Entrepreneur, Creative Director. LGBT Rights Advocate.
Our next feature in the Out Of The Closet series has played many roles throughout his life. From launching a successful media company to organising a queer film festival, this man has had an illustrious career.
But there is one role in particular, that takes precedence over all others. Our next feature also happens to be the biological father to a pair of twin boys.
Dear Straight People,
Meet 43-year old Taiwanese Jay Lin and his adorable brood, comprising of his partner Jona Chen and their twin sons.
Raising a family is no easy feat. But I think it’s fair to say that same-sex couples generally have a much harder time. Thanks to social stigma and archaic laws, same-sex couples who wish to have children have to be prepared to cross countless hurdles.
But Jay Lin is one of a handful of queer Asians who’ve managed to beat the odds. The picture above may seem like the epitome of familial bliss. But the journey to get there has been long and arduous.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of Jay Lin!
Born in Taiwan, Jay first experienced same-sex attraction during his teenage years.
I believe it was in middle school when I was really taken with my best friend but I didn’t know how to express those feelings.
Although Jay spent most of his schooling years abroad in the States, the social stigma surrounding homosexuality back then compelled him to keep mum about his sexuality. It wasn’t until he ventured overseas for college did Jay finally burst out of the closet.
I came out in college when I did my junior year abroad in Germany.
I told all my housemates – around 8 or 9 of them – to come to the backyard because I have a big announcement to make. I was shaking and had tears when I told them I was gay – in german no less.
My housemates thought I was being overly dramatic and joked around with me, and so it was all good but so we became better friends and opened up more to each other.
Encouraged by the positive reception from his first coming out experience, Jay decided to come out to his sisters when he returned to Taiwan.
I told my sisters at first at different times and got different responses from them
One of them told me to not ever tell my parents because it would crush them.
It took some time. But eventually, Jay’s entire family came round and accepted not just him, but his partner of 4 years, Jona Chen, as well.
We met when I visited the restaurant where he was working as a waiter and there was an instant connection there.
Unfortunately, I was there with a serious judge friend talking about serious legal matters and so I was in no position to be flirting. Eventually I asked the owner of the restaurant for more information and then found each other, rather serendipitously, on Facebook.
Then, at the age of 40, Jay made the life-changing decision to have kids.
At first, Jay tried adoption agencies. But his efforts at adopting ultimately proved futile.
I was unable to have much success with adoption because single people, especially gays, have almost no chance of adoption in Taiwan.
Undaunted, his next course of action was to try having children via surrogacy instead. Through sheer luck, he managed to find both an egg donor and a surrogate mother.
After I got a “Yes” from a dear friend willing to give me her eggs, and found a great lesbian mother who was willing to be a surrogate, I felt so blessed that I would be connected to these two amazing women for the rest of their lives.
I then had all the confidence in the world to proceed forward.
Born in the States last year, Jay brought the twins back to Taiwan when they were both a month old.
Currently settled comfortably in Taipei, Jay’s family really isn’t all that different from other families. From bathing and feeding them to arranging for vaccinations, Jay’s family functions just like any other family.
That said, being a same-sex family does bring with it some unique challenges.
My partner was not certain of his status in my life because he had no biological connection to the children.
We weren’t married so he feared that he would be pushed out by other family members, however unfounded, even though at one point, he was the primary caretaker of the children.
Apart from his twin boys, Jay has another baby. I am of course, referring to Portico Media – the media company Jay founded 13 years ago.
Taiwan’s leading distributor of TV channels and programming, Portico Media is also the organiser of Taiwan’s first and only LGBT queer film festival. But despite his already impressive portfolio, Jay wanted more.
I organised the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival for three years, and realised that even though I was getting great feedback, I could only showcase the movies to a very limited audience, i.e. those who were able to come to those particular screenings at those particular times at those particular theatres.
There is a greater audience out there that would want to have access to this LGBT content because certainly, they weren’t available on mass media.
