Jackpot

The last month flew by! I have a very flexible schedule this term, but having two classes and two research projects keeps me busy.

Early on in the term, my research advisor said that he would try to find funding for me. Initially, my research this term was meant to be an independent study for course credit, while my research assistantship over the summer would include a stipend. But now I have funding for this term as well! It even covers my tuition!

I really hit the jackpot with my advisor, and I don’t just mean that he’s paying me well (though I’m pretty sure I get paid more now than I did when I was in accounting…). He’s very supportive and more confident in my abilities than I am! He’s very open-minded, liberal, and non-judgmental of everyone, so we get along like friends. Our meetings often go back and forth between work and non-work topics.

My advisor values honesty, so I try to be honest with him about everything, whether it’s academic or not. I told him about my history with my old advisor from math graduate school so that he would know why I’m not confident in my research abilities. He’s always willing to slow down or help me through anything. Even when I’m stressed out or feel like I haven’t done anything productive, he tells me not to worry and assures me that I’m doing fine.

Being completely honest, I came out to my advisor during one of our first meetings. He had just told me a story about his close friend (a professor here) and his partner, so I felt like it was a good time to tell him. Of course, he’s incredibly supportive. In fact, he keeps telling me to go out and date (or at least socialize more with gay people).

I couldn’t have asked for a better advisor. He’s everything my old advisor wasn’t. But maybe I appreciate everything more now because of the experiences I had before. Either way, it’s great to have an advisor who’s also a friend!

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Food-Flirting

Out of the new people I’ve met in the past month and a half here, I’ve only maintained any form of a consistent friendship with one couple who live in my building. I met them a couple days before classes started, during a social event specifically for residents in my building. The girl is a graduate student in sociology, and the guy moved here with her.

One interesting thing about my university (I don’t know if it’s true elsewhere) is that they have housing for couples, even when only one person in the couple is a student. It’s a nice deal. I also found out during that social event that the vast majority of apartments in my building were for couples, which could explain the initial setup of my apartment having only one queen-sized bed.

Anyway, beyond a few Facebook messages every couple days, I only see this couple of friends about once a week. We’ve been trying to go to dinner once a week, usually on Fridays or Saturdays. I think we’ve only missed one weekend so far, probably because I was in The City. As the couple are new to the city (moving here from way out of state), we try a new restaurant every week. In past weeks, we’ve done sushi, Japanese BBQ, and Greek.

This week (this was yesterday), we went to a local restaurant fairly close to campus. I suppose the food would be classified as “American,” but in an upscale way (like lamb and duck entrées instead of burgers). Actually, every restaurant we’ve tried is upscale, some more than others. The city surrounding Prestigious University is a very rich area, so all of the restaurants are pricier than if we were somewhere else. The portions are a bit smaller too.

My sociology friend loves dessert almost more than I do (and she doesn’t restrain herself the way I usually do), so we always get dessert after dinner. This time, we went to a Cold Stone Creamery that was in the same plaza as the American restaurant. As usual, I took a long time to decide what to get, so I ordered last.

I ordered a scoop of Oreo cream ice cream and a scoop of chocolate ice cream, mixed with cookie dough and chocolate shavings, all in a chocolate-dipped waffle bowl (I had never ordered one before). The guy behind the counter was friendly and talkative (and possibly a little high), so my friends and I reciprocated (we didn’t get high). Before putting my ice cream into the waffle bowl, the guy mentioned that he would make it “a little special” and added some chocolate syrup to the bowl. When he rung me up, he didn’t charge me for both the chocolate syrup and the waffle bowl. I was appreciative, so I put a couple dollars in the tip jar.

Once my friends and I sat down to eat (and for me to take a picture of my huge dessert), my sociology friend leaned in and told me that the guy behind the counter was “totally food-flirting” with me. I was, of course, completely oblivious to it, but the free chocolate syrup and waffle bowl were strong evidence. My two friends didn’t get any discount for anything.

