Savage Love Letter of the Day: My Parents Might Disown Me for Being Gay

Comments

1
SON, there are more people than you can imagine, out here cheering you on. Yes, there will most likely be estrangement with your parents, at least for a while. Let them be disappointed and in pain. They will need to come to terms with their expectations for what they wanted for your life. That is on them. Tell them you love them, and want a relationship with them, but not if it requires you to lie to them and the world. Then go out and meet people. Date men. Have relationships with them. Live life. Find joy. Find the pain of break-ups. Find the excitement of new loves. And whenever you talk to your parents, be loving but firm. Here is your reality. They can only have you in their lives if they accept that you are not going to go back into the closet. If they won't accept those terms, create your own family. It will be sad, but you can do it and create a life worth living.
2
There are a couple of good episodes of Nancy (NPR) that deals directly with this issue concerning the female host's relationship with her mother whom, also being Chinese, has some issues concerning her sexuality. Especially some of the apparent issues that arise that's lost in translation between Western LGBT culture and traditional Chinese culture.
3
LW, it seems like you are in limbo between living your life for your parents and living your life for yourself, and as such, you are failing at both. It sucks when your parents don't love you, but instead some idea they have of you, but it is what it is. You can be their idea of you or you can be yourself. Make the choice, dive in head first and get out of limbo.

Of couse, I and every other non-troll here, is going to recommend you live life for yourself, but there will be consequences. You have to not care what your father's reaction is. You have to accept that being yourself may mean not having a relationship with your parents at all.

The good news is that you are already living a life away from them. That makes it all alot easier. The bad news is that a couple of thousand miles(?) and an international border haven't been enough to get you to let go and live your life. I've been there. Physical distance isn't enough. You need to make some internal changes and accept what consequences may follow.

I don't know what your financial situation is, but I recommend being sure that you can continue to live your life wo/ financial complications after you tell them.

Also, get yourself over to a couple of subreddits... r/raisedbynarcissists and r/asianparentstories and start reading. You'll see the patterns quickly and realize that you are not alone in how your parents treat you.
4
I wonder where in the US the LW is living. Hopefully there are resources locally. Certainly online, if not locally, there should be resources for queer Asian Americans.
5
I echo what Jeff said. My brother is gay, but one of the things that kept him going when he was coming out )painful!) was I let him know that even if he were straight, our parents wouldn’t be happy unless he went to the right college, married the right girl whose parents were from the right town, became a doctor or a lawyer, and then had a son. And then it would begin all over again with the grandson—because the grandson’s inevitable failures would be his fault. Sooner or later, you’ll do something to destroy their lives (like getting a B in chemistry, or going to WSU instead of Berkeley, or becoming an architect). Each of these failures seems monumental at the time, but the sooner you get used to the idea that you’re a lost cause who will assuredly bring eternal shame upon all your parents and all your ancestors, the better off you’ll be.
6
I don't have a clue what it's like to come out, much less come out in a situation such as yours. But I did want to tell you good luck, that you also have a lot of straight allies out here who believe in you. Best of luck as you make your way forward.
7
PFLAG might be a help to your parents. Perhaps you could send them a link to PFLAG in Canada. At least keep this idea around for when you tell them unequivocally that you're gay.
8
I wish you all the best. I am Asian and straight and nothing was good enough for them. I studied creative writing not law or medicine. I haven't spoken to my father in over 10 years due to his incredible unforgiving anger. In the end , I am 40 now , living your life under your own terms is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. You deserve to be happy. May courage and kindness be with you.
9
Hi Dan and any other queer/trans API (Asian Pacific Islander) folks that may be reading/relating this letter: There are API LGBTQ organizations across the nation that were founded to support folks like SON. These organizations organizations consist of amazing folks who have similar experiences as SON and can give advice, support, or just a sense of community. I just want to give a few of them a shout out directly here in case its helpful to SON and other folks:

In Southern California, there are two kick-ass organizations: API Equality-LA (https://www.facebook.com/apiequalityla) is a grassroots organization thats advances LGBTQ equality in the API community. Its work includes leadership development programs (particularly for youth), community education (particularly for API people), workshops (such as coming out in API communities and Trans 101) and more. It's a great place for API LGBTQ folks to find a sense of community and to do something amazing for themselves and others.

API San Gabriel PFLAG (https://www.sangabrielvalleyapipflag.com…) is a PFLAG specifically for API parents. I'm sure there are folks the letter writer can reach out to for support, particularly from other API parents who have struggled with accepting their children. They're an uplifting and loving group of people.

There are also plenty of other great API LGBTQ groups across the nation: API PFLAG in NYC (http://www.pflagnyc.org/support/api), API Equality-Northern California (https://www.apiequalitync.org/), i2i in Chicago (http://www.chicagoi2i.org/), QAPA (https://www.qapa.org/) in Boston, and more.
10
SON, I can add nothing useful to this discussion, but I wanted to say that I'm holding you in my heart. It is heartbreaking that you are in this position and I hope that you can move past this moment to find joy in life. While I ordinarily hate the expression "living well is the best revenge," in this case I'd offer the following modification: you only get one life and you only have this life and this is your life. You might owe your parents some things, but you do not owe them all your future possibilities for happiness. Live your life; find your love(s); make your joy. If your parents don't come around, that is sad, but ultimately it is sadder for them than for you.

And maybe they can only envision you bringing shame upon the family because they can only imagine that being gay is a state that fills one with shame. Perhaps if they see (or hear about) your happiness, your utter lack of shame, if they see or hear about your homosexuality not being impediment to you getting what you want or have earned from life, they'll change their mind. But that may never happen. They had their chance, and you get to have yours, too.

Please write back a year or so from now and let us know how you're doing. We're all rooting for you!
11
Dear SON, I am straight so I do not know anything of coming out or the challenges of being LGBTQ. But I do know what it is like to have a parent who believes that everything you do or feel or think is really about them. I'm sorry that you are hurting and that your father is trying to convince you that your sexually identity is about him and your mother. It is not. It is yours alone. Your life is yours alone as well. I hope that you are able to live in a way that brings you joy and satisfaction. And I hope your parents can learn to be happy for you. But even if they can't, you deserve that joy and satisfaction and love. Repeat as necessary: My life is my own. And I deserve love. Good luck, my friend. You'll be in my thoughts.
12
If you like audiobooks, Tales of the City is available from the BBC for free.

