I Didn’t Choose This

A few days ago, I started to cry on my daily jog while listening to “Feel Special” by Twice. I had been thinking about someone I know facing a ton of racism in their life, obstacles that no one should have to go through. The lack of control this person experienced in relation to racism made me think about unfair situations in my own life, in particular growing up with my abusive mom as well as my attraction to men. I didn’t choose either of these things, I thought to myself while jogging in circles around the big lake near my apartment, tears falling as dance pop flowed from my earpods. Running around in nature while processing my feelings felt healthy and cathartic.

Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do. From a young age, I recognized my mother’s behaviors as harmful and unchangeable, so I asked myself, what can I do about this situation? Yes, I cried a lot and starved myself to cope with her abuse back then because I did not know healthier ways to handle my emotions. At the same time, I focused on what I could control: working hard so I could get into a good school and escape my homelife, as well as pursuing a life where I could help other people who have also experienced trauma and suffering. Now, even though my PTSD flares up every now and then, I feel pretty much at peace all the time about what went down with my mother.

Living with my mom reminds me of my attraction to men. Just like I did not choose to be born into my bio family, I also did not choose to feel attracted to men. My attraction to men feels sucky because of the sheer number of men I have met who buy into femmephobic and/or racist standards of appearance, who do not know how to engage in basic active listening, and who have treated me and my friends like bastions of free emotional labor with no effort made in return.

I think in my earlier 20’s, I fought my attraction to men more. I wrote several blog posts and ranted to my friends and my therapist: I wish I could just stop being attracted to men, why can’t I just turn off my attraction to men, if someone could give me a pill that would turn me aromantic I would swallow that pill faster than I would swallow an emotionally self-aware queer man of color’s [REDACTED]. My attraction to men felt like the sole obstacle blocking me from a more ideal, still imperfect yet overall serene life.

Now, though, I feel much more at peace with my attraction to men. I radically accept that I cannot change my attraction to men. I accept that a lot of men do suck at active listening and basic emotional labor, even though I wish the patriarchy did not exist and perpetuate those deficits. If I could modify my romantic orientation into aromanticism, I would.

However, I cannot. So I focus instead on what I can control: never settling for or pursuing mediocre men even when I see other people doing so or when people label my standards as too high. As a gender-flexible/loosely nonbinary man myself, I strive to treat others with compassion and active listening. I try to fight patriarchy and white supremacy through my clinical work, research and teaching, and actions in everyday life.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and played tennis with an acquaintance who lives close by for an hour and a half. We ended our match about half an hour before my research meeting about an upcoming project about queer men of color’s mental health. I spent that half hour jogging outside to Itzy’s incredible new song “Loco.” With the temperature in the low 60’s and the sun just peeking out from behind the clouds, I felt so happy running around my neighborhood and appreciating the song’s amazing qualities. Its pronounced club-ready beat, ascending electric guitar in the chorus, and propulsive dance break and anthemic middle eight all reminded me of the confident and self-possessed energy my best friends and I emanate in our daily lives. The best part: I didn’t choose this song’s production or release. Just like with my mother and attraction to men, I had no control over it at all. Still, “Loco” helped me create one of my most joyous memories, right at the beginning of fall.

Okay I know we need to abolish prisons and at the same time I *screamed* when I saw this set in the “Loco” MV. The combination of Yuna’s angel wings and chainsaw, the big stuffed animal, and the pink everywhere makes my gay heart so content.
Okay so all five members served this comeback, however I am dead over Yuna’s femme goth punk look with the blue hair and nails. Aesthetic excellence!

What’s a new lesson or coping strategy that’s brought you some peace or joy in your life? Any music that has elevated your mood as of late? General reactions to this post? Thanks to one of my frequent blog readers and commenters for writing a comment awhile ago about how I don’t control the release of my favorite music, a point I reflected on and then incorporated in this post. Hope folks are well and until next time!


