Outwards & Upwards
by Anying Guo
It starts with a Google search in the dark to differentiate whether you want to be her or be with her. It’s almost laughable, the way your eyes dart to make sure your mother isn’t standing behind you, your fingers trembling as they hover over the backlit keyboard, seeking an answer to this feeling you already know.
I’ve spent hours on end researching it in the context of my life and somehow, the pit seems to be growing larger and more hollow, rather than the opposite. Saying it out loud to myself used to be the hardest part, until I began to vocalize it in the most cliché places I can think of; staring at myself in my bathroom mirror, to the backs of passing strangers, while watching coming out videos onYouTube. With every whispered revelation about my sexuality, I selfishly wonder how much easier it is for some people to tell their loved ones than others. I think about how this truth of mine will never manifest outside of this space.
Those moments are the worst; I draft text messages, write volleyed transcripts, act out what I will say to my parents until a pang of reality hits and I realize the consequences. The way people’s faces fall when I tell them why I can’t tell my family, murmurings of “I’m sorry, that must be so hard” continually replay in my mind, because that’s all they can do. It’s better to live in people’s sympathy than to venture into unmapped territory.
There are countless variations of the same question I’ve typed into Google, hoping for some semblance of an answer, but the web turns up nothing but stitched clichés on dot net sites, boasting the eventual acceptance that will always outweigh the presentness of weighted disbelief and veiled hate.
What’s worse is that when I google something that’s a bit more specific and tailored, say, “how to come out to immigrant parents” or “Asian parents lgbt kids,” things get dicier. Sexuality becomes drenched in cultural expectation. Who you are to them and who you are to yourself has been pre-determined. Their sacrifices got you where you are today. Grateful and selfish are words that are ingrained and entwined in your daily vocabulary. You never want to erase those reminders. You don’t want to. You wish you weren’t like this. And you wish you could help it. (You can’t.)
And when you crack this egg of information on to those expectations, it will undoubtedly seep in to everything they say, think, or act towards you. It will be a stain that will leave an indelible mark on them, you, and the relationship you have.
I am more frightened that I will come up with a disproportionate amount of cringe-worthy metaphors to describe my fear than I am of coming out, quite honestly.
My parents taught me to never compromise parts of my identity so you can fit someone’s mold. It was a lesson that was based in a 5,000-year history and then some.They’ve always been careful with not imposing their expectations on to me, but it slipped in sometimes, through the years of forced piano lessons, fights about my major, my choice in not so conservative clothes. But the bisexual thing may be a little out of those leagues.
Right now, I can’t begin to process how I will, if I ever, tell my parents I’m a bit gay. A smidge. Like, a tablespoon. Not too much, but enough for me to need to tell you. Actually, on second thought, this is en-bee-dee, no big deal, and forget I ever brought it up. Woah, hey, wow look at that Boy with the great arms and the substantial height? I’ve never seen one of him around here before. What do you mean, you want to talk about this more? I’ve forgotten what I said. You know me, your very straight daughter, the catch-22 of forgetfulness and recollection. Don’t worry about it in the slightest. Yeah, don’t worry, I’m kidding. April Fool’s is just a few months off, is all.
Here’s the thing: I have to remind myself each day that coming out is a concept that is not required in my acceptance of my sexuality. Coming out has become a narrative that is associated with the Norm, but it’s one that does not fit every person; mixed in with other intersections, it’s not always possible.
It’s okay, I have to tell myself. I have control over how I want parts of my identity to be broadcast or not. It’s a new layer of independence I haven’t been used to in a world that seemingly forces transparency. Knowing that I don’t have to compromise my cultural background and my sexuality is a choice that I get to make every day. Sometimes that’s the biggest bravery.
Anying Guo (she, her, hers) is a senior at American University majoring in journalism and minoring in business and literature. Somehow that strange trio covers her personality pretty well. She urges you to listen to your instincts and to allow yourself the freedom to be comfortable, at all times, and thanks you for reading.