If you follow the Try Guys, you’ve probably seen Eugene Lee Yang’s I’m Gay video, a five-minute contemporary dance piece that represents his personal experience on coming out as a gay man. The video has racked up a whopping 8 million views since it was released on Saturday, and it’s honestly one of the most moving pieces I’ve seen in a long time.
As a straight person, I can’t claim to understand the struggles and challenges the community has to face. However, I feel that this video resonates with the human experience, and truly shows the power art can have to touch the emotions and the mind.
The video, which was written, directed and choreographed by Eugene, is divided into five sections, each based on a colour of the pride flag.
As a child, we learn about how to behave from our parents, family and other parental role models. In this scene, Eugene, dressed in red, is surrounded by members of his family – his mother, father, brother and sister. The ‘children’ are seen mimicking the movements of their parents; first the mother applying lipstick, then the strict father exuding machismo. While the brother and sister eventually fall into their ‘proper’ roles, Eugene is chastised for not fitting the norm.
A later scene takes place in a house of worship, where a freely dancing Eugene is quickly chastised by a member of the congregation, stifling his movements and forcing him to sit rigidly in a chair like the rest of the group.
Teenhood is a time of discovery and exploration. In a behind the scenes interview, Eugene explains that the girl in the opening scene represents an ‘ally’ – a supportive best friend who helps him as he discovers his sexual orientation. The movements between him and the girl dancer are platonic and non-sexual, and you can feel the joy in their friendship and support of each other. Another dancer catches Eugene’s eye, representing first love. As he gradually gravitates towards the new dancer, the couple explore their budding feelings of love.
An ‘older’, dolled up Eugene, flamboyantly dressed, is seen entering a party, surrounded by other drag queens. They are seen enjoying themselves, being happy, until someone comes in with a finger cocked like a gun to which everyone crumbles – representative of the violence and hate that is often inflicted on the community.
The next cut immediately transitions to the Blue scene, where a topless Eugene is beaten up by a mob and left to bleed out and die. I feel like this might not be representative of physical assault per se, but embodies how LGBTQ people are often treated in society – as lesser human beings. In Eugene’s own words, “I felt like I deserved to be shit on because I was different.” As he slowly crawls for help, some members of his family come to his aid, but are quickly pulled away by other members, leaving him alone and in pain.
Eugene, dressed in a resplendent purple gown, strides forward bravely despite being caught in the middle of two opposing sides arguing and screaming at each other. He stands at the forefront, at first discomfited by the chaos going on behind him, but eventually a look of resolve comes over his face, replaced with acceptance of who he is. He has also explained in the BTS video that the opposing sides represent how society works – that not everyone will like you and accept you, and that’s how society is – but he bravely powers through nonetheless.
In the credits, a confident Eugene sits surrounded by other members of the LGBTQ community. I think it represents being surrounded by the family he has found in his life journey, even if he wasn’t accepted by his own family.
“I was never in a position where I had enough support, or education, or confidence, in any area, that when someone ridiculed me for either being Asian… when people thought I could be gay; I was never at the point where I thought they were wrong. I had a strong belief that I was not only bad, but I was wrong, there was something wrong with me. A lot of my journey was kinda figuring out that I was never inherently a bad person.”
The video moved me with its message. I could feel his struggles and his pain, which must be how it is for millions of people out there who are unable to be themselves because society deems it so, sometimes on pain of death. Without making this about me, let’s just say I understand how it feels to be an outsider and think that there’s something wrong with me as a person – which sucks – so I can’t imagine how much worse people in the LGBTQ community must have it.
Coming from Malaysia, where anti-LGBTQ attitudes are pervasive in many aspects of society, the community is discriminated at best, persecuted at worst. Calling someone gay is meant as an insult, and they are regularly ostracised, and in some cases, attacked and even murdered. Many of them live in the shadows, never truly able to express themselves and live their lives to their fullest. If the struggle for LGBTQ rights in the West, where its communities have a larger voice, is already challenging, what more in traditionalist Malaysia?
We are human, and humans are afraid of what we don’t understand, and seek to demonise and destroy it. If you have biases, perhaps watching this will let you understand their point of view and offer you a glimpse of their lives a little bit better.
We may have different views, but underneath it we all want to be loved, respected and have the freedom to be ourselves without fear of prosecution or discrimination.
PS: The video is in support of The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation for LGBTQ young people. The organisation works to save young lives by providing support through free and confidential suicide prevention and crisis intervention programs on platforms where young people spend their time: a 24/7 phone lifeline, chat, and text counselling services. You may donate at thetrevorproject.org.