Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Skylar Lee: Each Loss of Life is Significant

As my sisters Kripa and Cathy shared honest and brave accounts, I was celebrating Chuseok in Korea. On the tail-end of this feeling of connection with the Koreans, I was reminded how precious the lives of the marginal are, and more specifically the Asian males.

As my former sisters wrote, it is often secretive the loss of an adoptee to suicide. Mental health and depression are swept under the table. The strong faces individuals put forth in public mask pains that are difficult to heal. Expressing our suffering is criticized when it exhibits anger. So, it seems best to keep it quiet with a “stiff, upper lip.”

Our family contends with anxiety and depression, and my son has had his fair share of bullying. Last year, his first in high school, he experienced both physical violence and verbal abuse. While he presented a brave face at school (cameras showed him carrying on after being thrown to the ground, and act that burned a hole in his athletic pants), he broke down at home. He called suicide hotlines, visited emergency rooms and our little family closed ranks to support him.

In his mind, his Asian background betrayed his American masculinity, and for this, he blamed me and my unknown history. He pushed me away, and I blamed myself too. I had no Asian father figure to give him, but I desperately wanted to bring him to Korea, so that he could see other men who looked like him.

My husband and I have achieved that goal, and my son has really enjoyed his time in Korea. He loves that he can walk down the street or take the subway and just blend in. It is truly beautiful to see. He is the happiest I have seen him in quite some time.

School is internet school, so the bullies of last year are functioning without him. But what we discovered is that others were bearing the same.

Tuesday morning, the news hit in Korea. In our Madison community, a trans teen boy had died “unexpectantly,” as reported by the funeral home and the local news. When I asked my son if he knew Skylar Lee, he said that in fact he did and that they had talked before about their shared experiences with depression; they were schoolmates. I imagine they shared many of the same problems like being called derogatory names that elude to femininity. For Skylar, I suspect these words hurt more profoundly.

Skylar had a beautiful writing voice and a brave face. Please read his words and share them in his recent post about developing his identity. Share his story. Show support for Asian male teens as they navigate an American society that pushes them to the fringe.

Our schools need to be aware of the challenges of the marginally smaller groups and commit to protecting them as well.


Feminist columnist, Rosita Gonz√°lez is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit who refers to himself as an Anglo-American and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her birth family, but also because of the loss of her adoptive parents. Rosita is currently living in Seoul, South Korea with her family and their three cats. Follow her adventures as an adoptee on her blog, mothermade.

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