“William” – Original Art by Ky Ama
I’m a lucky bitch. We all wish to be someone different, and I’ve been able to be quite a few different someones.
My birth name is William. I grew up as a squirt in Australia where my sister and I were the lone Asians in our school. Although my friends saw past my brown skin, I noticed the teachers’ suspicious eyes that followed me throughout that time.
I went through my first identity crisis as a 13-year-old in Tokyo, when my confusion in losing my virginity to both a girl and an older man (at separate times) led to ignored boasts at an international school. The other students knew I was a flamboyant attention whore and conflicted gay adolescent before I did.
“Jack” – Original Art by Ky Ama
I transferred to a Japanese high school where I was known fittingly as Jack, from Titanic, because Jack was apparently the only international name they knew. Jack was exotic and popular for the first time. As a freshman, Jack had VIP access to the Shinjuku and Shibuya clubs where he felt like the boss.
“Atsushi” – Original Art by Ky Ama
Then, I transitioned to Atsushi: the bleached hair, label covered, slutty little know-it-all. The name came from Atsushi Yanagisawa, the hottest Japanese soccer player.
One day at Tokyo Central station, I saw Yanagisawa step off a private bus, and I just happened to walk by. His tanned skin and amber hair glowed against his muscle-filled charcoal suit, ready for an interview. As his heavy-lidded eyes (I swear) met mine, I whispered into the airy space between us, “It’s their loss. I vow my strength to you…” and then I became Atsushi.
This name carried on into my last job in Japan as a barboy in the gay district Shinjuku Ni-chome, in 2010. I can still smell the dried up alcohol in the tiny bar, and remember the endless drinking and flirtations that went on in there. After a night of work, I would straddle home at anytime between 7am and noon, drunk as a wet noodle, asking myself why anyone would put themselves through any job in Tokyo’s red lights. I would pass out in the bar sink or on top of customers, after hours of making them feel like they were the only important people who exist in the world. To be honest, I sucked at that Japanese custom of … sucking up. Once I faithfully endured a public and literal slap in the face from a longtime customer who pegged me for hitting on his boy toy is when I finally thought, “Fuck this,” I applied to a San Francisco art university that accepts any dumb-ass.
“Will” – Original Art by Ky Ama
In San Francisco, I became Will, the hipster/stoner who made love to San Francisco more than I did with actual human beings.
After graduating as a journalist/illustrator, I ventured to Amsterdam where my Polish roommate named me Illy, after the coffee. I was pretty much stoned throughout my 6 months there, probably as an escape from the fact that my mother died before I graduated. I was pretty much lost. I remember vaguely the charms of the old continent, and the wacky ways of the innovative Dutch.
“Illy” – Original Art by Ky Ama
I remember my first night sleeping at Westerpark when I was briefly homeless. I pulled through because of my roommate and his funny ferret, and a young bright-eyed Frenchman who could not “understand how ze two men can have ze sex wiz each uzza!”
These two kind characters reminded me why relationships with those who are not entirely tolerant is special as well. I went back to San Francisco after awkward dude-ish goodbyes, when they embraced me timidly, but firmly.
Back in SF, as Will again, I went through innocent crushes and sweet heartbreaks for the last time. These organic relationships were based on creamy ideas, dreaming futures, mutual crumbled pasts, and the strange sense of wordless connection, amidst the overwhelming creativity of the lonely individuals, all in the city, just like a lost and almost-found hoodie. I miss that.
My time drifted to Los Angeles, where I was Kenny.
“Kenny” – Original Art by Ky Ama
I’d never felt so much fear as Kenny did. In a West Hollywood home, as a “caretaker,” I was in a relationship with a much older man who played gaslight on me, feeding me crystal meth to calm my paranoid nerves. There was a lot of talk about money, and skinny, delirious, vain Kenny chose to gamble his faith and morals for image.
Kenny had perfect hair and the perfect look of an LA exotic minority, and suspicious access to drugs and concealed connections to the stars. I am not entirely innocent and white. I am not entirely guilty and black. Kenny was a gray story that ended up a 105-pound manic, with severe hypotension, pulled into a halfway-house after running away…
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… I now go by Ky. I’ve recovered from the past here in Honolulu, now under the care of family. I continue to wonder what I did to deserve such luck in paradise, after such a self-destructive and reckless flight.
What I can give for that? It starts with a relationship that I believe we all work on throughout our lives, but only rarely do we confront – our relationship with ourselves.
“7 Faces” – Original Art by Ky Ama
I’m starting all over again, keeping what William, Jack, Atsushi, Will, Illy, Kenny and Ky all have in common: I am a gay Asian male, 26 years old. I live for magic, my family, the South wind, education, exploration, expression, and my best friend is myself. It’s a pleasure.
– Ky Ama
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