I have seen my current therapist, a white lesbian woman, since June of 2018. When we met on Wednesday a week ago, I brought up an exchange we had during a pre-COVID session. Back then, I had told her once about how when one of the straight guys I played tennis with drove me home, I felt a strong physical attraction to him to the point where I would have wanted to make out with him if he had identified as queer and provided consent.
“I’m so jealous of you because when I told you about that, you literally said that you would have wanted to vomit if you had been sitting next to him,” I said, smiling. “I don’t know if there’s anything I wouldn’t give to be physically repulsed by men, honestly.”
“I get your frustration,” she said, laughing. The session contained a lot of positive energy. “But if you weren’t attracted to men, you wouldn’t be you.”
I have felt annoyed when my therapist has made similar comments in the past. You wouldn’t be you? Sure whatever, but that misses the point: being attracted to men, a gender socialized within our current white supremacist patriarchy, has caused me so much pain throughout my life. If I had not been attracted to men, I would not have engaged with harmful men who state that they have social justice-oriented values and then fail to live out those values in their personal relationships. I could have avoided many hours of pointless and boring interactions with men in which I would have rather played with one of my best friend’s cats, eaten Asian takeout while reading a novel on my couch, or stared at pink paint dry on my apartment’s walls while humming “Feel Special” by Twice.
However, over the past several months I have grown more accepting of my attraction to men. I thus had the mental bandwidth to entertain my therapist’s statement last week for longer than two seconds. I love being Asian, love being gay, and dislike being attracted to men, though I recognize that my gayness and attraction to men occur concurrently. Without a doubt, my gayness has improved the quality of my life: it has helped me question amatonormativity and other societal norms, encouraged my expressiveness and emotionality and artistry, and connected me to amazing queer books and a warm community on Goodreads. I feel lucky that I came into my sexual orientation in the early 2010’s, when the blossoming of queer media and the efforts of queer activists in decades past made my gayness pretty much a nonissue.
I have more reservations about whether my attraction to men has improved the quality of my life. I will admit, though, that my attraction to men did contribute to how I developed a connection with both of my current best friends. With one friend, I remember laughing in the library of my undergraduate university about men’s inability to do anything other than [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] as well as bonding over Ariana Grande’s feminist refusal of mediocre men in her song “Love Me Harder.” With my other bff, our bond intensified in 2019 when we supported each other through one of my crushes and one of her male ex-friend’s treating us like garbage. We sent each other flurries of text messages, many of which still make laugh when I reread them, our roasts of men and support of one another. Of course, these friends and I criticize amatonormativity and always dedicate ample time to process and discuss non-man topics such as art, our families, social justice issues, our internal worlds, random people in our lives, and more. At the same time, my attraction to men did play a role in the development of these bonds.
In another universe, not being attracted to men may have made my life better, or it may have made my life worse. Maybe I would have somehow still managed to resist toxic masculinity and embrace more traditionally feminine qualities as a *shivers* straight man. In this alternate universe, maybe I would have avoided some of the homophobic prejudice or discrimination I’ve encountered, married an amazing woman (though as we know the wedding industrial complex is patriarchal garbage), and spent time learning how to cook or put together furniture
lol even straight me wouldn’t touch either of those things, we know that instead of interacting with bleh men. Sometimes I feel pressured to say something like, oh of course I wouldn’t do my life over again without being attracted to men, of course I’d still choose this existence – honestly, I don’t feel that way, at least not all the time. Even if I continue to love my life without a male romantic partner or later meet a man who I’d want to date long-term, my attraction to men still generated enough suffering that I’d potentially rather just scrap it to begin with.
Or maybe my life would have been even more difficult without my attraction to men. Maybe I wouldn’t have always had a close few female friends, or I wouldn’t have stumbled upon Appetites by Caroline Knapp which launched my foray into feminism and social justice generally, or I wouldn’t have the same vibrancy and high energy that I emanate in my everyday life. I don’t know, and I’m radically accepting that I probably never will.
To cope and to thrive, I lean into the present. The laughter I share with my best friends, the self-efficacy that courses through me as I jog along to pop music, the interdependence I feel when I help someone work through a mental health issue – whether these sensations would have happened without an attraction to men or not doesn’t matter when I let myself experience them in the moment. As I learned through reading Knapp’s Appetites, my connection to myself matters way more than any external source of self-worth: my ability to to know who I am and what I want and how to feed my own soul. In this life, I feel proud that I have developed the ability to nourish myself, despite the obstacles I have faced.
How have you come to terms with things in your life you wish had been different? General reactions to this post? Today I submitted my apps for my internship/residency yayyy. Until next post!