If you are still at university, you'll find that your queer student collective or Chinese student collective are full of hundreds of people with similar stories. Support groups really help, and I hope you can find a good one near you.
13
SON, your letter made me tear up. You seem like a good, honest person, and you did the right thing by coming out to your father when you did. I'm sorry it didn't turn out as well as you expected. He is probably a good person too, since he raised you well - and it's obvious you still love him, even though you can't marry a woman as he wants you to do. I'm guessing he still loves you too, and he may come around in the future, but he's clearly not able at present to rise above all of the cultural taboos that he associates with having a gay son.

I'm not Chinese and I don't know anything about Chinese family dynamics, so please take this advice with a grain of salt - but if I were you, despite what your father said, I'd look for a chance to talk with your mother about it. Rather than fainting with disgust, I think she may take your coming-out news in stride. Mothers always seem to know these things before they are said out loud. Plus, she may be able to gently talk your father into changing his views, although it will take some time. Nbriant @9 offers some great culture-specific resources for you to check out, ways that other Asian families with gay children have been able to move from initial feelings of rejection and disgust to acceptance, sometimes even joy. In the happy-ending musical of your life that I envision in my mind, both of your parents are present and beaming with happiness at your wedding to the man of your dreams. If that's simply not to be, create your new family-of-choice among your friends in the States for emotional support, and continue to deal with your parents's long-distance nagging about why you don't have a girlfriend yet. You appear to have already mustered the courage and self-knowledge to effectively escape the traditional cultural mindset hat has thus far entrapped your father. I wish you every happiness as you build your own authentic life.
14
Thank you, Dan, for reaching out to a person from the letter writer’s culture to add their perspective. Your advice, as good as it is, could not include deep understanding of the writer’s particular cultural predicament that is so sorely needed. I wish the writer courage and peace with his decisions.
15
Although I am a straight woman this resonated with me. More than 10 years ago when I moved out of my parents home and soon after in a different country I was terrified of my fathers anger issues. Then there werr the constant threats that my mother would literally die out of sorrow and embarassment for me if I don't marry and start having kids soon. Now I am living my own life on my terms, we still have regular contact but I don't let them dictate or emotionally blackmail me. Distance and having a great partner to share all this with have helped me. Don't be embarassed for your parents, dot't make major concessions, you are doing great, they need you more than you do. Give it time. My parents are still extremely conservative but somehow they are disapointed and proud of me at the same time. And I don't need their approval.
16
I got a bit choked up reading this, too. Good luck, SON!
17
Different situation and pressure, but, if needed, it can be helpful to hold onto the knowledge of having made it through so much without caving.
18
First, it's not healthy to accept relationships with anyone treating us unacceptably. Sometimes parents with such toxic reactions do come around. But as Comment #1 said, you need to accept that they may not. If so it will be their fault (not yours) that you will have lost your parents. When you come out, that is. And at this point, losing who your parents are to you sadly wouldn't be that much of a loss anyway.
19
As far as I'm concerned, Ang Lee can do no wrong as a filmmaker, and to add to Dan's suggested reading I'd encourage SON to watch the film *The Wedding Banquet*, about a gay Asian man living in the U.S., happily partnered, who cannot satisfy his traditional Taiwanese parents' demand that he marry and have a son. The plot twist and ending may be unrealistic, but it is a deeply humane film that deals gently and --yes-- optimistically with a situation like SON's.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107156/
20
Just a couple practical suggestion: complete your education, or do what is necessary to ensure your economic independence. And build a strong network of friends, to do what is necessary to ensure your social independence.
And then prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to be dumped by your parents.
Because the whole point of being economically and socially okay without your parents is so you can be honest with them, and if they ultimately decide they prefer their bigotry to their son, then you can tell them to go fuck themselves, and dump them from your life.
As it is, they are toxic. Better to be rid of them than to endure their bullshit. So prepare yourself monetarily and socially to give them a big middle finger, because that may be what you have to do to stay sane and healthy. And since you're the virtuous one here, the one with the bigger heart and the saner head, if they choose to apologize and play nicely to get your permission to be a part of your life again, be open to that. But that may never happen and OH WELL--their loss!
21
Interestingly, someone on my Facebook shared this link from a few days ago:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asi…
22
I've got a similar background, and I understand the pressure. Your mom may be more accepting than your dad claims, or at least won't disown you no matter how shocked she is at first. (She probably has suspected anyway.) Chinese moms tend to be very dedicated to their kids no matter what, whereas fathers are expected to be "disciplinarians". This time, try coming out to her first.
Also, come out to others, like your extended family, especially 'hip' aunties and cousins, and the children of your parents conservative Chinese friends (I assume you grew up knowing them). It'll help to feel like you don't have to cut off your whole past, and your allies can help the older generation become more accepting.
23
Good luck SON! Your letter made me tear up too. Sometimes you do need to cut your parents off (I've done it in the past for different reasons). Please don't wait till you think it won't hurt anymore when you cut them off. I'm not sure that time really comes. We all want our parents to love us unconditionally and it hurts like hell when it turns out they don't, or that they'd prefer to choose something else (bigotry, new spouse, whatever) over supporting their children. It sucks.

I think there will be times when it always bothers you and you too need to mourn for the parent-child relationship you wish you had. Not to say the pain is always raw, but there will always be moments that make you sad for what you don't have. You need to make peace with it and move on knowing you're better off living your own authentic life.
24
Dan asked me to share my response in the comments:
"I’m a Canadian guy of Sri Lankan heritage, and I TOTALLY understand where he’s coming from. I am 37 now, I came out to my fairly conservative parents when I was 19.