I never officially “came out” to my new friends, but I’ve made small comments in passing to subtly hint that I’m gay. Our exchange about the guy food-flirting with me confirmed that they got the message. I’m at an age now when my sexuality really shouldn’t be an issue anymore. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, and neither did they. It was perfect, and it was exactly what I wanted. I really feel more grown up now, and it’s wonderful. Well, I’m not completely grown up, since I clearly can’t read flirting cues.

My friends and I sat at Cold Stone until it closed. We were the last customers to leave. When we left and were walking past the front window, I noticed that the guy behind the counter was watching me (not in a creepy way). I looked at him and smiled as I walked away.

It was a great evening.

It Gets Better

Suicides from gay teenagers have been highly publicized lately. I’ve been reading and rereading news articles about them, and they truly break my heart. I kept thinking that I wish there was something I could do.

My gay hero Dan Savage (who inspired me to come out to my dad, the second time, a couple years ago) recently began a project on YouTube to let LGBT teenagers know that life gets better after high school. It’s called the It Gets Better Project. Most submissions are videos, but I thought I could maybe write something instead.

When I was younger, I always felt different from other kids. I felt a deep sense of isolation from everyone, thinking that no one understood me, even before I knew anything about sex or sexuality. I remember crying myself to sleep sometimes because I felt so alone. Though I never attempted suicide, I did often wonder whether anyone would miss me if I did.

These feelings, while not always constant, persisted from elementary school through high school. In junior high, I began to use Christianity as a way to fit in. I prayed so hard to not be gay. I prayed to be normal. I even was baptized (without my parents’ knowledge – a whole other story altogether) in an effort to be “reborn” like everyone else. It didn’t work. I was still me.

Throughout high school, I stayed deep in the closet. The first openly gay person I ever met was my tenth grade English teacher. His classroom always had the sweet aroma of coffee with soft classical music playing in the background. He was a very interesting person; I liked to talk to him during lunch. He was the faculty sponsor of the gay/lesbian/questioning club. He must’ve picked up on how lost and confused I felt (probably from how fascinated I was by him and his sweet smelling room), because he invited me to check out the club, but I never did. Looking back now, I really should have.

My English teacher was living proof that there is life after high school. He was proof that it gets better. If only I could see that then. I was so closeted at the time that I eventually joined the Christian club and even held a leadership position in it. No one would suspect a Christian, right?

I didn’t come out until I was 18 and in my first year in college. The catalyst for my coming out was one of my TAs. He helped me a lot throughout the term, so I made an appointment with him to thank him. About a minute into our meeting, he made a point to say that he was straight. He thought I was interested in him. He thought I was gay.

I had tried to stay in the closet my whole life, so someone even thinking I was gay threw me for a loop. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for a whole day after that (not a good thing during the week before finals). Finally, I talked things through with one of the girls in my dorm (who is now one of my best friends), and she got me to finally admit to her and myself that I’m gay.

Coming out to my friend was the first step in a long road to accepting myself for who I am. I slowly came out to my friends, one by one. Some took it better than others. In the end, I lost touch with most of the people who rejected me and surrounded myself with people who love me for who I am. It was still a few years before I truly accepted myself, but my true friends were always there to pick me up when I felt down.

A final anecdote. I had my first sexual experiences when I was 19. I was at a summer math research program many states away from home. The boy I fell in love with was another student in the program. I didn’t even know he was gay until there were only three weeks left in our program. We had some fun together for about a week (we didn’t go “all the way” – a long story that’s not appropriate here), but the boy didn’t want a relationship. We went to school in different cities, and he was against long distance relationships (from prior experience). I loved him so much that I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t even try. He told me that he was a mathematician first, and being gay wasn’t very high on his “priority list.” Being gay was number five or something. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. I just thought that he didn’t love me (which was probably true too).

My point is that your sexuality does not define you. It took me many years to figure this out. Of course, being gay is part of who you are, but it is only one of many factors that makes you uniquely you. Besides being gay, I’m also a brother, a son, a friend, a singer, an educator, a student, and a blogger, just to name a few.