Filed under Personal

10 responses to “I Didn’t Choose This

  1. “Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do.” This so much! I have had to learn to not say all the things about my upbringing which I have processed because it really upsets people!

    I’ve been weeping this week, too, my best friend’s soon-to-be-ex-husband is being such a TOOL and hurting her and their wonderful children so much with his selfishness and weakness. URGH. My beautiful clever friend left doubting herself, reeling and having to sort out the remnants of their marriage while he swans off.


    I’ve been finding some more rest (if not peace and joy) from cutting down on my running after I realised there’s a reason people my age and running ability don’t do 100 plus miles a month. I do feel a lot better for it and more able to face things (and not fall asleep at work etc.). And I got some bluetooth headphones and can listen to a silly country music station on Amazon music (I know, bad Amazon, but we get a free version with the Prime account my husband HAS to have) when out walking. That’s been cheering, as has the lovely supportive attitude of my running friends to my change in running schedule.

    • Yay I’m so glad you’ve been adjusting your running schedule in a way that sounds compassionate to yourself and your body! That sucks about your best friend’s soon-to-be-ex-husband, I wish he would stop being awful and I hope you are being gentle with yourself as well as you support your friend. Thank you too for understanding where I’m coming from in relation to abuse and talking about it! Hope your weekend goes well. (:

  2. Kartavya Ratate

    I am so touched by the level of empathy you have, Thomas. And I too feel sorry for that person and wish them well.

    It is frustrating that we have to so unfairly suffer because of forces totally beyond our control. Of course, we didn’t choose this suffering, and this very fact makes us worthy of compassion.
    I can imagine how difficult it must have been for you while growing up to have to deal with such unfairness, and I feel so proud of you for helping yourself get your way out. You are not alone, Thomas. We are all in this together; this post made me reflect on so many of my experiences from the past which have made me feel helplessly lonely in my pain, and I felt a deep tenderness for myself. And even at present as I continue to be anxious with uncertainty, I can now respond to my struggles with the compassion I deserve. Which is what I’m wishing for you too. Also, you beautifully write about how the lack of control doesn’t necessarily lead to pain/anxiety. I really appreciate this point you make here; it makes me feel hopeful and helps me maintain my trust in the common human experience. I am hoping you find healthy ways to process your feelings.

    Also omggggg your constant tweets and retweets about “Loco” made me really curious and I checked that song out and have been listening to it on repeat for the past twenty minutes or so. The MV is just as satisfying as the song. You have no idea, I am literally freaking out in joy over “such a rush, you’re making me lose my mind”. Thank you for introducing me to this beauty, and hope your week is filled with Loco’s amazingness!

    • Awww thank you so much for such a warm and empathetic response to this post! I’m glad that some of what I write here resonates with you. While there are several things within your comment that I think are wonderful psychologically, I especially appreciate the notion of how not having control doesn’t always have to lead to despair (something I am consistently working on for myself (: ) as well as the notion of common humanity. I feel like when we get so inside our own heads and emotions we can forget that others have suffered too and perhaps have suffered far worse, and that common experience can feel comforting even though ideally no one would suffer – especially from forces of societal oppression and injustice.

      Yay for Loco appreciation, I definitely jogged to it everyday for like two weeks and am still a big fan of the song. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. (:

  3. priya

    “Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do.” my mum isn’t abusive, but wow the way i feel this about my home life~ hearing about other people, especially your close friends, suffering is definitely hard to respond to and i do get frustrated at times when friends don’t respond in the way i need. hmm i guess it comes down to recognising that we are all separate people and there a LOT of things we experience that we never chose for ourselves. thanks for linking that article about radical acceptance -it sounds very effective, and i’ll _try_ to practice radical acceptance like my counsellor tells me to haha.

