Colman Domingo
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Why There’s Hope for LGBTs in Taiwan

Isaac Lee (left), Peter Lee, Los Angeles, California

Growing up in a devout Catholic family, I knew that being gay just wasn’t an option. I knew I liked boys from when I was 11. I fell for our class leader in school, but I didn’t have a word for it. Ironically, it was by hearing my schoolmates bully the “homos” that I realized there were other gay people out there.

Eventually I hinted at my sexuality to my aunt, back in the ’80s, and she told me that if I was gay I’d contract AIDS. This was a terrifying idea, so I repressed my feelings and was drafted into the army, as most Taiwanese boys are. I was stationed on an island where there’s a tradition of having women stationed beside the men, whom we pay for sex. My comrades had paid for me to have sex with one of these women, so I was forced into it, and that’s how I lost my virginity.

I move to Perth, Australia, after the army and found my most long-term girlfriend. We were together for three years. She was Japanese, and we were in an international college. She knew about my feelings for men and was of the opinion that as long as we were happy together, then the fact I might be gay didn’t matter. Sadly, around the time I truly realized who I was and communicated that to her, she became pregnant, and we chose to have an abortion. It was so painful and something I still feel guilty about. It was a horrible way to break up, and I was only 21 years old. 

Still, even after that, I couldn’t accept myself. I moved to the United States, got baptized in a Protestant church, and talked to ministers, people from church fellowships, and Mormon missionaries — none of them could help me reconcile my sexuality with my religion. I took serious consideration into castrating myself after one minister told me it would be OK to have feelings for men as long as I didn’t act on them. I couldn’t stop my “sinful desires” and was depressed for years.

At this stage I got into a three-year marriage with another woman. It was a union of love, friendship, and expectations — expectations from my father and 90-year-old grandmother. Despite my not being OK with my being gay, it was important for me to always be honest in my relationships about my attraction to men. But it was really tough to suppress those feelings and hide my sexuality from my parents and extended family. It was like living a lie, always having to pretend to be someone else.

It was a total liberation, then, to meet my current husband. I had moved back home when my father had a stroke, and met him a month before I was due to move back to California. It was supposed to just be some fooling around, but we stayed in touch when I left, and after many long-distance phone calls, we fell in love. My wife and I ended our marriage on good terms, and my husband and I started a proper relationship. (We went to her wedding in March.)

Now I really had to come out to my family. It was my brother Mark, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2014, who gave me that courage. Right before he died, he told me to do the right thing in life, to tell them and not wait — that life is too unpredictable. My husband and I scattered his ashes in California as his last dying wish, and then we got married. Some relatives came to the wedding, but some stopped talking to me. My father and I have this unspoken agreement that we don’t talk about my sexuality, although he’s aware of it.

One thing my husband’s brought me is a sense of activism and a fight to make things better for future LGB people. In January, Taiwan elected its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, and she’s already openly advocated for equal marriage. I’m really hopeful she’ll be able to bring same-sex marriage to Taiwan. I’m still a devout Christian, but I think love is the most important thing in our lives. If I had to give advice to my younger self today, I would say, “If God is love, then your love for another man is also from God, so don’t worry about it.”

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