When I look at how my life is now with my parents and my husband, I’m sometimes shocked that we are the loving, connected family we are. Seriously, my Sri Lankan parents get on fabulously with my Southern Louisiana Cajun in-laws, it’s unreal. From the outside, it looks like it’s always been this way. But it was 13+ difficult years with my parents to get here - and that included nearly getting into a fist fight with my dad where my mom had to come between us to keep us from killing each other, me punching a hole in the wall, and multiple 1-2 year periods of not speaking to each other.

Most South/Asians who are gay that I’ve met over the years do this awkward dance of waiting for the “right” time to come out to their parents. They lead double lives, they try to please their parents - and as a result, they end up just staying in the closet. The only reason to do this is if you are living with your parents and are dependent on them.

Since you’re not dependent, here’s what I recommend you do. First, find a good supportive therapist and make sure you have a close, supportive network of friends/family/chosen family around you. Then, fuck it and rip the cord, man. Call your dad up, and calmly and firmly tell him that you are gay and that’s that. There will be drama, hysterics, accusations of shame being brought on the family, etc. Hold firm. Do not apologize for being who you are. When your dad starts to yell and say cruel things, tell him you don’t have to take his words, and that he should call you when he’s ready to be civil.Tell your parents that if they don’t accept you, then they don’t get to have you in their lives.

That last sentence is the hardest one to say. Us Asians are raised to please our parents, and it’s incredibly painful to face the risk of not having your parents in your life for a while - possibly forever. I think Dan has said before, “The one lever of control we have with our parents in our adult lives is our presence. If our parents are good, we allow them access to us. If our parents are cruel, or non-accepting of us, we pull back our presence until they shape up.”

Your presence (or lack thereof) is the only concrete action you can take to change your relationship with your parents. Work with your therapist to unpack all your feelings around this, because it’s some complicated shit.

It will not be easy. You face the terrible choice of either choosing authenticity for yourself but then losing your parents for a time, or staying closeted with your parents while maintaining an artificial relationship with them. But to me, it’s actually an easy choice. If you choose authenticity and the loss of your parents for a time, you at least get to have a better, happier life for yourself - and you won’t have to pretend anymore. But if you choose staying closeted, you don’t get the benefits of being your true self and you also have to maintain a fake relationship with your parents.

And here’s the biggest thing I wish I could tell my younger self:
"If you don’t come out to your conservative, Asian parents, you’re not even giving them the chance to accept you. How can they accept your true self if you never show it to them?”

You have nothing to lose. Best-case scenario, you end up with your parents coming to your gay wedding some day. Worst-case scenario, your parents never accept you and you cut them out of your lives - but then why would you want to keep people in your life who don’t accept you? Life’s too short for that nonsense. If your birth family won’t accept you, then you’ll find your chosen family and you’ll be OK - you really will be. Building a chosen family is a time-honoured tradition of gay men at this point!

And one last thing: Never underestimate the power of being your true self even to your family. It took me years to be my true self unapologetically with my family and with the world at large. But living this way affects people positively in ways you can’t foresee. I have seen in my own life how my being my open, true self has made my mom go, “Wow, my son is just going off and doing what he wants to do, and he’s fine. Maybe the world won’t end if *I* go off and do what I want to do, too.”

When you are your true self unapologetically, you end up causing others around you to give themselves permission to be their true selves, too.

Best of luck, friend!”
25
SON, I'm working on coming out to my family as trans and I understand your fears. Know you're not alone. Just like everyone else has said, your parents' choices and reactions are theirs: their problems, their burden, their wrong choice. You are worthy and wonderful just the way you are.
26
@10 nocutename very nicely said.

I'm treading lightly since the only thing I know about Chinese culture is from books- mostly fiction. However, I do know about overly controlling conservatives. In my case, a family from a right-wing christian sect with rules about everything from diet to clothes/makeup. My take on controlling parents (actually, controlling people in general) is the more you give up the more of your life they take. They will always own you if you don't make a few carefully calculated moves for yourself. I wish I'd really understood that when I was young. However, if you're in school or struggling, your parents can dictate a lot based on financial control.

Even if SON were to marry a girl to please mom/dad they would most likely find something else about him to "fix". Both my controlling Christian mom and my ex-bf's East Asian controlling mom (preferred arranged marriage of equally wealthy social status for her son) each did this while we dated. Outwardly accepting of our interracial, (heterosexual) relationship, but both running constant interference and putting a strain on the relationship.

I'm hoping for SON that it eventually all works out for the best, but I would strongly suggest he finds a way to set boundaries when the timing is right. Otherwise, mom and dad will make more and more of his choices for him, until nothing belongs to him anymore. Marrying the girl of their choice instead of the man of his choosing will only up the ante and give them more power. Instead of being satisfied with getting what they want, they will look for new things to pick apart. In my humble opinion!

Good luck and best wishes to SON.
27
Sadly another thing SON should consider is his citizenship. Is he Canadian? Chinese? Or does he somehow have US citizenship, or at least permanent residency? If coming out means losing his biological familial support network and he builds himself a support network and community in his current city, then for whatever reason has to move back to Canada, he would have to start over from scratch. Something to consider before potentially estranging himself from his parents.

I cannot relate to Son's situation, but it makes my heart ache. Good luck, we are rooting for you.
28
One angle I haven't seen mentioned here yet: your parents want you to marry a woman and have kids. If you feel like it's right for you, you could compromise: marry a man and/or have kids. Every time they give you crap for being gay, remind them that the less time you spend meeting hot dudes, the longer they have to wait for grandkids.
29
Dear SON,

First of all, I'm sorry you have to be in this position. It breaks my heart to see someone fearing to come out to their parents.

Secondly, I am also Chinese and gay, and I completely understand what you must be feeling. I'm 29 years old, only a few years older than you. Despite being born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, when I was younger, I vowed never to come out to my parents because they were (and still are) traditional Chinese parents who would not only never understand, but I was certain would take it terribly. Being gay is a huge taboo subject in Chinese culture; if no one talks about it, then it becomes this unknown thing.

