「I do not encourage to come out of the closet recklessly. You need to find the right time, the right opportunity, the right language, and in a way that can be accepted by your family. Don't upset them.」 – Edmond Yuen
「I want to be the role model for young generations – especially teenagers who have nowhere to go. For our future generations, we are obligated to eradicate prejudice.」 – Michael Ziemer
「我們只是一對普通愛侶，盡力維持這段親密關係。」台北文華東方酒店總經理Michael Ziemer一句平淡的陳述，其實是諸多不平淡際遇的積累。請你以不帶成見的平淡之心，來閱讀他與人生伴侶Edmond Yuen不平淡的故事……
同性相愛兼克服重重障礙的異國戀情，出櫃與否的苦苦掙扎，父母從另有期待轉而衷心祝福，場景橫跨香港、德國、澳門、澳洲和台灣，入鏡的還有第一男主角年邁卻思想先進的教母，以及第二男主角的大明星妹妹等諸多配角，綜合這些有笑有淚又吸睛的元素，肯定能編寫出堪比《囍宴》的精采劇本。不過，這卻是台北文華東方酒店總經理Michael Ziemer與他的人生伴侶袁家慶Edmond Yuen的真實際遇。在台北MO總統套房，默契十足的兩人不僅與《WE PEOPLE》合作演繹了戲劇張力十足的攝影佳作，更大方分享了他們一路走來的感人點滴。
「We are just an ordinary couple who are trying our best to maintain this intimate relationship,」 Michael Ziemer, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Taipei, said in a placid tone of a story that is anything but ordinary. Please open up your heart with an unprejudiced mind and join us in reading the extraordinary story of Michael Ziemer and his life partner, Edmond Yuen…
It is a cross-cultural relationship of two men who faced challenges from society, struggled with the decision of whether to come out of the closet or not, and overcame all the obstacles in their own way. The story spans across Hong Kong, Germany, Macau, Australia, and Taiwan, and involves parents who started off with other expectations but ended with genuine blessings, a forward-thinking godmother of the leading actor in this story, a celebrity sister of the second lead actor and many other significant supporting roles. The story is a combination of tears and laughter that will definitely beat the movie 「The Wedding Banquet」 directed by Ang Lee. This is a true story of the General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Taipei, Michael Ziemer, and his life partner, Edmond Yuen. In Mandarin Oriental, Taipei's Presidential Suite, two individuals who have a perfect tacit understanding collaborated with 「We People」 to showcase a series of powerfully dramatic photographs and the ups and downs of their touching life journey.
徬徨少年時 Young and Helpless
Michael grew up in a small country town in Australia. Both his parents are German immigrants, and they have a close-knit family. When Michael was growing up, the society was not as open and accepting as the present. Thus, as the eldest son in the family, there was a lot of pressure because of his sexuality.
「My upbringing was very conservative with very traditional values, and since it was a small country town, I had to sort of force myself into the closet,」 explained Michael. 「It was a very awkward time for me because although I was loved by my family very much, I learned very quickly how to disguise myself and hide who I was. I think a lot of people may have gone through the same thing, especially when the family is very family-oriented. I love them so much but I grew up thinking they never really knew me. The funny thing was, when I left Australia in 1992, I felt so much freedom because I was away from all the pressure from family, friends and I could discover myself without the pressure of Australia.」
Michael recalls his teenage memories when he was still in school. 「In my school when I was young, I knew nobody that was gay as me. There were rumors, and you can tell when someone's being bullied because he was gay. I was bullied too because I was tall and skinny, most of all, a foreigner there. There was a lot of discrimination already, so for me to be coming out on top of that, it was not even an option. I knew I was attracted to men, but I had nobody to talk to. There was nobody to confide in or offer suggestions. I was extremely scared and helpless. As I grew older, I also became hesitant as to whether I should come out or not because I think the fear is that you don't want to disappoint the people you love the most.」 Having this background gave Michael unyielding strength and allowed him to know himself better. 「Sometimes when people say to me 「I know you」 I get very angry and I find it very offensive because people don't know what I have been through.」
喜獲家人支持 Family Blessings
「I am much luckier than Michael,」 said Eddy (short for Edmond) 「My family is pretty traditional as well but after all, Hong Kong is big cosmopolitan city. You see more and hear more, so it is not that big of a deal. On the other hand, my big sister Anita Yuen is a celebrity, and my younger sister is a flight attendant, so they helped to guide my parents. 「My dad already knew. It was harder for my mom to accept. I still remember one day she asked me, 『Can I ask you a question?』 my heart was pounding so fast, and I thought to myself, she knew. And before she could ask, I said to her 『if you want the answer, it is yes.』 She cried for half an hour and when she stopped, I said to her, 『I am not asking you to accept me, but if you do, you will have another son in law.』 I guess all mothers need a clear answer so they can really move on. Nevertheless, Michael and I are very lucky. We came out and still received blessings from our families.
