Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vulture Festival
Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang is opening up about his past.
In a candid interview with The New York Times, the 29-year-old comedian shared heartbreaking details of his experience with gay conversion therapy. It was something, he explained, that his parents made him do once they found out he was gay.
At the time, he was only 17-years-old.
He recalled the turning point in his youth, which was when his parents learned about his sexuality after they found an AOL Instant Messenger conversation he was having with someone.
“Me sort of having lewd conversations with someone, just revealing that this was who I was, that I was gay,” Yang shared with the publication. “They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, ‘We don’t understand this. Where we come from, this doesn’t happen.'”
“I’d only seen my father cry when my grandpa died and now he’s sobbing in front of me every day at dinner,” he continued. “And I’m thinking, ‘How do I make this right?’ This is the worst thing you can do as a child of immigrants. It’s just like you don’t want your parents to suffer this much over you.”
Bowen went on to explain that after coming home one day, his father told him that he arranged eight sessions with a specialist in Colorado Springs. The “sessions” ended up being gay conversion therapy.
“I allowed myself the thought experiment of: ‘What if this could work?'” he expressed. “Even though as I read up on it, I was just like, ‘Oh, wait, this is all completely crackers.'”
“At the first session, he asks me, ‘Would you like this to be Christ centered or a secular sort of experience?’ And I was like, ‘I guess nonreligious.’ But even for him to ask that question means that there was this kind of religious agenda behind it anyway,” Yang said.
He explained that the first few sessions were “talk therapy,” something that he enjoyed. However, things drifted into another area that was “crazy.”
Bowen said: “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.’ And then the counselor would go through the circular reasoning thing of, ‘Well, weren’t you feeling uncomfortable a little bit when 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.”
For the Saturday Night Live star, he revealed that he wanted to meet his parents “halfway,” however, he quickly learned that there wasn’t much “middle ground.” Bowen recalled having a “second coming out” with his parents when he was finally away at college.
“I had this second coming out with them while I was in college and went through this whole flare-up again with them, where they couldn’t accept it,” he shared. “And then eventually, I just got to this place of standing firm and being like, ‘This is sort of a fixed point, you guys. I can’t really do anything about this. So either you meet me here or you don’t meet me.'”
He added that his parents “are doing a lot of work to just try to understand” his sexuality. “I can’t rush them,” he said.
Despite his teenage experience, the 29-year-old actor appears to be living his best life.
In 2019, Bowen made history on SNL as the first Asian cast member on the show’s long-running series. Moreover, his parents cheered him on and attend his first SNL show as a cast member last year.