Archive for November, 2012

It Is Not About Politics, But It Is On The Ballot11.16.12

I was sitting on my dark-green carpeted single dorm room floor. The dorm hall was built in 1928, the carpet looked about that old, but the small white room with light green trim was quaint and charming. On the corded phone was one of my best high school friends asking how sophomore year was treating me thus far. Then he said he had something to tell me, I asked him what, he hesitated a moment then said, “I’m gay.”

Me: Oh, okay.
Friend: I hope you would still be my friend after knowing this, but I would understand if you feel otherwise.
Me: Don’t be silly, of course you’re still my friend. Nothing changed.

We hung up shortly after that and I went to get a drink of water. A couple sips in, I realized I lied. Everything changed. This isn’t like finding out some random acquaintance prefers the same sex. This is a best friend whom I’ve spent more time with throughout high school than my own family. We hung out in the small Asian circle, went off on long overnight trips, planned class schedule around each other, had crazy food fights, volunteered after school, and spent hours on the phone long past bed time together. And then it hit me: my best friend is GAY. This was our new reality. I had to call him back. I had to ask him, “So…which boy did you think was cute in high school?”

We spent the next two hours pouring over our yearbooks and talked about previously secret high school crushes. We talked about his plans to connect with more gay men. He found a BBS channel (this was before internet was hot) for gay men and has been chatting with a few guys who were going through similar transition and still mostly in the closet.

I went with him to his first big gay gathering, Gay Skate! Oh, Daisy Duke has nothing on some of the short shorts worn. We played gay bingo, where everyone had to stand up and shout, “O-69″ whenever it was called. After a few more gay specific events, we braved going to gay clubs. He met his first boyfriend, who look like the straightest military boy Singapore ever made, but my gay best friend said, “Oh yeah, he looks straight, but the secret is following what he’s looking at.” Still, I knew he would never truly be comfortable with being gay until his mom knew. He was a self-declared momma’s boy. I often attended his family events as the third wheel/friendly beard.

It was many years of emotional roller-coaster with my gay best friend before he was finally comfortable with who he was. One day, it happened. He called to tell me he finally told his mom. I asked him how it went. He said, well, I was crying so hard she could barely understand me, and when she understood, she cried with me, but she said, “No matter what, you will always be my son.”

I once asked him, when did you know? His response: “I think I always knew, even when I was little boy, maybe five, I had dreams that I knew weren’t quite right.” When I read an article about bisexuality and Kinsey scale, I asked him, psychologist said everyone is to some degree a little bi, do you agree. He replied, “If I was even a little bit bi, I would be so straight. There’s just not a chance I would choose this life. It’s harder. It would make my mom so happy if I bring a nice girl home. And as part of a very traditional Asian family, I’m the only male to carry on the family name.”

Understanding that my gay best friend’s story might not be the same as many, it highlights how being gay is not always a choice in my mind. I know not everyone believes this. My own mother does not. Shortly after the death of Leslie Cheung, my mother asked me if I knew that this beloved Hong Kong star committed suicide. He was kind of a big deal in the Chinese world, so it was hard for me to not know that. She said, “What a waste of talent. He was so traumatized from the breakup with his girlfriend that he turned gay and ultimately he could not accept himself.” I tried to explain to her people don’t turn gay from heartbreaks and they are born with the preference but I could tell she didn’t believe. It’s hard to change someone’s belief that they’ve held for 50+ years. Her understanding of homosexuality perplex me for so long until I found out that up until 1973, homosexuality was listed as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

This year, I went out for the first time in my life to watch the election at a bar because whether we won or lost, I didn’t feel like I could handle it alone. The bar was located in my neighborhood, Capitol Hill, where we are known for being very LGBT friendly. There were too much at stake.  Same sex marriage. Women’s right to choosing what we want to do with our bodies.

Same sex marriage. I’m shocked that we are even voting on this. That it’s not automatically considered unconstitutional to disallow someone’s right to be with whoever they love. I know we as the American society are still growing and our laws will continue to grow with us, but this is like watching an already ancient tree grow. It was less than fifty years ago (1967) in Loving v. Virginia that the United State Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to restrict marriage based on race. Now it seems all too obvious when someone says of course this white person can marry any non-white person…unless they are the same sex, then most states will have a problem with it.

At the bar, when Obama was called as winner, everyone at the bar jumped up, screamed, cheered and hugged each other. Then we watched the local Seattle voting. Same sex marriage was trailing behind 45% “Approve” to 55% “Reject”. Legalized marijuana was way ahead on approval. I felt a little sick to my stomach. Then as more votes were counted, same sex marriage started pulling ahead. At some point it became obvious same sex marriage will pass. We cheered. I jumped up and down, unable to contain the glee and cheered and hugged everyone. People were crying with joy. People were crying because they have been given permission to do something that was their fundamental human right to do.

I turned to my gal friend and asked her the question all mid-30s non-married friends typically avoid asking each other, “So are you going to propose soon?” Keep in mind, most of us in our mid-30s that are in long-term committed relationships don’t see marriage as a something to strive toward, I’m happy with my guy, we don’t need the paper. My gal friend replied, “Yeah, don’t tell her, but after we put in the down payment on a new place, I’m saving up for a ring for her.” I screamed and hugged her. She said, “This is assuming we don’t kill each other first, because two ladies PMS’ing at the same time can be dangerous.”

The party didn’t stay contained to the bar. Outside an impromptu block party formed. Police blocked off cars from coming in. We jumped out to celebrate the latest direction of shift in American law.

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