Last weekend, I received an email from a young man. What he wrote broke my heart, because I felt the pain he's in. I was in the same situation many years ago when I was around his age (even though I'm not Asian). And it took me a long time to see my way out of it.
I knew I could help this young man because of my age and experience. And I also know, from other emails I receive, this young man is not alone. There are so many gay and lesbian people out there who feel insecure, isolated, alone, confused, and lost. Who need answers. Who need hope.
For that reason, I want to share his email with you, as well as my response, which follows it (both have been edited for clarity).
If you are in a situation similar to this young man, I hope my words not only give you comfort, but also show that you are in control of the changes you need to make to improve your situation. Yes, that's right. You are. In fact, no one else can do this for you. Only you can.
Hello. Your blog, "This gay relationship“, really interests me. I have to say you are a really happy and experienced person.
Well, I am 19-year old Asian boy. I came to Canada for studying when I was 17. I feel lonely because my parents are not in Canada with me, and not a lot of people can really understand me.
What I see in media is that an Asian boy like me is considered the least attractive person in the western world. I think I will be considered ugly even when I come out.
Now, I just try to be nice and help people as much as I can so that I can make some real friends; however, culture barriers really stop me from getting some real good friends.
And I need to study extremely hard for my future career. Well, I am not rich and have to pay my tuition fee that is 3 times higher than students here. As a result, I pay so much effort on every test and exam. However, no one can mentally support me, and financial burden really drives me crazy.
Plus, I am attracted to men, which makes me insecure and confused. I am really afraid of what is going to happen if a lot of people knows I am gay. If I tell my parents, I may not receive my financial support from them.
Well, I don't have any gay friends, but just straight people, so I am pretty lonely inside. Most likely, I just go to gym, do my homework, and watch movies by myself.
I will try to go out to make friends by taking part in sports team. But I don't really feel a lot of happiness.
I never meet gays, and sometimes I may be afraid of them because most media portray them as sexual animals, even though I am one of them.
I'm kind of feeling lost. I just think I have bigger problems than usual gays do. Can you give me some suggestions on what to do?
Thank you very much for reading my problem
And here's my response:
Thank you for your interest in my blog and for having the courage to contact me. I know I can help you with the situation you're in if you do two things: remain open to what I have to say, and commit yourself to making small changes, that I know will have a big effect on your life in the long run.
Are you ready? Let's begin.
It's very telling that, at the part of your email when you begin to describe yourself, you write the following:
* "What I see in media is that Asian boy like me is considered as the least attractive person in the western world."
* "I think I will be considered as ugly even though I came out."
I want you to read these two lines several times, because, at the risk of over-simplifying, they unlock the key to your problem, or to the biggest part of it. Let me explain.
The fact is, how you think you look, in relation to the western world, is at the core of how you feel about yourself. And how you feel about yourself directly affects how you relate to the world around you, specifically, to other people. In other words, you think you're ugly–a strong, hard word, by the way, that I know, even without meeting you, shouldn't be used to describe you–so you present yourself to the world as someone who is ugly, and the world responds to you in that way.
The world around you knows you think you're ugly. You might not realize or believe that, but it's true. And, as long as you think you're ugly, the world will continue looking at you the same way. It's the law of karma: What we put out there is what we get back, often many times over. I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard of that.
What you might not realize is the opposite is also true. If you think you're attractive or handsome or good looking–even if, at first, you don't believe it in your heart one hundred percent–the world will respond to you as if you are, to the degree that you feel that way. Because here's what happens: when you change how you feel about yourself, you send out a different energy, an energy of being confident and secure and comfortable with who you are, and that energy attracts people to you.
Maybe it will only happen a little at first, and you might hardly realize it, but it's there. You'll be more visible to other people, people who, like you, will see you more realistically, instead of as the ugly young man you think you are now. And the more positive you feel about yourself, the more positive people around you will respond to you.
Do you see how you control that? Do you see how, if you change how you feel about yourself, the people you come into contact with every day will see you the same way as well?
And what's so heartening about this process is, you only have to take that first step. You don't have to do it all at once. You don't have to go from, one day, thinking you're ugly, to the next day thinking you're attractive. I call it a baby step, because, at first, you take it with some doubt and reservation. You've never done it before, and, understandably, you're not sure it'll work. But at least you're willing to give it a try. And, by giving it a try, you begin to change not only yourself, but everything around you. For the better.
And here's the good news that I'm anxious to share with you: You can do this for yourself; it's completely within your control. How you feel about yourself comes from within you, not outside of you (so forget about what you think Western media says about how unattractive Asian people are). No one else can make you feel better about yourself. No one. I hope you see that as good news too, because you don't have to rely on anyone to make it happen. You don't have to pay a bunch of money to make it happen (in fact, it's absolutely free). And you can begin to make it happen today, starting right now, this very second. It's yours if you want it. You only have to want it badly enough to make the initial shift in how you think and feel about yourself, and remain committed to further improvement.
It took me many years to learn this lesson. I wasted so much time thinking I was ugly too, and that no one would ever pay attention to me. I felt like I was invisible, because I had so few friends, and I never believed, in a million years, I'd ever find someone who wanted to be with me, who might actually fall in love with me. I never believed that could happen. And, as long as I didn't believe it could happen, it never would.
