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.