Follower Friday: jefferyhaj

Follower Fridays is a series of profiles highlighting members of Gaysian Third Space to showcase the diversity of gaysians in the Community. This week’s featured member is @jefferyhaj.

Who are you?

Jeffery, a 21 year old Australian born Chinese. I’m your typical happy-go-lucky go who tries not to takes things too seriously but if someone rubs me the wrong way, I can also be your worst nightmare. Just kidding…kind-of.

Where are you from?

From the land down under where we ride kangaroos to school, Melbourne Australia. However, I did grow up in Singapore and moved back when I was 10, so I’ve spent about half of my life in both countries. Strangely enough, a lot of people assume I’m from Hong Kong so there’s that too.

What do you do?

I’m in my final year of my Bachelor of Science, majoring in Neuroscience and am pursuing my “Doctor of Physiotherapy” degree next year. I work in University Services and enjoy activities like dancing and reading in my spare time.

What are you passionate about?

For everything and anything related to health sciences, my family, friends and partner. I’m passionate about advocating for “controversial” topics that shouldn’t be controversial in the first place (e.g. marriage equality). It also fascinates me when new discoveries are made and I love keeping up with what’s happening around the world. To sum it up, I’m a curious student, informed teacher, avid traveler and passionate lover.

What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?

Being quite a versatile person, I’ve always wanted to pursue a range of different jobs, from acting to teaching to my current goal, Physiotherapist. It’d be ideal if I could open up my own practice, where there will be a range of other health practitioners (e.g. psychologists, audiologists, speech pathologists) in one convenient location – that’s my end goal. Through this, I hope to be able to raise more awareness about stigmatized issues (e.g. mental health, sexual health) in my community through my own platform – may it be through offering free information sessions, consultations or something as simple as giving out information booklets.

If you could change the world with one idea, what would it be?

Factual information. To teach and for others to learn to make informed decisions. A lot of the hate we see these days comes from misunderstandings and assumptions – where “assume makes an ass out of u and me”. If people were more well informed then there wouldn’t be pointless “controversial” issue on topics like marriage equality, vaccinations, sexism, racism, religious wars, homophobia and etc. A lot of the hate stems from misinformed individuals who were raised to think that way. Perhaps it may be their “nature” but I believe in nurture over nature and if people understood the facts and were informed about these topics then there’s a better chance they wouldn’t act the way they do now.



You see me standing here, strung together, presentable, as if I am strong, as if nothing is wrong. As if I’m not playing a game of reverse “Where’s Waldo,” as if I don’t try to blend in to a place I don’t feel I truly belong as if I’m not held up by strings.  

My elementary school taught me “diversity and unity”. They didn’t teach me that others would judge me based upon the age of my parents, that people would approach me with foreign languages and expect me to understand because of what I look like I might be. My mother speaks in broken English, ashamed of her lower education, afraid and angry. My father speaks with hints of Hawaii, bits of pidgin slipping into his speech pattern like America has slipped into mine. Unity of diversity was nothing but a grade school fairy tale.  

I have a sister, but I’m considered an “only”. She’s half of mother, half some European soldier my mom married to get out of Korea. My mother tells me not to marry a White man, because they would treat me like my sister’s father treated her. They don’t say his name around me. My sister is a mix of genes considered beautiful, “wasian”, something to be celebrated. She was a model, before the money got tight. She’s twenty-one years my senior. Our racial differences have created a canyon too deep and vast for me to ever hope to cross. Sometimes I wish I was her. Other times, I don’t. My sister is a fighter. She’ll do drastic things to prove a point. I am quieter. I fight, but without words filled with spite. I fight to prove my point. I fight to be better than her. I fight to be prettier. But I am tired. I am tired of fighting. 

A boy once told me that I was anime, told me I should accept it, because all guys want an anime girl. Because he thought it was okay to reduce me to my race and gender, because he assumed that I live to please men.  

I’m tired.  

They expect me to be the perfect child. They expect 4.0s, AP classes, stellar performance in every field. People expect me to be smart based on the pigments of my skin, expect me to succeed despite anything in my path. I have the lowest SAT score among my cousins. I am not truly succeeding. I am the weak string, broken and frayed. I am a string of diagnoses, terrified of failure, set up like this from the very start, not quite enough serotonin going around in my head. My mother looked down at me, sitting in the visiting room of a mental hospital, she told me that I needed to go home, that I wasn’t sick. She didn’t see that the string of my being was wearing thin, my back arched and tired from the weight of expectations, the bottoms of my feet worn from my journey of trying to be perfect. I’m begging them to stop pulling on my strings.  

