‘We pulled up to the entrance. I got out of the car. ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ Puzzled, she said, ‘Why are you telling me this now?’ Young man’s harrowing experience coming out to his family

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“Sexuality wasn’t something that was talked about in Hong Kong. Not at home, not at school, not in politics. So, naturally, the idea of different sexualities didn’t cross my mind for the first 14 years of my life. But a few months after I turned 15, things started to change.

I was on a trip to Shanghai to represent my school for a three-day theatre festival. I never would have thought three days could change my life. We were gathered in the auditorium of the host school for the opening ceremony. During the ceremony a boy from another school caught my eye. He was a bit taller than me. He had blonde hair, brown eyes, and one of the most mischievous smiles I had ever seen. I didn’t realize I was staring till we locked eyes. I quickly looked away- Wait, why am I getting flustered? I didn’t know what to make of it, and yet it felt right. For the rest of the festival, I’d see this boy around, and we’d smile at each other. But that was it. I didn’t talk to him. I didn’t introduce myself. Nothing.

Courtesy of Ethan Wong

During the party after the closing ceremony, I remember sitting on a hill next to my friend overlooking the playground. We were probably talking about people we had met and while I don’t remember exactly how the conversation was structured or exactly how it came out, I do remember being scared. Scared to tell her the truth, scared to tell her how I felt, scared to tell her about this boy.

I went quiet, my heart was pounding, my head was racing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Finally, she turned to me and asked, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ And I just told her. About the boy, about how I was supposed to like girls, about how he was a boy, and I was a boy. About how we would both stare and I would get flustered. About how nothing happened, but maybe it should’ve and I should’ve said something to him or I wish I had said something to him, but I didn’t. I don’t know.

Courtesy of Ethan Wong

I don’t remember her actual response, but she said something along the lines of ‘Oh god, which one?’ as if gender didn’t matter to her, just taste. That was when I let myself trust her and when I started to trust myself a little bit more. I was different. I am different.

The rest of high school went by rather uneventfully for the most part. It was mostly just me learning to accept myself because all of my friends generally accepted me and didn’t treat me any differently after I came out to them. The friend I came out to that night at the theatre festival was also openly bisexual. We supported each other over the years as we tried to navigate the raging waters of teen sexuality and by the time graduation came around, I was openly gay at school. I didn’t have a huge coming out announcement, I had just slowly over time, with the help of my friends, stopped hiding. But just because I was out at school, doesn’t mean I was out at home.

Courtesy of Ethan Wong

Going home every day was like going back into a rainbowless hole. It felt like I was living a double life. I could be myself at school and around my friends, but when I came home, everything had to change. I was forced to be mindful of the way I talked, what I talked about, how I dressed, and what activities I chose to participate in. I had to scrutinize and filter everything for any indication I was gay.

Courtesy of Ethan Wong

My sister was the first to find out, and she didn’t even find out from me at first. It was the spring semester of junior year. My sister and I were walking home from the bus one day, and out of nowhere she turned to me and asked, ‘Are you gay?’ It caught me completely off guard and I debated whether to be honest or lie. I chose honesty. I later asked where she heard it from and she said one of my friends told her (I had a very long discussion with said friend the next day). I made her promise not to tell our parents because they couldn’t find out. It’s a conservative world, there are gay kids being rejected by their families every day and I just wasn’t ready to take that leap of faith and tell them.

When I eventually came out to my mom I had been thinking about it for what felt like years. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it and when I decided I wanted to do it, I didn’t know how. My mom was dropping me off at school one day, and the entire car ride I was thinking about what to say and how I’d do it. We pulled up to the main entrance, I got out of the car, and I just turned around and said, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ She turned to me, a bit puzzled, and said, ‘Why are you telling me this now?’ Obviously so I could leave if she didn’t take it well. ‘Let’s talk about it more tonight at home, okay?’ I said ‘okay’, and shut the door. About half an hour later, she texted me, ‘Thank you for telling me. I know how hard that must have been for you. I love you.’ I was very surprised.

Come graduation, all the other seniors were decorating their graduation caps with their colleges; but not me. I wanted to leave my mark on this school and make a statement. I decided to decorate my cap with a pride flag of rhinestones. It was as gay as a graduation cap could get. I walked into that gymnasium, not just open, but proud. I knew it would leave an impression; and it did. After the ceremony, a few teachers came up to me and thanked me. I asked, ‘for what?’ They responded, ‘Being yourself.’ I had never taken a class with any of these teachers before, but they thanked me for the simple act of being me.

Courtesy of Ethan Wong
Courtesy of Ethan Wong

Later that week I received a card from one of my friends who was in my last high school musical. She wrote, ‘Seeing you be so openly gay is so inspiring because I’m in the closet. I hope I can be as brave as you one day.’ I never pictured myself as someone others could look up to, especially not with something like this; because, in all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing. I had been scared for so long, I never thought to myself that I was brave. It felt reassuring I had all this support from my friends and teachers, because that wasn’t the case at home. To this day I still haven’t come out to my dad because he is very openly homophobic. I don’t know if I will ever tell him.

I’m only 20 years old so my journey with sexuality is far from over. However, in the six years that have passed since my first crush on a boy, I’ve changed a lot. My coming out experience was a lot smoother than most people, and I am very grateful for that. But I was still living in a very conservative environment. I always felt like I was holding something back. Now that I live in New York, I am surrounded by all sorts of people who are unique in their own ways. Being around them has encouraged me to be myself. I feel like I am finally free to be who I want to be.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, everything is temporary. If it feels like you’re going through a storm right now, trust me when I say it will pass. You are not alone. And you know what comes after a storm? The gayest rainbow you have ever seen.”

Courtesy of Ethan Wong

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ethan Wong of New York, NY. You can follow his journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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Read more inspiring stories about coming out here:

‘I was gay. I knew what would happen if I came out. Family, friends,  church – all gone. So I lived blindly, losing more of who I was by the day. And just like that, all our lives stopped.’

‘Someone at school told me you’re gay.’ I couldn’t keep this secret any longer. I poured my heart out to her. I thought I’d lost my friend. Until my phone pinged. ‘I like you, too.’

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