I came out to my mom at 15, and my dad at 18. Needless to say, things didn't go well. My mom (who actually approached me and asked if I was gay) suggested I try and date my sister's friends before asking if I wanted to go see a doctor. Ultimately said she loved me. When I came out to my father, he seemed to take it well. A couple days later, he called me up and told me how being gay is horrible, how it's not natural since I can't have kids, how I couldn't pass down the family name, and how he was "disappointed" in my choice. I cried so much that night.

When I told my mom what he said, she informed me that he was hurt because I was the only male amongst all my cousins, that I alone possess the family last name (which I didn't think was true but after thinking about it, it is). Most of the comments from others above tell you to come out to your parents and live your life, which I think is sound advice, but this is so much easier said than done, especially if people don't understand Chinese culture. If you are scared of your family disowning you, it means you obviously care a lot about them (or care what they think), so simply going about with your life can come across as callous and ungrateful to your parents. I don't know if you feel pressure to be a good son and to make your parents happy, but I have definitely felt that. It is difficult, trying to be two seemingly conflicting people at once. But there are ways to reconcile these things and to live a happy life.

Some Chinese/Asian guys I know want to come out to their parents but only after they've found a partner. They believe it would cause be easier for their parents, that they would then avoid talk of "it's just a phase" and all that if they did so. If you think this might be helpful, you could consider this (before coming out to your mother, or even as a way to tell your dad once and for all that you are gay and nothing will change that). You also have the advantage of physical distance; if your father frequently calls you up and you don't want to talk to him, maybe don't talk to him for a few days and let him cool down a bit (also use this time to think about what you want to say to him). Then when you're ready to talk, like others have suggested, be firm when you reiterate that you are gay. Stand your ground. I have always considered appealing to people's empathy to try and get them to understand (in any situation, not just when coming out), and you might consider telling them about how you have felt afraid to talk to about this, but it will depend on how empathetic you think they are as people (my father, for instance, isn't very empathetic so that wouldn't work).

There is no easy, instant solution to this predicament. I wish there was, but to change the minds of older, traditional people can be difficult and can take years, decades before/if they come around. You may feel like you are responsible for your family's happiness (and they may express this to you as well) but it is so much to live up to, and at some point, you need to draw the line and to think about yourself and your own well-being. Instead, you can try to help them on their journey to meet you at where you are. For instance, do you think it would help to send them links or resources for parents of gay Chinese children? (I personally don't know any off the top of my head but they must exist)

Lastly, I don't think anyone has commented on this yet, but congrats for even coming out to your dad! I know a lot of gay Chinese men who don't even consider the thought of coming out to their parents (or sometimes, anyone) so for you to take that leap if a big, big step in my eyes. Good for you. I'm proud of you for that.

I hope something in this (very long) comment has been useful. If you'd like to talk further, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email (theaaronchan88@gmail.com). Take care of yourself, and I wish you the best.

-A.

PS. You said your parents don't know anyone who is gay. If they live in Vancouver, I'd love to sit and chat with them. :)
30
As a family practice doc I have had markedly similar conversations with all “children” from ages 10 to over 40.
All mammals must separate off from their parents and live on their own. Which is why I ALWAYS tell parents (and their college age kids)--don’t let your kids back in the house. Once they leave they need to stay away. I have never seen a good result of the kids moving back home to “save money for buying own home, or paying off a student loan, or it’s just too HARD out here” so they go back to mom cooking meals, mom doing laundry, and dad paying for all. (OK, way too stereotyped..as I am the one who pays the bills.)

I tell them that the offspring (over age of maturity) MUST find a bedsit (In Ireland it’s a dump in a dorm-like setting), a room and half bath, or a place of equal squalor. Sure cooking out of a rice cooker, visiting Mickey D’s twice a day or hitting the local laundromat doesn’t equal mom’s/dad’s home but until you learn to live on your own, ONLY then are you able to separate from their view of the world. (I lived off the grid on a derelict sailboat and cooked on a tiny hibachi grill with a wok and produce I picked up in Chinatown on the way home at a bus stop.)

It was just as hard for me to leave a far right, Republican home (parents gave Nixon campaign parties in both 1960 and 1968), as it was for my twin sister to TRY to explain what being a lesbian was. (No it wasn’t just that Peggy was a great track and field star! She LOVED her female roommate and had sex with her.)

To reach adulthood one must follow their own path....I think Robert Frost even wrote such a poem. We twins both left home and each other. (Peggy STILL was a right wing bigoted Nixonite--yeah, go figure!)

I left home at 15 and never returned. They didn’t love me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste time trying to “fit in THEIR world to get them to love me back.”

I live in Hawai’i and everyone who moves here and stays here has made family separation a must. Living 2,000 miles from LA makes it almost impossible to return for any reason. We form our own O’hana (family or “calabash”) and live happily away from family. Most of my colleagues are Asian and Nisei (First generation born in Hawai’i). 5K miles from Beijing, or 3800 miles from Tokyo.

Every day I watch the nisei separate from issei (immigrants born in Asia) and it ends up being smooth. The island of Oahu (Honolulu) is only 600 sq miles-20 by 30 miles of land. So whether Portuguese, Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, or American we all find our own niche.

SON and everyone here need to understand that separating into your OWN “O’Hana” is completely normal...for ALL species. As we settle in Hawai’i we find that most folks are progressive and Democratic. Barack Obama who lived down the block from us in his grandparent’s tiny 2 bedroom apartment never understood his “blackness” until he moved to Occidental a liberal arts college in Southern California. Hawai’i is less than 1% black and he was the only African-American student at Punahou private high school. He had to LEARN to be black, had to learn his ancestry...so made a point of living in the “blackest” part of Harlem when he finished his undergraduate work at Columbia.

Growing up for everyone involves finding out where one “fits in.” That included our 44th POTUS. This would surprise anyone who didn’t bother to read Obama’s definitive biography “The Bridge” by the editor of the New Yorker David Remnick. Obama had to “learn” to be black in college and as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

SON, leaving our proverbial nests and finding our OWN community, our own family is called growing up. It’s a completely natural process whether it’s one’s sexual orientation or political leanings. I am NOT downplaying SON’s situation! The folks in the bible belt red states KNOW they are born Christian, Republican, and straight. What a farcical statement!

