Silence Equals Death

By Ken

As APIs, there are many of us who have been raised in families who would rather die than let family secrets out into the open. Invariably, extended family members somehow find out. The omnipresent veil of secrecy incites speculation instead of quashing it.

Within my own extended family there’s been gambling, theft arrests, abortions, forced adoptions from teenage pregnancy, homelessness, and drug use.  Big deal. We all survived. I’d like to think that we took responsibility for our actions and moved on, or at least strove to. We never claimed to be perfect.

Korean singer and actor Choi Jin Young died by hanging yesterday in an apparent suicide. His famous sister, actress Choi Jin Shil, also committed suicide two years earlier. She was supposedly embroiled in a financial scandal with actor Ahn Jae-hwan, who killed himself a month before her suicide.

Some say rampant web rumors about the scandal drove Choi Jin Sil to kill herself while others accused her of being a loan shark who demanded repayment from Ahn for a $2 million dollar loan. Her pressure on Ahn, these net attacks claim, led to his suicide.

On the other hand, many of America’s big scandals of late seem to be shortly followed by all sides coming out with books and national event-interviews. They act quickly to dispel what they deem false truths from becoming part of the national fabric.

I’ve always thought that remaining silent tells volumes, and that while vicious lies are spread, the honorable stay mum. But with the onset of these events, I’m learning that silence seldom works for public consumption. As someone who is the focus of lies spread by a well-known community person, I can either strike back or let it eat away at me.

“Silence = Death” was the slogan for ACT UP, an AIDS advocacy and awareness group in the late 80s and mid-90s, and it still applies today. I’m not claiming to know or understand the intricate situation with the suicides of these three Korean celebrities, but I do know that keeping something welled inside can lead to disease and/or death.

Silence impacts more than the immediate. Ricky Martin just came out yesterday after years of speculation. Though Barbara Walters suggested that she destroyed his career by her interviews in which she pressed him about his sexuality, I wonder if it was actually his evasion to her questions. Similarly, Rosie O’Donnell came out just two months before ending her daytime TV show.

Imagine the dialogue that could have happened about the sexiest singer of the time being gay or the extremely liked, respected, rich, popular, generous woman who was also lesbian. That dialogue died with their silence. We can only wonder how many more could have been spoken out had they found inspiration by those in the public eye.

Ken Choy is an actor, writer, community organizer, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten-free.

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