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In February 2016 Robert and I celebrated 15 years together and our second anniversary as a married couple.
I can clearly remember when I first introduced Robert to my family, apprehensive and uncertain of what they would think of him. He was the first boyfriend I had ever taken to a family gathering but, of course, I had always introduced him as my friend. Over time, he came to every family function, and eventually, when family members started asking his whereabouts if I came alone, I knew that was positive affirmation that he had been accepted into the Dinh family! When I saw how he cared, loved, and supported my family and me during the time when my mom broke her ankle, I felt it in my heart that he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But it hasn’t always been that simple and easy to be an openly gay Vietnamese American.
From an early age, I’ve known that I was different from other boys. I loved doing “girlie stuff,” and when it came to actual girls, I was confused about my sexuality as well. I felt afraid of what would happen if my family knew the truth about who I was, which at that point, I was not even sure of myself. I understood that I was attracted to the same sex but for many years I stayed under the radar and tried to be “normal” like everyone else.
Paradoxically, my close-knit, traditional, Vietnamese Catholic family was simultaneously supporters of my life passions and unwitting obstructers of my full self-expression.
In time, I became more curious about this side of myself. I started going to gay clubs and meeting other gay people but, all the while, I could not shake the fact that I was living a double-life and was perpetually tormented by questions, such as How am I going to
tell my family? What will happen if they know? Will they still love me? Will they accept who I am? Will they feel embarrassed to have a son or brother who is gay? Will they disown me? I struggled with these questions constantly and didn’t know how long I could go on with the secret. Yet, how could I prepare myself and be ready to answer all their questions when I was still trying to find the answers myself?
“I struggled with these questions constantly and didn’t know how long I could go on with the secret. Yet, how could I prepare myself and be ready to answer all their questions when I was still trying to find the answers myself?”
Eventually, I started dating and slowly opened up to my family about being gay. Well…really just to my mother because somehow I knew she would love me no matter what. Even so, in the beginning, she looked for treatments to help change my sexuality. But eventually she began to realize that this was something I was born with and that it was not a rebellious or thoughtless choice. Throughout all this, I always felt my parents’ unconditional love and support even if they did not openly talk about my lifestyle. Some things don’t need to be spoken in order to be true.
I am so lucky to live in a state where gay marriage is legal. Most importantly, we have the right to make decisions for the ones we love, especially in times of illness. Before gay marriage was legalized, it did not matter how many years a couple had been together; they had no rights to visit each other in the hospital or make any legal, financial, or medical decisions on behalf of their partner. Like all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, I, as a gay man, just want to love and be loved, to support and be supported by my loved ones. Being gay is not a choice or a lifestyle. I was born like this.
Peter Dinh McGinnis is a devoted son and loving partner. When he is not busy traveling the world and doing philanthropy work in Viet Nam and Mexico, he is transforming people, one fabulous hairstyle at a time.