Out and proud: Zelos Wong Hoi-yat on love, life and the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong
June 15, 2020
2020 has been a turbulent year for many, as the human race grapples with a global pandemic and the unprecedented cumulative loss of loved ones, jobs, and what we once considered “normal life.”
For Zelos Wong Hoi-yat, a Hong Kong singer-songwriter, fitness trainer and influencer, 2020 has also been a year of life-changing moments – from losing his lover to an accident to publicly coming out on social media and subsequently debuting his first song, Barnaby, named after and in honour of his late boyfriend.
As part of our Pride Month special, we spoke with Zelos about his coming out story, his late boyfriend and the struggles that Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community still face today.
What was it like for you growing up in Hong Kong?
I grew up in a traditional family in Hong Kong with very limited exposure to the gay community. I’d always been curious about my sexuality but suppressed it over the years as I didn’t want to be seen as “abnormal.” In fact, I didn’t fully realise I was gay until I went on exchange in Miami for university and took a course on gender studies. There, I discovered that people can have very gender-fluid identities.
Meeting so many people in the US who were open-minded about sexuality helped me overcome my fear of exploring who I really was. But, coming back to Hong Kong where homophobic jokes were constantly being thrown around really held me back from coming out. Even when I started dating my boyfriend Barnaby, I didn’t tell my family. I think the loss of Barnaby affected me a lot – life is too short to not be your true self.
How did it feel to finally come out publicly, and on social media?
I came out with a post on Instagram in remembrance of my late boyfriend Barnaby, but at the time, it wasn’t about confessing my sexuality. My goal was to let people know how much I loved him, even if it was too late.
Afterwards, I decided to post a YouTube video about my coming out story, and I received tremendous support from my followers, many of whom also shared their personal struggles as an LGBTQ member.
I have to admit that coming out is not easy, and I still get attacked and cyber bullied on a daily basis. But, that also motivates me even more. I want to give courage to the people who are still too scared to express who they really are.
How has coming out affected you with regards to your life, music career, relationship with your family and friends, etc?
It’s all still quite new to me, but I am definitely happier. In terms of songwriting, I now have absolute freedom in what I want to write – plus I’m lucky to have my producer’s support.
My family is still a bit confused as I’ve dated girls before, and they’ve asked if I’d ever go back to dating girls. This doesn’t offend me as they’ve had very limited exposure to the gay community, and the only thing I can do is to try my best to educate them with patience and love.
Do you have any advice for those who have yet to come out themselves?
Take your time. You don’t have to come out if you don’t feel like it, and you’ll find the reason to do it when you want to. Even you don’t, you can still live a happy life with your partner without coming out. Plus, you don’t have to come out to everybody. However, if you do, you’ve got the blessings from the LGBTQ community and I’ll be here to support you.
Who are the people you look up to in the LGBTQ community in HK, Asia or overseas?
In Hong Kong, I admire Denise Ho Wan-see and Anthony Wong Yiu-ming a lot. Not only are they open about their sexuality, but they also risk their careers to fight for gay rights.
Globally, I love Miley Cyrus, who came out as pansexual (those who are attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender) and Lady Gaga, who fully supports equality in her songs by telling the world that we are all born this way and shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
Your first single Barnaby (巴勒比) just came out. Can you tell us the story and meaning behind the song?
The song is a tribute to my late boyfriend who passed away four months ago in an accident. I was in London with his family and his mum wanted me to sing a song at his funeral, and I only wanted to sing for him if it was a song written by me. Through the song, I hope to keep him and our love alive. I also want to remind people who listen to this song how amazing it is to be alive.
Finally, how are you celebrating PRIDE month?
2020 has been a crazy year. I’m not celebrating Pride Month in particular but I’ve started to wear outfits from Pride collections every day. Being visible to society is my own way of celebrating my first-ever Pride Month after coming out!
Follow Zelos Wong Hoi-yat on Instagram @zeloswongz