Dear Straight People,
You may find this hard to believe. But not too long ago, the strapping young hunk with the ripped physique on the right of the collage above was actually the scrawny kid who spent most of his time by himself.
With an army of almost 30,000 Instagram followers, it’s hard to fathom that 24-year old Australian Jono Kwan was once an outcast with no friends.
A pack of them would forcibly pick me up by my limbs, force open my legs and smash what was down there and my tailbone with a metal pole.
They would then drop me on the cement floor, and leave me immobilised and crying in pain.
Born in Sydney into a highly religious family, Jono was the middle child growing up with a younger twin brother and an older sister.
When Jono was just 6-years old, he developed an curious interest in British boyband ‘Five’, which unbeknownst to him, was probably the incipience of his burgeoning sexuality.
As Jono grew older, so did his interest in the same sex. During his teenage years, he would fantasise about the handsome male leads of a soap opera he used to follow.
At the time, it was pure innocent and natural curiosity to me, but in hindsight, it must have been driven by some kind of underlying same-sex attraction
As a really late bloomer, Jono didn’t hit puberty until he was 18.
He was also the shortest boy in class and even had to wear an orthodontic metal face mask linked to his braces for 6 years. That coupled with the fact that he was more bashful and less of a high school frat in nature made him an easy target for bullies.
The physical abuse he endured however, was nothing compared to the public humiliation he received.
One time, they pinned me down and took really revolting and indecent pictures of me and all these pictures were plastered all over the walls of the school.
They also cut a printout of my face, poked the eyes out, and paraded around the school with it masked on their faces. I had never felt more worthless and humiliated. That was actually when I started to cut my lips profusely, which is why they’re so big now.
Unable to find love and acceptance at his school, Jono decided to seek refuge in the church instead.
At first, they accepted me with open arms, I played in the band, was a Sunday school teacher and a youth leader … I loved it
While he didn’t experience any bullying from the church, the homophobic undertones Jono experienced eventually left him feeling the same loneliness and hurt he did in high school.
I was an ideological hybrid, a gay Christian, and still am – the difference was back then I had no idea who I was.
All I felt was a chaotic loneliness, while all the other boys and girls started dating one another.
Finding it hard to build meaningful relationships, Jono spent all his time at home and resided to making his friends on online forums.
I had made online friends, and one of them spoke to me about whether I went to “Oxford Street” in Sydney.
I had no idea what it was at the time (it’s the famous gay neighbourhood in Sydney).
Having never had a gay friend and after finding out that there was a place to go to find people like him, Jono decided to explore Oxford Street. On a fateful Saturday night, Jono ventured alone into a gay club for the first time in his life.
It was the most daunting thing, having to stand in the corner of a club by myself – no one would talk to me. I still had my emo fringe, braces, was tiny weighing about 50kgs.
I remember thinking to myself, “someday, I’ll be worth talking to.”
After the completion of his orthodontic face mask treatment that completely changed the shape of his jaw and face, Jono became hell-bent on improving himself. He started to hit the gym regularly in an effort to improve his physique.
Now I’m 80kgs, 180cm and keep myself well-groomed and a lot of people talk to me.
People think I’ve gotten plastic surgery but I haven’t.
No longer the misfit who wanted to recede from the world, the Jono of today is a far cry from who he used to be. However, most important of all he muses:
I remembered thinking to myself “you are so so ugly”
Now, I have a really good inner circle of close friends and there is nothing but love between us and that’s all the matters.
Currently working as a graduate account manager at Microsoft, Jono Kwan is also the proud founder of Everyday Sway – an online catalogue of street wear and culture.
What I want to achieve with the blog comes from the crux of why I started it in the first place – as an expression of inner fame through fashion.
By continuing to grow Everyday Sway, I want to be able to more freely and widely creatively express myself and inspire my readers to be able to gain that same life-changing confidence that fashion enabled.
Having worked with brands such as Topshop Topman, Asos and 2eros, Jono aspires to ‘make a positive impact on the world by speaking my mind, while being the best me I can be.‘
1. How was your first coming out experience like?
I had one really really good friend, Ivy, we had grown up in church together and had always been such kindred spirits. Ivy and I got really drunk in a park near my house one afternoon, and
I said “Ivy, I have something to tell you”.
“What?”, she said.
“Ivy, I’m gay.”
“Well Jono, I’m lesbian!”
Both our jaws dropped to the floor.
2. How did your family respond to your sexuality?
I’ve only really spoken directly about it to my sister. I told her when I was around 22 and she said, “umm honey, I’ve known since you were 12” … “Was I that obvious?!”
I swear my twin brother and my parents know. I don’t really bother to hide it now, but we’ve never ever spoken about it directly. I know once, some elders in my parents directly confronted my parents about it before I was able to speak to them. I thought that was such an intrusion of my right and judgmental.
At the end of the day, I know my family still loves me, and would only want what’s best for me.
3. How is the gay scene in Australia like?
The gay scene can be everything from vapid and super-shallow to loving and evergreen.
As mentioned before, when I first entered the scene I had no friends, I went completely alone. I only really started to make friends after the completion of my orthodontic face mask treatment with my braces.
I know that every time I walk up that street, I will always bump into these friends, and every time I go out to the bars and clubs, there’s never a time I don’t see my friends there. This took quite some time to build, but the gay scene has a great sense of community, that is, once you are in.
4. Have you experienced any incidents of racism from the gay community so far?
I haven’t had any dramatic incidences like I had when I was growing up, but I feel the racism against Asians in the gay community is more implicit.
Sometimes, it’s almost a surprise to them that I can speak English fluently as a local. If they don’t have a particular preference for Asians, sometimes they won’t even speak to you.
I’m used to being a people watcher, so I do pick up on these things, but I don’t let it annoy me – the one’s worth having in your life are the ones who don’t see race or colour, but just people.
5. What advice do you have for people who are still hiding in the closet?
Give it time. I used to lie in bed awake all night, unable to sleep, thinking about how nobody at all understood my condition.
Coming out the very first time was the hardest of all. But after you come out a few times (choosing the right people), you realise that it is not THAT big of a deal to them. If they truly love you and are worth having in your life, it will not matter to them.
And it’s perfectly okay to take baby-steps in the beginning. The online world is a great place to learn more about coming out, and my first gay friends were in online forums as weird as that sounds – it’s the 21st century people!
Think about the closest people in your life and whether they would see you any different if you told them – if they are really worth keeping in your life, they will love you the same.
Also, don’t be afraid to go out and explore and find new gay friends that you don’t even need really come out to. Walking up Oxford Street by myself was one of the most daunting but rewarding gateways in my life.
6. What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about the gay community?
The biggest misconception about the gay community is that if you are part of it, you have to be explicitly just one thing – that is, if is easy to think of all gays as left-wing, narcissistic, well-groomed and religion-hating queens who love Beyoncé.
This is so not true, we are all unique in our own way and are as diverse, if not even more diverse than the straight community.
I am a gay-Christian, one that would never forcibly impress my views on others, and many people think I am a paradox, but I am 100% both.
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Jono Kwan for sharing his story with us.
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