While my journey has been long and often difficult, I’m so much happier now than I was when I was a teenager. It was a long process, but with the help of my friends, I’ve come to accept myself for who I am. We’re all different, we’re all normal, and we’re all beautiful.

To the LGBTQ teens out there: However down and alone you may feel, know that it gets better. You will meet people who will understand you and love you for exactly who you are, just like I did. You will have an amazing life, and you will be able to do whatever you want with it, as long as you stay strong and live through the hard times. It’s not always a smooth ride, but you will always come out on top. Being a teenager sucks. But trust me, life does get better. It gets better.

If you need more proof, go to the It Gets Better Project. If you’re contemplating doing something drastic and/or could really use someone to talk to, contact The Trevor Project. There are thousands and thousands of people who care about you. Including me. Don’t give up. We’re here for you. We understand. We’re listening.

A Signed Lease And A Street Fair

I went to The City again last weekend to fulfill my landlord proxy duties. Despite “my” cute/hot new tenant being confused and late to our meeting, the lease signing went off without a hitch. We did a quick walk through of the condo, I briefly went over the major points of the lease, he gave me the first month’s rent with the security deposit, and then we both signed the lease. It was so official. I felt like a real landlord!

Towards the end of our meeting, my cute/hot new tenant asked for my number. No, it wasn’t because he thinks I’m cute/hot. Don’t I wish! It was because my English is much easier to understand than my dad’s, since I don’t have a Chinese accent. My tenant prefers to deal with me as an intermediary between him and my dad. I was definitely flattered. I like feeling important. He put my number in his iPhone. Next to my name, he almost put “Landlord,” until I corrected him to say “Landlord’s son/brother.” It’s a little confusing to the tenant as to who is really the landlord, considering he’ll probably never interact with my brother.

My old officemate from my previous graduate school (reminder: he’s doing a postdoc at Prestigious University) and his girlfriend live in The City, so I met up with them the next day (Sunday). We went to the gay neighborhood of The City, let’s call it Gay Street, because there was a big street fair going on. It was very similar to a pride parade, except there were more booths from community organizations or businesses and less parades. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out during the day with a lot of other gay guys around, so it was a lot of fun. I got a free rainbow pride rubber bracelet!

I’ve been friends with my old officemate for about six years, but I never officially came out to him. It was his idea to go to the Gay Street fair, so he’s definitely accepting of gay people, but I think it would be strange to make a big deal out of my sexuality after all this time. I’m sure I thought a lot more about this than he did, so I still didn’t say anything. I just acted like myself while we were at the fair, as if he knew already. He probably does know and has known for a long time anyway. There has never been any awkwardness between us, so I saw no reason to change that.

Anyway. I had a great weekend, but it set my study schedule behind a bit. I’ve had a very time consuming homework this week (which I’m taking a break from to write this), so I’ve been spending every spare minute working on it. This homework is due tomorrow, so I hope I can catch up (and be ahead of the game) over the next few days.

Rainbow Colored Graphs

I’m currently in my last week of the school term. I have a final on Friday and a take-home final over the weekend due Monday. One last push before Spring Break (during which I have to decide my destiny)! Because of my finals, I might not be posting anything for about a week, unless I feel inspired while taking a break from studying.

My ninth coming out anniversary is on Sunday (March 14). I probably won’t be able to do anything particularly fun (or gay) to celebrate. Maybe I’ll add some rainbow colors to the graphs on my take-home final!

Kinsey

So, there’s this boy…

I met a guy in one of my classes last week through a mutual friend. I later found out that we share two classes together. He’s 20 years old (so very young), cute, and definitely gay. I’ve been trying to keep my distance and not obsess over him (I’m not at that point, yet), but I figure it can’t hurt to become friends with him (I hope I don’t eat my words later). For simplicity, let’s refer to him as “the cute guy.”

One of our classes has homework due tomorrow (the assignment I finished over the weekend). The cute guy and his friends (four of them total) seemed confused in our discussion section today (our TA is pretty difficult to understand), so I offered to work on the homework with them. I spent two hours helping them. I sat next to the cute guy.

