Returning home hasn’t been the easiest transition for some of us out there.At least for me, it meant that I had to go back to living in a house that rejected my identity as a gay male. After two years of being on my own at school and finding security in my own sexuality, it feels like I’m slowly creeping back into the dark closet that I was forced to live in during my earlier years. So, I sit here now, trying to live a life that’s not truly me, and wonder: How do we realign ourselves with beliefs like homophobia, opposing political values, and religion when they go against every part of our current identity? How does it feel to return to an Asian household as a gay man?

Summer After High School: Tinder Exposed

In 2018 — right before my freshman year at USC —my parents found out that I had been talking to guys from Tinder. And after their discovery, I was threatened with no support of any kind and was told they wouldn’t send me across the country to fall in love with a boy. As I tried so desperately to come out to my parents, there was no way to find any sympathy or acceptance; rather, I was guilted into thinking that my sexuality would have negative effects on my family overall. I was told that my younger siblings would get bullied because they had a gay brother. That my grandmother, who held traditional conservative beliefs as most Asian ancestors do, would never be able to see past the thought of my sexuality. That being gay was aselfish choiceI had made to inconvenience everyone who had raised me. That same night I decided to repress my own sexuality and identity, living a false life until it was time to leave. Even today, I struggle with being open about this story because what I had gone through traumatized me and changed how I saw my own family. 

College: Experimentation & “Building Your Brand” 

For the first time in 18 years, I got to feel what freedom was like after moving to California from Maryland. Coming from a structured home where my parents had control over everything I did, from the classes I took to what activities I did after school, I never really got to experience the autonomy that Ineededto have in college. At school, I was allowed to experiment, see what I liked, and do things that aligned with my interests. Back in high school, I always thought my identity as a gay man meant that I had to embody the gay figure who is often exaggerated in the media. That being overly flamboyant and hyper feminine were mannerisms and attitudes that I had to mimic. But during my time at USC, I came to the realization that maybe my identity as a gay man is solely linked to my attraction to men and shouldn’t change the way I act. With the chance to date for the first time, I surrounded myself with people who were not only supportive of my goals and aspirations but also who I was as a person.  

The Inevitable Return.

When I first came back, due to the pandemic, my stepdad asked me: “You know your mom and I still don’t know if you’re gay, right?” I was shocked because I thought we had left the issue back in 2018. So I lied to secure any safety for the duration of quarantine – and here we are, one year later. I’d begun to wonder:Did they continue to love me after high school without any confirmation of my sexuality? What made my sexuality so important that it was still an issue two years later?As time goes on, it feels like I am constantly counting the times in which I don’t feel safe or when I can’t be myself. The worry or concern of being “re-outed” began to bleed into other parts of my life that revolved around my identity as a gay male. When was it okay to talk to my boyfriend on the phone? What TV shows were acceptable to watch around my family? Should I open TikTok, knowing my For You Page was curated for those of the LGBTQ+ community? How do I continue to create art when my craft centers around my identity as a gay, Asian male in a place that rebukes my sexuality? There was even a time during the elections when my mom questioned my support for the Democratic party. While I voted because I felt safer to have Joe Biden in office, there was no way to tell her I felt my rights would be threatened had I voted for the opposing party. 

You’re Not Alone. 

As I write about this experience, in secrecy behind the closed doors of my room or even at work away from my family, I’m constantly reminded of how hard it is to express myself at home. It’s not easy, having to live with attitudes that go against my identity. It’s been troubling me ever since moving back; I had spent the last two years of my life constructing the person I am today. After finding security and peace with who I’ve become — something that wasn’t achievable during my high school years — it feels like all of that progress is slowly vanishing. For me, living at home is not just pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s changing your mannerisms, the clothes you wear, the tone of your voice, and even the way you carry yourself. It’s faking interests and really thinking before you speak, so you don’t accidentally out yourself. It’s essentially going back into “the closet” in hopes that the taste of freedom you once had will come back soon. I know that I'm not the only one in this situation and that there are other people in the LGBTQ+ community who may have it harder than I do. Yet, I hope that these words and this story gives some sort of relatability to those out there who also may be struggling with going back to a home that does not accept their true self. You are not alone.