“Saturday Night Live” star Bowen Yang is recalling being sent to gay conversion therapy by his parents.
The comedian who joined the sketch show this season spoke candidly in profile for The New York Times.
Yang’s parents found out he was gay after finding “lewd” conversations on his AOL Messanger when he was only 17 years old.
“They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, ‘We don’t understand this. Where we come from, this doesn’t happen,’” he recalled.
“I’d only seen my father cry when my grandpa died and now he’s sobbing in front of me every day at dinner,” Yang added. “And I’m thinking, ‘How do I make this right?’ This is the worst thing you can do as a child of immigrants. It’s just like you don’t want your parents to suffer this much over you.”
It wasn’t long until Yang’s father put him in eight sessions of gay conversion therapy.
Yang was willing to give it a try.“I allowed myself the thought experiment of: ‘What if this could work?’ even though as I read up on it, I was just like, ‘Oh, wait, this is all completely crackers.’”
“The first few sessions were talk therapy, which I liked, and then it veers off into this place of, ‘Let’s go through a sensory description of how you were feeling when you’ve been attracted to men,’ ” Yang said. “And then the counsellor would go through the circular reasoning thing of, ‘Well, weren’t you feeling uncomfortable a little bit when saw that boy you liked?’ And I was like, ‘Not really.’ He goes, ‘How did your chest feel?’ And I was like, ‘Maybe I was slouching a little bit.’ And he goes, ‘See? That all stems from shame.’ It was just crazy. Explain the gay away with pseudoscience.”
When Yang later attended New York University he tried to be straight. He recalled, “I sort of tricked myself into having a crush on a girl but it was just kind of a weird, weird, weird pit stop. Then I would look at a boy and be like, ‘Oh, I want to talk to him.’”
That is when his “second coming out” happened but once again his parents would not accept it.
“It never got to the point of, ‘I won’t come home again,’ ” he remembered. “I was just like, I’m not going to argue with them. Like my dad every now and then will be like, ‘So, when are you going to meet a girl?’ And I’ll just calmly be like, ‘Dad, it’s not going to happen.’ I mean, it’s okay. Both my parents are doing a lot of work to just try to understand and I can’t rush them. I can’t resent them for not arriving at any place sooner than they’re able to get there.”
Yang’s parents did come to his first show as a cast member on “SNL” where he became the first Asian-American to join.