We’ve quickly grown to love Saturday Night Live’s newest cast member, Bowen Yang, and have been sharing some of the remarkable queer visibility he’s been bringing to living rooms of millions worldwide.
Yang knows what it means to struggle with the line between being a dutiful son while remaining true to himself. As the first Chinese-American to be cast on the show, he is also one of the only openly gay members in SNL in history.
Recently, Yang opened up about his experience in being subject to conversion therapy at the behest of his parents. In an interview with The New York Times, Yang described his journey through that and what ultimately led him to being able to fully embrace his identity in the LGBTQ community.
“It was a cultural thing for them, this cultural value around masculinity… It was me wanting to meet them halfway but realizing it had to be pretty absolute … There was not that much middle ground,” Yang said.
Under unfortunate circumstances, Yang was not able to come out on his own terms, as his parents accidentally stumbled upon an AOL chat wherein they learned of his sexuality. Both Yang and his parents were thrown into uncharted territories, and knowing how confused his parents must have been, Yang did what he could to avoid confrontation. However, it did not take long for him to realize that the whole process was far from legitimate.
Since its inception over 50 years ago, conversion therapy has been used to degrade queer or transgender individuals. Predominantly motivated by religious beliefs, conversion therapy practices are often inhumane and can result in PTSD as well as long-standing trauma for those who undergo “treatments.” Practices may involve talk therapy, electroshock therapy, behavioral modification, ex-gay ministry, psychoanalysis, and have even gone so far as lobotomy procedures.
The horrifying reality behind these therapies is that they continue, despite the fact that the medical community declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s. Proponents of conversion therapy preach deep-seated misconceptions based on faulty assumptions as to the roots of salvation and use outdated pseudoscience as foundation.
Yang said he completed his conversion therapy sessions and proceeded onto college with the mindset that he was back in the closet. According to the interview, after his freshman year, there was no more pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Yang attempted a second coming out to his parents, and although they were reluctant to accept that part of him, their road to understanding remains ongoing.
Yang is dedicated, hardworking, intellectual, and a knee-slapping good comedian; he has garnered respect among his peers in the industry and continues to reign in recognition from his formative skits on the iconic sketch show.