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'Saturday Night Live' star Bowen Yang says he went to conversion therapy when he was 17

The comedian came out to his parents via messaging chat when he was 17

2020-01-27

Words: Steve Brown

Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang has revealed he was sent to gay conversion therapy when he was 17.

The comedian - who was part of the Harry Styles 'thirsty gay' skit on SNL came out to his family via messaging chat when he was 17, but his father proceeded to book him onto eight sessions with a ‘specialist’.

Speaking to the New York Times, Yang said: “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…

“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.”

Yang agreed to go to the therapy sessions and opened up about what the sessions were like.

He continued: “I allowed myself the thought experiment of: ‘What if this could work?’ 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 centred 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.

“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 counsellor 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.”

Although the therapy was ineffective, Yang said there is still difficulties between himself and his parents, but he isn’t in any rush to get them to accept his sexuality.

“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 continued.

“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’.”