We are living in a time when “Cognitive Development” and “Age of Maturity” are part of everyone’s dialogue! Piaget a developmental and evolutionary biologist opined that to become a true adult one must have “Object Permanence” and enters/completes the Formal Operational Stage. A stage that is characterized by the ability to formulate hypotheses and systematically test them to arrive at an answer to a problem.

A human begins this formal stage at age 11 or 12...but many never complete this stage! One must be able to think abstractly and have the ability to reason contrary to fact.

In other words one must be able to understand that having a different sexual or political ideology does NOT preclude that person from being an adult able to work, marry, and function in a completely mature way that meets all legal requirements in a society.

Piaget refers to this mature stage as the formal operational stage. If SON’s parents or culture preclude them from accepting their SON, it is the culture and the family that are immature.., the SON needs to move on. He will NEVER reach adulthood if he remains in their narrow, incomplete view of humanity...for being human means to accept ALL humans in all of their varied wonderful splendor.

Parents? Time to grow up in today’s world! Children, keep looking to find that wonderful world of people who think and act as adults do! As you do.
31
Good luck, SON. I have nothing much to add but I love that so many people have contributed direct personal knowledge. I had to shelve reading this until I was in a less public place for wiping my somehow watery eyes.
32
@5 "the sooner you get used to the idea that you’re a lost cause who will assuredly bring eternal shame upon all your parents and all your ancestors, the better off you’ll be."

Yes, that approach pretty much saved my life. Well said.
33
On abusive parents/parents who are behaving abusively/people who are being awful but for whatever reason you wish to keep them in your life - here's what you do:
1) tell them you don't want to talk about girlfriends anymore. Or wives. Anything anti-gay. Or whatever hurts you. Tell them you will hang up the phone if they do so. Then do that. 100% of the time and immediately. If you are feeling kind you can give them one warning the first time they do it, but then be 100% after that. Do not pick up the phone again when they call until you are 100% over the last phone call. I mean it, 100%.
2) if they cut off all contact because you hung up the phone, you can keep up contact if you wish to by mailing letters/emailing. Feel free to ignore any response they make, that's up to you. You may get no response, but are demonstrating that you wish to stay in their lives and I'm betting in this case that one of them will likely crack and read those letters before throwing them away.
3) anytime you truly feel like you want to talk to them, call them. The instant it gets abusive, the second it starts to turn, hang up. You can say "I told you the rules dad/mom" or simply hang up. Do not call them again until you are 100% not upset about that last call and you actually want to call. This will initially result in a lot less contact but will improve things over time as you will not be living in dread, you be in control and interactions will be actually more pleasant even if they are two seconds long. It will be clear to you that it is them who are screwing up, not you.
4) geographic distance is a huge gift, use it. You are currently letting them torture you long distance. Stop. It will make you resent/dislike then if you continue on as is and they don't want that either. Notice I did not say you wouldn't love them. But you and they both want interaction to be pleasant, so refuse to make it unpleasant. You aren't going to go into the closet for them.
5) it sounds to me like your dad is also gay. Anyone who says it is a choice is at minimum bisexual. That might explain the defensiveness. You can imagine, you yourself know, the cost of living like that. Your dad would feel he sacrificed himself for you. It's likely neither of them can face that in their lives, but they sure as hell can get off your back. Even if it takes years to train them how to be decent to you. You need to treat them like children a little bit in this bc you are the adult here.
6) if they cut you off completely for a while this is a gift too, don't be afraid of it, take that time to heal. You can reach out whenever you want to, that's your decision and your choice to make.
7) borrow other people's parents/build your own friend family in the meantime. See what the relationship you want with your parents looks like. See what they can gain if only you hold the line. Maybe they'll never make that leap, but I promise you they can be civil. If you feel up to it sending them Pflag stuff, books, etc, finding a great boyfriend and then visibly and wonderfully having a great life and sending them the pics - show them what you say they've never seen. They've only seen gay you miserable. Because they made gay you miserable. Don't let them keep making you miserable and show them what happy gay you looks like. Send them holiday cards with pictures of you with your gay friends and their happy families. With your gay friends and their kids. Make real to them what they can't imagine.
34
@33 cont - I had a friend who started every phone conversation as a teen with her parents with a really truly upset sobbing "oh god, mom/dad, I'm.......pregnant!". She wasn't of course, but if you get to the point where convos are consistently positive, they're clearly trying very hard, and you wish to course correct in a milder and funny way, id recommend her approach of just leaning hard into whatever they are most afraid of. Example: they say something mildly homophobic, you respond by saying, funny you mention that Mom/dad, speaking of the gays, the last guy I slept with was so damn hot, and then starting to talk in great detail about him or how exquisite the body of the hottest guy you have a crush on is. I promise you, they'll either change tack real fast or do the hanging up themselves before you even get close to describing the imagined perfection of his cock. Not to be mean, but just like, c'mon, you talk about something I have been very clear that I absolutely do not want to hear? Anyone can play that game. But save this kind of thing for when things are friendly and you feel easy enough about it to joke. It's just a friendly reminder of where the boundaries are, they'll need that from time to time.
This also works for the overly chatty at work/on a plane, etc. Just start aggressively and utterly self absorbedly talking about something relentlessly boring or that you yourself just really want to vent about. People who like to control conversations to the point where they don't care if you are even in them/interested/participating really don't like it when you do the same to them. They are often horrified by how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. The behavior will stop if you are consistent with your response.
35
Another option,once you've done the cut off contact thing for a while and they actively trying to respect your boundaries and you don't feel fragile about it -start every convo with a super jaunty "Hey mom/dad, guess what?!? GREAT NEWS!! I just eloped with a girl, we're totally married, she's pregnant, we're so in love, and we're gonna have a ton of babies starting right now!" Mom/dad - oh son, we are so proud of you/knew you'd make the right choice, etc. You - nope! Just kidding. Super gay. Real sure. Real real real sure. But if you want to talk about the details of my dating life, absolutely let's get into it! Let's start with last night and work backwards, shall we?

Make talking about you not being gay radioactive. Plus they said they wanted to talk about your dating life, right? Take them at their word.

