I was always an outsider – both inside of my home and outside in the world. Raised in the Bay Area suburbs, we were among the first Chinese Families to move into the small suburb of Moraga in the early 70’s. We treaded carefully as we navigated the 97% white community. At about age 6 I realized that I was gay – absolutely not acceptable either in the homogenous suburbs nor the inside a Chinese family’s home.
I made a deliberate decision to keep my sexuality a secret. But there was yet another twist, one with no roadmap. I was adopted! As was my sister. And she was Gay too, what are the chances? I resented God – hated Him for creating an impossible situation.
My struggle for identity was overwhelmed by the overtly hostile homophobia that pervaded the 70’s and 80’s. Harassed constantly at school, I came home to an abusive Father who joined the cacophony of name calling including insults I could not even comprehend. “Mahu” for example, which means “homosexual” or “hermaphrodite” in some cultures. There was no reprieve for me, no safe place to express myself. Hatred and insults came at me from every direction. I learned people were much more homophobic than racist. My Asian straight peers were much more readily accepted than me. A gay person was ostracized, demeaned and tormented. An Asian person was more benign; something to be dismissed. But an adopted person? That can be hidden. Invisible. Put on the back burner of the crisis and to be dealt with later.
I met my birthmother when I was a Junior in college, and it was an immediate welcome relief. She was SO much like me! Artistic, forward-thinking and accepting she was the opposite of the conservative, unforgiving world I had been living in. We became the best of friends.
It was devastating to bury her a few years ago, 30 years after I met her. In retrospect I can say my struggles, despite the indifference, abuse and cruelty I endured, has made me a stronger, better and certainly more interesting person than my any previous version of myself. I know the journey of identity is a gift and despite the pain and despair it was both beautiful and joyous. My resentment has dissipated – And for that I am grateful.