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Letting Go

The road to saying, "I'm gay." Richmonders share the stories that changed their lives.

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Jason Yu, 24
Partner and Director of Marketing, the Hardwicke Group Board Member and Contributor,

I started talking to girls when I was probably 13, 14 years old, back when AOL Instant Messenger and these chat rooms were the thing to do, and we'd always go to the mall and hang out and meet other people.

They liked me, and I guess I liked them, and I guess I was forcing myself to go out with these girls and hang out. I would go to the dances with girls. I didn't see any homosexual couples at the time at the school dances. But I had my fair share of going out with a lot of girls.

I grew up in Virginia Beach. ... I was very involved with school, whether that was the SGA, I was on the school tennis team, I was even on the academic bowl team. I went to a high school that had almost a thousand-plus students. I wasn't alone. There were other gay and lesbian teenagers, not only in my high school but all around the area as well. So that's one perspective to look into, in terms of the open-mindedness of the community at the high-school level, which sort of made it easier for me to come out later.

I came out after high school. After graduating high school that summer, I knew and I had to tell. The first two people I told were ex-girlfriends. Those two specific individuals had a big impact on my life — we were always hanging out, and they knew so much about me, that I owed it to myself and to them to tell them the truth, and to let them know, this is who I am.

I thought it would be awkward. I thought it would be the most insane, scary, all-of-the-above you can imagine, sharing this moment. But it actually felt great to finally let them know. It took maybe about 10 minutes of beating around the bush ... but I told them, and it's funny. They both said, "Oh, I knew that." They had my back 100 percent. They support everything that I do, and they are thankful that I came out to them and told them.

And then I told people at work, and then once I moved to go to college, and obviously I let my roommates go from there. And when I started dating people obviously they knew. It wasn't until my 22nd birthday that I came out to my immediate family.

I took my mother to lunch, and we had a heart-to-heart moment at the Cheesecake Factory, on my birthday. We were just talking about everything, about how everything was going so fast, and then I laid down the news. And we had our little one-on-one crying session. The waitress had to bring over two extra napkins to dry [our] tears — tears of both accepting me as gay and being honest as well. Letting her into my life. I was a military brat growing up, and so my mother was always there while my father was out to sea. And my mother is 100 percent supportive of me being openly gay, and coming out to her. And her love has not changed for me ever since day one. She suspected it, and it is what it is, and that's who I am.

After meeting with my mother, she told me that I had to tell my father and sister — that she wasn't going to be the one, that I had to be responsible for telling them in person, face to face. So that afternoon, I gathered them in our family room ... and said,"I hope you guys will still love me the same way, and respect and support me, and this is who I am," and came out to them.

My father had a shocked, surprised, disappointed look on his face, and my sister started to cry. But my father said: "You can't change who you are. And you are who you are. And that's that. We still love you." And my sister said, "Nothing's going to change."

It's been pretty smooth sailing ever since then.

If you have a good support group, it's just going to make life so much easier — and to always have the lines of communication open, but most important, to love yourself, and to be honest with those who love and support you. Because if you're honestly afraid to come out, let alone to your family — they're the first ones that you're going to turn to, and they should definitely know everything about what's happening in your life. And I'm pretty sure they're going to be more than willing to accept who you are.

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