Treat them like they're behaving better than they are, like they're the parents you want them to be. Act shocked when they aren't, disengage until you feel 100% good about talking to them again.
36
And don't visit in person till they're flawless on the phone, and if you do go make sure you have an escape plan/vehicle at all times, do not stay w them if you can help it, and take LOTS of breaks away from them even if it's been socially unacceptable to do that in the past. Plan it into your schedule, unbreakable friend dates, work, and follow your schedule not theirs. First visit brief, maybe not on their turf, maybe on your turf. The idea is to make it a good trip for you, not for them. That's how it becomes a good trip for them, because you aren't depressed/homicidal.
37
LW, your heart felt letter has brought out the best in the mob here. The beautiful comments from Asian men, speak to your experience.
There are many Chinese in Australia, for a long time. One can witness the discipline there, and yes, very strong family ties.
Above all LW, you've got to be your own man. If that's telling your parents now, or
later ( what weirdduck88 @ 29 suggested, first find a therapist to start the truth ball rolling). It's your attitude to yourself that needs shifting.
You love your parents, and that is a blessing to see. Doesn't mean you hand over your life to them. If you hold a shred of shame about your own homosexuality, then that's how your parents hook you in. So get rid of that. Be a proud Chinese gay man, and however you disclose your truth to your parents, I'm sure you'll do it with love.
38
SON, as an Asian-American and 1.5 gener like yourself, I completely understand where you're coming from. I have very conservative parents too, and years ago, I did something that (from my father's point of view) was life-ruining - I moved in with a Caucasian guy. My father's reaction was to disown me and lament to my brother that I had ruined my life, since no respectable Korean boy would ever want me now that I was tainted from sleeping with a white guy. He eventually somewhat came around after a year or so, after his prediction that my boyfriend would leave me after impregnating me didn't come true. Eight years and a marriage later, he still alternates between saying my husband and I are a match made in heaven and being annoyed at me for "going against my parents' wishes" (the rest of my family, including my mom, by the way, are completely fine with my marriage and get along great with my husband. I suspect it's an Asian dad-and-head-of-the-household thing for Asian men to assume their wives will follow their lead automatically, even when it's not the case).

My point is, I understand the pressure you're going through and sympathize, but sometimes, you just have to choose between making yourself happy and making your parents happy. I chose the former, since I live with myself every day and they don't. I know it's easier said than done, especially when you were raised to be obedient and unquestioning and in your case you're a guy so there's the added pressure of carrying on the family name, and it might even get you disowned. But as Grandmother Willow said in Pocahontas, "sometimes the right path isn't the easiest one." And it sounds like you're in a good place to make this choice right now - you've got some distance, you know what you want, and you're independent. When I moved in with my now-husband, like you I had achieved some geographic and emotional distance and I wasn't reliant on them for anything. So when I made my announcement and my dad said I was no longer his daughter, it was kind of an empty threat. All it meant was that I no longer had to dread our weekly talks or worry about what was going to happen when he found out I was dating a non-Korean guy, and as a bonus now my Sunday nights were free.

I know this is anecdotal, but also keep in mind that being disowned doesn't mean there's no hope of reconciliation ever either. I've been disowned at least four times by my mom for other things (like the time I wanted to go bowling with my friends after junior prom), but it doesn't mean the ties were severed forever. Generally, being disowned by either parent only lasted until a bit of time passed and they realized that the world was still turning and no one had died. My father, for example, has now reluctantly accepted my husband into the family, though he still occasionally grumbles about how hard it is to have a non-Korean son-in-law.

Lastly, I wanted to point out a sentence that particularly jumped out at me in Jeff Chu's letter (which I completely agree with): "Our value seems to come from who they imagine us to be, not who we actually are." This is SO SO true - I don't think either of my parents really know who my brother and I are even now, they just see us the way they want to, and get mad when we don't conform to that vision - but even when they get terrifyingly mad at us, it's important to remember that they still love us and just want the best for us, or rather, "the best" according to their expectations. It helps to realize that a lot of this just comes from cultural differences - Asian cultures are so heavy on conformity and following a strict narrow path to success, it's unconceivable to many Asians that there is more than one path to a happy life. It sounds like our parents are the same in this regard: they all lived in Asia during their formative years and had that strict narrow path drilled into their heads, so straying from that path = instant irredeemable failure in life + lifelong dishonor on you and your donkey. It's not their fault or yours. It's just a cultural gap.

For myself, I found that the best way to change their minds was to live my life and be happy. It's sort of like that old saying, "the best revenge is to live well." My parents were unhappy about a lot of my choices: I heard the most dire warnings and threats and protests about my career, my decision to move alone to a strange city, my marriage, etc, and had the most fantastic arguments about everything from my political views to my not wearing make-up. But now that the deeds are done and the sky hasn't fallen after all, they're mostly okay with my choices and act like nothing happened (both of them even deny ever disowning me). They'll never apologize or admit they were wrong because Asian parents don't think like that, but I can accept that as the price of knowing that they know they were wrong (how do I know this? Because they don't criticize those things much any more). I cried in anger and frustration and sadness many times until I finally realized that they didn't say those things that seemed so mean and hurtful or even disown me because they didn't love me, they said them because they do, and in their minds and culture, that's how they show they love you because who else would care so much about you that they would risk making you hate them? To them, steering me towards their definition of a happy and successful life in the long run was more important than hurting my feelings in the short run. This is just what they think of as raising a child right. That doesn't mean that it IS right, or that it isn't hurtful or mean or misguided. But once I understood their intentions, it made it easier to forgive them and not be afraid of them, and helped me see that, even if I didn't agree with the way they went about it, they were just doing the best they knew how. To them, disowning me was like dropping the A-bomb, a last resort to stop me from doing something stupid (since, in their heads, being separated from your family is the worst threat they can make), and more of a case of Asian tough love rather than a lack of it.

