One of the funny things about the world is that whether you like it or not, you have to live within it.
That’s been a realisation that has struck me and fascinating me ever since.
My exploratory blog posts and academic lecture discussion post have all touched on my own life struggles: How do I be a queer, gay Asian American that has lived so little on what we consider “American soil?”
I called out representation of gay-ness in the acclaimed film “Love, Simon”; questioned how body and biology relate to these critical understandings of race, gender and sexuality through Blade Runner 2049; deconstructed the very notion of masculinity to the point where I felt it could never be redeemed as a healthy concept. Even in my academic lecture post, I questioned whether I could understand and sympathise, if not agree with, someone whose conservative ideologies were directly hurting me and people like me.
There’s a part of me that feels pretty bad about how, for several weeks, I more or less co-opted parts of class discussion and turned it into a group therapy session. I recognise that it probably wasn’t what most people had signed up for when they added the class so many weeks earlier. The pyschologists and therapists I’ve seen tell me about how strong I am and how much I’ve managed to accomplish without help. Well, they’re partly right, but I have the help and support (given willingly or grudgingly) of the people around me in this endevour, and I do wish to thank and acknowledge everyone for putting up with me and giving me the support I was desperate for over the last ten weeks.
There’s probably a reason why research has found that LGB youth are at greater risk for depression and suicide (Centers for Disease Control and The Trevor Project. The data sources used by both did not systematically collect information about transgender young people, so neither the CDC nor The Trevor Project make claims about risks for such people — although it probably isn’t better.). When you feel alone and trapped living in a world — a space, a geography — that explicitly and implicitly tells you that who you are is wrong, immoral, worthless and disgusting and that even those who love you most will reject you when they find out who you truly are, there’s a really good chance that you might decide this world is one that actually isn’t worth living in.
Here’s a bombshell: I’m not out to my parents. For those of you with the luxury of not having to handle this process, I’ll say what so many other people have said in the past: Coming out is a unique and individualized experience for every individual, and there’s no script — no normative narrative — that tells us what to do. Friends and some family members have either figured out for themselves, had this bombshell dropped on them, or I’ve subtly hinted it in other ways. I’ve always known — no, felt — that there’s a part of me which so desperately wishes there was just some book, some film, some step-by-stsep instruction guide that I could follow on “how to be a good Asian American queer.” (There is, however, a guide on how to be a good journalist covering queer Asian Pacific Islander lives, stories and issues, which made me very happy.)
I think that’s what connects my blog posts: a frustation at the world and a desperate attempt to continue to secure my place within it. For two decades, I’ve wondered around the surface of this planet, trying to find a geography amongst which I could live my life without being threatened by my social environment for being who I am. I’m upset at “Love, Simon” for pretending that society thinks being gay is socially accepted and queer people of color don’t exist. I’m upset at “Blade Runner 2049” for trying to make Orientalism palatable by shifting it onto a non-bio-human character. I’m upset at Hak-Shing William Tam because his actions drove a wedge between Asian American activists and queer activists and implying that queer Asian Americans don’t exist. I’m upset at men because, in pursuit of our own fragile identities of “manliness,” do we really have to be so problematic and can’t we try to do better?
Against this backdrop of seemingly intractable social problems, it’s tempting to pick one identity issue and fight it as identity politics. But I’m not going to be able to freely live any one of these identities unless and until I can live all of them.
In dark times like these, there’s often a silver living, and here, it’s this: for two decades, I’ve wondered around the surface of this planet, trying to find a geography amongst which I could live my life without being threated by social environment for being who I am. I haven’t quite found that space yet, but over the last eleven weeks, I’ve realised I am no longer searching for this mythical land on my own.
Northwestern students who need support are urged to reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services at 847-491-2151, the Dean of Students Office at 847-491-8430, the Chaplain’s staff at 847-491-7256, and/or Residential Life staff in your building. University faculty and staff seeking assistance may contact the university’s Employee Assistance Program at 855-547-1851. All services are available 24/7.
LGBTQ youth at risk or in need of support may also reach out to the Trevor Project’s LifeLine 24/7/365 at 866-488-7386, and can also reach the Trevor Project via chat or text at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and can also be reached via chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.