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The Coming Out Collection

a series created by the Boston LGBTQ+/AAPI Community

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opening remarks, Jason Ng

opening remarks


"Beside being personally liberating, coming out is a means to claim space. 

Jason Ng (he/him)

National Coming Out Day (October 11) is a day of great significance to the LGBTQ+ community, and NAAAP Boston proudly joins in celebrating those who have come out or are in the process of coming out. 


Despite great strides over the past decades, LGBTQ+ individuals still encounter significant challenges in and out of the workplace. Twenty-seven states still lack workplace protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in public and private employment. Concerns over the future of same-sex marriage have mounted as the SCOTUS shuffle progresses. And across the nation, LGBTQ+ lives continue to be threatened, chastised, bullied, disowned, and even lost every day, often exacerbated by intersectional factors such as race and socioeconomic status. 

In a society that still grapples with homophobia and transphobia, coming out is as salient and powerful a tool as ever. Hate and prejudice thrive in environments of silence and ignorance. Coming out is a way to fight the silence. Beside being personally liberating, coming out is a means to claim space. To claim one’s identity. For the LGBTQ+ individuals reading today, we honor and celebrate with you, no matter where you may find yourself in this journey.

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting coming out stories and other pieces written by members of the LGBTQ+/AAPI community of greater Boston. We hope this series, the Coming Out Collection, begins to humanize the voices and narratives of these people who are your coworkers, your friends, and your family members. 


To the allies reading, members of your community count on your leadership to create an environment of understanding and support. Only then can we all benefit from the full and vibrant talent, perspectives, and gifts that the LGBTQ+ community has to offer. 

Be Seen. Be Heard. Be Loud. Be Proud.


Jason Ng (he/him)

Associate Director of Pride, NAAAP Boston

letter from NAAAP Pride Co-Founder, Harris Zhao

letter from NAAAP Pride co-founder


Harris Zhao (he/him)

Each year, as we come closer to National Coming Out Day, I take a moment to reflect and recollect on how different my life has become ever since I came out as gay. Now that I’m out, it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to go back to a life of constant covering. My sexual orientation and my self identity are two parts of the same whole, but unlike a coin or a light switch, I cannot simply “turn off” the gay. In fact, it mentally hurts every time I timber my voice to sound a little more masculine, every time I tell a “little white lie” to relatives when they request updates on my love life, or when I would hide away the photo of my significant other on my phone because I don’t feel safe to display a photo of us like all the other colleagues who do so at work.

"... I want to imagine a world where being your whole authentic self is celebrated."

Coming out is a tool that we (in the LGBTQ+) community use in order to claim our space, accept our identities, and declare that we cannot be any less than our whole authentic selves. It’s about giving yourself permission to pursue happiness the same way that everyone else does. 


At the same time, it is also important that we recognize “coming out” is the first step to reaching true equality. The reason why National Coming Out Day is a significant day of celebration, is because without representation, we hold no power. By coming out and letting those around you recognize that we exist, that we are normal, and that we deserve to be treated like everyone else, it makes it hard to create laws and rules that choose to exclude us. 


Like many of you reading this right now, I want to imagine a world where being your whole authentic self is celebrated. I hope that one day, I can be accepted: for who I am and for who I choose to love. I have trust that we are heading in the right direction and that we will end up on the right side of history. 



Harris Zhao (he/him)

Co-Founder, NAAAP Pride

third time's the charm, Janice Lee

third time's the charm... 

- Janice Lee

For most queer folks, coming out is a continuous process. You don’t just come out once and then voila— everyone knows you’re queer from that point onward. For every new person you meet, you can choose to come out— or not. That is, unless you don a pixie cut, cuffed jeans, septum piercing, and a tattoo sleeve— but even then many straight people will still assume you’re just edgy. But I digress.


For me, coming out has been a process not just in terms of having to come out to different people over time, but also multiple times to one person: my mother. The first time was when I was a freshman in high school. Her response: “Well, in my all-girls catholic high school I had friends who had crushes on girls. But they’re now married (to men). It’s probably a phase for you, too.”


I believed her. I wanted to believe her. So I kept going to church, kept praying to God to banish these thoughts, kept feeling guilty for my sinful nature. By junior year, I’d had it— I stopped going to church and trying to squash it in my head. But it wasn’t until sophomore year in college that I came out to my mom for the second time.

