As summer and Pride approach in Seattle, the sun makes me feel more social and happy. At the same time, I am anxious for what else awaits me in life. When I came out in December of 2014, I wasn’t sure what I would find by downloading my first app, Jack’d. I have been out for 3 years and there is still so much out there I have to experience. During times like these, I can’t help but reflect on life.
Perhaps I was an exception, but I never felt that there was a lack of Asian male roles models in my life. I never had to look to media because my father was my male role model. While he was not the most educated man, he somehow had a confidence that didn’t come solely from his physical prowess as a Taekwondo master. He let his actions speak for themselves and his self-assurance was always something I wanted to emulate.
Growing up I was constantly told by many that I looked identical to my father. As much as I hated it, I was a timid person who was discouraged easily. I never had confidence like my parents, but in some small way I hoped that one day I could be as respectable as them. I wanted to be like my parents and wished I could be someone with some worth. Maybe I could inherit my parents’ characteristics.
It was roughly during middle school when I discovered my sexuality. I was curious why I didn’t have the same urges as my peers. Many of my classmates began ‘dating’ and expressed interests towards each other. Out of paranoia I kept myself at a distance from others. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be targeted because of my meekness. When I learned this part of myself that was ‘different’ I repressed myself further.
I was lonely at school, but I wasn’t as depressed because I had my family. Even if school life wasn’t perfect I tolerated it till my father was diagnosed with cancer on my 12th birthday. Seeing the man who was in my eyes a symbol of strength and respect reduced to vomiting his meals, I felt only insecurity and anxiety. I resorted to food to find some kind of comfort. My mother tried her best to support both my father and me. Till this day I am not sure how she managed so well.
After facing betrayal from family and church after my father’s passing, my trust in humanity disappeared. Teachers and students made fun of my Korean/Asian heritage or my weight. Some of my family tried to gain money from my widowed mother. Being ridiculed at school by students and teachers and then coming home to an emptier household, I lost interest in life.
Looking to church for guidance, I desperately searched for answers. I tried to find comfort from a place that preached about kindred love and spiritual fulfillment. Yet all I found in return was hypocrisy and backstabbing. Many didn’t practice what they preach. Students who supposedly valued Christianity skipped out on bible study. Adults used their faith as a scapegoat for their actions. People who I entrusted personal thoughts with, spread them around as common gossip. I was afraid that people would find about my sexuality and use it against my mother and me.
I lost the rest of my self-esteem after believing in the Church’s stance on homosexuality. I wanted to change my attraction, but I knew I couldn’t. I felt that my life was pointless and that I would be doomed to an afterlife of only misery. For the longest time, I was not truly existing.
At some point, I decided to go into the world of ‘dating’ apps. Looking back on it I had no real reason beyond curiosity. It was a decision I made on a whim.
When I came out I was invited to come to a house party. I had just downloaded the app and I had no real exposure to the world. At first it was kind of intimidating to be surrounded by so many gay Asians. I was in a new setting that I thought didn’t exist. Despite my awkwardness, I was meeting up with them quite frequently each weekend. Yet each time I found myself slowly integrating with wonderful company. Before I had trouble making genuine connections with others. Maybe it was because I wasn’t truly honest with myself and thought people couldn’t accept the real me.
I am not sure what it was about me that they approved of, but they gradually helped me learn more about myself and the world. Before I always doubted that others would want to spend time or get to know me. Yet these new friends had something genuine about them. For the first time, I was having fun but also more open with who I was to others. Instead of merely existing, I was looking forward to new events and adventures.
I used to stay at home alone drowning all my time on the Internet for distraction. Be it my anxiety or inferiority complex, I couldn’t bring myself to be more expressive around others. Yet here I was enjoying the company of good people-each person having something about them truly admirable, be it in career success, morals, the way they carry themselves or genuineness. I was privileged to be in the company of such great people. I may not know everything that they have endured, but they couldn’t have had lives without challenges. Yet here they were as stronger individuals with not only great personalities but also an appreciation for life that was infectious.
I felt myself becoming uplifted and enjoying the moment being around them. I began taking better care of myself along with an improved mentality. I was eating healthier, exercising and more importantly sharing great moments with good people. Slowly but surely my self-esteem and wonder for life was coming back. What seemed like an impossibility before, was now gradually becoming habitual. I began making genuine friendships that I know will be lifelong and enriching. I felt a worth in myself that I hadn’t felt since my childhood. For the first time I felt attractive.