I find that most of my closest friends are Asian. I find that we are all depressed. My counselor told me that it’s called resonance, that people with similar issues attract similar people. She didn’t tell me how much it would suck to see my friend buried at the young age of sixteen, didn’t tell me that I’d have to coax blades away from my best friend. Didn’t tell me that our Asian parents would brush away our feelings, that they wouldn’t believe what was right in front of them. Our parents are the puppet masters, pulling our strings; we can’t bear to act against them in fear that those strings would break. All they want is for us to be perfect, to marry other Asians, and have other Asian kids. Just like them. They don’t ask what I want. All I want is to survive. I will fight to survive. I will fight to be human, fight to be myself. Even if I don’t fit in, even if my strings are held tight, I am human. Don’t pull at my strings.  

Yet you see me standing here, strung together, presentable, as if I am strong, as if nothing is wrong.

5698: Go Easy


For better or for worse, there are few times where I find myself at a loss for words. I may not always verbalize what I’m thinking, but the words are there, loaded, ready to fire at whatever poor soul pulls the trigger. I’m also not one to shy away from bluntness, which in most cases has been a good thing. Particularly for the more tense or taboo conversations–resolving conflict, negotiating sexual interests, “friend-zoning”–being direct and articulate avoids misinterpretation and spares feelings down the road. Effective communication has gotten me out of a lot of trouble (and occasionally, into a few pairs of pants), so it’s a bewildering and sobering feeling in those rare moments when I realize the value of temperance.

I just…don’t want to be alone, he said, his voice trailing off like wisps of smoke from a smoldering candle. My ex and I had broken up 6 months earlier, and since that point I had thought things between us had begun to mend. After initially giving him space, we slowly fell back into the behaviors that had been the foundation of our relationship before. Good morning texts, occasional dinners after work, casual hooking up–all of the perks of a relationship without the binding title. He said that being around me was good for him, that he could keep things NSA and separate his emotions from the time we were spending together. Was I naive in believing him? Of course I was. But when you break someone’s heart, your only wish becomes to heal it. For a time, this makeshift relationship was healing. He was happier, and seemed less preoccupied with the chaos that so often erupted in his personal life. But in the back of our minds it was all a rouse, a make-believe romance that we had both engineered to satisfy our fear of closure. Knowing all this made it even harder to tell him the truth, to break his heart for a second time.

I just…don’t want to be alone. I paused, looking him in the eye. I cocked and loaded a breath, and opened fire.

I told him that whatever there was between us had absolutely run its course. That he and I were on divergent paths and that our separation was a natural part of our growth. That he needed to figure out who he was before throwing himself into another relationship so carelessly, so easily. But perhaps that was what I was afraid of. Being with him was so easy, so uncharacteristically carefree of me. I reached out for the candle and winced when things became too heated, too real. And to add insult to injury, I snuffed the candle for good measure. He had pulled the trigger and I didn’t hold back, even in his most vulnerable moment. We haven’t spoken since.

Looking back, I wish I had gone easier on him, been more gentle in my words. I wish I had held back the barrage of epithets–the things I called truths–that pierced and stung him. I wish I had said something else in his moment of weakness, when he was most wounded and exposed. The easiest, simplest thing of all.

You’re not alone. I’m here.

Asian Expressions Of Inadequacy

Asian Expressions Of Inadequacy:

Sometime in
middle school, I learned that the Philippines, the country of my
parents, was once a colony of the United States. I was immediately
excited. I didn’t know then that colonialism meant a violent
indoctrination that leaves an indelible mark on the culture. I just knew
that it meant we were at one point part of America, and that meant I
deserved to be considered normal.

It’s kind of
an embarrassing, childish memory, and one that I was reminded of last
week when Jenny An wrote a post for xoJane titled, “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man.
In short, she refuses to date Asian men even if they matched up to her
physical and personal tastes, because of a need to attain “true
Americanism.” Because even the most ideal Asian male doesn’t outwardly
afford her the escape from the minority status she despises. As you
might expect, the article spread quickly. It blew up my Facebook stream
and the comments section topped out with over 1000 comments.

I read through the thing in the early
morning and by the time I was done I was thoroughly depressed. Not just
from the article and reasoning, but from the whole scope of reactions,
in particular, some of the ones by my fellow Asian males. For most, the
immediate impulse was to respond with disgust or rage. The way some of
them chose to express that merely revealed the heart of what we’re
dealing with here: a toxic epidemic of inadequacy, and the poisonous
ways we deal with it.

