A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this super hot queer Asian American politician and felt a rush of longing heat up my chest. Through investigating his social media platforms, I saw how this guy advocated for legislation to hold corporations accountable, prioritized housing for the disenfranchised, and attended healing spaces for Asian American folks in the wake of anti-Asian violence. I literally can’t remember the names of any of the men I’ve ever felt desire for before, I thought to myself as I read this man’s Wikipedia bio and almost shivered in delight.
Pre-2020 Thomas would have idealized this guy. He would have thought, wow, this man invests so much energy and effort into social justice advocacy, he must also engage in his relationships in such a dynamic and equitable way. They would have imagined this man spending long hours working on a policy to help redistribute wealth, and they would have assumed that this experience translates to this man’s capacity to commit long hours of active listening and reciprocal care within relationships too. Pre-2020 Thomas would have believed that because this man has leftist politics that support the marginalized, that he would not act in hurtful or unjust ways in interpersonal settings as well.
Now, though, I know better. Based on past experiences with men, instead of idealizing this guy, I thought to myself, while I’m glad this guy is a queer Asian American with seemingly on-point politics, he may very well be a garbage human being in other contexts. Perhaps he uses political achievement to compensate for the lack of self-worth he internalized after his parent’s divorce, instead of loving himself through more holistic means. Maybe he spends so much time fighting the perils of capitalism that he does not commit to healthy relationships with himself or others. It’s possible that he doesn’t like “Lovesick Girls” by Blackpink or “Feel Special” by Twice and therefore has horrible taste in music and art in general. I am not implying that any of these things are true because he’s social justice-oriented, rather, I’m reminding myself that just because a guy can take action against white supremacy doesn’t mean he has
what it takes to top an empowered, self-loving, vibrant bottom such as myself the capacity to engage in a healthy relationship.
I think in some ways my previous glorification of social justice-oriented men emerged as a reaction against patriarchal norms surrounding settling for mediocre men. Throughout my life, I have seen women and more feminine folks settle for men who can fulfill basic thresholds such as holding a conversation, exhibiting a baseline level of human decency, and maintaining steady employment. Even if these men refuse to go to therapy while using their girlfriends as their therapists or lack the ability to build strong bonds outside of their romantic relationship, I have heard people choose these men because at least they are “not abusive.” I thus used engagement with social justice as a metric to determine whether a man feels worthy of my attention and desire.
While I still consider political alignment an important relational criterion, with more life experience I know to ask other questions as well: does this person know and love themselves, or at least take efforts to get to a place to know and love themselves? Does this person have the capacity to engage in a healthy relationship with me? Does this person have internalized femmephobia, fatphobia, or racism, and if so, do they take efforts to address these forms of oppression and others? Note that these criteria apply to my friendships and acquaintanceships as well, because I consider these relationships just as if not more important than any potential romance.
Another area of man-related growth includes recognizing maybe I won’t ever find a man to date and maybe I will. I used to feel so stressed about it, like, I didn’t even really care about dating a man I just wanted to know whether I would or I wouldn’t. However, thanks to my increased radical acceptance of this ambiguity as well as meeting some freaking gorgeous men of color who had only one or two incompatibilities with me, I can now sit with not knowing and feeling great about my life regardless. Quite frankly, any man would be blessed to even stand within a 12-foot radius of my self-loving visage, much less date me for an extended period of time.
I still think men are a patriarchal and heteronormative distraction for the most part. However, I am wiser now and ready to preserve my time against men who walk the walk of social justice in their professional lives but not in their personal relationships. Please let me know what lessons you have learned about relationships over the years or general reactions to this post. I’m about to post this and then board a plane to visit one of my best friends for one week and then my other best friend the following week, yay! Also, last week I said goodbye to therapy clients I’ve worked with for almost two years and this past Monday I successfully defended my dissertation, so lots has been going on! Until next post.