Growing up Chinese American in today’s society is nothing special – there is nothing hugely diverse about being an Asian American in higher education. I am the only child of two engineers, both of whom have their Ph.D. I’m supposed to be the “model minority”. I am expected to maintain order, peace and harmony. I am expected to get good grades, find a nice man to marry, and achieve great things. I don’t receive any help from being this minority. In fact, Asian Americans are held to a much higher standard than any other minority. I grew up being told exactly which classes to take, which schools to apply to, what extra-curriculars to involve myself with, and, when the right time came- and not a moment before- exactly what kind of man I was expected to marry.
I never had a problem with being guided through a perfect life. It was easy to follow along with exactly what my family wanted for me, especially because in doing so, I was maintaining the order and peace at home, along with making my family proud. I could have spent my entire life blindly following tradition, had I not met N. He came at a strange intersection in my life, when I was beginning to enter the world outside of my conservative home. He was wild. Gay, an artist, and without a care in the world. N encouraged me to value my own individuality and pursue my own happiness. He taught me to break free from the chains of trying to be the “model minority”. N helped me come out to myself.
Of course, I couldn’t come out at home. Doing so would disrupt the harmony and pride I had worked so hard to maintain. It went against everything I knew to create such chaos at home. As I learned more about my sexuality, and as I became more comfortable with who I was, I fought more and more with the conflicting feelings of staying true to myself and upholding my family’s honor and ideals.
I came up with what I thought was a genius solution when I moved over a thousand miles away to attend University. I began to live a double life. While at school, I was free to be as queer as I wanted. I could wear my snapback, kiss my girlfriend, and yell loud support for the LGBTQ community. However, over breaks, back at home, I could still maintain the image of being the “model minority”. I would carefully deflect questions about boyfriends, smile at the family friends bringing their “son just my age” over, and be that perfect daughter that my family wanted.
It is not an ideal situation, but it is one that works. I may wear my sexuality as a badge of honor, but I do the same with my race. I can confidently say that I am a queer Asian American. It doesn’t come without consequences — I do feel that I cannot be my whole self at home. Hiding such a large aspect of my being does take a toll. On top of that, identifying as a gay Asian woman creates discriminations even within my separate communities. But this is who I am.
I may never be able to come out at home. My family may never know of this part of who I am. And my LGBTQ peers will never fully understand my refusal to disrupt the peace and order by coming out at home. But I will always know that I am a queer Chinese American. I not only wear both badges separately with pride, but I wear the intersection of the two with honor.