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 →
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 →
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 →
I feel at peace with myself and enjoy my life a lot nowadays, which struck me as a bit odd the other day. Part of that odd feeling I think stems from themes I have noticed crop up consistently in fiction about gay men’s lives: persistent self-loathing and engaging in unhealthy relationships. Some popular titles that include these themes includeCall Me by Your Name by André Aciman, Real Life by Brandon Taylor, and Memorial by Bryan Washington. The queer protagonists of these novels possess deep insecurities, date men who mistreat them, and lack self-awareness about their intrapersonal and interpersonal patterns.
I am not suggesting that these stories are unimportant or that artists should only portray happy, healthy queer men in their work. Gay men – especially gay men with additional marginalized identities related to race, fatness, femininity, and more – go through a lot of oppression and it’s important to capture that oppression and its effects. I acknowledge the power and compassion of honoring people’s pain without trying to force them into healing or more positive emotional states right away. Especially in light of the AIDS crisis in the United States and how the government’s mishandling of that situation killed many queer artists and queer people in general, I feel grateful for the presence of queer art and how that art exists in a heteronormative world.
At the same time, I feel annoyed when these stories about queer pain receive the most publicity or popularity compared to art that promotes queer joy and healing. Continue reading →
Over the past week I have spent at least half of my waking hours listening to “Feel Special” by Twice, at this point my favorite Twice song by far. I love upbeat dance pop because it both matches and fuels my cheery and energetic day to day personality. I most appreciate “Feel Special” because within its positive and uplifting grooves, it contains more melancholy lyrics about feeling alone, motionless, and without purpose.
These more somber lyrics spurred me to reflect on my own history of feeling misunderstood and isolated. Continue reading →
To take a break from engaging with the anti-Asian hate going on in the United States, I wanted to write a blog post about my gender identity and men’s irrelevance. Over the past several months, I have started to go by any and all pronouns. This change does not feel major to me because while I have always felt comfortable in my male body, I have also always had a femme side which I cherish a lot. However, I have caught myself thinking at times: will men feel less attracted to me if I go by any/all pronouns instead of only he/him pronouns?
Whenever I notice this thought, I remind myself: I literally do not care what any man thinks of me and never will. Continue reading →
In my pre-teen years, I gained a somewhat large internet following through writing Naruto fanfiction on fanfiction.net. While I always wrote stories that occurred within the original Naruto series, other writers created narratives that occurred in alternative universes, or AUs, like if the characters went to modern-day high schools or worked in modern-day bars or nightclubs. This past week, I reflected on an alternate universe in which my situationship with my former crush, AWLOB, played out differently. Continue reading →
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 couple weeks ago I joined a collective of radical leftist Asian/Pacific Islanders in the DC area, to plug into a community of fellow APIs and can contribute to social justice. Though I feel unsure about how much time I will invest in this specific group with everything else I have going on, I like the unapologetically leftist energy I have encountered so far. In particular, I appreciate sharing space with and witnessing Asian Americans who care about and take action to promote social justice. I feel rejuvenated taking part in this group after growing up in a high school with a lot of Asian Americans who internalized the model minority myth and focused more on grades than dismantling systems of oppression, myself included.
In this space though, I sometimes think about a former crush of mine and feel concerned. This guy, on paper at least, had organized for leftist causes and taken direct action to promote social justice. At the same time, he really hurt my feelings and from what I can discern the feelings of at least a few others as well. In my first group video chat with this new organization, I could not help but wonder to myself: who of you act to promote radical social justice yet hurt the people you engage with on an interpersonal level? And if I engage further with this organization, will you somehow hurt me? Continue reading →