SNL star Bowen Yang went to ‘conversion therapy’ as a teenager

bowen yang snl
Photo: NBC

Comedian and Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang has recalled his experience with so-called “conversion therapy” as a teenager striving to make his parents happy.

The 29-year-old was born in Brisbane before the family moved to Canada and settled in the US state of Colorado. After 12 months as a writer on SNL, Yang became the first Chinese-American cast member last September.

Yang opened up to The New York Times about the confusion and anger his Asian parents felt when they discovered he was gay.

“They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, ‘We don’t understand this. Where we come from, this doesn’t happen,’” he.

“I’d only seen my father cry when my grandpa died and now he’s sobbing in front of me every day at dinner.

“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.”

Conversion therapy sessions ‘completely crackers’

As a teenager, Bowen Yang said his father eventually booked him in for several sessions with “a specialist”, who ended up being a practitioner of the debunked “therapy”.

“I allowed myself the thought experiment of, ‘What if this could work?’” Yang recalled.

“Even though as I read up on it, I was just like, ‘Oh, wait, this is all completely crackers.’”

Yang said the therapy sessions soon “veered off” into “pseudoscience.”

“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 non-religious.’

“But even for him to ask that question means that there was this kind of religious agenda behind it anyway.”

Last June, the US state of Colorado, where Bowen Yang grew up banned “conversion therapy” practices for minors under the age of 18.

Yang went on to say he ever felt anger or resentment toward his parents for their resistance to his identity.

“It was a cultural thing for [my parents], this cultural value around masculinity, around keeping the family line going, keeping certain things holy and sacred,” he recalled.

“[I wanted] to meet them halfway but realising it had to be pretty absolute. It was an either-or thing. There was not that much middle ground.”

He added both his parents “are doing a lot of work to just try to understand.”

“I can’t rush them. I can’t resent them for not arriving at any place sooner than they’re able to get there,” he said.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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