Knowing how important it is to have family understanding and support, Eddy suggested 「Based on my own personal experience, I want to share this with the younger LGBT community or older friends who have not yet come out. I do not encourage coming out of the closet recklessly. Find a right time, right opportunity, right words and in a way that can be accepted by your family. Don't upset them.」
Eddy is extremely thoughtful, detail-oriented, and warm. On the day of the interview, if Michael was around, he would only talk in English so Michael would understand. But if Michael was not around, he would switch to Chinese so that people working around can understand him better. Eddy is always a very genuine and honest person. He always gave clear answers. Moreover, he is a very respectful person as well. Whenever he and Michael had different ideas, he would always let Michael talk first before he explained his perspective.
好事多磨 Good things take time
The story of how they met is a lot similar to a chic-flick. 「The first time I saw Eddy was at Propaganda (a famous gay bar in Hong Kong),」 Michael recalled. 「He was with bunch of friends and he looked very untouchable as if he was declaring 『Do not come near me'. And one day as I passed by MacDonnell Road after work, I saw him with two golden retrievers and wearing a baseball cap. And this happened a few times, so I thought to myself, I should have asked the taxi to wait so I get a chance to talk to him. But all of a sudden he disappeared. So my plan didn't work. About a year later, we met again at a dinner party and I screamed to myself, 『It's him!』 Then I talked to him immediately and asked him out for dinner. We started going out in November 2003, and we have never been apart since」.
Eddy has a somewhat different version of the story. 「I noticed him already at Propaganda, but all my friends told me not to go near him because he was very playful. But after I got to know him, I found out he is not like that at all. Yes, he is a bit playful, but he knows his boundaries. During the period that I disappeared, I was actually working in Bangkok. When we met again, I decided to go for it. At first I was a little worried. I even got cold feet and wanted to bail. I didn't talk to him for two weeks and wanted time to think through if we should really go on with our relationship. And the answer was positive, so I called him. Michael might seem very cool on the outside, but he is very pure and has a very passionate heart. We can talk about anything and everything. Furthermore, we have so much in common and share the same beliefs and values. For example, we are both very devoted in charity.」
融入彼此家庭 Blending into each other's family
赴德國工作前，Michael終於向父母出櫃。另一個促使他坦然相告的原因是閨蜜的驟逝，「我們一起上學，感情超級好，我父母愛她如女兒。她知道我正走在人生最顛簸的道路上，因此罹患乳癌卻沒告訴我，不想我憂心。我仍記得，於教堂舉行的喪禮中，我站立她棺木前致哀悼詞，我爸像老鷹似的在台下盯著我，那一刻，她給了我勇氣，讓我在父母面前也能勇敢做自己。」即便多年過去，聊起這段往事，重情義的Michael依舊因思念故友而熱淚盈眶。「我媽比較難搞，」他收拾情緒後繼續說，「她總是夢想我娶個金髮藍眼的德國女生，結果我竟帶了個香港男人回家。事到臨頭我很緊張啊！Eddy也不容易，飛到雪梨還要再轉螺旋槳小飛機，降落在牛群和袋鼠之間。起初，爸媽只簡單地和他握手致意，兩星期後，我父親在機場緊緊摟著他、捨不得鬆開手， 當下我就知道，Eddy已成功融入我的家庭。有一年我們回家過節，出發前因一些小問題沒解決，導致彼此關係有點緊繃，連我爸媽都察覺到了。隔天，我媽開著她的賓士衝到我家，氣沖沖地把包包丟飯桌上，指著我的鼻子說：『你如果搞砸， 我再也不跟你講話！』可見他們多喜愛Eddy！」
