Embracing My Identity

I grew up trying to hide my immigrant, Asian identity. As if my black hair, yellow skin, and native dialect were parts of myself that I should be ashamed of. I curated elements that would form a seemingly perfect personality to blend in and fend off any wandering thoughts on my natural gravitation towards boys. Society conditioned me to keep my head down and as the years passed, the higher the numbing—concrete walls grew around me. Behind those walls, I nurtured a dynamic, complex, empathetic person.

Being a writer at heart, I was able to release my emotions, thoughts and experiences through the creation of words paired delicately on paper. Writing has always been a consistent source of comfort for me. There’s something beautiful about being able to read, relive and feel something a previous version of “you” wrote years ago — almost like flipping through a little book of secrets that only you can understand.

I don’t think we focus on self-love nearly enough, especially gay Asian men. As a gay person, we live in a society where we are told to stay hidden in the shadows and that topics about us are taboo—reinforcing the idea that our stories aren’t cozy, campfire stories. It creates this false perception that our stories are all about sex, or pain, and meant to be kept in the dark. Similarly, as an Asian immigrant, we are raised to swallow our guilt, to bite our tongues, and to not cause waves. We were taught to fit in and just accept the cards that are dealt to us.

Now as an adult, I know that we need to prioritize our own self-love and ask ourselves what it truly feels like to love ourselves, and to be proud of who we are. Not for the sake of making ourselves appear one way or another, but being really happy to be who we are—with our own qualities, our values.

— GN