Even though my mother had a hard time accepting I was gay, she saw a change in me that she hadn’t seen before. Now she humorously asks me about my dating life occasionally. As strange as it is, I’m fortunate that I have a supportive mother, even though our relationship is like a cliché straight woman and gay male friendship. I was blinded by own cynical view and assumed I would lose my family if I came out. Yet now they see a different side to me that allowed us to reconnect with each other.
It was then I learned that people truly can surprise you. Nothing is ever absolute. I was almost at a point of abandoning humanity as a melancholy misanthrope. Yes, there are tendencies and suspicions that some people will not respect you for whatever reason. There are also good people and you never know how much a person can surprise you. There may be a lot of pain along the way, but finding those few good moments make it worth the journey.
Pride does mean accepting and loving an aspect of myself that I struggled with before. More importantly, it celebrates all the moments that led me to where I am now. I used to wish for things to be different. I wanted to be what I considered ‘normal’ and I daydreamed about an easier life.
However, I would not be the person I am today without all those moments. I wouldn’t have been able to meet the good people in my life who helped me become a different person. I cannot change what I have experienced nor can I erase the people that have hurt me. However, I can change how I let those events mold me.
I have a choice to be better because of or in spite of what life gives me. And I choose to take pride in my life. In that sense, I’m starting to build my own confidence like my parents. It might not be the same as theirs, but it is my own. I’m proud of it, just like how I’m proud of being a gay Korean.
This diary entry marks the launch of GAPIMNY’s three-month arc of programming that focuses on Navigating Our Cultural Identities. This arc of programming aims to enhance our pride in our cultural identities while resisting ideologies that negatively affect our communities. Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter for details on upcoming events.
Follower Fridays is a series of profiles highlighting members of Gaysian
Third Space to showcase the diversity of gaysians in the Community.
This week’s featured member is @qqbbiinn.
Who are you?
Hey I’m 20 year old, Hamza with a passion for music and languages.
Where are you from?
Originally I was born in South Asia (Pakistan) and was raised there up till the age of 5 and then me and my parents decided to move to United Kingdom in hopes of a better life, not that life in Pakistan was bad or anything 😅
What do you do?
So right now I’m a student at the university of west London studying International Business (my parents wanted me to become a doctor it didn’t really work out lol)
But on the side I am a rapper, and I love writing lyrics. I also am a polyglot, I love learning languages, currently trying to learn: French, And Spanish
What I can speak: English, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, and Korean. (That’s a handful lol)
What are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about music, it’s kept me sane all these years lol..
it’s more of something to relate to and help let out emotions for me rather than just listening to it for fun.
What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?
My dream job? I’ve had quite a few, from my father being in the army I always wanted to become a spy (wishful thinking)
I always wanted to become a famous rapper (again wishful thinking but then again not so much) not because of the money but because what I write I feel, and I want other people to feel the emotions behind the lyrics that I write. (Cheesy I know)
If you could change the world with one idea, what would it be?
One thing I’d change is the representation of Asian people in mainstream media. Whether it be south, south east or east etc. Growing up as a kid I never really had many role models in mainstream media to look up to that were not like me, so I always had trouble connecting to that part of my identity.
For example, in terms of music, there’s not many Asian mainstream rappers or musicians that are known very well (with the exception of kpop and also in western media). I’d like there to be more representation of Asian people so that a lot more kids can look up to people like that and a lot more kids can have role models where as in the 90s and still somewhat today we don’t.
With recent hit shows like Transparent, Sense8 (RIP!) and Orange is the New Black putting trans talent and issues front and center –and last year’s historic Oscar win for Moonlight – some groups, which have often found themselves sidelined in LGBTQ centered stories, are finally beginning to make gains towards greater representation.
However, one group that continues to wait for its breakthrough moment are gay Asian American men. Gay Asian Americans face a uniquely barren landscape when searching for images in media that reflect their experiences. In recent history, there was Entourage‘s Lloyd Lee, the flamboyantly endearing assistant to cantankerous Ari Gold or the blatantly racist portrayal of Han in CBS’ 2 Broke Girls. What’s more, the images most commonly associated with the group, i.e. the flamboyant best friend or the a sexual computer nerd (see How to Get Away with Murder’s Oliver), rely on harmful stereotypes that can have real consequences in the everyday lives of these men.
The Glory Sea, bought and refurbished by a Shanghai-based tour operator, began sailing from China last year amid a boom in popularity of family-oriented cruise trips. In mid-June, China’s largest gay support group rented it to take LGBT people and their parents, 800 individuals in all, on a four-day journey to help them figure out how to understand and support one another. It’s a gathering that happens every year, usually in a hotel ballroom. This year the organizer, PFLAG China, the country’s most prominent gay rights group, took stock and decided to move the gathering to international waters.