyone learns the same thing: It is possible to be happy living life as a gay Chinese man.