Eugene Lee Yang first rose to prominence in pop culture with his YouTube troupe, the Try Guys — a group of young filmmakers that consists of Yang, Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, and Zach Kornfeld.
Initially on BuzzFeed, the Try Guys started their online endeavor with the simple goal of trying new things, especially things outside of one's usual comfort zone, and encouraging others to do the same. They have since started their own production company (2nd Try), amassed nearly 6 million subscribers, published their first book (The Hidden Power of F*cking Up), and started their own weekly podcast, and they are about to hit the road on their first national tour.
Though Yang has been identifying as part of the queer community for some time now, he has decided to completely come out — this time with his full truth, as a gay man. The Advocate got a chance catch up with Yang on the eve of his coming-out video's release.
Check out a portion of the interview below as well as Yang’s beautifully poignant and amazingly artistic video (but grab a box of tissues first, because it will touch your soul).
The Advocate: So, why is it important for you to come out again, now as a gay man, when you were already pretty out as queer? Is there a difference?
Yang: I think that there's a lot of different factors that played into the sort of coming-out process I've had with the public. You know, it's always gradual and very individual for each queer person.
Growing up in Texas, I was already dealing with the fact that I didn't even know I was Asian until a certain age. I just was informed about it in a somewhat negative way by [my peers]. And that immediately put me into that mind-set where I felt very othered, you know. My safety always felt like it wasn't something that I could consider a given. And so that sort of shaded a lot of my first sort of ways that I covered in regards to my openness about my sexuality because I already had seen the way some other openly gay kids were treated in my school — and it was really, really terrible. … There were a lot of elements in society that were kind of pointing me in the direction of being very careful.
Even if it's just the smallest thing, like what label I go by, I think to find the truth and express it with full confidence. … I'm just announcing I’m a gay filmmaker, actor, producer, viral video maker, whatever you want to call me — but I'm gay, and that’s the perspective I'm coming from.
Did becoming an internet star influence your decision to be more open about your identity in terms of sexuality and gender norms?
I was very quickly confronted with this reality — I'd always been 100 percent prepared to speak through my work as a writer-director, behind the camera, as someone that could be openly gay through my [work]. But when I became a YouTuber, it kind of changed things because so much of my impact and my content is solely centered on my identity and my voice.
Yeah, it’s such personal medium. You can't be so behind-the-scenes on YouTube.
Exactly. And you know, it's funny, because when I used to work at BuzzFeed, I was able to slip in every now… things that were very explicitly queer and gay. But because of some personal issues I had with things back home, I didn't feel like it was the right time to make it public knowledge before it was, you know, a hundred percent private knowledge first. So that was some of the reasons why I never was 100 percent comfortable about saying that I was “gay” on camera.
So, speaking of gender norms, you seem to be really experimenting with gender-fluid fashion lately, which you also touch on in the video. Care to elaborate?
You know, it is all such a process. It's like a shedding of the fears and those worries about what other people think — and it's such a great place to get to. When you finally kind of move that last rock out of the way and say, “You know what, this is me.” I really hope people receive it well.
Read the complete interview in the August-September 2019 print issue of The Advocate magazine.