What are your hopes and dreams for me?
You’ve worked so hard to build a life for both of us in a new country. Your eyebags carry the weight of the nights you stayed awake drafting business plans in your head. Your hands are marked with wrinkles no amount of serums and creams can erase. You stumble over cumbersome English words in order to bridge the language gap between us. For you and everything you have done, no amount of words, actions or gifts could express how grateful I am.
I know you expect some returns for all the time, money and effort you invested in me. I suppose that’s expected, with you being a businesswoman and all. I know you would be proud if I became a doctor or a lawyer, something you could brag about to your friends. But I know you would be equally proud of me if I pursued something of my own choosing. You’ve always supported my whispered dreams of becoming a writer and allowed me to explore my interests. No matter what I do, I know you would want me to be happy.
But what if my happiness causes you pain?
Remember when we watched Billy Porter hosting the pre-Academy Awards interviews on TV? You know him as the “Black gay guy in the golden dress.” You scoffed at his choice of clothing and mocked his voice. I could only stare with envy at his dress and the way he pulled it off flawlessly. He stood tall as if all the hatred in the world couldn’t ruffle his golden-feathered, sleeveless, turtleneck top. He stood proud as if the coat of arms printed on his burnt orange skirt could protect him from criticism.
If my existence was a defiance of social norms, I wanted to defy them in style.
Pointing to the screen, I asked you what the Chinese word for gay was.
同性戀, you said. (同, meaning same. 性, meaning sex. 戀 meaning love. Love as in love, as is not a sin or a crime, but love.)
Hesitantly, I asked you what the word for bisexual was.
雙性戀, you said. Why do you ask?
Do you wonder what I daydream about? You always tell me to pay attention to the road, and I try, I really do. But I can’t help it — why stick with the routine of reality when my imagination offers me a chance to experience things real life can’t offer? Whenever the car is filled with the sounds of microaggressions escalating into fights, I slip off into a world of my own creation. A blank canvas awaits to be filled with a rainbow of colours. Using bold brushstrokes, I paint a more confident version of myself and watch her spring to life.
One time, I tried imagining what it would be like if I came out to you, and you were okay with it. I reached for my art supplies only to realize that the paint had dried on the palette and the paintbrush tip had hardened.
Somehow a daydream of me riding a dragon, saving a kingdom and marrying the crown princess was more realistic than imagining a world where you accepted me unconditionally.
Just so you know, I tried being straight for as long as I could. I told myself that it was perfectly normal for straight girls to question their sexuality. It’s not gay to imagine myself kissing my female friends, right?
Maybe there is a way to settle for a compromise. I could live out my gayness in secret during my twenties and then settle down with a nice, well-off Chinese boy in my thirties. Heck, maybe that’s what I’ll do. I don’t care if I’m “living a lie;” if this means that I will have a family to turn to at the end of the day, I’ll do it. I might even fall for this guy. I am bisexual, after all. Who’s to say?
You say that I should always be prepared. That’s why I come up with worst-case scenarios in my head so I know what to do when the time comes. In the corner of my mind, a roughly sketched out plan sits on top of a pile of books.
If things go bad, I plan to turn to either Uncle Kevin or Mary. While Uncle is a bit homophobic, he’s always taken care of me. Mary is probably the safer option, as she is my cousin, a generation removed from our parents and likely more accepting of my sexuality. However, I can’t imagine living out these situations permanently. The last thing I want to become is a burden to someone. They didn’t sign up to take care of an extra child. When you and Dad decided to have me, at least you knew what you were getting into. To an extent, I suppose. Having gay children probably wasn’t part of the plan.
I’m genuinely scared that my backup plans will fail and that I will be met with nothing but cold shoulders and closed doors. I’m falling, Mom. Who will be there to catch me?
How many times will I have to come out to you for you to understand? Personally, I think it will take more than three times. Once to introduce the idea to you. Twice to confirm that this isn’t a phase. Three times to get you to understand that I don’t need therapy or anyone to “fix” me. By then, who will you blame for how I turned out? My “bad” friends? Gay representation in the media? Western society for enforcing the idea that being gay is okay?
Will you mourn for the destruction of traditional values? Will you mourn for the grandchildren you might never have?
Do you know that I will love you no matter what? Even if you disowned me and threw me on the streets, a part of me will still yearn for the mother I knew. You’re the woman who has raised me to become a person I can be proud of; you instilled your trademark work ethic and determination in me and championed my dreams. You are the world to me because you brought me into this world.
When you say “I love you” now with a smile I’ve grown fond of, I wonder if that will still hold up if you know the truth. Perhaps that’s why I find it so hard to sincerely say “I love you” back. Because it hurts loving someone who you know will not — no, cannot — love you.
Do you know what my hopes and dreams are for you?
I hope that you continue to try out all the hobbies that interest you. You claim that you’re too busy taking care of us, but now that my brother and I are older, you’re free to experience the part of life you put on hold for years. So go on, put on those ballet shoes and twirl across the floor.
I hope that you find happiness, wherever it may be. After all the hardships you’ve been through, you deserve to smile.
I hope that you will remember that I will always love you. Despite the arguments or disagreements we may have, nothing you do or say can make me hate you.
I hope that I will make you proud, so when people talk about me, you are proud to call yourself my mom.
Will I still be able to call you that? Will I still be your daughter?
Why I Wrote This Piece
This submission is part of the “Write to Discover” program. I wrote this piece to deal with my fears and anxieties about coming out to my family. I don’t know if writing this makes me feel less anxious about it, but one day, it might be nice to look back on this piece (obviously depending on what happens in the future, I’m not a fortune teller).