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.

WeHo Wallflower

I went out with a couple of (girl) friends from work to West Hollywood on Saturday. One of my friends has been trying for weeks to get me to go out to meet guys, partly so I can get over my (straight) work crush.

Even though it’s been nearly eight years since I first came out, I still felt incredibly awkward and out of place in the gay club/bar environment. I basically freeze up; I don’t know what to do or say. I become a wallflower.

Part of my awkwardness might come from the fact that a loud club/bar really isn’t my scene. A larger part, though, is that I still don’t really feel comfortable being around gay people, which probably stems from still not accepting who I am (almost eight years after coming out).

On a day to day basis, I’m completely fine. I feel like a normal boy, and I don’t see my being gay as an issue. But when I’m put in a situation where my being gay is called to attention, I get shy and down on myself. I know that it’s okay to be gay, but I still don’t feel that way sometimes. I feel like it makes me “different.”

I was still feeling pretty down about it yesterday, so I sat down with my work crush during dinner (it was in the office this time, but still just the two of us) and told him about my weekend and how I felt about it. He thinks that I need to find more gay friends and eventually make a network of gay friends. As much as he tries to relate to how I feel, he can’t because he’s straight. He also thinks it’s important that I put myself out where others will see me, and maybe they’ll approach me instead of the other way around.

Anyway. After having talked about it with my work crush, these thoughts aren’t churning in my head as much, so I’m better now. But I’m sure I’ll get these feelings again when I’m back in a similar situation.

Proposition 8

For those who don’t know, Proposition 8 is a California initiative that, if passed, would amend the California Constitution to say “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage back in May, declaring that the ban was unconstitutional (which it is). Proposition 8 would negate the victory the California Supreme Court made. After all, how can a ban on gay marriage be unconstitutional if it’s written into the Constitution?

I’m so frustrated by Proposition 8. I can’t believe there are still so many people (possibly a majority) who oppose gay marriage, and so fervently. I always thought California was progressive and liberal (maybe it’s because I grew up in LA), but I’m really scared that Proposition 8 will pass. I hear the Yes On 8 ads on TV and  the radio all the time (even a Chinese language one), yet I’ve only seen the No On 8 ad on TV once. One of my neighbors down the street even has a Yes On 8 banner stuck into their lawn.

As part of researching this Proposition, I’ve tried to see things from other perspectives different from my own. From the legal perspective, the Yes On 8 group argues that banning gay marriage will not take away any rights that gays and lesbians already have. In particular, they argue that the benefits from a civil union or domestic partnership have the same legal rights and benefits as that of a marriage.

The question that I have with that argument is why define one set of rules for one group of people and another set for everyone else? From Wikipedia: “Separate but equal is a set phrase denoting the system of segregation that justifies giving different groups of people separate facilities or services with the declaration that the quality of each group’s public facilities remain equal.” Will we end up with restaurants that only serve heterosexuals? A drinking fountain only for homosexuals?

A different perspective (the “moral” one) is that gay marriage (as well as being gay in general) is “wrong and disgusting.” I read that phrase somewhere and I keep thinking about it. When I try to think logically in their shoes, my only explanation for this reasoning is that they cannot see outside their own eyes. I suppose for a straight guy, visualizing himself marrying another guy just doesn’t make sense. It feels wrong to him. Therefore, since being straight is normal, same sex marriage must be wrong (and somehow disgusting).

Being on the other side of that, I can’t imagine marrying a woman. It wouldn’t make sense to me. But that doesn’t mean I think straight marriage is wrong or disgusting. It’s just not for me. Being attracted to guys (emotionally, not just physically) is what is normal for me.

(Side note) Along this same logic is the notion that homosexuality is a choice. If people just took a step back and saw things through another person’s eyes, they’d understand that it’s not a choice. Personally, being gay was never my choice. When I was growing up, I prayed and cried so hard not to be gay. I wanted to be normal. What took me years of guilt, self hatred, and doubt to figure out is that I am normal.

I also don’t understand why so many people are against teaching kids acceptance toward gay people. In the same way that growing up in a heteronormative society didn’t turn me straight, a few conversations about and interactions with gay people are not going to turn our society’s youth into homosexuals. If your kid ends up being gay, wouldn’t it be better to have a society that accepts them? To have a state Constitution that protects all the rights that they should have?

In the end, I truly think Proposition 8 isn’t about gay marriage at all. Rather, it’s about everyone’s right (not privilege) to love and be loved. Voting NO on Proposition 8 would protect that right, which is certainly what I’m voting.

Different Extremes

My friend/boss and I have similar backgrounds. We’re both Chinese, we both struggled with Christianity in high school, and we’re both gay. And yet, our personalities are completely different.

When faced with the same obstacles (mostly stemming from being gay), we reacted differently. He became outspoken, confident, and self-assured. Instead of letting people make him feel bad or guilty about being gay, he grew strong and stopped caring what other people thought. He went out, met boys, and lived life. His confidence helps him excel in business.

I, on the other hand, became reserved, insecure, and self-conscious. I let the guilt of being gay consume me. I always felt distant and inferior to other people. Normal people. Even now, at work, I feel inferior to both clients and coworkers. I’m afraid to make phone calls to clients. I always read over my emails multiple times to make sure I don’t sound like an idiot, and even then I’m sure I still come across as one.

It’s interesting how different we are. Being gay shaped who we are, but we went to different extremes. His extreme was probably the better one. After all, he is the boss.

I Love Ellen

I love Ellen Degeneres. I used to watch her talk show when it first started in 2004. I still would watch it if I had the time. I think she’s hilarious. Even if she wasn’t gay, I would still love her humor and her personality. The fact that she is gay just makes her even more amazing.

This is a clip from her old sitcom when she first came out to the public in 1997. Her character is discussing the difficulties of being gay (and hiding it) with her therapist, portrayed by Oprah Winfrey. I think the message is great and is still applicable today, more than ten years later (which, I guess in terms of social change, isn’t very long). Notice when she talks about being “normal.”

As a bonus, I’m going to include the clip from her talk show where she announced her engagement to Portia de Rossi! It seems like a good time to post this, since the overturning of the ban on gay marriage in California only occurred two days ago.

Yay for gay people!

Returning To Normal

I went back to the gym for the first time since my wisdom teeth were pulled. It’s only been a little over a week, but I became tired more quickly than usual. I’ll have to ease myself back into exercising. One good thing, though, is that I lost weight! I’ve been eating much less this last week, so I ended up losing four pounds! The challenge now is revving up my exercise, and maybe also my food intake, while still maintaining the lower weight.

I still can’t eat quite normally yet, but I’m getting there. My teeth are still a bit sensitive, even though my wounds are healed and there’s no more blood. I’m still eating somewhat softer foods and taking smaller bites, but I’m off the ice cream and pudding diet. Food still gets trapped in the gaping holes, too, so I have to rinse out my mouth a few times after I eat anything. I’ll probably have to continue doing that for a few more weeks.

Besides going back to the gym, I also went back to Starbucks to study for my exam. It’s pretty hard getting back into studying at the same level, much like exercising. I still remember all the formulas I need, but the practice exam questions seemed more difficult than usual. Hopefully things will return to normal (or better than normal) soon.

Hi.

I’m a normal boy. This is a reference to my favorite book, “The World of Normal Boys” by K.M. Soehnlein. The book is about a boy named Robin, growing up gay and feeling like the world is full of normal boys (of which he is not one). The irony, of course, is that Robin (like me) is actually just a normal boy, coming to terms with himself and the world in which he lives.

I am now 25 years old and am just starting to understand who I am and the world around me. I hope using this blog will help me in my understanding.

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