“And for the first time in my life, I saw that there is this openly gay figure that was praised and celebrated for being who he is.”
Hi, I’m Leon Yuan. I grew up in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
As a teenager growing up in Taiwan, I always knew I was gay. My biggest fear at the time was that if I were to come out to others, it doesn’t matter how much effort I had put into win something, to be better at something, to build myself into something, it would just be completely negated by the fact that I was gay.
My parents applied for a green card when I was very young and we didn’t really think we were going to use the status to actually move, but they thought, “Put it there. Who knows what’s going to happen 12, 13 years later?”
At that year, my green card came down and I had the chance to, at least on paper, the documentations were clear that if I wanted to, if I want to move to the US, I could. My vision of the US at the time was such a liberal place. It was scientifically advanced. Everybody in education system knows so much, and it’s absolutely progressive in politics and scientific and everything is so logical in the government. I wanted a different environment to be myself. That means challenging myself in a new environment where I knew nobody. And also, in my mind, a good place to come out.
I had told my parents, I wanted to come. My dad actually wasn’t all about it in the beginning but my mom was. I finished my 11th grade with my uncle here in the Houston area. And I started in college, I guess, really, that was the first time I started putting the pressure on myself that I wanted to come out.
I remember a lot of my roommates, my suite mates, they would just cranking out straight dude, college dude, jokes about how, “Oh my God” stuff… “That faggot.” But back then I wanted to fit in so badly that I would even laughed with them on those jokes, even though I didn’t quite find them funny.
That actually kind of prompted me to really take some actions. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know any gay friends. I didn’t know anyone else that’s gay, but I knew there was such thing as career counseling. So I was like, “Okay, so a career counselor is someone who’s there to kind of help you guide through career choices. Maybe I can sneak that in.”
I went to the appointment and I remember that counselor was so nice. So I sort of talked about, “Oh yeah, I want to do math, but I also like music. It was so much fun. I started singing choir and it felt… was so good.” So we talked about those things for quite some time. I want to say maybe about 30 minutes or halfway through the appointment.
And then she sensed that the conversation was coming to the end. So she was just sitting there very politely, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh,” was like, “Do you have any more things to say?” So I started saying, “Well, I want to…” I continued doing that for at least another 20 minutes or so. Eventually, I set it out and I started bawling at a career counseling session about being gay. I think I got to a point. I just, “Okay, I’m so sorry. You have an appointment. You’re late. I got to go. Bye.” And I left. So that’s the first time I’ve ever said I was gay.
The next year I transferred to UT Austin. I joined Longhorn Singers. It was a show choir. We have this other guy, let’s call him L and he was so apologetically flamboyant, and people loved him. And for the first time in my life, I saw that there is this open gay figure that was praised and celebrated for being who he is.
So I told him once said, “Hey L, can we like talk in front of class – before rehearsal next time? I just, I want to talk to you.” And he’s like, “Okay.” So we showed up 15 minutes early, before rehearsal. We went to the side building at the UT music – sorry – the choir hall. And then he sat there and he was like, “So yeah, what’s going on?”
And I was like, “I want to talk about coming out. I’m gay.”
I had begun talking to my friends, and I think maybe only one or two at a time. So this is exactly what I told L that, “Hey, I had told a few friends. It just didn’t feel like it was getting any easier.”
What he told me was the same, he’s like, “Yeah, you might not believe it now, or maybe you do already, and it doesn’t feel like it yet, but I guarantee you,” he said, “it does get better every time you say it.” I think the most important thing was this just is the first time in my life I had a positive gay role model in that sense.
Well, I knew I was going back home that back to Taiwan that summer, because I hadn’t been home for a year. And I also knew that I wanted to come out to my parents. I think I had already came out to my brother the year before.
Before I went back, spring break, I believe I stayed in the Houston area with my uncle for about a, with my uncle and my aunt for about a weekend. And I told my aunt, knowing that I was going to come out later that summer that, “Hey, I’m gay.”
And she said, “Well, you’ve never been with a girl. So how do you know?”
So I told her, “Well, you’ve never been with a girl, so how do you know?” And then she said, “Hmm. Okay.” And then she was walking away.
And then she – as she was walking away, I asked her, “Hey, hold on. But just so you know, I want to tell my parents this summer, so don’t tell them about it. I want to tell them myself.”
She’s like, “Oh, okay.”
When I first got back to Taiwan, I actually met up with my brother first and we had lunch and then I told him, “Hey, I think I’m going to come out to mom and dad.”
And then he said, “Well, your aunt already called and told them.”
Eventually when I flew back, sorry, flew back to Kaohsiung to meet my parents, I knew they knew. I was like, “Hey mom and dad, can I talk to you in the living room?” So we sat down and you can just see the same thing that look of expectation, like the painted smiles, they already know it was coming.
I was like, “I’m gay.”
And then my mom was like, “Okay. Yeah, that’s okay.” Not even pretended to be shocked, which is okay. I think in a dramatic side of my personality, I was a little disappointed that this private moment got robbed from me. But on the other hand, I also thought, well, thinking about coming out this way, so many people, when they come out to people that matter to them, like their parents usually, they have about what, three seconds to think about a proper response, that of something that they knew very little about at the time, at least. So to think about it that way, it was actually very beneficial that my aunt had already told them ahead of the time. They had time to think about it. If anything, I think that had made my coming out experience a lot smoother that what it could been otherwise.
My initial fear of being ostracized was just so unfounded. I understand why I felt that at a time, but looking back, it was, like most fears, empty. And anytime when something is hard to do, that probably means after you do it, it gets easier, if that’s any consolation to incentivize something, to challenge themselves.