Defining Myself for Myself

A couple weeks ago I joined a collective of radical leftist Asian/Pacific Islanders in the DC area, to plug into a community of fellow APIs and can contribute to social justice. Though I feel unsure about how much time I will invest in this specific group with everything else I have going on, I like the unapologetically leftist energy I have encountered so far. In particular, I appreciate sharing space with and witnessing Asian Americans who care about and take action to promote social justice. I feel rejuvenated taking part in this group after growing up in a high school with a lot of Asian Americans who internalized the model minority myth and focused more on grades than dismantling systems of oppression, myself included.

In this space though, I sometimes think about a former crush of mine and feel concerned. This guy, on paper at least, had organized for leftist causes and taken direct action to promote social justice. At the same time, he really hurt my feelings and from what I can discern the feelings of at least a few others as well. In my first group video chat with this new organization, I could not help but wonder to myself: who of you act to promote radical social justice yet hurt the people you engage with on an interpersonal level? And if I engage further with this organization, will you somehow hurt me? Continue reading

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On BlackPink: Bending Gender Binaries and Pulsating Confidence in “How You Like That”

BlackPink released a new single last week and I may have fanboy screamed about it a lot since then. When I reflect on why I like BlackPink so much, I think a lot about my childhood. Growing up, I received a lot of binary role models related to gender – my mother acted in a lot of toxically masculine and abusive ways, whereas my grandmother embodied nurturance, softness, and kindness. Though I knew they were both women, I came to associate my mother – because of her cruel behaviors – with masculinity and I viewed my grandmother as an exemplar of femininity. Of course, I wanted to be like my grandmother and not my mother, so I clung to femininity, emotionality, and gentleness all throughout my childhood and adolescence.

As I’ve written about before, later on I realized the perils of my hyperfemininity. As a more femme guy, I had become so scared of asserting myself and expressing any anger that I developed an eating disorder in middle school and early high school. I took out my rage on my own body instead of propelling it into crushing the patriarchy. I didn’t learn until therapy and my feminist friendships in undergrad to assert myself and that I could assert myself without acting like my mother.

I discovered BlackPink right after I graduated from undergrad. Continue reading

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We Love Ourselves

For the past week and a half, I have not held a crush on any man, which has felt both liberating and odd. Though I enjoy the extra man-less brain space and feel so happy and content without a man in general, a part of me still craves to have a crush on some man. In rare moments I find myself fantasizing about an unnamed, unfaced man of color who cares about others, has his life together, and reads books. Though I can very well imagine a life in which I remain “single” forever and thrive like the radiant gay redhead Vietnamese icon I am, my occasional fantasizing and the many posts about men on this blog force me to confront that I on some level still desire romance.

Most of the time I feel frustrated that I want a man at all because wanting a man feels pointless. The other day though, while reflecting on this desire, I felt such gratitude toward my two closest friends because they fulfill for me what any man could and would. Continue reading

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How Someone Treats You

The other day I reached complete closure on an on-and-off crush I held for the past year and a half. Though part of me judges myself for how long it took to finally let go of this guy for good, I also feel proud of myself for the lessons I learned along the way.

“I just don’t understand,” I said to my therapist over Zoom, talking about my former crush. “He’s done so much organizing for so many social justice causes. How could he be so bad at organizing himself and his own internal issues?”

“Emotions can be hard to confront, Thomas,” she said, in her usual patient and kind tone. “A lot of people will throw themselves into their work and professional lives to avoid doing their internal work. That’s what he could’ve been doing, which is very unlike you to do.”

When my therapist said this, so many pieces in my mind started falling into place. Continue reading

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She Hurt Me

I like to think of myself as a pretty empowered person. While I recognize the importance of collective liberation over individual empowerment, I value my empowerment in terms of defying stereotypes about submissive gay Asian men. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself struggling to integrate this idea of an empowered self with another part of my life: the abuse and hurt people have put me through, especially my mother.

My angst reached a crescendo the day after my birthday, as I sat on my couch listening to “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Continue reading

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Black Lives Matter

Hi everyone! This isn’t one of my usual posts. I’m gonna keep it short and not say much about me. I always joke that no one reads this blog, but just in case someone is, I’m here to say that Black lives matter, and we should all take action to show it.

This letter an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook speaks to the importance of Asians and Asian Americans showing up for Black Lives Matter. There’s a solid list of tangible actions at the bottom of the article if you want to skip to that. As written in the article, we Asian Americans often side with whiteness and white people over Black people and we need to cut that shit out.

Here’s a quick Twitter thread with 10 steps to non-optical allyship, and here’s a list of books you can read to learn about being anti-racist. Please feel free to comment with additional actions and resources, or reactions. Until next post.

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25 and Powerful

Feeling powerful scared me for a long time. Growing up, my mother and brother both yelled a lot. My mother would scream at me for almost anything I did, all the time, and I usually ended up crying in the bathroom of my basement or in my grandmother’s arms. My brother would scream back at my mother and they would sometimes yell at each other for hours, though I remember him crying too. This emotional abuse frightened me so much that I promised I would never act like my mother or my brother, that I would never express anger or even be angry, ever.

This fear of anger and power changed when I went to therapy in undergrad. Continue reading

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Being Smart, Priority #69

Sometimes I try to avoid coming off as a smart or intelligent person. For example, I am in a top-ranked Psychology PhD program, but I detest talking about my research or my academics with my closest friends. A few months ago, I realized that I had published some articles in top Psychology peer-reviewed journals like Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and Appetite and felt gross about it, to the point where I posted a dramatic Facebook status asking if researchers can indeed have hearts. When one of my friends entering a Psychology PhD program in the fall praised me on the phone the other day for being super smart, I felt a sliver of my soul shrivel up and ascend into the afterlife, aka, a land with unlimited Jeni’s ice cream and books and upbeat pop music.

After reflecting on it, I realize I dislike associating myself with intelligence because of all the emotionally undeveloped and/or cruel smart people I know. Continue reading

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Dominate Me

I turn 25 in a couple of weeks so I have spent time reflecting on my growth as a person, including my sexual identity and romantic attraction to men. While I have unsurprisingly not yet met a man I want to date, I have learned something about the guys I’m generally into: I’m turned on by guys who can dominate me. In other words, I’m a bottom.

It feels weird to out myself as a bottom on the internet, though it feels weirder to claim that identity given the stigma I’ve internalized about it, especially as a gay Asian man. Continue reading

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I Roasted Him

A couple of weeks ago I talked with my therapist about AWLOB and how I felt bad about the last message I sent him. In July 2019, when I asked if we could talk on the phone for an hour, he said no and that there “might be” a point we could talk way later, “perhaps,” when we could “potentially” be friends. I did not feel hurt that he set a boundary, because we should all have the autonomy to choose to communicate or not communicate with anyone in our lives. I felt hurt because several months ago he said that he had a crush on me I hope you all realize how painfully vulnerable it is for me to admit that I liked him having a crush on me lol brb gonna throw myself in a volcano now and that at some point we would talk, and then, all of a sudden, he retracted that with no explanation.

So I roasted him. Continue reading

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