Archive | March 2016

Trust Issues

Having “trust issues” has become a trend (thanks, Weeknd) and this fact is so disgusting to me. It’s been tried on, worn out, and worn down so ubiquitously that it’s lost its meaning and value, almost as much as mental illnesses like depression and anxiety circa 2008 (it’s severity has been re-introduced thanks to relentless mental health campaigns). It’s a label that’s easy for people to claim and hard for others to dispute. It’s seen as “edgy” and makes people seem “complex”. It’s been abused and thrown around so much, it evokes eye-rolls when it comes up in conversation.

Because of this, I’ve been very hesitant to admit aloud that I do have trust issues. I’ve felt that following on the heels of claiming it, I have to prove it. It’s obviously not as severe an issue as depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders, but I think it’s important for me to articulate here why it’s not a fashionable trend people can just appropriate: my trust issues are real and more damaging than you’ll ever know.

The entire first page (who goes beyond the first page?) of my ‘Trust Issues’ Google search pulls up things that revolve around relationships – “5 Signs your trust issues are getting in the way of a healthy relationship”, “Couples counselling – dealing with trust issues” etc. Well, I’ve never even been in a relationship – I think that in itself speaks volumes about my experience with trust issues – so Google has for the first time ever has proven to be useless. So, per usual, I’ve had to take a good, hard look at my own life experiences.

I’ve figured out that a significant portion of my trust issues come from, surprise, surprise, my childhood. Growing up, I never had a consistent ‘Best Friend’. I bounced around friends, never with someone I could always go to, or they would have another friend group which I would not be a part of (realizing as I write this that this might also have impacted my trust issues). But when I started secondary school (11 years old), I finally found someone I could fully trust for a good opinion, great chat, and a shoulder to lean on. I’d finally found my best friend. About four months after meeting her, our family decided to pick up and move to the other side of the world.

As a child, having a ‘Best Friend’ seems like a big deal – and it is. In fact, as a child, EVERY LITTLE THING is profound in shaping who you are. Being crushed time after time in my friendships and finally finding “the one”, only to be forcefully pulled away – I’d think that’s pretty damaging. Every time I try to pin down the source of my trust issues, I end up here.

Being a closeted lesbian in an Asian family undeniably played a part and took a toll in my inability to form relationships. The absence of lesbian characters and dead lesbian TV tropes probably did its part on me too. But I’d think that’s an effect spread across all closeted lesbians.

Anyway, acknowledging the problem is the first step to overcoming it. It’s impacted my friendships and shaped me such that I’ve put my individuality and independence on a pedestal. Having to trust someone and give away some of that independence scares me. It’ll be something I need to face if I’m to get into a relationship. There’s a girl that I met online whom I’ve been talking to for months and we’re not officially together, but I’ve had far too many episodes of jealousy and possessiveness that I cannot justify because we’re not an item. Apparently these two traits are a flashing warning sign of having trust issues. Despite knowing they’re unwarranted, I can’t help but let these toxic emotions eat me up inside.

I don’t know.

I need to evolve from this.

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Funeral.

This week’s post will be a bit of a tangent as I couldn’t force my mind far from today’s happenings.

Today was too beautiful for a funeral. It was the first day of Spring and despite the chilly weather hovering around 0°c, the skies were clear. A good person died and the world had the audacity to carry on.

I found out through Facebook a week ago that my friend’s mother had passed away. We grew up playing and competing in badminton together and our families were friends, so I knew her mother – she was one of the nicer ones, not prone to catty gossip or one to have ill intentions (badminton moms are worse than soccer moms, I assure you). Her daughter and I had a falling out (it’s complicated) so we hadn’t talked in years, but we had each other on Facebook and I was shocked to see the sudden news. I had just came back from  a Honne concert and genuinely wondered “Am I still drunk…?”.I Whatsapped my mother that night, and I heard from my brother that she couldn’t sleep the entire night.

Her departure left me in a numb shock, but finding out that she had been suffering from depression and succumbed to suicide floored me. My heart sank – did I miss the signs? She was always such a happy person… Did I foolishly buy into that guise? Should I have been more observant? My mother forwarded me details for her funeral and I knew I had to say my goodbyes.

