Last week I sat in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and came across an article about the controversial practice of re-evaluation counseling. The article talked about how this unlicensed form of counseling harmed public school students, many of whom felt coerced to attend sessions against their will. As I sat with my laptop out waiting to board my flight back home, this article reminded me of a crush I had a couple of years ago who told me that he went to re-evaluation counseling. Thinking about this guy’s issues, I wondered if he would have treated me better if he had instead seen a licensed therapist before talking with me. He had issues related to his immigrant parents, coming out at a later age than me, and placing his self-worth in external accomplishments. I felt curious about what factors precluded him from seeking therapy: financial barriers? Adherence to toxic masculinity? A lack of desire to grow and change?
This thought process reminded me of the many emotionally compromised queer men I have come into contact with through my dating life. I remember the economist who moved to Washington D.C. a few years ago and told me about how he tried to die by suicide because of his ultra-religious homophobic parents, how he later found acceptance in an unhealthy romantic relationship that he still had not yet worked through the aftermath of. I cringe at the thought of the guy with beautiful eyes who wore a halo brace after a car accident, the one who could not hold a conversation and did not know what to say when I told him he lacked active listening skills. Around a year ago I came across the very-mediocre-looking dating profile of an Italian guy who I wanted to make out with in high school yet could tell he had not figured out his sexuality yet, and I wondered if we would have kissed if he had been out ten years ago.
Let me say: I do know queer guys who more or less have their internal lives together who I don’t feel compatible with dating-wise for reasons unrelated to their emotional intelligence. However, when I think about the examples in the above paragraph as well as other queer men I know, I feel struck with this feeling of frustration, sadness, and slight rage about how homophobia, toxic masculinity, and other forms of oppression delay or disrupt queer men’s psychological health and thus their capacity to engage in meaningful relationships. If not for homophobia and toxic masculinity, I’m pretty certain I could’ve found a hot, caring man of color to rail me by now within the context of a committed relationship (it’s Pride Month, so no I’m not going to strike through that one.) Then I get more upset when I consider the racial injustices faced by men of color such as the desexualization of Asian American men and the hypersexualization and overincarceration of Black and Latinx men, racism that may inhibit the formation of healthy connections with others and oneself.
I have many moments where I wish I lived in a different world, a world where all queer men could love themselves from the start, a world without toxic masculinity and femmephobia where all people feel free to communicate in expressive, healthy ways. I want this world both on a selfish level for myself and my bussy, no strikethrough, and also for the enhanced wellbeing of everyone else too. When I get frustrated about not living in this idealistic world, I try to ground myself by remembering that I am doing what I can to fight patriarchy and white supremacy through my work related to mental health, as well as through my relationships and writing. Even though so many men in my life have hurt me in deep emotional ways, I’m not giving up on improving the state of masculinity. I’m not going to settle for a mediocre man just to have one, either.
When I first joined Goodreads as a high schooler back in 2009, I remember older queer members telling me that they wished they had the queer young-adult books I did when they were my age. As I get older, I resonate with what they shared even more. Though my mother hated my gayness and femininity, I found acceptance and connection through reading books featuring young queer boys of color like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and through binge-watching shows like Queer as Folk and analyzing the characters with my female friends of color (though I know now how problematic and racist Queer as Folk is). Even though representation isn’t enough to overcome systemic homophobia, patriarchy, and white supremacy, I’m feeling that the queer representation I had as a teen did stem in part from the liberatory movements enacted by the older queers that came before me. I’m dedicated to doing my part to continue fight, while practicing self-compassion and giving myself space for rest and reflection.
If you’re queer, how do you feel about Pride month or being queer in general? How do you feel that systems of oppression may have influenced how you or others you know engage in relationships? General reactions to this post? Also, wow, it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted! I’ve been occupied with traveling and work (prepping for a class I’m teaching in July, working on multiple research manuscripts, starting to prepare for applying to my final-year internship/residency) though of course I want to make time for this blog because art outside of capitalism matters to me! Also thank you so much to the few folks who sent me kind birthday messages, they meant a lot to me and I’ll do my best to reply as time permits. Until next post.
13 responses to “No Strikethrough”
I had to look up re-evaluation counseling. Indeed, if you were pressured into that, it would feel really bad and maybe spoil you for what you thought “therapy” was like. I have sometimes wondered, when I have clients who are queer or gay teens, if they would eventually do well to have an adult queer mentor of some kind. I mean, it’s like your mother saying that you are a lovely person and anyone would want to be your friend, and an actual friend saying so.
Apropos of your reading sidebar, I just bought Marsha Linehan’s autobiography! I’ll tell you how it is.
Yes appreciate that point about re-evaluation counseling and it potentially spoiling what other more scientifically-backed forms of therapy would be like! I’m glad you’re considering clients’ sociocultural contexts like their queerness and the importance of adult role models/supports. And I’m thankful you’ve been one such support for me! Also yes curious to hear what you think of Marsha Linehan’s autobiography as I’ve read mixed reviews – some have said it’s splendid, others have said it seems kinda mediocrely-written though she applies the DBT principles well.
I am glad to know a good few LGBTQIA+ people who are at home with themselves and happy, and in good relationships, too. Some are activist, some just live their lives but I think sometimes living a good and happy and productive life is activism of a kind, too. They’re not people of colour, though, now (something I’m not proud of, but then also, and I have discussed this with my running friend in the context of her making a committee at work, you can hardly go looking for people fitting a category to be friends with and tick a box, as that’s just rude!), and my one British Asian gay friend I’ve lost touch with was incredibly conflicted and both in and out at the same time which gave him much suffering (but I worked with another couple of guys who were so happy doing them it was a joy to be around).
