Tag Archives: friendship

Peeta and Katniss

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

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Bleeding Purple

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

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Look Back at it

“You can name your emotion as an emotion,” my therapist L told me, in one of our first sessions six years ago. I showed up in his office beat up and bruised, at least on the inside: a close college friend and I had broken up a few months prior, my friendships with a few folks from high school had imploded, and I was experiencing mental breakdowns in several different buildings on campus. I asked L how to cope with emotions that felt overwhelming, and he directed me to an exercise called cognitive defusion, which I started to enact alongside mindfulness meditation on a daily basis. I practiced these mental health techniques rigorously, often multiple times a day, and in conjunction with weekly sessions with L, my PTSD symptoms started to dissipate.

Flash forward six years later to now: I have spent over 800 hours in L’s position, as the clinician sitting across from the client. Continue reading

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You Wouldn’t Be You

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. Continue reading

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Dynamic

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

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I’m Real

The other day one of my best friends found out that if you google my full name and the word “blog,” this blog shows up as the first search result. When she messaged me this, I freaked out a little bit. Though I feel confident and secure in myself and in what I share on this blog, I still got shaken up by the notion of someone within my “professional” circle stumbling upon these posts especially my posts that involve strikethroughs and mentions of railings, anyway.

When I sat down and started to process my slight fear, I recognized that I felt concerned about people judging my competencies as an academic based on this blog. Continue reading

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Safety

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.

In May 2019, I took a risk with our friendship. Continue reading

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The New Era

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

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Are You There Stomach? It’s Me, Thomas

Sometimes I lift my shirt up in front of the mirror and sigh because I have a stomach. I could make this go away pretty easily, I think to myself, after I suck my fat in and my torso turns flat. A plan comes to mind: cut out dinner, eat only yogurt for breakfast and salad for lunch, and treat myself to potato chips and a soda on the occasional weekend. The regime feels familiar, because I implemented it often back in my early teen years.

At that time in my life, my mom yelled at me for hours almost every day, a doctor once told me I could stand to lose a few pounds, and a Korean girl I had talked to for weeks over AIM called me ugly when I finally sent her a photo of myself. Continue reading

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Picture This

This past Tuesday afternoon I talked with my therapist about my elongated struggle with men. I told her about how that morning, I spent around half an hour investigating when Caroline Knapp, one of my favorite writers, met the romantic partner she later married, Mark Morelli. I used my millennial/Gen Z cusp internet sleuthing skills and pulled up several articles about her, such as one about when she and Morelli went to couples therapy together and another that shared that she got sober at 36.

“I figured out that she met him in her early 30’s,” I said. “Which is kind of helpful but kind of not because if I do want to date a man, which is questionable, I want him now.”

“There’s a sense of urgency here,” my therapist said. We had stopped wearing masks at this point, both of us vaccinated and sitting at least six feet apart, so I could see her smile. “I wonder if you can think of this like growing a garden.”

Omg, she’s about to solve all of my mental health problems with florals, I thought to myself. Continue reading

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