I had never seen a visitation room so full before – every seat was taken, and latecomers waited patiently in the back as Buddhist monks sang. Her entire family was loved, and no doubt she would be missed sorely. I couldn’t help but wonder what my funeral would look like. Would it be as full? Nobody would know each other… 

Her daughter sped through her eulogy, breaking through tears in fear her emotions would catch up to her. She made a brief reference to her mother’s “illness” and how she was in a better place now. I’ve written in previous posts about how Chinese people don’t like talking about feelings or emotions, and absolutely not any sort of ‘illness’. This lack of disclosure traces back to bringing shame to the family – completely irrational and harmful shame. Nobody openly talks about depression, thereby perpetuating the stigma of having it. Perhaps if Chinese people Asians were more susceptible to dialogue it would be easier to not only get help from doctors, but your social support circle would also be stronger.

Bringing it home, it’s more or less the same with sexuality. The most prominent LGBT Chinese adult I know happens to be someone I despise (unfortunately)*. She was an old badminton coach of mine who was extremely manipulative for her own gain and caused so much emotional grief and internal conflict for the kids she coached. Details aside, she was a lesbian (very butch) and people ‘knew’ she was in a relationship with another coach (since passed away from cancer). I put it in quotation marks because nobody talked about it, and if they did, it was hushed or in the privacy of their own homes. They weren’t married nor openly affectionate, but it was ‘known’. I recall my mother talking about it years ago, that they were “probably lesbians, but nobody really cares”… and that was the end of that discussion.

* Come to think of it, I don’t really personally know any happily married homosexual Asian couples… and it’s a very disappointing realization.

Sure there seems to be tolerance, but it’s looked down upon. The jabs are subtle, but sharp, akin to “yup, she’s a doctor, but she’s a lesbian” or “He’s so handsome, it’s  a shame he’s gay“. People my age are supportive of LGBT rights at its most basic (i.e. “sure, let them get married, I don’t care”), but they will carelessly throw around homophobic slurs like “that’s so gay” or “stop being so gay”. And I don’t count that as open dialogue – the opposite, in fact.

Trans people? Interestingly, cisgendered girls who like dressing in more traditionally male-oriented clothing are very well-liked and often have strong social circles, although they don’t go so far as to identify as male. But the opposite is true for trans women. Tragically, they continue to be the punchline on timeless household TV game shows (i.e. men have to wear makeup and wear a dress as a joke). Like how y’all white folks have Jeopardy, we have transphobic and homophobic game shows. Progress is much slower for the T.

p.s.  I’m committed to crafting a post every Sunday from now on. Allowing myself some flexibility (aka knowing myself), these posts will probably pop up on the Monday. Fighting commitment issues one blog post at a time!

Gayclosure*

I was at my old university gym when I bumped into an old friend whom I hadn’t talked to in years. For two years in university, we were very close friends… and he had a massive crush on me.

He was an incredibly good-looking, kind-hearted, and chivalrous boy. He’d go out of his way to hold doors for women and disabled people, he had the looks and build for a GQ cover, and he had a photographic memory, which probably blurred into a not-untrue trait of being a caring soul. He was perfect boyfriend material. Hell, he was husband material.

We were close and he’d go out of his way to make time for me, coming to last minute concerts when my friends bailed, going to movies alone together, and just hanging out. For TWO YEARS we carried this on and the closest he came to admitting his feelings was when he looked me in the eyes and told me he was really worried about me when I told him about the time I smoked pot and got into a bit of trouble. Being me, I deflected it off into a joke, probably saying I was a “strong independent black woman who don’t need no man” or something that was HILARIOUS and culturally relevant at the time.

But I knew. During the two years, I knew he had feelings for me and I tried playing them off because why talk about your feelings when you can brush them under the rug and hurt people around you? 🙂 This will make me sound like a total asshole, and I was, but I’d lie to him/myself and gush about my “type of man”, which would be of another race, or some other quality that he just didn’t and couldn’t have.

Mmmmmmmmm typing that out made me confront how horrible I was.

MOVING ALONG, in hindsight it was a terrible defense mechanism for me to avoid confronting my sexuality – I probably (okay, definitely) hurt him and placed the ‘blame’ on him. And the tired old “It’s not that you don’t like men, it’s that you haven’t met the right one yet…” spiel went on like a broken record in my head.

I never met his friends, but when he wasn’t with me, he was with them. (Him and I met through on a varsity team but we only had a handful of mutual friends). But I knew these guys were constantly whispering malicious things into his ear. I suspected they were perpetuating bro-culture, telling him he was getting friendzoned and to stop talking to me.

Because eventually he did.

During our years of silence, I saw on Facebook he’d gotten himself a gorgeous girlfriend. Although, when I asked about her at the gym, he told me they’d broken up, but not before accidentally revealing they’d had a few fights over me (ME!?) and disagreed on whether or not I liked him, having spent so much time with him.

