Family Disoriented Man: Accepting Yourself in a Traditional Asian Household

I grew up in a household where all the boys sported either bowl cuts or mullets. Yes, I said it, my brother had a mullet. This was the default hairstyle: you either had to be a victim of a medium sized bowl or the victim of a very shaky barber.

Growing up in a traditional Asian household is difficult, especially when you’re Asian American and your parents aren’t. Growing up being a gay Asian American is even more difficult.

I remember feeling different when I was a kid; then again, that statement is overused by a lot of people. Let me rephrase that. I remember feeling gay when I was a kid and not knowing what it meant. Was it some kind of confusion that society rejected? Was something wrong with me? I had all these questions and no one to go to.

My mother was a traditional, conservative woman who valued family and doing the right thing, while my father was a war veteran who valued hard work and dedication. Naturally they thought they’d raise a hard working, dedicated, family oriented son, but they were so wrong. In our tradition, you had to finish high school, find a job, get married and have a family. Looks like I defied all of their wishes.

My childhood wasn’t all full of family dinners and attending birthday parties; it was full of seclusion and loneliness. Being a gay Asian American kid, I didn’t have any outlets; I didn’t have anyone to turn to because the people who I wanted to go to were homophobes. I got
horrible grades in elementary school up until high school because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with all the negativity. I was not athletic as the other kids, didn’t have friends and got teased because I was a “loner.”

I spent most of my time in my room, buried and comforted in the world of final fantasy and rock music. My whole day would restart: I’d get up and go to school, hate every minute of it, come home and turn on the PlayStation and escape to a world I knew would accept me.

It felt as if the world didn’t want to accept me and rejected every effort I made. My siblings would use derogatory words referencing gay people, kids at my school verbally bashed and made fun of other kids who they thought were gay. Everywhere I looked, it seemed as if gay people were disgusting.

When I finally came out, my mother would pressure me into meeting a nice Asian girl and get married. My father did not even give me the time of day; he just simply denied my existence. And my siblings kept their distances and remained quiet when the topic came up.

However, the moment I came out to my friends, they were more than supportive. They did not care whether I was gay or not, they already knew who I was. They were my glimmer of light in a very dark tunnel.

After years of struggling and self loathe, hating everything I was, I accepted not only my sexuality but my flaws as well. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school I came out. I kicked open the closet and never went back in.

Although, bad childhood or not, I am glad that I got to experience all of those things. Looking back, it shaped who I am today. I am a much stronger, dedicated, open-minded person. I find inspiration in everyone I meet and beauty in life. I’m an artist, I’m a writer, I’m a reader, but most of all, I’m human. Even I found strength in the most uncommon places, I hope that this will inspire and reach the kids who are struggling with their identity. I hope they’ll find some sort of hope through my experiences and live on.

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About Mike Saechao

Hi everyone. I'm a Mien-Asian American guy born and raised in Sacramento. What's Mien? Even I have a hard time explaining that, to put in short, south-eastern Chinese. I'm a big fan of all sorts of music and you'll probably find me at some coffee shop blasting music, reading books or browsing the internet for stuff to write about.
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