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
Yesterday in the middle of a Coronavirus-inspired haze, I found myself indoors watching dirty videos. It all felt fun and pleasurable until I came across this comment:
In all honesty, when I first saw that racist comment, I just exited that webpage and found a better use of my time. I feel sad admitting this, but the comment did not surprise me. A lot of people have written about how queer Asian men are fetishized and perceived as subservient by white gays, and I’ve already written about how we as queer Asian men are socialized to desire a white man’s love. This racist comment made me roll my eyes but did not elicit more emotion than that.
Today though, I remembered this comment while out on a socially distant jog. And suddenly I felt pissed. Continue reading
Sometimes I behave like a hot mess. For example, I have a few regrets about how I handled the AWLOB shenanigans of 2019. He messaged me, we started talking, I developed a crush on him, we stopped talking, then he messaged me saying he broke up with his boyfriend and had a crush on me and needed space to heal from his relationship ending. Looking back, it’s clear what I should’ve done: accept that he’s emotionally unavailable at the time, wish him the best in his healing process, and give him space while moving on with my life.
Instead, I literally messaged him three separate times across the span of six months. Continue reading
In my six-year doctoral program, our last year consists of a year-long internship in which we provide therapy full time. The process to determine which site we will conduct our internship at works kinda like the med school residency application process. We apply to different sites, they extend interview offers, and after we interview, they rank us and we rank them. Every year, on “match day,” my doctoral program directors send an email to the entire program detailing which students matched at which sites. Everyone shares their congratulations. It feels wholesome.
This year, a faculty member sent an additional email to everyone in the program with the subject line “More good news on an already fine day for our interns…” In the email, this faculty member shared how one of his former students recently had his second child. Attached to the photos were pictures of this student and his children.
While I felt positive about this news – I really like this former student, because he’s into social justice in a quiet way where he walks the walk about it without showing off – I also felt a little perturbed at the arbitrariness of this email. Like, are we all so into the heteronormative nuclear family that we think “more good news” consists solely of sharing pictures of students who have children with their spouses? I don’t feel turned off by celebrating someone having kids, though I do think we can widen what constitutes good news: how about the grad student of color who’s fought through imposter syndrome that stemmed from racism in academia? How about the grad student who’s learned how to feel happiness on their own and their chosen communities, outside of a romantic partner? How about the grad student who enjoyed their Friday night watching Itzy music videos no, these are all not just slowly morphing into descriptions of me?
Because I’m super into sharing about how I cultivate a fulfilled life outside of romance and the heteronormative nuclear family – even though I may want a child of my own someday – I want to share about my iconic weekend. Continue reading
The other day I had a breakdown in my car on my way back home from a super fun tennis match. This breakdown began when I started to reflect on a friend breakup that happened throughout the latter half of 2019, about a kind, soft-hearted friend who dated a man and grew to depend on him. Continue reading
I grew up as a pretty girly guy. Ever since a young age, I liked pink and floral colors and designs, gravitated toward female television and video game characters, and hung out almost all the time with girls. I derived a lot of benefits from this association with the feminine: empathy, communication skills, valuing softness over brute force. At the same time, I also encountered the message that I should want boys to like me, or that desire always flowed in one direction: other boys did the desiring, whereas I desired the desire of other boys.
Until I grew into my own social justice awakening and until I met my bff Bri in undergrad, my female friends and I would often interpret a guy’s rejection as a fault of our own. If a guy did not exhibit interest in us, we took it as a sign that we did something wrong. Maybe we cared too much. Maybe we should weigh less. Maybe we expected too much communication. Some of my friends and I analyzed the motives of men with the ferocity of rabid chihuahuas, bloodthirsty for emotional intimacy and care. We gossiped about whether their past relationships and traumas inhibited their capacity to connect. We strategized on ways to conduct ourselves to maximize their comfort and openness.
Things more iconic than spending time on emotionally under-developed men #313: eating iconic Asian food while reading in San Diego during a conference! This took place in October, at the restaurant Underbelly. The pork belly bao buns were iconic.
Imagine my surprise when a cisgender, heterosexual white male acquaintance of mine in undergrad did the exact opposite. Continue reading
I recovered from my eating disorder a long time ago, though I still have moments of feeling dissatisfied with my body. These rare moments come and go. They feel like this: a twinge of self-annoyance when I change into a floral top and notice that it looks like I have a bit of a stomach, a hint of embarrassment when I see a picture of myself smiling and notice my under bite, a drop of self-consciousness when I walk out of the bath tub after a shower and see the scars and moles on my body. Almost always I move on with little concern, yet little concern still means some concern at the end of the day.
This past year and a half I have gotten back into tennis. I played throughout high school, though the abundance of masculine energy in the boys’ team combined with my adolescent angst made it a lukewarm experience. I pretty much dropped it all throughout undergrad, then my second year of grad school after a good friend moved away, I thought: hm, maybe now’s the time to pick up a hobby where I can meet people
and release my rage at the cisheteronormative white supremacist patriarchy.
Last night I played in the first round of a USTA sanctioned 3.5 men’s singles tournament. Continue reading
One of my worst fears came true: most of my closest friends have started dating men. When I pictured this point in my life, I imagined an utter dystopia. I would try to talk to my close friends and our conversations would always devolve into them describing a nice yet somewhat unremarkable deed their boyfriend did, like cooking lasagna for dinner. Or I would try to make a more radical point about men being trash and my friends, who would once side with me without blinking an eye, would look at me, gesture to their patriarchal monogamy devices wedding rings, and say “not all men are trash.” Or, I would feel so alone in my singleness that I would settle for Joe Smith from Tinder, a guy whose hobbies include Netflix, going on hikes with his dog, and practicing active listening once out of every two or three conversations.
“Do you think I’m too picky?” I asked my most recent therapist. “Like, there are a couple of super nice guys who’ve expressed interest but I’m just not into them. A couple of them are therapists who are into social justice but to be honest they bore me. Not to be all Freudian because Freud is trash, but like, do I have some weird attachment issue going on?”
“Thomas, you’re a gifted person.” She looked at me with caring and patience. “You want someone who’s on your level, someone who can challenge you. It makes sense that you wouldn’t be into some boring psychotherapist.”
In a society that encourages us to settle as soon as possible with whomever for the sake of fulfilling the heteronormative patriarchal romantic narrative, I felt so validated by her then. Continue reading