Sorry for the super-long post, but please know that I too wish you the best of luck and am hoping for the best for you. If you don't have a sympathetic, non-judgmental Asian-American friend to support you already, I would be happy to be a pen pal to you if you need it.
39
"life long dishonour on you and your donkey.. "
Beautiful comment Jina.
40
@22 and @24 are spot on. I am also of Chinese descent (though my sibs and I are straight and our parents are quite liberal, so I'm sorry your situation doesn't apply directly... but while I may not have been in your particular shoes, our family's been through plenty of other intergenerational mind games) and their advice rings true.

Asian immigrants are often members of close-knit communities and much of your father's reaction may be due to fear of peer pressure and social ostracism. Do you have "aunties" and "uncles" who might act as allies/advocates? Or famiły contacts in China*? Before deciding to abandon ship, sound out members of the older generation(s) who might be able to approach your parents on their own level. I know it's messed up, but your parents will probably be more receptive to the same views coming from them rather than you. And only you know how fragile your mother is, but chances are she'll recover from the shock. If she's sympathetic, maybe she'll help bring your dad around. If not, and you end up cutting yourself off from them, you'll be no worse off coming out to both parents rather than just one.

Also, this is such a stock response of Dan's, I'm surprised he didn't bring it up--get therapy! Living in Canada or the US you should be able to find therapists who are versed in both LGBTQ and Asian American issues. They will help you navigate the emotional fallout.

Finally, take @29 up on his offer. You could definitely use a cheerleader and a sympathetic ear from someone who's been there.

Good luck! And at the very least, stay focused on the fact that you're in a better, safer, and potentially happier situation than if you'd stayed in China. Heck, you might never have heard of Dan Savage.

*I'm in my 40s and have seen immigrants of older generations who can become stuck in the mindset of the country they left, while public opinion in that country has moved on since. I know China hasn't made *much* progress on this front, but it's made *some*. So try sounding out people you know both at home and abroad.
41
Also @5 and @38 (sorry I missed them skimming through the comments first time). You are not alone, no matter how much it may feel like it right now!
42
SON, you've already received many suggestions on how to not only get through this crisis but also how to prevail in your life goals. I'll offer another perspective. I presume that, by being disowned, you fear the loss of parental figures (and a sense of lineage). But, as others have said, if you're already being disrespected, then how much of a loss can it really be?

I use "disrespected" intentionally. I know that you've been raised to respect your elders. It's not a foreign concept, no matter what your heritage. But, what about parents respecting their children? We all know that parents - or adults in general - do not necessarily make good decisions, whether they affect only themselves or others. And their decisions are often based on their own limited personal experience.

You may need to actually preempt the threat by your father, namely disinherit yourself. Do this firmly but gently, without resorting to emotions or arguments. I did this many decades ago. After about a month's silence, I received a phone call, agreeing to my rather insignificant original request. Before you do take this drastic action, tell them that not only will they be giving up access to you, but to the future generation (if you'd like to marry and hope to have kids with your husband). Give them some time for that gloomy prospect to sink in. Tell them you'll wait: you have lots of time while you begin to live your life more fully but they do not ... and they know it.

As you surround yourself by people who become your faithful "chosen" family, try to find elders (people who come out later in life but are rejected by their children, etc.) who'd be honoured to call you "son" or "grandson", just as you address them respectfully in turn (without bitterness over what you've lost, but only gratitude over what you've gained).

Finally (and sorry, but I got carried away too), be relieved that they live in Canada while you moved to the U.S. Even if Canada is not all sunshine and magic rainbows, there is still a greater likelihood that your parents may notice the general level of support - both in government and society - for LGBTQ people and their rights ... and broaden their views, softening their opposition eventually.
43
Even though I am a heterosexual female and have not experienced what it's like to come out as a homosexual person, I sympathize with the challenges you are going through. As a Chinese immigrant woman who just married a Caucasian man who is 16 years older than me, I have received my fair share of criticism from my immigrant parents. My advice to you is to stand your ground and find the family you need to carry you through life. My parents have accepted my choice and my husband, but it came after the threat of disownment from my parents and criticism from every relative, including my sister. They still do not love and embrace him as they would a Chinese (or even Asian) husband, but they have accepted him into their home. While they were still fighting against my relationship, I had to find comfort in my friends and my partner to stand up against the tide of negativity from my family.

As a Chinese immigrant growing up with American values, I have always struggled with the tension between the Chinese expectations of my future and what I wanted to do with my own life. I continue to walk a fine line of working for my passion and honoring my parents. I feel like I will always be a disappointment to my family, and I am still learning to live with that fact. I don't talk to my parents as much as I want (and there are significant language barriers that prevent deep conversations anyways). I hope you find what and who makes you happy. Hopefully your parents will learn to accept your happiness, even if it's not what they imagined it would be. As one immigrant to another, I wish you good luck.
44
So glad to see so many Asian perspectives here with such great advice and empathy. I really hope the LW reads this. I'll reiterate a few points- play the game with your folks long enough to get them to continue helping you get on your feet financially which might include helping you with bills for a while or helping you with tuition or whatever. I know it seems like youth is endless and you want to have it all settled now, but your older self will thank you. Since you live in another city, you can probably be out in your personal life without being out at home for a couple years even though that's really hard.

Second, as a few people have mentioned, when you are able to handle the worst case scenario, do come out to your mom. She might soften things with your dad. Likely, the losing face among extended relatives and communities is something on their minds. It's up to you if you want to concern yourself with all the hive mind bullshit that goes on in extended families and communities like that- it's a big burden- but if you do, it's possible you could talk to your mom (or another elder relative) about what your parents need to save face. Short term, that might soften things that could lead to longer term more open acceptance.

Third- their family and friends network ALSO includes children who are gay, they just don't know it yet or else they are pretending otherwise. I've found in my own Indian family that it was this way with divorce- when the first of my generation got divorced, it was like the worst thing that could possibly have befallen the entire family, a deep source of shame, and since the divorce was in the US and the family was in India, they just pretended it didn't happen and said things like "oh, he has taken a job in a different city" instead of "they got divorced". But once it started to happen across families and included cousins and long term friends, it became pretty normal. I'm watching this happen right now with LGBT family members. Whereas the gay kids in my generation just accepted straight marriage or else left their families altogether, the younger kids are in a sort of exhausting transition phase where their parents know about it but everyone pretends it's not true, and the younger kids live in same sex relationships away from their parents and never bring their partners home and everyone acts like they are just single. My assumption is that the next step is acceptance and normalization. Whether or not you want to burden yourself with being out but not in front of family while that transition takes place is up to you- and either decision is fine.

