Today, I felt guilty for feeling my feelings. I felt guilty because I thought that I should work instead – put together a talk for an upcoming conference, write a research manuscript on masculinity and rape myth acceptance, organize a social justice brownbag series for my doctoral program. But then I played tennis for a couple of hours and in the middle of getting crushed by two white men, I thought, wait a second, not only is it sad that this tennis match is replicating the race dynamics of this country, I also just feel like, really sad right now. I need to make space to mourn.
Queer people of color often do not have the space to mourn. We’re working ourselves constantly to prove our worth in spaces that weren’t made for us, we’re dealing with racism and homophobia that come in the form of both macroaggressions and microaggressions, and we’re putting in the labor to take care of ourselves and our communities. I know one queer person of color feeling his emotions isn’t gonna end systemic oppression, and I know that individual self-care is no substitute for organizing and collective action.
But I don’t want to be like the men of color in my family – and my mother, a woman of color – who refuse to confront their emotions and trauma and suffer as a result. I don’t want to be like the people of color I’ve met who’ve won the most prestigious awards and have published in the most renowned academic journals yet hurt the people they claim to care about. I want to be someone who role models self-care and community-care, who views healing and cultivating self-awareness as processes to commit to for a lifetime.
So I made a lot of space to mourn today. I mourned all the time I spent in my life obsessing over calories and weight loss and how I looked instead of how I felt. I mourned all the lives in this country lost to gun violence, if those lives could have been saved if our country stopped valuing whiteness and maleness and valued racial and gender justice instead. I mourned what my relationships with my parents could look like if not for the model minority myth, intergenerational trauma, and femmephobia. I mourned for my fellow Asian Americans who’ve died by suicide in large part because of stigma in our communities surrounding mental health. I mourned for the romances I could’ve had with men if not for toxic masculinity, internalized capitalism, and my own PTSD.
And I spent a lot of time taking care of myself. I spent an hour running around in the forest and two hours playing tennis. I cried to “in my head” by Ariana Grande while driving to MOM’s Organic Market. At MOM’s Organic Market, I bought some bomb orange juice and Jeni’s ice cream. I started planning a trip with a close friend to my favorite city I have not had the chance to live in yet, Boston. I reread the legacy.com obituary page of my favorite writer, Caroline Knapp, who lived in Boston and wrote about recovering from anorexia while rowing on the Charles River. I reached out to a friend I haven’t seen in a while to get coffee. I wrote this blog post.
I recognize I’m privileged to have had the time to do all of these things. I’m giving myself the rest of the day off. Come tomorrow, I’m recommitting to making a difference in the mental health landscape for queer people of color, for those who haven’t had the space to mourn.