Homosexuality Meets Asian Culture & The Intersectionality of Immigrant Families

By Tim Chau.

I always leaned towards normatively feminine toys and activities growing up: playing with barbies, singing, dancing, and drawing flowers and cute cats (like this: (^_^)). Even when choosing video game characters, I choose the prettiest girl character in the game. I was Chun-li, Princess Peach, Baby Princess Peach, the pink penguin on Club Penguin, the Watergirl from Watergirl and Fireboy, and the unforgettable Zero Suit Samus. The list goes on; in fact, it doesn’t end. To this day I only chose girl characters because that, that is the code of the gaymer.  While I joke about some aspects of my coming out story, a lot of it was a depressing and terrible mess. Elementary school had this unwritten rule that segregated the boys from the girls. I wanted to be friends with the girls, but once I stepped over that invisible line to the female terrority, I felt so vulnerable and so starkly different from the rest of my peers. This sense of not belonging stuck with me up until the middle of high school and disallowed me from forming genuine relationships. My struggle with my sexuality was fueled by another part of my identity: the Asian one. More accurately, my identity as the son of uneducated, but successful Asian immigrants who originated from extreme poverty. My dad fled from Cambodia during the civil war which resulted in 20% of the population dying by the hands of the Khmer Rouge, while my mom, the youngest of 8, immigrated to the U.S. from China without a higher education. I always attributed my parent’s homophobia and distrust of various minorities to their lack of education, as it seemed like my friends’ parents, who were mostly educated Asian immigrants, were much more accepting and liberal.  My parent’s traditions and beliefs were passed down to me, and as I grew up, I accepted some and rejected others. Many of these beliefs were related to gender norms and sexuality, both issues that I grappled with. They constantly preached that the man was the leader of the family, while the woman was supposed to support everything the man did. Also, there was never any discussion about gay people or relationships, so growing up, I just assumed that the only option was for me to marry a woman and to start a family. I remember biking home one day after school in eighth grade, planning out my future as a closeted gay man who was going to marry a Chinese woman and have at least two kids (and perhaps a dog). I told myself that if I wasn’t straight or at least acted the part, it wasn’t worth living.  Now, I’m sitting here writing this piece for Gen-zine, and life is good. My parents have (mostly) accepted me and my sexuality, I’m transferring to a great university in a week, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But I’m lucky. So many young LGBTQ+ teens are disowned by their parents for simply being themselves, and the rate at which this happens is significantly higher for those in immigrant families.  I recently posted something about how a straight pride month isn’t a necessity, and one person responded, “No one’s legally discriminated against anymore so hush.” Even if discrimination was criminalized (which it’s not), people still hold violent homophobic beliefs that lead to teens being kicked out, trans people to be killed, and LGBTQ+ folk to kill themselves at an extremely high rate. If my parents weren’t as loving and accepting as they were, I might’ve not been here to write this. I could’ve become addicted to drugs, become a prostitute, or even have killed myself because these are all things that occur to LGBTQ teens that are kicked out from their households. I’m not exaggerating: this is the reality.  Here’s what you can do to change this sad reality: be kind, use your vote, and advocate for the disadvantaged.  :)

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