At the end of our homework/tutoring session, the cute guy gave his friends and me a survey to use in his political science class. The survey was pseudo-anonymous, but since I was sitting next to him, the cute guy could see what I was writing. The first question asked how I rank myself on the Kinsey scale. I said that I’m a 6 (“exclusively homosexual”). Great way to come out to him, right?

Afterwards, his friends dispersed, but I coincidentally had to walk in the same direction as him (honestly, I swear), so we chatted a little bit on the way to his next class. When we got there, he gave me a very cute smile and said thanks for all my help. Not too exciting, but what do you expect? I barely know him!

Here Goes Nothing

I attended my grandfather’s 90th birthday dinner party on Saturday. All my aunts, uncles, and cousins (on my mom’s side) were there. Some of my relatives flew in from Taiwan specifically for the celebration. We booked a room at a nice Chinese restaurant and split our party across four large tables.

I sat at the “kids’ table” with all of my cousins. I’m considered one of the older cousins; most of them are either in high school or college. At some point during the dinner conversations, the topic of gay people came up (I really don’t know how that discussion started, I certainly didn’t initiate it). During discussions about gay people, I generally stay quiet and listen closely to what people say to gauge their comfortability with the topic. This was no exception.

One of my cousins asked the table if anyone was anti-gay. I didn’t hear anyone say they were. Then my sister said she wasn’t anti-gay, but “they should at least tell their family.” I felt my face immediately become flushed. She knows.

I never came out to my extended family, not even to my sister. There were so many times over the years when I desperately wanted to tell her but I never could bring myself to actually do it (I wrote a post about this almost two years ago). But after my sister made the comment on Saturday, I obsessed about it for the rest of the weekend. The time to tell her finally had come. I couldn’t wait to tell her the next time I saw her, and there was no way I would have the courage to call her on the phone. I had to send an email.

Yesterday morning, after two days of convincing myself that it was time, I wrote the email. I used the subject title “Here Goes Nothing.”

Hi (sister’s name),

I was always waiting for the perfect opportunity to tell you, but I don’t think such a moment exists for this, so here it goes: I’m gay.

After the brief discussion among the cousins about gay people and Prop 8 on Saturday, you said something (I forget the exact words) that made me feel like you already knew, but you wanted me to tell you. I guess I’m pretty obvious in a lot of ways.

I’m really sorry I never told you sooner. There were probably lots of times to tell you, but I always chickened out. Even now, my hands are frozen cold and I can’t think of what to write, but I’ve been dying to tell you. I’m sorry if an email feels impersonal, but I didn’t want to wait until the next time we see each other.

I told (brother’s name) a long time ago, but we haven’t really talked about it since. I wasn’t really ready to tell him when I did. I told (our mom) and (our dad) over the phone once, but they didn’t believe me; they said I was too young to know and I haven’t met the right girl. They act like it never happened. I brought it up again with (our dad) after discussing Prop 8 with him last October, but he’s definitely against gay marriage and against me marrying a man. He acts like that never happened either.

Obviously, I’m still the same (normalboy) you’ve always known, I’m just confirming what you already know. I’ve always wanted to be a closer brother to you; I hope this will help.

I need to press send before I chicken out again.

Love,
(normalboy)

I was freaking out both before and after I sent the email. I couldn’t relax until I heard back from my sister. I had already mustered the courage to tell her by email, so I decided to call her on my lunch break.

My sister hadn’t checked her email when I called her; she actually opened it while I was on the line. Right after she saw the key words, she said how incredibly happy she was that I told her. She was actually crying. She is “100% supportive” and reassured me that she was available to talk about anything, no matter what. I was so relieved that I couldn’t stop smiling.

She said that she had suspected for a while but never got the nerve to ask, fearing that she would offend me. I felt bad that I had waited so long to tell her, but she was just very glad that I had told my friends already. She didn’t want me to feel alone in my struggles.

I’ve always been afraid to come out to people who have known me since childhood (I assume their image of me is still of an innocent kid when sexuality wasn’t an issue), yet I came out to two close people in one week! I wonder when I started being so bold?

I have the best sister ever!