It wasn't until I took those first few baby steps that I began turning my life around. It took time, it didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. And look where I am today. As you write, I'm happy and I'm experienced. Yes, I am. And you will be too, one day, when you listen to and understand my words, and realize, for perhaps the very first time, what a truly wonderful and worthwhile human being you are. Because you are. You must begin to believe that. I wouldn't say it unless it's true. You know how I know it's true? Because all of us are truly wonderful and worthwhile human beings. And that's a fact.
Now, let's take a look at the other issues you raise, and you'll see how they're all connected to how you see and feel about yourself. Every last one of them.
You say you have few friends. I've never had many, either. But you don't need a lot of friends; you just need a few good ones. And, when you feel better about yourself, and project that new and improved you out into the world, you'll have a much better chance of meeting new people and making new friends. Because people will notice you more when you believe you are worth noticing. You'll feel more confident about approaching people and introducing yourself. And people will like the kind of person you are, how you come across to them, and will want to spend time with you. That's how friendships start.
I understand how scary it might be when you think about the possibility of other people finding out you're gay. All of us feel the same way, once we've finally accepted our own gayness and want to share the truth of who we are with those who are important to us.
If this is not a good time to tell your parents about your sexual orientation–for financial reasons or otherwise–then don't. You don't have to come out to anyone until you are good and ready. Eventually, the right time will present itself, and you'll know it when that is. I'm sure it won't be easy to tell your parents you're gay–it isn't for most of us, so we all have that in common–but it will be an enormous relief. And it will be so much easier to understand, accept, and help them through it when you feel good about yourself and know there is nothing wrong with you.
Until then, you're in control. Use that to your advantage. Reveal the truth about who and what you are only when you feel it's safe to. And only to those who really need to know. You're just nineteen years old. Give yourself time to figure out how and when you want to do it, and go from there.
As far as meeting other gay people, my guess is that you attend a university in a large Canadian city. To my knowledge, most large universities have some kind of a campus gay and lesbian society or association. I'd be surprised if the one you attend doesn't (unless it's a religious university, in which case, you'll find that much more challenging). Make some enquiries about this society or association–when and where they meet, if they hold dances or activity nights, and so on.
Because your parents don't live in Canada, you should feel free to explore what this society or association has to offer. And, yes, I realize you're a conscientious student and need to spend a good deal of your time studying. But you also need to make it a priority to get out and meet new people. Otherwise, you'll spend the rest of your life watching movies by yourself. And you don't want that to happen, do you?
You mention that you try to meet people by engaging in sports activities that you're not particularly interested in. Then stop doing them. First, you shouldn't get involved in anything for the primary reason of meeting new people. That may be a great side benefit of getting out and doing things, but, in the end, you should do what you want to because you're interested in it. If sports don't do it for you, try something else. Be creative about how you use your limited free time, and check out all the options available to you where you live, both on campus and off.
On the subject of being afraid to meet other gay men, because the media portrays them as sexual animals, I had the very same concern when I was your age and much older. And that kept me isolated from the gay community for many years. So let me tell you this. I won't pretend there aren't some gay men who are hyper-sexual. There are. And, as much as you and I may not like it–or even be afraid of it–there's nothing we can do to change them. If that's what's important to them, or what they choose to do with their time, so be it. You and me–we don't have to be a part of it if we don't want to.
To a degree, the idea that gay men are sexual animals is something of a generalization and a stereotype too. I've met plenty of decent, respectful, and fun-loving gay men over the years, and not all of them were interested in knowing me because they wanted to have sex with me. Some just wanted to be friends, and they were some of the best friends I ever had. So be open to that.
If you encounter someone who's a little pushy and wants you for something you're not prepared to do, be in control. Respect yourself enough to know what your boundaries are. If you're not interested, tell him. Then move on. When you feel better about yourself–see, what I wrote above helps you even with this–you are less fearful of the unknown and better able to respond in a way that's consistent with who you are as an individual. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and to tell someone to back off, if necessary.
Finally, you write that you think you have bigger problems than most gays do. Man, are you wrong there. When I read your letter, I related to it completely.
At your age, I was much worse off than you are now. At least you've accepted that you're gay. I was still seven years away from doing that–seven of the hardest, most miserable years of my life. And I wasn't Asian, I was Caucasian. Not only did I hate the way I looked, but I pretty much hated everything about myself. I had no reason to, but you couldn't have told me that then. I wouldn't have listened to you.
But I'm asking you to listen to me now. There's nothing wrong with you. You're Asian, nineteen, and gay. So what? What you don't realize, but, one day, you will, is you're remarkable and amazing and beautiful, in your very own, unique way. No one can be you as well as you can. No one. And you're here to be that. That is your purpose.
I can't tell you the number of emails I've received over the years from young men just like you, in countries on every continent, who tell me more or less the same thing you did. They're of every ethnicity, and they're confused and lost. It's clear to me from their words that almost all of them hate themselves for one reason or another, and, consistently, I share with them the same advice I shared with you.
You are not alone. And you will get through this. How do I know? Because I was you, all those years ago. And I got through it. So, if I can, you can.