A desire I felt ashamed of: I had wanted my first long-term therapist L to attend my college graduation. When I stood on the auditorium stage receiving an award in 2017, I thought less about the work I had put into my academics over the past few years and more about the effort I had spent in my therapy with him. I felt fine that L had not attended, though I had always perceived my desire to see him there as too needy or too much in some way.
“I totally get why he couldn’t attend, because of ethics and stuff,” I said to my current therapist over Zoom a few weeks ago. I had never told anyone about wanting to see L at my college graduation before this. “I feel some shame though that I had wanted him there at all.”
“Thomas, it’s completely normal and makes sense that you wanted L to be there,” she said. “You two really cared for each other.”
The other day I spoke with an older Gaysian guy I respect. He first gave me some advice about my Psychology residency application process, and our conversation later turned to topics such as the political roots of queer Asian men’s romantic desires. He expressed some ideas about white supremacy and transracial adoption I hadn’t yet put into words, which I appreciated.
At one point, though, as we talked about how internalized racism may motivate fellow Gaysian men to date white men, he said something along the lines of: “well, if gay Asian men don’t have any other options around them, is it their fault to be with a white man even if he’s basic or a fetishizer? It’s like Peeta and Katniss from The Hunger Games, it’s not like they had a choice to kill other people. I’m not saying it’s the ideal scenario, but if gay Asian men don’t have other options, I’m not sure I blame them.”
I want to make it clear that I do not think this older Gaysian himself endorsed the idea of Gaysian men settling for white men (just in case this Gaysian somehow happens to stumble upon this blog post, I think you’re rad and cool and otherwise wouldn’t have reached out to you!) However, I felt struck by the logic underlying this analogy, that not having any romantic prospects removes you of your agency to the same extent as being forced to kill other people against your will by a totalitarian police state. And yet, I have heard the same sentiment uttered by a less rad older queer Asian man who is now engaged to a white man who couldn’t hold a conversation on his own when I met him, uh yikes, that it’s not about if you’ll settle, it’s about who you’ll eventually settle for.
What strikes me as most bizarre about this idea that you have to settle for the romantic prospects in your geographic area, is the implicit notion that you have to settle for a romantic prospect at all. Continue reading →
Several nights ago I had a dream in which one of my former professors from undergrad told me that she had started seeing my old therapist, L. When I interacted with this professor in real life several years ago, I could sense that she possessed unaddressed mental health issues. So when she told me in the dream about seeing my former therapist L, I felt happy for her, though a bit confused that we spoke about this topic while standing in one of the large, open bathrooms of my childhood home. The dream then shifted to me standing alone in an empty hallway with blue carpeting. A single showerhead jutted out of the wall, and I washed my blonde hair and saw it turn purple. As water continued to pour onto my scalp, purple hair dye ran through my fingers, the original black and the newer blonde strands nowhere in sight.
When I woke up, I knew right away that my former professor represented my mother. Continue reading →
I love my closest friends just as much, if not more than I love Jeni’s ice cream, “Lovesick Girls” by Blackpink, sashaying away from mediocre white men, “Feel Special” by Twice, and celebrating the joy and empowerment of femme people of color combined. Thus, I feel annoyed when I see social media posts like this one:
On one hand, I get it. I do have friends, who I care about and respect and appreciate, who I see or talk with on an infrequent basis, maybe once a month, every few months, or a year. These friends share similar values to me in relation to social justice and compassion for other people. I like the flexibility of checking in with them on a nonrigid timeline, and I recognize the benefits of having casual, yet still meaningful social support in addition to my relationship with myself and my relationships with my two best friends.
At the same time, I feel angry and sad about the notion that we should never have expectations of our friends, especially our closer friends. Continue reading →
Several years ago, I judged one of my two best friends because she worked in marketing. She and I met through a part-time job we shared in undergrad, and we bonded over our enjoyment of writing and our shared Vietnamese ethnicity. During undergrad, we did not talk much outside of work, and we did not grow into best friends until a few years after we both graduated. We had different social circles back then, with hers including a boyfriend of several years. I also used to evaluate people more based on their jobs, and I thought more highly of people whose professions directly involved helping others or promoting social justice.
Our friendship intensified beginning in late 2018 to early 2019. This best friend and I love ourselves no matter what any man thinks of us, which introduces an element of irony because men helped bring us closer together. At that time, I found myself in a situationship with an academically successful, artistic, emotionally unavailable Asian man. She was in the midst of navigating a situationship with an exciting, chaotic, and uncommunicative man who shared her sense of humor. We texted each other support about these men; even now, we laugh about how she texted me while holding her phone underneath a boardroom table during an important meeting to roast the guy I found myself attracted to back then.
A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I laughed with my old therapist, L. I laughed with him about my messy situationships with men and the mediocre dates I’ve went on since we last saw each other back in 2017. When I woke up, I reached over and wrote about the dream on the piece of paper I keep atop my bedside drawer. I felt gratitude and nostalgia both for L and for my current therapist, who I may stop seeing if I move in 2022 for the final year of my PhD program.
This dream made sense because L acted as one of the first people I ever talked to about more seriously dating men. Continue reading →
On my 26th birthday a couple of weeks ago, I spent a few hours jogging around Green Lake Park in Seattle, a beautiful expanse of water and naturey space in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood. When I paused to cool down on one of the docks that jutted out into the water, I reflected on how complete and fulfilling my life felt with stellar friendships, a deep sense of purpose, and physical and psychological health. I still haven’t dated a man yet, though I thought to myself, and I felt a tinge of sadness. I let myself sit with that sadness for a few minutes. Then I reminded myself that any emotional intimacy a man could give me, I’ve already gotten – through my immersive, loving, and in the past, challenging relationships with my closest friends.
Ten years ago, as a junior in high school, I started watching Queer as Folk for the first time. Continue reading →
Within the past week I set a date for my dissertation defense, finished writing the first draft of a grant to investigate queer men of color’s health outcomes, and analyzed data for various research projects for about four hours with my students. While I work a lot, I also set aside time to nurture my relationship with myself and with close and casual friends. In my 25 years of life, I have met so many people who achieve a lot in their professional lives yet do not take time to work through their internal traumas and conflicts or to practice self-compassion generally, which often shows up in how they treat others. Thus, amidst the business of my life I wanted to write this informal post to celebrate some simple pleasures I have encountered as of late. Continue reading →
My romantic attraction to men often makes me feel trapped. Because I grew up with an abusive, unpredictable mother and because my personality leans toward independence in and of itself, I like feeling in control, like I have the autonomy to shape my surroundings without anyone else interfering. Feeling attracted to men makes me feel trapped because my friends and I have encountered so many mediocre men. I also feel trapped because we live in an amatonormative society that prioritizes romantic love above all else.
Over the past week and a half, I have spent a lot of time and energy reflecting on my romantic attraction to men and my dislike of it. While listening to BlackPink’s song “Lovesick Girls” on repeat nonstop, I started to wonder: wait, what if the issue here is not my romantic attraction to men itself, rather, what if it’s the way we socialize men as well as the way the state and related media glorifies romantic love (e.g., people in marriages get tangible financial and other benefits while people who are not married do not)? Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago I felt sadness at the thought of winter approaching. I struggled to figure out what brought on this sadness. At first, I wondered if the emotion stemmed from the impending coldness and darkness cutting off my ability to go on walks and jogs outdoors, my break from the boringness of staying indoors. Several nights ago, though, I had a dream that helped me realize the true root of my sadness: that this winter marks one year since I broke up with one of my former closest friends.