" ...I gave myself intentional self-exposure in order to better accept my sexuality"

“Mom, it’s gonna be hard for you to hear, but just so you know I still have these feelings.” I think it was this time that things actually hit her. She replied that she could listen, but that she wasn’t ready to have this conversation. I knew I should appreciate the fact that she wasn’t threatening to disown me or anything like that— she’s a very understanding and loving mother— but I couldn’t help feeling rejected, misunderstood, alone. Sure I had friends whom I had come out to and were supportive, but what I needed and craved at the time was unconditional love from my own mother.

For the next couple of years, my mom and I never talked about this, or anything really. I closed off my personal life from her. Even though sexuality was just a small part of my life, I felt that if I couldn’t talk to her openly about it— since I knew it would make her uncomfortable— how could I be my authentic self around her? She’d done so much for me; how could I repay her with this?


And so I didn’t tell her about the progress I was making as I gave myself intentional self-exposure in order to better accept my sexuality. I didn’t tell her about any particular person, the ups, nor the downs. Instead, I relied on my friends to support me as I grew in these areas. In order to do the work of combating internalized homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality, in order to normalize queerness, I felt that I needed to surround myself with people who were 100% accepting, people who could inspire me with their complete acceptance of both themselves and of me. 

Another reason I felt the need to figure myself out more before talking again with my mom was that I was confused about the “sexual” part of sexuality. The world all around me seemed to suggest attraction was primarily sexual, but I didn’t really feel that way. Was I asexual? Demisexual? Or just sexually repressed by years of religion and conservative upbringing? Do I like her as a friend? Something more? What do I really want? These are questions I was asking myself at the time, and continued to do so for the next few years. I didn’t feel ready to talk to my mom about all this; I didn’t want to confuse her with my confusion. I felt that I needed to clearly understand, define, and label my feelings in order to validate my conviction that they weren’t purely platonic.

"Every time we talk about it, we both find it easier and easier."

It wasn’t until the end of my senior year of college that I came out to my mom for the third and last time. We were sharing a bed in an Airbnb, drifting into sleep. Maybe it was something about being so physically close, of feeling connected and intimate. Maybe I had subconsciously wanted for so long to bring this up again. When I did so, she surprised me with so much more empathy and openness than I’d anticipated. She might have said she’d kissed a girl once too. I don’t remember really— we were both half asleep at this point. 


Today, the topic of my sexuality comes up occasionally in our conversations. Every time we talk about it, we both find it easier and easier. As a baby gay, I had intentionally repeatedly exposed myself to queer media in order to normalize queerness and banish the internalized homophobia in myself. I guess my mom needed that too.


Equally as important as the number of exposures is the time given between them. She needed time to process everything. I’m sure there was a lot of reckoning she had to do to give up her dreams and visions of my future husband and a heterosexual life. A lot of pushing through the discomfort of picturing me in a homosexual relationship. I recognize that I had a much earlier start; of course she needed time too. As a middle-aged Asian Christian living in a homophobic country, there wasn’t much incentive to question homophobia if it weren’t for her own daughter. It took time, but her eventual willingness to change her views in order to love me as I am is something I’m grateful for every day.

- Janice Lee

when I became free, Abhiram Arunkumar

when I became free...

- Abhiram Arunkumar

I was born in India, where August 15th is celebrated as Independence Day, having achieved freedom from British rule in 1947. To celebrate, schools distribute candy and host patriotic parades. I remember in 1999 as a seventh grader wistfully gazing at the leader of my parade group, wondering why he made me want to impress him with my rhythmic marching. I still remember his booming voice shouting the words “LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT!” 

I always knew, for the most part of life, that I was gay. As a teen, my classmates would play the “pairing” game of trying to match boys with girls, and girls with boys. I was always “paired” with almost any new girl that joined our school in the middle of the academic year. But I would fantasize of a world where I could be “paired” with another boy instead. As I grew up and waded my way through high school, I tried to fit into a very heteronormative society by pretending to be someone I’m not.  

"I got accustomed to thinking that I was one of those 'freaks' of nature. "

Occasionally, feelings of suppression would lead to bouts of despair and hopelessness. In retrospect, I think I was just going through the motions in those years. While people in other parts of the world were having a serious conversation about LGBTQ identity and freedom, India was still behind. My parents, grandparents, and friends would say disparaging things about the LGBTQ community, occasionally using phrases like “freak of nature”. I got accustomed to thinking that I was one of those “freaks” of nature. 

I joined my undergraduate program in Chemical Engineering in Mumbai when I was 18 – the year was 2005. The four years I spent in undergrad laid the foundation to my eventual “freedom”.