Behind the mask

Hiding my true identity as a queer Asian American.


Art: Esther Li

*Anthro is publishing this column anonymously at the request of the writer, a student at Palo Alto High School.

In Asian culture, you’re taught to respect and never disagree with your elders. I respected them, in my own non-traditional way. In conversation-turned-arguments about “controversial” topics with my parents, I always said something, while also trying to be discreet about it and not out myself. However, in the year I’ve spent at home, I’ve learned that it’s better to give in to the argument and let them have their way — for now.

Throughout my life, I have tried to have conversations about difficult topics — Black Lives Matter, misinformation, sexuality, gender, and much more. Even in hypotheticals, my parents were visually uncomfortable with queer people, and the thought that their children wouldn’t be straight was too difficult to even think about.

However, in recent years — as I saw more of the world — I finally felt okay with my sexuality. I am still figuring out my label, or if I even need a label, but I was okay with the fact that I liked both boys and girls.

I can’t explain to them that their open discomfort with queer people prevents me from being my whole self.

Today, my parents’ comfort with freely expressing their discomfort for queer people is higher than ever. Every time it comes up, there’s always some passing judgement about queer people being “unnatural.”

I can’t explain to them why I’m crying when I talk about how someone’s sexual orientation shouldn’t matter. I can’t explain to them how much it hurts me to know that they’ll never meet my significant other if I bring home someone of my gender. I can’t explain to them that their open discomfort with queer people prevents me from being my whole self.

So I don’t.

In the past year of being stuck at home, I’ve learned that it’s okay not to educate your family members. It’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to not engage with ignorant comments if they hurt you.

As a first-generation Asian American, I know it’s difficult to change the older generation’s views. Instead of trying to change the past, I urge you, my peers, to educate yourselves — not just about queer topics, but all “controversial” topics. The last generation strove for tolerance, let’s strive for acceptance.