When the author revealed his sexuality, things got a lot worse before they got better.
Some odd years ago, I was born and, then, immigrated to the United States with my family. I went to public grade schools. I grew up with a mom, a dad and a sibling. I lived in a house that had a tree in the front yard. I rode bikes. I took piano lessons. I went trick-or-treating for Halloween. On October 31, 2010, I went trick-or-treating for the last time. It wasn’t because I grew up and became too old. It was because I grew up and told my parents I am gay.
“It Gets Better” was a campaign that was running all over the internet back then. Neil Patrick Harris was the main face of that movement. He told young LGBTQ+ people that the struggles they were dealing with were only temporary—that “It Gets Better.” He in his fancy suit, on TV, telling me that in three, six, ten years: It gets better. I looked at him first with envy, thinking how lucky he was to be able to live his life without fear, without prejudice. He and his fancy suit, perfect haircut, white smile, and eyes that looked like they had never expressed sadness. I sat in my worn-down pajamas, with an awkward body that I was still growing into, just trying to think about what life would be like without prejudice.
“We would rather have a straight and homeless son, than a gay and successful one.” These 15 words were uttered to me on October 31, 2010, and are forever etched into my mind, physically branded into my skin as a reminder, and repeated on every day I go on.
I think maybe Neil forgot to include “sometimes never” in his commentary. Sometimes it might never get better. Sometimes it might take a lifetime. Sometimes. Never. Just never. Of course, time is relative, 2010 was ten years ago. But it seems like yesterday. I’m reminded of it every time I take my shirt off. I walked on eggshells for what seemed like forever. Unsure of what tomorrow will bring. Maybe suicide?
In the fall of 2013, I was ready to rebrand myself. I received a couple of college scholarships, but there was a gap that I had to fill. My family is notorious for being competitive, especially among family members. I could not be the one person—the eldest child out of all my immediate cousins—to not go to school, or culturally worse, go to a community college. I had to take out student loans. I had no choice. It was shame.
Then, I fell in love for the very first time. I was very happy. What is love? I am of the opinion that people in the LGBTQ+ community are five to ten years behind our heterosexual counterparts when it comes to love: simply because we did not have the same opportunities. Then I fell out of love—mostly due to struggling with figuring out who I am, what my identity is.
“We would rather have a straight and homeless son, than a gay and successful one.” Success is a finicky thing. It’s different for different people, what a cliché thing to write. Neil Patrick Harris was wrong. It doesn’t get better. Why me?
I had two choices: Either continue to feel down, or to keep my head up and pull myself up. Whatever happened to rebranding myself? I focused on my goals, my dreams, my hopes, my livelihood.
Ten years after coming out of the closet as gay, Neil Patrick Harris was right. It got better. Much better. As I am writing this, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I am sitting on a Zoom call with a slew of friends I've made throughout the years. I am still learning more about who I am. Originally I thought it got better in 2013 when I went to college. Then I thought it got better in 2016 when I fell in love. Now it’s even better in 2020. It will always get better, this isn’t the end: If it is, then I’ve lived a very sad life. My relationship with my parents has gotten better. I need to apologize to Neil Patrick Harris for hating him so many years ago. I’m sorry. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s loads better than before. It definitely got better. Why? Because of me.