Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang has opened up about experiencing conversion therapy as a teenager.
“They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, ‘We don’t understand this. Where we come from, this doesn’t happen,” Yang says of his parents, who grew up in rural China but left before he was born.
His father paid for eight sessions of gay conversion therapy, which Yang went along with at first, even though he thought it was “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,’” he says.
“And then the counselor would go through the circular reasoning thing of, ‘Well, weren’t you feeling uncomfortable a little bit when you 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.”
Yang says that while he considered going to therapy to be a version of meeting his parents halfway, he eventually realized that there “was not that much middle ground” and he had to either accept himself or give in to what his family’s “cultural value around masculinity.”
He wound up going to NYU, where he ultimately became confident in who he is as a gay man and told his parents they would either have to accept it or not. But it’s still a work in progress.
“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,’” he admits.
“I mean, it’s O.K. 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.”