Sometimes I forget that in addition to having beautiful pink hair and listening to BlackPink, I also do research. A few weeks ago, a somewhat prestigious academic journal invited me to review a manuscript about sexual assault against men. Last Monday I got invited to revise and resubmit my Master’s thesis to one of the top journals in addiction science. About a week ago one of my former students got her independent project on LGBTQ+ Asian Americans and Kpop published in a reputable queer journal. While I wish I could feel only positive about these accomplishments, a part of me also feels dread: dread about owning my identity as a social scientist.
After engaging in a lot of introspection because I introspect instead of learning how to cook or put together furniture, I realized that I feel reluctant to own my identity as a social scientist because of the trauma and adversity I have witnessed and experienced within academia. Continue reading →
Earlier this week I talked with my therapist about my man struggles. Over a lagging video call, I shared my frustrations about how I have not had a serious crush on a guy for a few months and how I do not know if or when I will ever desire a specific man again.
“It’s not even that having a boyfriend would improve any area of my life, because my life is already complete,” I said. “I just wish I knew now if I would meet a guy on February 8, 2022. Or at 3pm on April 5, 2023. Or if I just will never meet a man I want to date and fall in love with.”
“But what would you be missing if you never met a man you fell in love with?” she asked.
“Literally nothing,” I said. “It’s just the not knowing.”
After this session, I thought a lot about how the unexpectedness of whether I will meet a man who I want to dominate me date bothers me. Unlike a lot of people I know, I feel so content and complete with myself, my closest friends, and my various ways of trying to make a difference in the world. Continue reading →
Over the past month or so I thought about whether I should change my red hair back to black, or even to a tamer brown. In the next couple of years, I will apply for my psychology predoctoral internship as well as for a faculty position or postdoc. Because of white supremacist professionalism, I figured I may want to play it safe and revert to a more common hair color. Then, BlackPink’s “Lovesick Girls” came out and Rosé wrecked me as well as everyone else on this planet with her fabulous pink hair. Upon witnessing her gorgeous emotive performance in the “Lovesick Girls” music video, I thought to myself, oh, I have to go pink now. I chose to color my hair pink because pink represents my commitment to accepting and loving myself as a femme queer Vietnamese American who survived an eating disorder and PTSD, who does not care about fitting into white supremacist and patriarchal societal standards.
My journey of self-love and self-acceptance started with my grandmother. Continue reading →
My romantic attraction to men often makes me feel trapped. Because I grew up with an abusive, unpredictable mother and because my personality leans toward independence in and of itself, I like feeling in control, like I have the autonomy to shape my surroundings without anyone else interfering. Feeling attracted to men makes me feel trapped because my friends and I have encountered so many mediocre men. I also feel trapped because we live in an amatonormative society that prioritizes romantic love above all else.
Over the past week and a half, I have spent a lot of time and energy reflecting on my romantic attraction to men and my dislike of it. While listening to BlackPink’s song “Lovesick Girls” on repeat nonstop, I started to wonder: wait, what if the issue here is not my romantic attraction to men itself, rather, what if it’s the way we socialize men as well as the way the state and related media glorifies romantic love (e.g., people in marriages get tangible financial and other benefits while people who are not married do not)? Continue reading →
If you read this blog, you know I dislike my attraction to men. I always say that I love being gay, I just disdain feeling romantic attraction toward a gender socialized to be uncommunicative, uncaring, and unself-aware. In my day to day life my attraction to men affects me very little because I feel fulfilled by my intimate friendships and more casual friends, I have meaningful ways to contribute to compassion and social justice, and I love myself. This past week though, I reflected on another reason I wish I were not attracted to men: if I were to be with a guy, I would want someone who has and continues to work on himself, which I have no control over.
I feel like this prerequisite frustrates me because I like planning and some level of control. Continue reading →
A few days ago, I had a dream about a former crush of mine. In the dream, I reached out to him through Goodreads messenger and asked if he could talk. He said wow Thomas, even in your sleep you’re obsessed with books and Goodreads, no wonder I’m not good enough for you yes and we agreed to talk on Friday afternoon. When Friday morning came around, he messaged me and said he could no longer talk on Friday afternoon because he had double booked himself. He asked me if I could talk sometime the following week instead.
When I woke from this dream, I remember feeling so hurt that my former crush canceled on me. Yet, I wondered why my psyche included him in my sleep, because I feel literally nothing about him at all at this point in my life.
“I’m pretty sure my ex-crush was a stand in for my father,” I said to my therapist a few hours after my dream. Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago I felt sadness at the thought of winter approaching. I struggled to figure out what brought on this sadness. At first, I wondered if the emotion stemmed from the impending coldness and darkness cutting off my ability to go on walks and jogs outdoors, my break from the boringness of staying indoors. Several nights ago, though, I had a dream that helped me realize the true root of my sadness: that this winter marks one year since I broke up with one of my former closest friends.
Several hours ago, I went on a date with this guy who works in geographic information science. What we talked about felt fine – him considering getting a PhD and my feelings about almost having one, him resisting stereotypical images of Black men growing up and me loving myself as a gay Asian man in my mid-twenties, him wanting a spontaneous romantic partner and me wanting a social justice-oriented one. Toward the end of the date though, I recognized that I felt bored. This guy came across as kind, self-aware, and communicative, yet I noticed I had not laughed once. So, on my way back home I texted him and said that I would enjoy a casual friendship or friends with benefits situation, given that I did not feel any romantic chemistry.
Sometimes I struggle to honor my strengths. I have pretty high self-compassion and self-esteem, I just don’t like acknowledging what I’m good at. For example, I’m starting my fourth year of training as a psychologist. In my most recent therapy evaluation, my supervisor commended my “ability to connect with clients and make them feel safe with [me].” She also wrote that I have “an intuitive approach that is bolstered by [a] strong theoretical orientation… influenced by a multicultural lens, feminist therapy, ACT and CBT, and interpersonal process,” as well as an openness and genuineness that helps clients feel connected to me. Though I recognize my clients’ growth, I still think: am I actually good at this?
Even though I can grow in honoring my strengths, I like my modesty a lot. I think it stems from Asian values of humility, as well as not wanting to be like other men who have an inflated sense of their abilities. Instead of searching for the spotlight, I can spend more time honing my empathy, social justice advocacy, and mentoring. Still, internalizing modesty to an extreme may have its downsides. My supervisor also wrote in her evaluation, “I think Thomas is always a bit surprised at the progress of his clients, as he sometimes doubts that he is a good, actually excellent, therapist. I encourage his humility, but also think he would benefit from receiving the fact that he is very skilled and capable.”
Upon reflecting about my supervisor’s comments for the past several weeks, I feel like a lot of my hesitancy to own my strengths stems from my queer Asian male identity. Continue reading →