So the thought came to create an OTT service that people anywhere in Southeast Asia can access from the privacy of their own homes and mobile phones, but still be connected through social media to interact, share film reviews and make recommendations, i.e. a virtual film festival.
With that goal in mind, Jay launched Gagaoolala, which is pretty much the queer version of Netflix. Featuring the largest collection of LGBT films in Asia, Gagaoolala also recently produced an original production called ‘A Tale Of Lost Boys‘.
The project came from my friendship with Joselito Altarejos – the Fiipino director of the film. Joselito is someone who has already made dozens of movies, and I have been running Portico Media for a dozen years.
So we wanted to put our forces together to tell a story that crosses national, cultural, linguistic, gay/straight, social boundaries and so eventually we came up with this movie that became the first GagaOOLala Original.
A coming-of-age tale revolving around a Taiwanese aboriginal gay student and a Filipino man hiding from his pregnant fling, the poignant film is ultimately a story about two young boys struggling to cope with familial expectations.
With plans to continue producing groundbreaking original LGBT content, Jay seems like he is only just getting started.
We have to find more interesting stories, directors, writers from Southeast Asia for this type of cross-border collaboration.
Check out the rest of the article below to find out more about Jay’s experience as a same-sex parent as well as his journey in building his media ventures.
1. How did your parents respond to your sexuality?
I came out to my parents in my late 30s, before I turned 40, and so I bared this burden for a long time.
But now everyone is accepting. Although my dad still once a while asks when I will find a woman to settle down with. LOL I think it is half-joking but at least he is consistent.
2. What made you want to become a dad?
When I was turning 40, I was evaluating what I was doing and what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought about just going to China and doing bigger work projects there or to continue to stay in Taiwan and focus more on projects that I cared about, and perhaps put more focus on my personal affairs, such as starting a family.
I really didn’t think that I would be able to do surrogacy in Taiwan but thanks to playing a role in a movie called “Baby Steps’ and finding out from other gay dads or intended gay days in the US, I was able to find a way to find the various resources to make it happen.
3. Do you ever worry over the notion that Asia isn’t quite ready for same-sex families?
Taiwan is where I call home, and I didn’t think about whether Asia as a whole was ready but I knew I was ready and I knew I was blessed to be living in a city and country that was relatively progressive and accepting and so I moved forward with it.
4. What are some of the parenting challenges that your partner and you face as a result of being same-sex parents?
I think same-sex parents are a very new family pattern in Taiwan.
In terms of relationship, there was never a manual for how two gays can be good parents because our relationship got push down into lower priority with the childcare taking top priority.
As for society, I became a lot more active speaking out for the rights of gay families and the LGBT community but I realised that I need to balance my contribution to the community with my own needs and have some privacy for my family and some time for me to continue to grow my business and career.
5. What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about same-sex families?
That we don’t know how to be good parents because we are missing a mother or a father.
But the reality is I am surrounded by wonderful men and women in my life, and they are all positive influences on our children. I know so many children of single parents who are thriving in society, in school and in their careers.
The key point is whether there is a lot love and fun in that family, and I can definitely say the answer in our situation is a YES!
6. What advice do you have for other same-sex couples wanting to become parents?
If you want to be parents, don’t wait until you are 100% certain because there is always going to be doubt and the way that gays create families generally take a lot more time, effort and money. So if you wait, you might end up being a bit too old and thus even more hesitant to move forward.
And also it is a commitment for life. So make sure you do it for yourself, and not for your parents or anyone else. You will most likely outlive your parents and so if you are having children because you want to fulfil your parents’ expectations, then please think twice. It is not fair to the children.
Hobbies/Interests: Tennis, watching films, traveling, making friends from different parts of the world.
Aspirations: To be a good father and a good leader of a company that does great social and commercial good
Something interesting about you not many people know about: I drink about 4 -5 cups of coffee a day and am trying to cut down drastically. Also, I am a socks fantatic.
First Celebrity Crush: Leonardo DiCaprio
Written by Sean Foo
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Jay Lin for sharing his story with us.
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