Before the honeymoon was over, this relationship faced its first challenge. 「One day Michael said to me that he got promoted and would transfer to Mandarin Oriental, Munich as General Manager.」 Eddy recalled. 「I thought to myself, Does he want to break up? So I froze for a few minutes. Then he asked if I was willing to go with him. I went silent again and the first thought that popped in my mind was: If I don't grab this person, I'm probably going to lose the chance. So I said, 『Then I should start learning German!」 Michael told me afterwards that his heart was pounding so fast at that time! Moving to Germany was a big decision, because I wouldn't be able to work for a long time and I didn't have any family over there. Fortunately, Michael's colleagues were very accepting of our relationship, and we met a lot of friends who we still keep in touch with.」
Before moving to Germany, Michael finally came out to his parents. Another reason for him to made that decision was the passing of his best friend. 「We went to school together, and we were very close. My parents love her like a daughter. She knew I was walking on the bumpiest road of my life, so she didn't tell me when she got breast cancer because she didn't want me to worry. I still remember at her funeral in the church, I stood before her coffin to offer my eulogy and my father stared at me like hawk. At that moment, she gave me courage to be myself in front of my parents.」 Even after so many years, Michael teared at the thought of his best friend. 「My mom was the tough one. She always dreamed of me marrying a German girl with blue eyes and blonde hair. And I brought home a Hong Kong man. It was not easy for Eddy as well. He had to fly to Sydney, board a small turbo plane and fly down the coast to land amongst the cows and kangaroos. At first, my parents simply shook his hand. After two weeks, my father hugged him in the airport and wouldn't let go. That was the moment when I knew Eddy had already become a part of the family. Once when we went home for the holidays, we had a fight that was a bit intense. My parents noticed something was off and my mom drove her Mercedes-Benz to my place, dropped her bag on the dining table and said to me 『if you screw this up, I will never speak to you again.』 That's how much they love Eddy.」
Michael's relatives at Germany also surprised him when they received the news. 「My grandmother's sister is my godmother, and I wasn't sure how to introduce Eddy to her. So I told her over the phone that I would be bringing a friend from Hong Kong to visit her. She called me after 10 minutes and asked, 『Is the Hong Kong friend your partner? That is great! You must bring him, and I can't wait to see him!』 I was shocked. My mom was worried how the relatives at Germany would respond and my godmother told her, 『Don't be silly. If he married a woman, he would probably be divorced in three years and his child would be homeless.』 Until she passed away, she always told me to take care of Eddy.
