'Saturday Night Live' 's Bowen Yang Opens Up About Being Put in Gay Conversion Therapy as a Teen

“Neither side really understood where the other was coming from," says Bowen Yang of his parents

Saturday Night Live cast member Bowen Yang is opening up about being sent to gay conversion therapy by his parents as a teen.

"There was a huge chasm of misunderstanding," Yang says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. "Neither side really understood where the other was coming from, and it led to very dangerous situations overall."

Still, "what was always constant was the intention of love from both sides. It pushed me into questioning what it meant, what was protected and what I should be protective about in terms of being a queer person," says Yang. "I don't take it for granted."

For more from Bowen Yang, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, or subscribe here.

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Bowen Yang. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

The comedian, 30, told the New York Times in January 2020 that his parents found out he was gay when they discovered "lewd conversations" on his AOL Instant Messenger at 17 years old.

"They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, 'We don't understand this. Where we come from, this doesn't happen,' " he recalled. Soon after, Yang's father told him he had set up eight sessions with a specialist who worked in gay conversion therapy.

Bowen Yang
Saturday Night Live. Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Now, Yang, who leads an LGBTQ ensemble in Audible Original's new scripted comedy podcast Hot White Heist (written and created by Adam Goldman and directed by Alan Cumming), says that his relationship with his parents is in a "healthy place."

"There has been a nice shift where they go, 'Great job,'" he says of their take on his fame.

Yang, who also co-hosts the Las Culturistas podcast, first joined SNL as a staff writer for season 44 and became a full-time cast member a year later in September 2019.

"They've just been encouraging in the purest sense. It's not like I'm getting sketch ideas from them, and they know what the boundaries are," he says of his parents. "They know that that job has been hard won for me, and that it means a lot, and it means a lot to them too. They think, 'Wow, he pulled it off.' And my mom said to me recently, she was like, 'Bowen you're very lucky to be doing this.' And I was like, 'I know mom.'"

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