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. Before then, I always tried to act nice all the time. If I ever did feel hurt or angry, I only expressed it passively or passive aggressively instead of directly. But my therapist L guided me through how I can feel angry and express it without turning into my mother or brother. One of my favorite memories from therapy with L includes when I had a crush on a guy who turned out to be rather mediocre, and in my frustration I started cursing for the first time in my life – like, fuck the patriarchy for socializing men to not understand themselves or others at all – instead of bottling the rage in and directing it toward myself. My therapist provided me with a safe space to feel angry at oppressive social structures, at people in my life who hurt me, and even at him, so that I could learn how to express my anger in a direct and assertive way without yelling or screaming like my bio family.
Other situations outside of my home life and bio family disempowered me too, especially as a gay Asian American man. I forced myself to study and internalize a super white history of the United States and a white literary canon throughout middle and high school so I could get good grades and escape my family. I read so many “classics” in undergrad as an English major and felt guilty for not enjoying them, before realizing that I did not enjoy them because they rarely included perspectives of people of color and queer people. I obsessed over Queer as Folk in high school because I wanted gay representation, though now I recognize the racist and absent depictions of Asians in that show and the erasure of queer people of color in general.
I turn 25 in about six hours and I love how powerful I feel. I can embody power without acting like my mother, without abusing others. My power looks like exuding warmth and kindness, while also asserting myself and advocating for people and communities I care about. My power looks like laughing with my best friends over Skype and FaceTime about our iconic and beautiful selves, regardless of our external accomplishments or dating lives. My power looks like assimilating as little as possible to systems that value whiteness and toxic masculinity, so I can create work and art that aids in the liberation of me and my communities.
When I look back on my life, I feel compassion for my past self for what I did to survive, like starving myself to get through my adolescence or spending so much time reading mostly white authors and histories to advance in the American education system. But I’m well beyond survival now. I’m eating copious amounts of Asian takeout when it feels right for my body so I have energy to engage in healing justice, I’m basking in my self-confidence in a society that stereotypes gay Asian American men as submissive to gay white men, and I’m still fanboying the freak out about BlackPink’s “As If It’s Your Last” music video, which represents the colors of my soul.
Though I feel so loved by myself and others, I still experience moments of longing, a desire for a narrative similar to mine. I want a story about a queer man of color who knows his own worth and finds happiness outside of dating and men. But then I remember that this blog is that story. I started it in 2010 as a cringe-worthily ignorant sophomore in high school, and it’s still here. This is my life: the friends, the drama, the therapy. At times, it feels so vulnerable, almost painfully so. And, there’s power in that vulnerability, because all of this – the highs and lows of friendship, the longing and not longing for romance, the trauma and the recovery – is real. I’m proud of this blog. I’m proud of me.
I was going to wait to publish this post until my actual birthday tomorrow or at least until later this evening, but I didn’t feel like waiting until tomorrow and I’m gonna start rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender with Natasha tonight so here it is. Reactions or feelings? When do people stop celebrating their birthdays? Thanks to everyone who’s consistently read this blog and who’s left kind comments or messages – they mean a lot to me especially because I’m just a weird gay redhead saying random stuff on the internet. Until next post!