Thanks for sharing this sample of queer men you’ve encountered in your life Liz! Yes I think it is important that we expand the scope of queer happiness beyond queer white folks, whether that’s within circles of folks we know personally or deconstructing white supremacy broadly so that queer people of color can thrive. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment as always. (:
I should have mentioned this includes women, too, although I only gave actual examples of males, and a few transfolk who are doing pretty OK as well. And yes, dismantling white supremacy broadly will help more than going and specifically finding friends to have because of their protected characteristics!
Happy Pride Month! I hope you are having a good time celebrating there; although there’s not much of a celebration here, in India, I am pretty glad to see people celebrating on social media. Also, love seeing you taking this no-strikethrough approach to your writing. You give me so much confidence, like yes never settle for anything less than what you deserve. Thank you, and have a great week ahead:)
Aw I’m glad you’ve been able to enjoy the social media celebration even if there isn’t too much of a celebration in India. Thank you for validating and encouraging my no strikethrough approach, we’ll see how long it holds! And it’s wonderful to read about your increased confidence, love that for you. (:
Like Rereadergirl said, I also had to look up the term re-evaluation counseling. Counseling is a very personal thing and not all forms of counseling are right for everyone, and it can be hard to find counseling or a counselor you connect with. When I saw a psychologist some time ago, I felt lucky to have one that listened to me and asked open-ended questions, and I was happy to come back.
It is unfortunate today that homophobia and discrimination against queer men and the queer community still exists today. I like the examples of the queer men you mentioned who seem to be finding their identity and sexuality. It’s the kind of struggles that aren’t spoke about enough and if you speak out you will get judged and perhaps seen as part of a cult. It’s great Pride Month came about. It’s a step towards acceptance of everyone as they are. I have quite a few queer friends. Some I’ve seen taken a while before proudly calling themselves queer, and others have always been proud that way. Everyone’s journey is different.
Happy belated Birthday, Thomas. That is an amazing cake by Bri. So thoughtful. That is amazing you will be teaching a class in July. Good luck with that 🙂
Yes I appreciate you naming how vulnerable and scary it can feel to pursue professional help for mental health issues, thank you for that reminder Mabel! Glad you found a psychologist who fit for you, if only that were a more common experience.
Happy to hear that you enjoyed reading about some of the queer men I mentioned. As Liz commented and as you write here there are people who have come to develop self-love in terms of their queerness which is wonderful. And I hope we continue to recognize how toxic masculinity, femmephobia, and homophobia continue to negatively impact queer men and other folks too so we can dismantle these systems of oppression on both systemic and individual levels.
Grateful for your birthday wish and for the kind words about Bri’s cake and the class! Hope you are well.
You’ve given me so much to think about when I first read this a few days ago. I thought of how angry and sad I was at myself for being gay. Why me? I owe so much to my parents for immigrating to a new country, sacrificing so much so we could have more opportunties. I couldn’t talk about how different I was. My parents loved me but they were also conservative in some of their views. I just didn’t want to disappoint them. I poured all my energies at work, got promotions, some modest stock options …. I thought that validated me. Of course it didn’t. I wish I had role models and people to talk to.
But I can’t change the past. So I will slowly unburden myself of the baggage I’ve been carrying all these years. I love that you are doing what you can to help others. You’re so busy sometimes I wonder if you sleep. But I know you’re passionate about self care.
I love that your friend got you this cake. It’s lovely and fits you so well. I’d be okay too if every post was about someone railing you… lol. (j/k of course).
Have a great week!
Thank you so much Matt for reading the post, taking some time to reflect on it, and for sharing so vulnerably and courageously your experience of your sexuality and how society’s stigmatization of it affected you. I’m so glad you’re doing what you can to unburden yourself of the baggage you’ve carried with you throughout the years, and I really enjoy reading about when you mention gay stuff or gay-related things on your blog! Haha yes I always get at least seven hours of sleep and dedicate time to friends, hobbies like my writing, and other things because glorifying overwork is not cute! We’ll seeeeeee if there’s ever a man worthy of me rail-wise or otherwise! Hope your week has gone well. (:
I should thank you for a lot of your entries. You usually ask a question at the end which makes me pause and think. Sometimes I just run away from my problems. I remember seeing someone’s Tumblr or Twitter … the banner said “The only exercise I get is running away from my problems.”
In my first blog, I wrote a lot of gay related stuff. In this one, I have a variety of readers and maybe I’ve tried to keep it more “mainstream”. But every so often, I’ll write about gay related topics because that’s who I am. What would you like to read?
Also, you used to post on Mondays or Tuesdays. Now you switch things around which caught me a bit off guard. I used to think – oh, I better post this by Monday.
Have a great week!
Aw thanks so much for these kind words Matt! Yes I’m a big fan of actively confronting and working through my internal issues so I’m glad that comes through on this blog. I hope you write about whatever feels authentic and beneficial to you. I would be curious to read generally about your gayness in terms of how it relates to race, if you feel gay pride, how much being gay matters to you generally or not, etc.
Haha yeah my posting schedule has become inconsistent because my life schedule has fluctuated a bit – it’s all very organized in my head but the posting is a bit whenever it happens lol. One of the benefits of blogging and not being tied to a schedule I suppose. Hope you are well. (: