In my youth, I used to play at a playground in the neighborhood with my two childhood best friends, Ward and Jordan.
Together, we could conjure any scene on that apparatus of connecting stairs, platforms, and slides. One day we rode horseback as cowboys and outlaws on the American frontier. The next day we submerged into the depths of our unexplored oceans, encountering mysterious cephalopods at 20,000 leagues under the sea.
It didn’t matter that I was Asian and they were white for in our imaginations, our identities were seemingly boundless, constantly shifting to our next great adventure.
But I remember one day when we were astronauts about to take-off for intergalactic travel. An unfamiliar face happened upon our spaceship.
“What are you guys playing?” he asked.
In his bike helmet, Ward answered, “Astronauts!”
“What?” He pointed at me. “Chinks can’t be astronauts! That’s stupid!” And the child’s smile dissolved into a frown of disgust. Then laughter.
I didn’t know what the word meant back then, but I count this moment as the harbinger for several discoveries.
I discovered that identity is a needy thing, begging to be held and coddled and molded into its very own. But for every personal flourish you add, for every detail you pinch into its skin, the universe pushes back with rules and conformity, unforgiving in its demands.
Identities, though, are fragile and can buckle and break under the relentless pressure.
Sometimes, you can lose all sense of who you are.
And, as I later discovered, it takes an incredible energy to overcome the universe.
But, in that moment, when I was young and brash and perhaps more courageous, I stood in the face of the rules with my identity bright like an ascending spaceship. And I pushed that damn bigot into the mulch.
What a powerful and moving story about developing identity! Thanks to @darjeelingxhoney for sharing his wonderful writing.
I also want to give a shout out to @gayforbatwings and Ethan for being awesome moderators for G3S in the past 2 weeks. They did a phenomenal job!
And also a big thank you to all the readers for your continued support for G3S!
Regardless of what her own personal sexual preferences actually are, [her management company] SM have been trading on the ambiguous nature of her gender and sexual identity since [her idol group] f(x) first debuted five years ago. If she were to publicly identify as straight, it could damage the image that has been built for her as ‘the one exception’. The idea she is the one female idol straight fans would ‘go gay’ for, has become a central part of her persona. But if she were to come out as lesbian or bi, that might be all too real for a society that is, by and large, still very homophobic.
Very few (if any) of us are also in Amber Liu’s position of being an Asian American celebrity in Korean pop culture. But I think we can relate to feeling complicated pressures on what we reveal and how we express ourselves. Under such conditions, Amber has formed a public identity which seems to work for her and which feels real to her fans – one which lets her encourage fans who feel like outsiders, including queer Asian/Asian American people, to embrace themselves and follow their dreams.
We can compare Amber’s way of addressing questions about her sexuality with Filipino singer Charice Pempengco’s public coming out as lesbian and later as a trans man. Amber and Charice have used different strategies to express themselves, but in the process of doing so both have made at least a bit more room for LGBTQ Asians in modern Asian cultures. How might we learn from the examples they’ve set as we navigate interacting with people who don’t fully understand us?
What if I had told my mom that I wasn’t born any kind of way? And what if my mother did have a hand in crafting my queerness? Why did she believe that contributing to my magical queer self was an evil rather than a good? Why did she believe that “fixing” me—as re-education camps or gender conversion therapy aim to—is necessary? Why do I need to claim that my queerness is unchanging and natural to be safe from people who will do anything to control me, and to ensure that I can’t dream up new selves and determine who I will be? Because I did change. At 17, I told myself and others that I was a gay man. At 20, I don’t identify as gay, and I don’t identify as a man.
In this essay, Alex-Quan Pham describes their queer identity, their experience of coming out to their mom as gay, and how their identity and understanding of their identity have both evolved over time. For those of us who don’t fully understand our queer identities, who are questioning, or who find our identities shifting, how might we affirm ourselves (and each other) when other people ask us to change or behave in a way that conforms more to their idea of “normal”?
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 @ravishingrobert.
Who are you?
My name is Robert Diep, and I’m a first-generation Asian American who loves good food and even better company. My roots are a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cambodian blood.
Where are you from?
Currently living in Southern California–though I’m originally from the Bay Area.
What do you do?
I’m a third year graphic design student.
What are you passionate about?
For as long as I can remember, art is something that I’ve always been very passionate about. My interest in drawing and the visual arts is what compelled me to pursue graphic design as career. It wasn’t until I began attending university that I discovered that I had a burning passion for dance as well.
What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?
I’ve always dreamed of designing my own video game and/or cartoon series! I have tons of sketch books that I’ve filled over the years with tons of different concepts, characters, and mechanics.
If you could change the world with one idea, what would it be?
Always open your heart and your mind–you may be surprised as to what you find.
Consequently, drawing a line between the things I don’t and do share is crucial for my sense of safety and well-being. This extends to my parents. When my mom called to find out if I was having sex with my girlfriend, I’m not certain sharing the truth with her would have brought us closer. If anything, it is the boundaries I have established with my parents, the details I haven’t shared with them about my life, that have maintained familial peace. My parents will live a happier life not knowing I have written a short story about humping my bed.
For many of us, sharing intimate details of our personal life with our parents can be a source of hesitation or distress, especially when doing so would disrupt their beliefs about who we are. In this essay, Vivek Shraya reflects on when we might and might not want to disclose such information to our parents. She relates her experience of coming out as gay to her mom over a decade ago and of not yet being ready to explicitly come out as trans to her parents, despite constant questioning from others about whether she has told her parents yet. What in your life helps you decide what parts of you or your experiences to share with the people you care about?
Another reason why some people are against me being open is that they want to protect the areas which are really gay friendly like Ni Chome which is now becoming straight –friendly. That’s what scares some closeted gay people who live with their parents and are closeted in the office because that is the only place they can feel at home and be themselves. Back in the 60s and 70s, men used to go to Ni Chome, pull off their wedding rings, date guys, and then put their wedding rings back on when it was time to catch the last train home.”
This interview with Hajime Okazawa includes some interesting observations about the experiences gay Japanese men have in Japan of being gay, marrying women, coming out (or not), and building community. Hajime describes how choices gay Japanese people make have been affected by cultural expectations and historical trends. How do the cultural expectations and values in our own lives inform how we approach relationships with other people in our families, workplaces, and social spaces?
Blasian Narratives is a multi-media project that intimately explores the intersection and identities of mixed race Black & Asian individuals through live performances and film. The project began as a collaboration between Morehouse and Spelman College students documenting and exploring the identity formations of individuals with mixed Afro-Asian heritage, colloquially known as “Blasians.” The grassroots project aims to bring historically polarized communities together by illustrating the complexities and unity of identity awareness–how you see yourself vs how you are seen–in hopes of building solidarity along the way. The cast and crew now includes students from Stanford, NYU, and more.
While watching the performances of these students, we might compare our experiences with their stories of exploring and communicating their identities. How have we come to understand our ethnic and cultural backgrounds in the face of commonalities and differences across generations, familial bonds, prejudices, and stereotypes? How do we deal with family members who don’t really understand us? And how might we respond to doubt from ourselves or others about who we are?