I decided to color my hair red during my first year of graduate school in 2017. I had attended a conference about Asian American psychology that October. Some graduate students and I had been standing in line for a dinner banquet, taking turns introducing ourselves by sharing our names and home institutions. When I shared mine, a fellow gaysian grad student looked at me and said “oh, you’re a *insert name of program stated in an elevated and slightly incredulous voice* student,” eyebrows raised.
I imagine that gaysian said that to me because my grad program has a bit of a prestigious (code for: elitist) reputation in my field. Continue reading →
Last week I went to my local hair salon and got my roots done. The process involves several steps. My stylist: applies a scalp protecting fluid all over my head, paints my roots with bleach in meticulous detail, washes out the bleach, heals my hair with restorative shampoos and conditioners, and finishes by applying toner to get the color just right. After almost getting my hair burned off with my old stylist in early April 2021, I appreciate my current stylist’s level of skill and attention to detail, especially given the difficulty of turning my natural black hair to light blonde in one sitting.
When I went home following my appointment last week, I looked at the mirror after my hair had dried and saw silver. Continue reading →
A week and a half ago, I got an email from my father that contained 17 full sentences. I counted; my father has never said that many words to me in the span of one conversation throughout my entire life. The email evoked a lot of emotions: gratitude for the care he expressed, sadness at the struggles he experienced and how they affected our relationship, and annoyance that I had to email him first for him to send me this information.
I developed a sense of my father’s personality early on in my life: hard-working, intelligent, and a free thinker. Continue reading →
content warning: explicit writing about passive suicidal ideation
I thought about killing myself* for the first time in a while earlier this June. I did not have any active plan or means to do so. At the same time, I felt a lot of pain related to my attraction to men and wanted that pain to stop.
Over the past month or so I thought about whether I should change my red hair back to black, or even to a tamer brown. In the next couple of years, I will apply for my psychology predoctoral internship as well as for a faculty position or postdoc. Because of white supremacist professionalism, I figured I may want to play it safe and revert to a more common hair color. Then, BlackPink’s “Lovesick Girls” came out and Rosé wrecked me as well as everyone else on this planet with her fabulous pink hair. Upon witnessing her gorgeous emotive performance in the “Lovesick Girls” music video, I thought to myself, oh, I have to go pink now. I chose to color my hair pink because pink represents my commitment to accepting and loving myself as a femme queer Vietnamese American who survived an eating disorder and PTSD, who does not care about fitting into white supremacist and patriarchal societal standards.
My journey of self-love and self-acceptance started with my grandmother. Continue reading →
Sometimes I struggle to honor my strengths. I have pretty high self-compassion and self-esteem, I just don’t like acknowledging what I’m good at. For example, I’m starting my fourth year of training as a psychologist. In my most recent therapy evaluation, my supervisor commended my “ability to connect with clients and make them feel safe with [me].” She also wrote that I have “an intuitive approach that is bolstered by [a] strong theoretical orientation… influenced by a multicultural lens, feminist therapy, ACT and CBT, and interpersonal process,” as well as an openness and genuineness that helps clients feel connected to me. Though I recognize my clients’ growth, I still think: am I actually good at this?
Even though I can grow in honoring my strengths, I like my modesty a lot. I think it stems from Asian values of humility, as well as not wanting to be like other men who have an inflated sense of their abilities. Instead of searching for the spotlight, I can spend more time honing my empathy, social justice advocacy, and mentoring. Still, internalizing modesty to an extreme may have its downsides. My supervisor also wrote in her evaluation, “I think Thomas is always a bit surprised at the progress of his clients, as he sometimes doubts that he is a good, actually excellent, therapist. I encourage his humility, but also think he would benefit from receiving the fact that he is very skilled and capable.”
Upon reflecting about my supervisor’s comments for the past several weeks, I feel like a lot of my hesitancy to own my strengths stems from my queer Asian male identity. Continue reading →
A few months ago, I talked with one of my good friends L about a disturbing phenomenon we observe in the Asian American community: Asian Americans who prefer to date white people. While texting her about this issue, I encountered this video about Asian American women who talk about their preference for dating white men. I felt so disturbed watching this video because it reminded me of queer Asian men I know who prefer dating white guys over Black, Indigenous, and other men of color (BIMOC). While this whole video reeked of internalized racism and anti-Black racism, one comment that annoyed me in particular: the notion that white men are “more confident” than Asian men.
I despise the notion of white men being “more confident” than Asian men because that idea so often fails to take into account the effects of white privilege and racism. Continue reading →
Hi everyone! This isn’t one of my usual posts. I’m gonna keep it short and not say much about me. I always joke that no one reads this blog, but just in case someone is, I’m here to say that Black lives matter, and we should all take action to show it.
This letter an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook speaks to the importance of Asians and Asian Americans showing up for Black Lives Matter. There’s a solid list of tangible actions at the bottom of the article if you want to skip to that. As written in the article, we Asian Americans often side with whiteness and white people over Black people and we need to cut that shit out.
Here’s a quick Twitter thread with 10 steps to non-optical allyship, and here’s a list of books you can read to learn about being anti-racist. Please feel free to comment with additional actions and resources, or reactions. Until next post.
Sometimes I try to avoid coming off as a smart or intelligent person. For example, I am in a top-ranked Psychology PhD program, but I detest talking about my research or my academics with my closest friends. A few months ago, I realized that I had published some articles in top Psychology peer-reviewed journals like Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and Appetite and felt gross about it, to the point where I posted a dramatic Facebook status asking if researchers can indeed have hearts. When one of my friends entering a Psychology PhD program in the fall praised me on the phone the other day for being super smart, I felt a sliver of my soul shrivel up and ascend into the afterlife, aka, a land with unlimited Jeni’s ice cream and books and upbeat pop music.
After reflecting on it, I realize I dislike associating myself with intelligence because of all the emotionally undeveloped and/or cruel smart people I know. Continue reading →
About two weeks ago I noticed myself judging and feeling frustrated with other Asian people. As someone who cares a lot about Asian American mental health and racial justice, I wanted to explore these feelings of judgment and frustration, because I like feeling my feelings and doing so helps me procrastinate my grad student responsibilities. Some incidents with fellow Asian Americans that have made me feel frustrated include: when I met a queer Asian American man last year who said he had internalized European beauty standards and is working to unlearn his automatic attraction to white guys; when I got dinner with an Asian American female friend who wondered about the truthfulness of reverse racism; all throughout high school when I saw other Asian American students obsess about grades and academic achievement and getting into prestigious schools.
When I sat with these emotions, I noticed a somewhat embarrassing thought emerge: you should all be better than this. I felt a literal judgment and I’m not proud of it. Continue reading →