Why I Was So Impacted by Eugene Lee Yang’s Coming Out Video | Southern Culture + Being Queer

Syd Wachs
Syd Wachs
Jun 25, 2019 · 4 min read
Still from Eugene Lee Yang’s video, “I’m Gay”

It took me over a week to process the emotions I felt while watching Eugene Lee Yang’s coming out video.

I wasn’t sure if it was because I’m an artist, or how much of a sucker I am for beautiful cinematography, pristine color correction, and incredibly intricate choreography, all of which were present in every shot.

Short answer: that’s definitely part of it. Can’t deny.

But the visual gorgeousness of his video wasn’t the only reason behind my being emotionally bodyslammed by a gorilla.

When the behind-the-scenes mini-doc by Kane Diep was released, I paused the video to read all the tiny text explaining the symbolism behind every element in each scene.

And that was striking as well — did I mention I’m also a sucker for symbolism? — but again, there was something inside me that I was guarding myself against. Some buried emotion that my mind (heart?) was trying to keep me away from.

Eugene’s coming out video, aptly named “I’m Gay,” stirred something in me that I was trained since birth to fear.

My support of the queer community (AKA my “family”) in recent years has caused major strife with not only my conservative blood-family but also people who knew me back when I lived at home and was a very different person.

Let’s be clear: growing up in a small town in Alabama isn’t easy if you don’t believe and act the same as everyone else.

I’ve been following the Try Guys since their Buzzfeed days. As they’ve progressed and successfully established their own platform, we viewers have gotten to know each person a little deeper. I learned that Eugene is from a small city in Texas, and ultimately, that’s what I think resonated with me so much about his coming out video: I understand what being queer in the South feels like.

Obviously, I don’t get what being an internet celebrity feels like. Or being Korean-American. And I cannot fathom the pressure of coming out to millions of people.

But I understand Southern culture, and I was viewing Eugene’s video as not only his story, but also as my own.

I know how towns in the Deep South work.

What it’s like to wrestle with faith and identity simultaneously when doing so is silently deemed weak, even a sin.

How, especially in small Southern towns, church functions and youth groups may be one of the only sources of social interaction available, so if you’re outcasted, it’s ultra-noticeable.

What it’s like to be harboring a huge, looming secret within you while you sing worship songs.

Not being sure who you can trust — if anyone.

And in that struggle between identity and faith, should Identity win, it’s a gamble of who will still love you and who will turn their back on you.

One theme in Eugene’s video that came full circle was how the definition of “family” changes over time.

Family is a big, big thing in the South. Blood family is Everything, yes, with a capital E.

The culture of the South, notably in more traditional places, is incredibly complex and rooted. It often relies heavily on no one stepping out of the box too far or changing the status quo too much.

Your actions, even after leaving home, can change your entire family’s reputation. Your actions can start harmful rumors about not only you but also your family. (For someone like me with Oldest Child Syndrome, this pressure can lead to some earth-shattering mega breakdowns.)

In each scene of Eugene’s video, represented by a different color and designed as a different chapter in his life, every one of these elements was reflected with crystal clarity.

And what brought tears to my eyes was seeing the pain on his face.

Whether it was from the video’s grueling production or from his memories of that time in his life — or possibly a combination — the hurt was real, and it was so real that it punched me right in the gut.

I couldn’t speak for an hour after watching it, and for a solid couple of days after, I felt like my emotions were a vicious vortex pulling me down into the bottom of the deep blue ocean.

Now: I’m a Capricorn (as is Eugene) and it takes hell itself to bring up these kinds of feelings in me. His video holds a slow-burning power that sticks like pine sap. I just can’t get it off, and I’m absolutely not upset about it.

In the Pondering since its release, I’ve realized that I’ve been compromising.

I’ve still tried to please everyone and have not supported my LGBTQ+ community like I should have been doing — like I’ve wanted so badly to do.

I’m not one to easily admire people, but Eugene’s involvement with The Trevor Project and giving a voice to queer people globally is wildly inspiring to me.

I’m something of a nomad, but while I’m on the road, there’s so much I can do online to provide resources and community to queer people and queer creatives.

After all — and may it be known — I’m a queer creative, and my Family deserves all the beauty and love in the world.

Thank you, Eugene.

Watch his coming out video here.

Watch the behind-the-scenes mini-doc by Kane Diep here.

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