Harold, in his own words: “My whole life, people have looked at me and assumed that I’m something that I’m not. This has made me ask: what assumptions am I making? I used to spend my years wishing I would fade into the background of normalcy, but being gay has taught me that is an illusion. To me, being gay is a reminder to ask questions about life and reject norms and groupthink.
My greatest triumph in my life was figuring out how to make a life with Kazuki. He was Japanese and I was American, and there was no way for us to live together. We tried and tried to find loopholes in the immigration laws, and there was lots of yelling and sadness and tears, but no answers. Then one day, I eventually found a job in Canada that would immigrate each of us from our home country to Vancouver. I felt like a great husband in that moment, that I had actually turned us from two men into a family. Today we are both happily Canadian. As long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match that.
I’m not much of a joiner and don’t really know what a “gay scene” really is. I don’t hang out with a crowd just because they like the same gender I do, I hang out with people who share my interests and my values. I haven’t been in Montreal very long, but I can tell you a little bit about the arts scene, the gaming scene, the bar scene, and various other subcultures, and they all have gay people in them.
I was outed at my high school by the school’s pastor. High school sucked after that, and when I got into college, my father, in his misguided caring, told me, “Do yourself a favour: never tell anybody.” And so I put myself back in the closet and tried dating women. It wasn’t until several years later, once I was in grad school, I was at the Keith Haring retrospective at the Whitney. They had a notebook he kept during high school and wrote notes in code. On the page it was opened to, Keith had written in code, “Rule #1: Never tell anybody.” That exhibition, with its explosive exuberance and celebration of being gay, had a powerful effect on me. On my good days, I had felt that being gay was not a bad thing, but this show made me realize how lucky I was to be gay. I immediately told all my friends as if I had this great news that I had to share, and never looked back.”
Kazuki, in his own words: “Being gay for me just means being attracted to people of the same gender. Being gay doesn’t define me, it is a part of me. Although, having said that, as an out and proud gay person, I feel some responsibility to be a positive example. There are many fellow Japanese gay men (and straight people) who think that being gay can only be like the stereotypes depicted on TV, and I think it’s good for them to know somebody who isn’t like that, and that we can be happy out of the closet and still be ourselves.
I don’t feel that I have had any challenged to overcome just because I am gay. However, I strongly feel that one of the biggest challenges we go though as gay men is to accept ourselves, and to be comfortable with ourselves.
I’ve only been (in Montreal) for a short while, so I don’t know much about the community yet. I’ll let you know when I find out.
When I left Japan for university in the US, my mom told me, “You better not go dating anyone. You’re going to university to study, not for anything else. When I came back home in the Summer of 1999, she asked me, “So, do you have a girlfriend now?” This made me wonder, what happened? Later, I found out that many of her friends were having grandchildren, which probably influenced her to think that it’s a good time for me to settle down and start a family. I was 25.
I felt like this was a perfect time: now or never. I had been thinking of coming out to my mom for such a long time and I though she would be okay with it. So, later that Summer, I came out to my mom and her boyfriend over lunch. I was wrong, and we did not speak again until I flew back to the US.
She didn’t really want to discuss anything about my personal life after that. She simply didn’t want to hear it. But I pushed the issue and told her anyway. It was only fair, since she had told me so much about her personal life, and it was my turn to share.
I think it was a more difficult time for my mom than it was for me. It took her a long time to come around. By the Summer of 2009 I had met and Harold, but when we went back to Okinawa, my mom refused to meet my husband. So I chose not to see her at all. When we were planning a second visit, she was very unhappy about it and pushed back. In the mean time, I was also talking to my younger brother about our trip, and when he found out that my mom didn’t want to see me, he did something I didn’t expect. He called my mom and scolder her, saying, “You are pushing your son away! You are destroying our family!”
I guess that made her realize what she had been doing all these years, and by the time we arrived in Okinawa she had completely changed her mind. As she describes it, when she saw both of us together, she said it felt so natural. She totally accepted me and my husband, and even arranged a small gather with my family and some of her close friends, without even telling us. It was like a wedding reception, and she told all the guests how happy and proud she was for both of us. It’s been a great ride since then.”