And following that, come out to supportive extended family and friends in the community. Again, maybe wait until you are financially stable and maybe come out to your mom first so it's not a shock to her, but then come out to others. What happens is that the people in your family who are straight and accepted (like myself) can be doing some of this normalization work for you that you can't do because of your situation. So in my own family, when the elders (and some of the conservative people my age!) pretend that there are no gay people in our family (or even in all of India!), I correct them and openly name all the people who are in fact gay. They are out- but in that halfway Asian way of pretending only in front of the older people that they aren't- and everyone knows it. So all I'm doing is saying the things that everyone already knows, but I think the repetition makes a difference. It forces them to realize their pretentious and while it embarrasses them and angers them, they will not disown ME for it or escalate into a conflict with ME as they would if the actual gay people said this to their face. The reason this helps is that once enough of your mom's friends or peer group stop playing this bullshit game, the easier it will be for her to stand by you.

Also, I know the expectations of not disappointing your parents is going to be really ingrained in you and even more so than me since half my family is American, but don't let yourself get pulled entirely in that direction. You will find a community to support you and people to love you no matter what you do- just look at these comments.
45
Social pressure from other family/their friends being part of it is likely correct. One thing you can do to help remove that pressure from them is out yourself to everyone in your family and any close family friends. This spares your parents the potential shame of being in the "my son is gay but I'm ashamed" closet and also you don't know how many allies you actually have in that group unless you speak bc it sounds like they will all fear social censure too. If an ally appears they can/will work on your parents for you, sometimes it only takes one sentence from a social peer plus time for your parents to see that they don't have to be awful to you. I don't think they want to be. Modeling a lack of shame about who you are is good too. They think you feeling bad about yourself justifies their punishment of you, ie they think it's working. If you fail to feel bad, if you feel good, if you show you aren't afraid hiding or ashamed it makes it clear that they are the ones w the actual problem, not you.

Does anyone have any experience w this in similar culture/background? I've done this but for other things.

Also as a general rule anyone who threatens to disown you about something should be disowned in return. If you want to keep any positive feelings about your parents you have to stop letting them torment you. Sooner the better.
46
I see Emmaliz has, sorry didn't read that before I posted. Ripping off the band-aid and asserting the truth keeps things from getting abusive even if it makes them mad. It's ok that they're mad. You aren't responsible for keeping them happy 24-7 for the rest of their life. That's on them.
47
Dear Son, I'm experiencing the same situation now. I grew up in a very big and conservative Chinese family. When my eldest sister found out about my lesbian relationship, she forced me to breakup with my girlfriend, she'll lock me in a room and confiscate everything I have, that's what she said.
She gave me 2 options: either I stop everything and back to her "normal" little sister, or come out to our parents and face every consequences I deserve. I chose to come out and accept whatever I have to deal with in the future because I don't wanna lose my partner.
A week after arguing with my sister through phone calls and texts, I kept my promise and went back to my hometown where my parents live. (I'm staying far from them for studies too.) When I first arrived my hometown, my parents were there to fetch me, I didn't notice any weird behaviors, until I tried to confront to my brother whom I'm closed with. My brother said that he knows, our parents know, our siblings know, everyone knows that I'm attracted to girls and dating one now. My first thought was: How could my parents pretend and not confronting me right away?
I waited until evening, my parents came back from work, I wasn't actually ready to tell them, but since they have already knew about it, I don't think I should let them pretend anymore. I sat with my parents, and began my words. My parents kept telling me that there is no gay or lesbian in this world, maybe there's a lot in the western countries, but never in Asia. They forced me to change back to who I was, they said that this isn't the real me. I cried and begged my parents to accept the fact that I'm a lesbian, I don't have any interest in any guy. While crying, my mom pushed my hands away from hers, she got up and slapped me in the face for more than 10 times. She even got the Chinese "holy water" and poured it on my head so that I could "wake up" and realize myself. My brother was there, he tried to protect me, he yelled to my parents to stop slapping and forcing me. But my parents scolded him back saying that he knows nothing and told him to go back inside his room.
Soon, my dad said he's taking me to a temple, to pray to the monk etc. I listened to him, because I know that being a lesbian has nothing to do with the religions. I'm a lesbian, but I've never afraid to pray. I go to temple often to pray for my girlfriend, my family and myself.

5 days after the incident, I said goodbye to my brother and parents and went back to continue my studies. I thought that being far from them could at least lessen my stress, but no. My parents call me every few hours, asking me where am I, who I'm with, what am I doing. They even stalked my fb, commented things like "Crazy", "You're a good daughter, be a good daughter to mom and dad" etc. I got frustrated. When they called again, I was being an ungrateful daughter, I told my mom stop stalking my facebook, stop calling me 4 or 5 calls everyday, I'm scared even looking at your name popping on my social media, seeing your phone calls, I'm scared and stressed. Because every time they called, they'll be like, Breakup with that girl okay? You're always a good girl, don't think of that girl anymore. Delete all the pictures etc. Find a boyfriend and take him home then dad and mom will be so happy.

Because of my sexuality, my eldest sister doesn't wanna talk to me anymore. But my dad told me that he doesn't want us siblings' relationship gets cold and colder. I've no longer invited for family video call. Until yesterday, I saw my parents and sisters were video calling, so I joined in without invitation, thinking that this will show my parents I still love my sisters. But who knows, my eldest sister saw me popping in her screen, her first sentence was "No need to go to the Taiwan trip with that girl, stay at home or go with parents. We don't like her." I was shocked, she can hate me, she can scold me, but not in front of my parents. I kept quiet, and I saw my dad's crying. So I told my dad, "Daddy, I'm going to eat. Bye." and left the video call. And no more joining any of their conversation.