Closeted Asian teen breaks tradition, finds independence

By Elizabeth Toy

Ian Young, 23, was raised in a traditional Taiwanese Christian family, but lives his life with an extraordinary sense of independence.  Young’s father left his family when he was only a few months old and due to tensions between his mother and grandparents, he rarely spent time with her.

As a result, Young was raised by his maternal grandparents in Alhambra, California and grew up with many restrictions and rules to abide by.  “I wasn’t allowed to drive, I had a curfew of 4 or 5 p.m. In high school, I listened to them and I think that was the worst part of my life.  I wasn’t allowed to make any friends. Any friends I brought home were disapproved of.,” said Young.

Traditional Chinese values ruled the household and Young recalls how he was often told, “your job is to study all day. You gotta be a doctor.”  Young’s grandparents were not open to people of other races and likewise discouraged Young from making friends that were not Taiwanese.

In addition, Young knew he was bisexual in high school but struggled to hide it since his grandparents were devout Christians.  “They’ve been trying to get me to Church.  When I had a boyfriend in high school, it was pretty obvious, but I think they suspected. I was experimenting. That whole month, they were telling me ‘you need God in your life,’” said Young.

As a result of his grandparents’ disapproval, Young spent a lot of his adolescence alone, “In high school, I was one of those people who would never be noticed.  But when I turned 18, I started thinking I’m old enough to be myself,” said Young.

It was then that Young began to show his grandparents that he didn’t agree with the values they had taught him throughout his life.  The friction between Young and his grandparents was so strong that he decided to change his full name.  Despite the tensions between him and his grandparents, Young strove to do what he wanted with no regard to their opinions.

After graduating from Alhambra High School, Young spent a year in Bristol, England and spent time with friends that he’d met through an online gaming community.  Though he had originally intended to study at a university in Bristol, Young’s time abroad turned out to be solely for pleasure, making friends, and enjoying his newfound independence. “The people are much nicer and life doesn’t move as fast. It wasn’t crowded like it is in Los Angeles. I loved it there.” said Young.

After high school, Young began to feel frustration with his social circle. “People break off so most of my people went to CSU or Long Beach. Most people who stayed are mopey.  None of my friends are club goers and I wanted to go,” said Young.

After a while, Young grew tired of waiting for his friends and decided to do things alone. “I just decided to go,” said Young.  “I mean, for a while I was debating. When I asked my friends, they were like ‘Don’t go, it’s scary.’  What’s the worst that could happen?  The first or second time, you feel out of your comfort zone and it’s slightly awkward but once you get out of that you get to meet more people and that’s the point. I went alone and had a great time.” said Young.

Young was 19 when he first went to a night club by himself, “It opens your eyes and makes you more open and social because you know if you can do that you can communicate with anyone.”, said Young.  Since Young began to do things alone he has developed more confidence and a stronger sense of himself.  “If anyone asks,” he said, “my life is an open book.  Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

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