Eddy's parents love Michael just as much. 「My parents don't speak English that well, but they still try to communicate with Michael in every way they can. If I was mean to him, they would even scold me for it.」
分享愛與幸福 Sharing love and spreading happiness
十數年依然恩愛如昔的秘訣？ 「我不喜歡正面衝突，」Eddy先答， 「一旦發生問題， 我需要深呼吸，靜下來思索解決之道。Michael的個性比較急，希望馬上獲得答案，有時對我而言可能是負荷，所以我會先走開一下。當然，我們共度的大多數時光是歡樂的，彼此也很珍惜，發生不愉快通常是因為旁人。」Michael接著表示：「每一段戀情都有高低起伏的時刻。我個人認為，除了相互尊重、遷就、包容，同性愛侶還必須是最要好的朋友，Eddy正是我的心腹、我的知交、我的靈魂伴侶。他的包容力非常巨大，從不批判。你知道嗎？雖然我的前半生與後半生際遇簡直360度大翻轉，但我相信，命運自有其安排─我遇到生命中最重要的人並與他共享一切，太幸福了！所以我們很想有所回饋。」
來台年餘，他倆已充分感受到寶島的熱情與包容。Eddy坦言：「以前在香港介紹Michael為partner時， 很多人不明瞭是哪一種partner，還會追問，是否為一起做事的夥伴？在台灣，我只要簡單介紹『這是我老公』，沒人多問，也沒人覺得奇怪。」Michael亦贊同：「台灣超前亞洲各國制定同婚法，真的棒透了！ 能夠身歷其境，我和Eddy都與有榮焉。我期盼，看到台灣政府的作為，澳洲政府也能加快覺醒的腳步。」兩人有志一同，希望將滿滿的幸福分享給悅納他們的台灣社會。「今年，我計畫和關愛之家合作，」Eddy表示，「創辦人非常有愛心，盡己所能為缺乏愛與照料的嬰兒和幼童付出，我們也想為他們做點事。此外，我們還想發揮我們少許的影響力， 與弱勢老人家分享我們的愛。」Michael透露：「為了幫他們獲取更多資源，今年12月2日，我們將與《WE PEOPLE東西名人》攜手在台北文華東方酒店舉辦慈善晚宴，期待大家共襄盛舉。」
What is the secret to being in love for so many years? 「I do not like confrontation,」 said Eddy first. 「When there's a problem, I need a deep breath and calm down to think about the solution. Michael's character is that he wants to know the answer right away. Sometimes it is a little bit too much for me so I need to walk away first. Of course, most of the times together we cherish it with happiness. We appreciate each other very much, whenever there was a problem it's usually because of somebody else.」 Michael added, 「There are ups and downs for every relationship, and personally I think, aside from respect, compromise, acceptance, same-sex couples also need to be best friends. At the end of the day, Eddy is my buddy, he is my mate, he is my soulmate and he is my best friend. He has a very high level of tolerance, and he never judges. You know? I believe destiny is carved out for you, and there's a reason for everything. There has been a complete 360-degree turn for the first half of my life and the second half of my life. Right now, I have the most important person in my life, and we are very lucky that we are surrounded by people we love. So we want to give back to the society.」
Michael and Eddy have fully felt the passion and openness of Taiwan. 「When I introduced Michael as my partner in Hong Kong, a lot of people were not sure what kind of partner I meant, and they would ask me if it's business partner. But in Taiwan, I can introduce him as my husband and nobody would ask further questions or think it's weird.」 said Eddy. Michael agrees and says, 「Taiwan is really ahead of other Asian countries in terms of same-sex marriage equality, and this is wonderful. Eddy and I are both very proud to be part of it. I'm hoping that what Taiwan government is doing will be like a wake-up call for Australians.」 Great minds think alike. Michael and Eddy both wish to share their happiness with Taiwan's society which has embraced them with open arms and love. 「This year, I plan to work with Harmony Home Association,」 said Eddy. 「The founder has a very good heart and they try their best to take care of babies and children who are in need of help. We want to do something for them as well. In addition, we also want to share our love with elders of the minority groups」. Michael stated that, 「In order to get more resources for them, we will be hosting a charity dinner at Mandarin Oriental, Taipei on 2 December this year in corporation with WE PEOPLE Magazine, and we hope everybody will be participating in this good cause」.
Aside from devoting themselves into charity, they also want to be role models for the young generation. 「I love kids, but I am past the adoption age. This is my only regret,」 Michael stated. 「I want to be the role models for teenagers who have nowhere to go. Kids these days get easily bullied on social media on Internet. For our future generation, we are obligated to eradicate prejudice.」 Eddy also added, 「What we have now is built on the work and struggle of our ancestors, so we cannot take it for granted. Young people need to learn to cherish. Small changes can still make a big difference.」 Michael and Eddy are not impassioned gay activists. They are simply an ordinary couple in love who are trying to maintain this relationship while creating a better and friendlier environment for the future generation. They are just like any other man and woman with a good heart.
PHOTOGRAPHY/ Hedy Chang
STYLING/ Tricky Chang
ASSISTANT/ Wendy Chou
MAKE-UP/ Nash Chen
HAIR/ Dino Kao（FOUR Hair Concept）