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Father of AHHHS- Stonewall to Superman


“In deciding Friday that marriage equality is the law of the land, the Supreme Court justices not only made history, they also showed their respect for it.

This weekend marks the anniversary of three major events in the fight for gay rights: the Stonewall Riots, the court battle against discriminatory sodomy laws and the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s also Pride weekend in many cities across the U.S., where there’s sure to be even more celebration following Friday’s ruling.

With Friday’s ruling that under the 14th Amendment, Americans are free to marry whom they love, the Supreme Court just gave the LGBT community — and the rest of the country — a new reason to celebrate the last weekend in June.”  -Huffington Post

Despite my father’s limited English, he somehow managed to not only survive, but was able to build a business and life for he and I. He read newspapers every day. He read the Chinese Newspaper, the Honolulu newspapers and the New York Times. As I myself learned to read, I spent many days and nights sitting and reading stories from the newspaper to him, and we learned together.

I recall stories of Civil Rights to be the most interesting to follow. Maybe because my father, a Chinese immigrant, was never really sure of where his rights were or for how long he would be able to create a living for himself. He often told me stories of when he first came to America in 1911, he told me about paying off head taxes, Chinese labor forces and about the difficult times he had trying to become established. We became absorbed in reading about the Civil Rights Movement, about the backlash of the freedom fighters like Martin Luther King. We read the stories of Women’s rights activists and their plight for equality in our Country. As minorities it was always very apparent to us that our lives were on the back burner.

There was an explosion of information in the news for a while about young people protesting in Beijing in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hundreds and thousands of University Students were calling for accountability of their government, for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The resulting bloodshed was unprecedented and would be marked in the history of Beijing. I remember my father’s face with tears streaming down his cheeks telling me that the young people are the future and that he hated to see this kind of violence towards them.  I was deeply moved by his compassion, which I sensed deep down was not specific to these young people but to civil rights and freedom in general, and his own personal worry for me and my future freedom.

I knew from a very young age that I was gay, in fact I was 7 years old. I didn’t understand what it meant nor did I have the words to define it. I just knew where my attractions were, and that they may be different from others. I kept this information to myself; I never saw my life depicted in any media so I did not know how to relate to it. I could barely find Chinese people represented in media, so to look for young gay Chinese role models was impossible. (Even today you would be hard pressed to find this.) For many reasons then, I never felt I could tell my own father that I was gay. I was never sure that he really understood what that meant, since of course all young people think that their elders have no experience in these matters. Today, I know that was probably a false assumption. Secondly, my father had worked so hard and had come so far to “create a better life for me” that I was so worried of doing anything that would take me two steps backwards in the progress he had pioneered for our lives.

Other things eventually took precedence in my life and it was not about sexual identity for me, things like school, work and career. It was the years I spent working in Africa working in health prevention leadership in HIV/AIDS that I simultaneously found myself becoming an advocate for human rights. When I learned about the death of a young man named Matthew Shepherd I realized that my own rights could no longer be overlooked and would soon be on the table for discussion.

Last night my son’s fascination with Superman led us to watching the Christopher Reeves version of Superman. I needed to go back in time in order to tone down the violence and darkness that seems to be a prerequisite for modern super hero movies. Marlin Brando plays Superman’s father in the beginning and says You will travel far, my little Kal-El. But we will never leave you, even in the face of our deaths. You will make my strength your own. See my life through your own eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father…the son.” Hearing those words was like an epiphany for me, the single factor that has carried me through my own struggles has been the strength of my father. His ability to stand tall, stand proud and work for what is right, has been my strength, has been my calling and has been my right.

I have come to know my father since his death by reflecting on his decisions, and that the decisions I make are a direct reflection on intent and wisdom that he imparted on me. The son became the father. As a father now, in a day when my relationship is finally valued and recognized, I will have new strengths, purpose and insights to impart on my son. He will have his own struggles for freedom, for rights that I may not even know about at this time, society and government will never be perfect and we don’t know what the future of our planet is, but we can prepare our sons (and daughters) to stand tall, be proud, and be themselves. I only pray, as did my father, that the choices and freedoms we fight for and win now will pave a better more accepting more compassionate future for our superheroes of tomorrow.

Superman is about knowing who you really are, finding the strength and power inside of you and taking flight, soaring high above the clouds and ensuring justice and liberty for all.


-Dean Wong