In classic fairytales, the princess would meet the prince, and through overcoming evil or learning an important life lesson, they would live happily ever after. They’d never have to worry about filing taxes on time, dealing with severe droughts, or even the potential hidden danger of consuming genetically-modified soybeans.
My coming out process was supposed to be the story. In a conservative Chinese family, the protagonist realized the value of truth and self-worth, and risked everything to be himself. Fueled by cultural differences, there was a dramatic clash with his parents but through the power of love, everyone came together, saw past their differences, and learned a valuable life lesson. And like the end of every fairytale, having gone through everything I’m supposed to end up with this new found confidence and everything else in my life should fall neatly into place, including my very own happily ever after ending!
But as it turns out, coming out the closet was only the prologue to my story. TL;DR — I’m a friggin’ homo, now what? Turns out, being a gay man is a lot more than just being attracted to your own gender. If only.
It was January 29th, and the year was 1999. I was sixteen at the time, and there was a giant “Publish” button staring at me. My heart was jumping out of my chest, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, clicked the button, and exhale. Within a minute my website went live, along with my first online journal entry.
“…I was very mad throughout the day until I went to a supermarket, and saw 2 really (really) good looking men, European accent, WOW! My mood changed sooo fast!!” it read.
Poorly written and embarrasingly hormonal, but just like that, I finally came out to myself — I’m gay.
Years later I found myself feeling the same way, this time with the Ingredients of Fear. The idea of opening up to talking about my darkest fears is a powerful one, but the actual process of doing so is also incredibly scary and probably really dumb. So there I was, with the giant “Publish” button back and staring right in front of me, daring me to click on it…
It was about 13 years ago since I first watched the British version of Queer as Folk, something that led to my coming out that very summer. I was 16.
Not completely out at the time, the 15-year old Nathan character was loitering in the gay district of Manchester, UK, and eventually got picked up by the much older, very sexual Stuart where the story began. Nathan didn’t just come out of the closet — he flat out exploded out of the closet, and at the time that was something I thought I had to do in my conservative Chinese family. There was just no other way.
But as much as I was trying to relate to Nathan (mostly due to our similarity in age), it was Vince, Stuart’s best friend, who completely captivated me. Geeky, handsome, and a constant giver to Stuart, it was Vince that I was most related to. Being 16 at the time, Vince seemed like the perfect man, not to mention someone I hope to eventually become.
Just recently, Queer as Folk was brought on to Netflix, and in the past week I’ve been re-watching, and re-living, the entire series.
I don’t think there’s anyone in my life, other than my friend Florent, who will quite understand my obsession with Vince. 13 years since finishing the series, I can still recite most of Vince’s dialogues. (“There’s always some new bloke, some better bloke, just waiting around the corner. That’s why you keep going out.”) He’s just as geeky, charming, and relatable as the first time I saw him on my Aiwa 12″ CRT television-VCR combo I picked up at Costco with my then-clueless dad.
Then something happened. I was surprised to find out that Stuart and Vince were not “much older” as I initially had in mind. They were actually 29. I’m 29.
Looking at where I am in life, it’s not a far-fetch to say that, Stuart aside, I have pretty much become Vince. I may not be as big of a Doctor Who fan as he is, but in terms of hitting that geeky, adorable, “I’m everybody’s friend” niche, there are at times little difference between watching him on the show and staring at myself in the mirror. (My closest friends even call me Wins for Pete’s sake.)
Stuart: You’ve done nothing Vince. You go to work, you go for a drink, you sit and watch cheap science fiction. Small and tiny world. What’s so impressive about that, what’s there to love? Vince: …yeah. Stuart: It was good enough for me.
Now, I know — there’s nothing wrong with being everybody’s friend. But there is also this side of Vince I’ve never noticed before. The part where he’s full of insecurities and how he’s constantly picking up after Stuart. What I once saw as commitment and loyalty I am now reminded of that line from Train’s Drop of Jupiter: …a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.
Vince: Unrequited love. It’s fantastic, ’cause it never has to change, it never has to grow up and it never has to die!
Of course, not all is bad. At the end of the day I am my own person. I have my faults just as much as my strengths, just like Vince and everybody else on the face of this blue planet. For every blunder I’ve had in the past, I’ve also had an equal amount of accomplishments with my family, my career, and in myself. The fact that I’m openly writing about my sexuality (and also sharing the link on Twitter & Facebook where my friends, family, and co-workers will see) is something I could not do even a couple years before.
Who were you at 16 and who are you now? It’s easy to think you’re still that nervous, insecure child, stagnant of any growth. But just like most things you create, it’s sometimes more helpful to give it some room and come back to look with a fresh pair of eyes. You’ll be surprised to see just how much you’ve grown.
Winson Shuen works at IGN but is not an editor. All opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not represent his employer by any means. You can follow him on Twitter @vdot90.