In poisoned soil, I grew into a broken flower—but I still bloomed
By Justice K | 5 Feb, 2020
If a growing teenager is a nourishing bud that’s ready to bloom. I was probably a bud intoxicated by the soil. Now I am a crooked flower, struggling to justify my existence.
There’s only that handful of people who are arguably influential to my life. Yet when I was on my way to bloom, they were the soil that poisoned me, in words that they probably didn’t even notice.
“He will end up with AIDS.”- Dad
On a casual Sunday night, the whole family was relaxing in the living room watching a variety show. There were snacks and laughter. Everyone in the family was having fun, even my most rigid father.
Until the host of the variety show introduces a guest—he looks “pretty” and speaks with a feminine tone. For some reason, everyone went silent as we listened to the host interviewing his guest about some upcoming movie.
“He likes guys right?”, My dad asked. “Yeah, he even has a ‘boyfriend’. I don’t know what’s going on.”, My mom ended that line with a dry laugh. No one was laughing except her. “He will end up with AIDS”, my dad said casually, unaware that he just said something that would haunt his son for the rest of his life.
After spending more than a decade judging the HIV stigma as a 25-year-old gay man, I would still fear I would end up with AIDS when I have sex with my long term partner, just like what my dad said. Even if I use a condom every time.
“Don’t choose that path…”- Mom
I remember when I was 15, I was at the peak of my sexuality crisis. I would spend the rest of my day trying to “convert” myself into being straight. I had my best friend bring me to basketball games and even had him teach me how to pursue a girl. But I would wake up in the middle of the night to watch gay porn and spend the rest of the day filled with shame and guilt.
One day, my younger brother went through my browser history and caught me watching gay porn. (I went through my history to erase it myself after that. And man, it was flooded with penises.) Yes, he decided to tell my mom.
My mom sat me down on the table and dropped ‘the question’. I didn’t know how to respond, I said I am not gay. “Don’t choose that path, it’s wrong”, she said. But the sentence she said after still shook me until now. “I would rather you choose to become a monk.” One thing’s for sure, I have too much sexual desire to be a monk.
Years later, all over the news was on how Taiwan legalised gay marriage. My mom casually brought up my openly gay friend. She looked me in the eyes and said: “Aiyo, it doesn’t really matter guy or girl, happy enough already.” (In her heavy Manglish accent). I felt safer about the idea of coming out to her, but that still won’t erase what she has said and done to me in the past. That just won’t go.
“You can be cured.”- Teacher
When I was in high school, we had a teacher who looked ‘pretty’ and spoke with a higher pitch than average. The kind of guy that will end up with AIDS according to my dad. We would laugh at him behind his back and even in front of him because we knew no one was going to stop us and it is ok to do that to someone like him. He died in a car accident this year, and I never got a chance to say sorry.
One day after assembly, another teacher kept us in the hall to listen to a special presentation. We were soaked in joy simply because we got to skip class. The presenter was a guy with Christian cross hanging from his neck. He introduces sex education to us, it got us even more excited.
He said the attraction between male and female is natural but not to be forced. He then introduced intercourse, condoms, and the menstrual cycle to us—young teenagers who were drowning in their hormones boiling over. We were so electrified. But he took a turn and went into a different spectrum of love, the kind of love God doesn’t approve—homosexuality. He told us it is unnatural and no one should choose that path. Suddenly, it was my mother who was standing there.
“If you have feelings towards the same sex, even if you THINK you have feelings towards the same sex, come to me. I have successfully ‘treated’ a handful of students, I can help you.”, the cross-wielding presenter said. A teacher then took the microphone and said: “Don’t be afraid to seek help, you can be cured if you want to.”. The presenter announced his phone number with the microphone. I repeated the number in my mind until I got back to class and immediately wrote it down on my notebook. I almost called him.
“Just be grateful.” – Boyfriend
A decade later, I am discussing my passion for LGBTQ activism with my boyfriend in the car. Look how far I have come! But here comes the twist—he is Christian, and he thinks his God won’t approve of our love… how ironic. The spiritual, religious dilemma he constantly endures has no doubt affected me as well. But unlike me, he is very comfortable with oppression and discrimination.
“Don’t you think everyone deserves the same rights and opportunities?”, I asked. “Yes but no one’s gonna change the law overnight. Why are you so angry?” He answered. “Because I don’t want our future generation to suffer the same oppression we did! Our son, our daughter, if we are lucky enough to even have them in the future.”, I retorted loudly.
“Ok, but you don’t have to be that furious. Just be grateful.”. that line shut me off. I spent too much of my time having people take away my rights and now I don’t even have the right to be furious? But I remained silent. In my mind, I have decided to fight for my rights, his rights, our children’s rights. But I cannot describe my devastation that he feels this way, while I want to give him the rights he deserves.
And that was pretty much how I became a crooked flower. I spent a lot of time soaking in my own imagined shame, but now I am definitely not ashamed of myself, not anymore.
I still worry for the children out there who were like me. I am sure people would never stop saying these hurtful words to children. If there is anything I can do, I want to tell them that they are loved, that they are normal, and that they are enough. A crooked flower is not necessarily the prettiest, but it’s a symbol of survival because no matter what, we will still bloom.
Justice is an LGBTQ+ community organizer & vice president of PLUHO (People Like Us Hang Out!). He also makes film sometimes, check out his work on “#CampurLGBT” Youtube channel and stay tuned to his latest work in Southeast Asian Queer Cultural Festival.