Friday, March 10, 2006

Asians, stigma and being gay (blah, blah, blah)

So I got an e-mail from this one social group that I belong to, GAMX, that someone in the group had passed away unexpectedly. I didn't really know him all that well, except I do remember chatting with him briefly at a couple of functions, but it was a shock because I think he was quite a bit younger than me. The one thing that raised my eyebrows was the way that the family described his death: he had moved to be with his family a while ago, but had been sick for two weeks. He then went to bed one night, and never woke up. Other details of his death weren't divulged.

It's been the 4th time that someone I've known who was gay and Asian has passed and the circumstances of his death weren't discussed, or if anything, the family tries to hide the circumstances as much as possible and does all the rituals as fast as possible so that no one will ask too many questions. Twice, it was because of suicide due to mental illness; one because of an accident and the family didn't want other people to know that he had died with his partner in a car accident; and one because of "illness," presumably HIV-related.

If anything, it really makes me upset that so many of our families (API or otherwise) still have such strong stigmas attached to being queer, and it particularly doesn't help that these people died because of noncompliance in regards to management of their mental illnesses, or that a family refuses to discuss what exactly would kill a healthy 20-something guy who had no known history of health problems. It also makes me grateful that my family, for the most part, acknowledges my queerness and respects my issues and privacy (if also because I keep them at arm's length and tell them things on a need-to-know basis) and that I don't have problems discussing most personal and social issues with my family if the subject ever comes up.

How much do we hide away and keep from our families just to maintain some sort of tortured normality? Why can't we talk about our being queer? Why can't we talk about our mental health or other health issues? What are we trying to gain by pretending?

It's something that I've been thinking about a lot, especially since the people I've met who've left us are often buried with a blanket of lies and deception over them, and those of us who are living are left wondering what the point of maintaining it is and how (hopefully) we can live our lives freeing ourselves from those restrictions.

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