The World Behind Closed Doors (part 7)

1 12 2011

This went on for weeks; I was introduced as a friend and saw Kem maybe a few hours a week if I was lucky.  When we were together I respected his boundaries and restrained myself from tearing off his clothes and mauling him.  I rationalized in my head that even though it made me feel shitty to be known as a friend in his circle and to not see him as much as I could, he was worth it for me.  He understood what it was like to be Chinese and gay (though not out, obviously) and strongly supported me in everything that I did.  But gradually, his world had been merging with mine, shrinking it, and pulling it into his.  I felt more and more like what he was introducing me as: merely a friend.

One night, Kem was over at my place again.  It was in the evening, and he was sitting at my desk, using my computer for homework.  My bedroom door was slightly open on his insistence again, and I was on my bed, reading a copy of Xtra West, the local LGBT newspaper.  I spotted an ad for the upcoming Pride Parade.

“Are you going to the Pride Parade this year?”  I thought this as a legitimate question.  His face said otherwise; it was a combination of “Are you seriously asking me this?” and “Uh… hell no.”  I tried my best to hide my disappointment but sighed.

“Okay,” I replied.  What else could I do?  I certainly wasn’t going to force him to come.  But his immediate dismissal repeatedly pounded on the door of my mind, not going away.  After about a minute, I reasoned, “Why not?  Lots of straight people go.  It doesn’t mean everyone there is automatically gay.”

But apparently that wasn’t safe enough.  In his mind, Kem believed that were he to tell his mother that he was going out that day, she would somehow figure out he was going to the Pride Parade (since, of course, there are zero other activities going on in the city at that time), would discover he was gay, and would then proceed to sharpen her butcher’s knife and wait for him to come home with mardi gras beads around his neck.

He went on to tell me about how his mom had given him everything in his life – support, shelter, love, etc.  If he were to come out to her, he believed he would be throwing it all back in her face, that he wasn’t respecting her – that he would truly be hurting her.  So by keeping this secret to himself, he was sparing her from the pain.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen if you went?”

He sat there, staring at the floor, unable to look at my eyes for several seconds.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for that.  I’m from a different background than you,” he said, “and my mom is too.  I don’t expect you to understand.”

“I want to understand!  You’re not giving me answers or explaining so I can’t.”

Then we both sat there and avoided each other’s gazes.  The idea behind the Pride Parade is, well, pride.  People are able to be themselves and be proud of it.  I can’t remember his exact words, but Kem told me that night that he wasn’t proud of being gay, of who he is.

“Wait, so you’re never going to come out?”  My eyes fixed upon him, waiting for a response.
“As long as I’m living in Vancouver, no, I’m not going to come out.”

Usually at this point in a story, some cliché phrase like “my world collapsed at that moment” would make its way onto the page.  And though I did feel some devastation, I felt a revelation.  All the pieces made sense.  I always thought he was worth it but to be known as a “friend” the rest of our relationship?  That didn’t make sense.  We couldn’t do this anymore.

(concluded in part 8…)


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