I’m not interested in a point-by-point
takedown of Jenny An’s wrongheaded article, as that’s likely already
been done a few times over. It can be near impossible and ethically
suspect to talk someone into changing their dating preferences. Still,
it’s important to look at the conditions that cultivate these views over
and over. It’s not a rare idea. While they may not all reason in terms
so brutal and blunt as An, I have always known a few Asian women who at
least went through a phase where they swore off Asian men. The xoJane
article was, then, a validation of every selfish, unfair suspicion that a
typical Asian male may keep bottled up. It appealed to the worst in us,
and some of us let it run free.

don’t match up to most Asian male’s standards anyway,” went some
vitriolic comments. “White guys can have you, we don’t even want you.”
The word “bitch” was employed a few times. This was classic casual
misogyny utilized as a reflexive defense mechanism that crosses all
cultures. It betrays a vulnerability because it’s meant to help us
reassert our sense of ownership by inflicting harm with words. After
all, if you don’t want us, well, we never wanted you anyway.

middle school memory: I once called a girl who was making fun of me a
slut. I didn’t know anything about her. I just wanted to be mean, and I
knew that word would do harm. It makes me cringe when I think about it
today, moreso than anything else from that time.

For Asian
American males, emasculation is something we’re constantly trying to
overcome. We know that our depictions in the media are often not very
masculine and certainly not sexual. We see that Asian/non-Asian
couplings are obviously skewed more toward Asian females, leaving us in a ghettoized dating pool.
We know that whiteness is privileged with an individuality and
neutrality, while we have to disprove our stereotypes. We know all of
these things, but we don’t know what to do with them.

These types of Asian Americans have
created a duality of self-loathing and resentment. It’s too easy to tell
everyone to simply get over it, as if entire cultural institutions
could be shaken off like spider-webs. On some level, we must know that
this is just the need to sit at the cool kid’s table writ large. Yet
knowing, feeling and acting are very separate and distant steps in the
process of self-betterment. Even when we do change, the world doesn’t.
We don’t all possess the privilege to change the game with a change of

In High School, few of my friends were
Asian, and I took a pride in that, as if I was more enlightened than the
others who happened to befriend people of the same Census-approved
racial umbrella. In College, I joined a Filipino club because I needed a
community. Today, I can’t stand clothing that bears the flag, but I
care deeply about issues that affect the community. I defy the
stereotypes by listening to country music, but adhere to them by rooting
for every Filipino on reality TV. I think, sometimes, that this is the
way it ought to be: a bundle of contradictions, because that’s what
people look like — multitudes. But that’s not something you can show
outwardly. I don’t know how to make strangers stop asking me if I speak
English. And I don’t know how to stop caring about that.

I only speak English. My parents never
taught me to speak any of the languages of the Philippine archipelago,
which is a common among 2nd generation Filipino Americans. What’s less
common is that I can’t even understand it when it’s spoken to me. It’s a
mess to my ears. This was all in the name of assimilation, to give me a
better chance of attaining Ms. An’s idea of “true Americanism.” Years
later in college, while researching the Philippine-American war, I came
across United States Senate Document 331 from Session 57. In it, a
Senator Carmack ponders strategy in which to best subordinate and
civilize the natives. He asks, “Would it be best to uneducate them in
their language and impose upon them another one?” Colonialism can end
physically, but its mental and cultural forms are an irreversible part
of our wiring.

It’s not a clean one-to-one ratio cause
and effect. The mindset of inferiority comes from the ripples of any
number of events in our history, both personal and ethnic. Until the
popular culture at large evolves, there will always be young girls that
are ashamed to be seen in the arms of a guy that looks like her, and
there will always be young boys that hate her with an unrepentant ire.
This is not a resignation to the way things are. This is the culture we
have to live in, but it’s also the thing we have to learn from.

Solo Apartment, Solo Body


12:23 AM.

I’m laying on lime green fabric.  A pillow cushions my chest–but the heavy weight on my back negates its tender hold.  The ceiling fan dances; and circulates the smell of leftover Vietnamese curry and kimchi from dinner.  

12:28 AM. 

The breeze from my bedroom window sneaks in shyly.  I hear a tornado of cars: Their engines synchronize to the beats of my keyboard.  “What to do,” I pondered.

12:31 AM.

My eyes are scanning the carpet.  I see footprints, molded from my parent’s visit a few days ago.  My legs are wandering along with the music.  They’re wrapped in quiet air.  My thoughts?  They’re running.  All over.  They’re wild; yet calm.  

“Are my lesson plans ready?”

“What’s due this week?”

“There’s thịt kho in the fridge.” 

“I need to hit up Walmart this week.”

“Holy shit… I’m turning 24 on Friday.”

The forgiving, 70-degree air brings peace–but I’m soon to be consumed by tomorrow’s thoughts. 

Loneliness: A beautiful yet vicious cycle.