    also related to people feeling uncomfortable when you talk about yourself,,, i find that happens when i talk about my queerness. people struggle to consider queer people as normal and i feel like just mentioning that aspect of your identity disrupts conversations. idk i’m going way off topic

    i find it interesting how you used wish you were aromantic and not romantically attracted to men, instead of wishing you were straight (although i suppose that would’ve been an earlier/younger mindset). it kind of reminds me of when a straight girl says she wants to be a lesbian. either way, you can’t choose your sexuality and romantic orientation and it’s really amazing that you’ve accepted your gayness ! while your frustrations with dating men are totally valid, they can’t be used to judge your sexuality (not sure if that makes sense). you’re making a fulfilling life for yourself, based on your own values and that’s truly iconic!!

    hope you have an awesome week and listen to some epic kpop

    p.s. interesting choice to redact, rather than strike through KSDHDFNF

    • Awww I hear that re: your first paragraph. Yeah I think that it’s a balance of like, do you want to let your friends know that how they respond isn’t helpful/provide them with resources to better listen, if they seem open to that? Or do you want to radically accept they can do what they can do and they can’t do what they can’t do? Or do you want different friends, or to try to find a different way of soothing yourself? It’s complex for sure!

      Oooh that sounds hard or perhaps annoying, people not knowing how to respond to queerness. I hope you’re able to cultivate community that understands and celebrates that part of yourself at some point. I feel like at this point in my life I interact with so few straight people that sometimes I have to remind myself that straight people exist (this is partially a joke). I love the gays and also I am seeing you in your queerness and I hope that our e-acquaintaceship/friendship can bring some comfort for you.

      Yeah thanks for noticing that nuance! Lol I don’t want to be straight because I feel like I’d be more boring if I were straight, which I don’t want. Ideally we’d destroy patriarchy and and white supremacy so queer men of color could thrive more – that’s what I’m working towards though!

      Appreciate this thoughtful comment so much and the well wishes. Hahahahaha thanks for noticing, yeah gotta switch up the strikethroughs and redacted to keep my few readers on their toes. (:

  4. Thomas … you care so much for your friends. That’s so touching. I hope your friend will get through this. I also love the people who comment on your posts. It’s always interesting to see the different perspectives. I also like how you recharge yourself through music, tennis and running. You’ll need all that energy to fight the injustices out there. I do worry that sometimes you will feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

    I’m sad but also in awe of how coped with your mom while growing up. I get angry with how she has treated you. You had to grow up so fast.

    These days, I just appreciate the things I can control. One thing I want to get back to is writing. I’m trying to finish editing a short story so I can submit it to an online magazine. I can get lost in that world and I suppose that helps take my mind of whatever was occupying it. And photography too. I can spend tons of time on that.

    I hope you’re have a great week.

    • Awww thanks so much for this warm response Matt, I feel like you know me so well! I appreciate everyone who responds to my posts too, including yourself, it means a lot to me. I’m glad I have things like reading and writing and jogging/walking to pop music to keep my spirits up and cared for generally, just like you have what you can control in relation to a short story as well as your photography. I hope you’re well and that you have a great weekend. (:

  5. Yet another thoughtful post from you, Thomas. Like the others, this line stood out to me, ‘Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do’. I think it’s so true how others can more readily acknowledge our hurtful past or times than ourselves. Maybe they don’t exactly know how you feel about it. After all, some experiences really are unique to you and while are triggering to you, aren’t triggering to others.

    Our attraction to someone or a specific demographic is just that, an attraction. So happy to hear you are at peace with your attraction to men and know what you want, and know your worth.

    Throughout life I get easily overwhelmed with things I want to do, say for instance writing a blog post, writing my book and doing small life admin tasks. Over the last year I’ve learnt to take things slow: write everything down I want to do and then tackle them one by one. I guess in other words, I learnt to give genuine time and attention to things that I want to do, and to people as well. Hope you are doing well, Thomas 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful response Mabel! Yes def getting more into a mindset of peace with my attraction to men and honoring what I want and focusing on what I can control if I cannot get it.

      So glad you’re learning to take it slow and to tackle tasks one by one in a way that sounds healthy for you. I want to practice that self-awareness and intentionality too. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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