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. 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.

25 and powerful hair clips

Empowerment exhibit A: these iconic hair clips. Growing up, I would’ve avoided wearing these out of fear that my mom would literally kill me if she saw me with them. Now that my bangs are longer than the emotional intelligence of all the men who’ve wronged me and my friends because of Coronavirus, I’m basking in these hair clips and their feminine glory.

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.

chulito and lot yay books

Empowerment exhibit B: seeking out and reading books about queer men of color who fall for other queer men of color! I’ve been coping with the stress of uncertainty in Coronavirus through buying twenty million books from a nearby independent bookstore. Though I do not and will not ever need a man to be happy, it’s nice to have this representation from queer POC.

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.

peanut butter m&ms

Empowerment exhibit C: one of the many handfuls of peanut butter M&Ms I ate earlier today! A little over a decade ago I would have felt so guilty for eating these and would have tracked any change in my stomach, arms, etc. meticulously. Now I eat when I want to and recognize that food is a source of fuel for me to step on the white supremacist patriarchy. Yay, growth.

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!

12 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

12 responses to “25 and Powerful

  1. This is an absolutely beautiful and inspiring writing. Happy birthday and beautiful on owning your power and seeing yourself for you.

  2. Happy Birthday!

    Thank you for all that you do and for surviving through a very tough childhood. WP shows a couple of your older entries at the bottom. I just read “The Fight Song of the Tiger Son” from 2013. You weren’t even 18 yet but you wrote with so much clarity and reflection about your experiences.

    I hope you continue to grow as a person.

    Take care, have a great week!

    p.s. thanks for the tips on those 2 books.

    • Thank you so much Matt for the birthday wish, as well as taking the time to read my older entry! To be honest I can’t bring myself to read my older entries, it’s too painful to revisit those memories. So I appreciate you letting me know that it sounds like I had some clarity even then. I hope I continue to grow too and thank you for your encouragement throughout my growing process. And, if you read either of the books please feel free to let me know what you think of them. (:

  3. Happy birthday, Thomas!! Regardless of how 2020 has started, I hope that this upcoming 25th year will be good to you. Even if you started this blog so long ago, I hope that you see how much you’ve grown and the immense strength you have in being so open-minded and vulnerable. I’m just a reader on the internet, but I’m proud of you, and proud of you for being proud of yourself.

    I relate so much to how you describe your fear of power; I find that I’m almost hyperaware of how I affect people/my intentions, and it’s scary to lean into emotions I think of as “uncontrollable” because of my past (especially things like anger and frustration). I’m really only learning how to be okay with being upset or disliking someone now in my life, and it currently feels deeply uncomfortable. But I think at the end of the day, we’re trying to do the same thing – have compassion for where we were and what we had to do to survive, but emerge from it for the better.

    Birthdays can be as important or unimportant as you want them to be! I have a tendency to forget mine but have been trying to be better at letting myself celebrate one more year of being alive, especially when I never thought I’d get those years.

    • Awww thank you so much Cat for these kind words! Love how we can connect across different social media platforms now. One of, if not my actual favorite part of this blog is being able to connect with readers and fellow bloggers such as yourself in such meaningful and authentic ways. Thank you for your encouragement and for your pride in me.

      Yes I agree with the idea of trying to emerge better and stronger from where we came from, that resonates. For me I also think part of it is recognizing we can experience anger or dislike of someone and let ourselves sit with that and explore where it comes from instead of just acting on it or being destructive (I mean, I’m down to destroy white supremacist patriarchy, but you know what I mean). I’m glad we can talk about these things with one another here on this platform!

      Appreciate your point about birthdays being something we can celebrate as little or as much as we want to. Yay to more years of being alive so we can keep connecting with one another in this way. (:

  4. x

    These hair clips are BEAUTIFUL :)))) Hope you have a great day! Happy birthday!
    xin

  5. You should be so proud of yourself! And you did what you needed to do to get through and out, and that’s absolutely fine. You did not compromise yourself, you just blended in till you could escape.

    Happy birthday! And never stop celebrating them! I’m sure you had enough crappy ones growing up to deserve epic ones every year for the rest of your life!

    • Thank you Liz for this kind and understanding perspective on my past, as well as for celebrating my birthday with a compassionate wish for me. So appreciated, it’s been lovely connecting with you through my blog for however long it’s been since we’ve started this trend of reading each other’s writing consistently. (:

  6. Amy

    Happy (belated) birthday, Thomas! Gratitude to past you for making it to the present day, and hoping that present you keeps writing.

    • Thank you so much Amy!, for your gratitude and for helping me feel like what I write matters. Always appreciate hearing from you when you drop by on this humble blog.

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