Just off his 2019 Expatpreneur Award win, Johnson Chong of Sagehouse exclusively shares his past struggles with coming out of the closet for The Finder‘s users – in case it can help anyone else.
As well as being a spiritual coach, meditation teacher and author, he is a gay Asian-American man who sees no need to hide his sexuality. In fact, he’s speaking at an upcoming panel discussion, Let’s Get LGBTQUUUTE, at 1880 club as part of International Gay Pride Week (check out his other Pride Month event recos in the gallery below).
Johnson is also expecting his first book, Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma, to be released in August 2019. It’s being billed as a “story of moving from self-rejection into peace and unconditional love.” That’s the beautiful book cover here.
Now, he shares his personal journey to being out and proud – in four (not always) easy steps!
I found it less tiring pretending I’m something that I’m not.
Gone are the days when Singapore would censor any hint of homosexual affection on TV and in movies. A few years ago, they would bleep out Blaine calling Kurt his boyfriend on the TV series Glee, and substitute it with just “friend”. But, now our access to Netflix exposes us to shows featuring more gay storylines. So, why is it still so hard for some gay people in Asia to come out to their traditionalist old school families?
For sure, the fear of rejection and the fear of confronting our loved ones in order to stand up for ourselves are real. On the flip side, what is the cost of living in fear and hiding for the rest of your life? I found it exhausted pretending all day.
What we project into the future is worse than what it actually is.
I grew up in a very traditional Chinese household. My parents ruled the household with an iron fist. They did their best to enforce their interpretation of what it means to be a valuable Chinese person in society. This meant getting an Ivy-league education, anything short of a full ride to Harvard would be seen as mediocre. Marrying a respectable and demure girl who would cook, clean and have lots of children was the goal. And, don’t forget it’s expected to buy a big house where mother, father and the entire family would live together until death do us part.
It felt suffocating to be born into a culture where life is merely a transaction of expectations. Respect has been pounded into our subconscious, and we simply cannot fathom breaking our parents’ hearts. We imagine World War III breaking out at home, being thrown out on the streets, forever cast out of any possibility of normalcy – our worst nightmares come to life. But the thing is, what we think is going to happen to us, isn’t as bad as we imagine it to be.
You may discovered your family will re-investigate what’s important to them.
Sometimes the truth is painful. Some people tell us to stop caring about what other people say or think about you, but it is easier said than done. Everyone will have to learn this in their own timing and on their own terms. Although my parents still don’t fully accept my homosexuality, the news stopped them in their tracks. They had to decide to accept me, or cut me out of their lives.
Ultimately, they decided to keep me in their lives as their son – even though they still don’t get me, and are constantly trying to persuade me to be convert. “I don’t agree with this lifestyle, and I worry about what will happen to you when you get older,” says my mother. But underneath the layers of outdated belief systems, she still loves me as her son. Maybe she will accept my lifestyle more in the future. Or maybe not. My living my truth is enough for me now.
This changes the way you make decisions, for the rest of your life.
I came out to my parents at the age of 26. But, my friends knew I was gay from the age of 18. Because I kept such an important part of myself secret, I felt like I was living a half-life, and that made me do things with a sense of apology.
For example, I used to be a professional actor – but I would find it hard to audition for straight roles. I half-delivered my lines, because half of me wanted to fail. Subconsciously, I was apologizing for not being a ‘normal’ person. As soon as I stopped worrying so much about what others thought, I was able to manifest the projects I wanted to complete with more ease and grace. It may seem so simple, but hiding in the fear of disappointing others can eat away at you.
Ready to read Johnson’s personal picks for how to spend the rest of Pride Month in SG? Here you go!
Project: [PINK] is a Man About Town initiative about giving back to the community. It hosts a series of events throughout the year, where a portion of the proceeds are donated to different charitable organisations. It does not just donate money to LGBTQ community, as Man About Town believes in supporting a truly inclusive community.
So, if you love a tuxedo or feather boa, now’s your chance to come dressed in your best pink, and enjoy the free flow Cocktail Reception hosted by Drag artiste, GENIE. For the after party, DJ SHIGEKI + DJ THOMAS OU fire up the tunes to dance the night away. Tickets are $10 to $180. Get yours now!
Saturday, 22 June; 7:30 p.m. till late
1880, 1 Nanson Rd., Level 3, 238909
This is a free discussion about LGBTQ life with a panel of LGBTQ experts and role models held at 1880, an open-minded salon for creators and explorers to meet, connect and relax in good company. Bonus: The evening concludes in a party.
Let’s get LGBTQuuuute Tonight
Thursday, 27 June, 7:30 p.m. till late
1880, 1 Nanson Rd., Level 3, 238909
It’s the 10th anniversary of Singapore’s Pink Dot, a free outdoor party with performances and speeches given by the LGBTQ community. You don’t have to be gay to attend, but you must be Singaporean or PR to attend, and be aware that ICs will be checked at the gate. Remember, come dressed in pink! (Read up on the event before you go here.)
Saturday, 29 June, 5 p.m.
Hong Lim Park, New Bridge Rd., 059299
This June and July 2019, The Projector is running films with a gay theme: Kanarie (Canary), Close-Knit, Orlando, The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros and The Silk and the Flame. Visit its site for more info on the films, trailers and timings. Tickets are $13.50 per movie, just SYK.
Now till Saturday, 13 July
The Projector, Level 5 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Rd., 199589
By Johnson Chong + Sara Lyle Bow, June 2019
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