Seeing him again at the gym sank my stomach a little – my 6th gay sense planar was hit with a feeling of obligation to come out to him. I felt like I owed him an explanation – to let him know nothing was wrong with him, it’s just that I was gay and not attracted to him. On the other hand, I drew pause on this notion as it implied an apology for hurting his masculinity – as though I was apologizing to him for being gay and not being attracted to him, for wasting his two years of time and effort.

Let me stop right there.

I do not owe anybody a coming-out. Not my friends, not my family. My sexuality is part of my identity and its disclosure is a privilege. I understand this completely. So why was I feeling this? Well, that’s the point of this blog – to understand my own feelings – so here’s a realtime unravelling of my thoughts:

A.) I had intentionally hurt him on a few separate occasions with my words. And I was apologizing for that.

B.) We never talked about his feelings for me. I always deflected it, because perhaps that meant skimming too close to confronting my own sexuality. So I never gave him closure. I think this feeling comes from owing him closure. I was never brave enough to confront this myself AND in the process give him closure. So coming out to him was a two-fold act: I’m asserting strength in my sexual identity and proving it by setting the past right.

I’m comfortable with B. He tried and tried and tried and was left hanging. I value closure and empathized with him. Him chasing a lesbian is the same as me chasing a straight girl. Haha no just kidding, straight girls ARE SO MUCH WORSE.

I told him we should go for drinks sometime. I personally wanted to comb all of this out. Doing so in the hallway of a gym wasn’t the best place to go through years of feelings. He enthusiastically agreed and I think it’d be therapeutic for both of us if we did this. After all, didn’t a wise man once say alcohol was the best form of therapy, nope no nobody said that

* So I’m coining this as Gayclosure: (noun) a feeling of obligation to come out to someone who had a massive crush on you while you were closeted, after years of not talking to them, thereby giving them closure and asserting your own sexuality.

Lesbian Death Trope

*spoiler alert for The 100, S03E07*

I would be embarrassed at how devastated this made me if it weren’t blindingly symptomatic of a larger, heteronormative, homo-oppressive problem.

I’ve been really excited since finding out about The 100. Finally, a network TV show with a strong, complex main character that is also a lesbian! She is the Commander of twelve armies, a skilled fighter, and an independent leader. The other main character, the object of her affection, is a strong bisexual woman. Their relationship is written out absolutely beautifully and it felt like I had finally found a show where I could safely identify with a key romantic relationship. No longer did I have to reluctantly identify with a straight white male who pines after a strong, straight woman.

So when they finally had sex after witholding for a whole season and a bit, I’m pretty sure I fist-pumped, almost as a win for lesbians around the world.

Not ten minutes after, the lesbian was shot in the stomach by a stray bullet. This character, who had fought through battle-to-the-deaths, led and fought wars between nations, commanded twelve armies, was killed off in a second.

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I haven’t found myself yet

I had a strange realization today. I had an aching feeling that I hadn’t found myself yet.

I’ve traveled but I’ve never lived in another city. “Getting up and going” is something people in their 20s are supposed to do, before the mortgages and children kick in, and I’ve done my fair share of travelling, but aside from New York, I feel like I’ve been travelling in a closet! I’ve experienced local cultures, fine-grained urbanism, and various nightlife, but in Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Chicago, I was basically lugging around a closet.

But that begs that question, what does it even mean to “travel gay”? Is “travelling while gay” a status I must now endow? Do I need to go on a soul-searching trek around the world per Ellen Page’s Gaycation?

I’ve only been out nine months, and I’ve been racing to catch up on all the life experiences I may have missed. I feel like it’s morning and I haven’t put on my glasses yet. Except it isn’t just morning, it’s all my life.

What am I doing with my life? I’ve gotten my career sorted out (I just passed the one-week mark of unemployment and it has been amazing and surprisingly productive). I’m going back to school for a few months this summer and I’ll sort myself out after that. BUT what am I doing with my life? What am I championing? What am I after? What do I want?

Up til this point, my life and my career were synonymous to me. But there’s so much more to life than a passion project – you don’t come home to this. You don’t spend weekends on this (for the sake of pacing your motivation and drive in the long run).

I need answers. But I don’t know what I’m asking.

I did a bit of research and Portland is a pretty LGBT-positive city. I’ve booked a flight there so I’ll be there for a week, alone. I don’t know what I’m looking for or what will come of it, but I’d like to go to a gay bar alone, check that off the bucket list. I don’t know.

This post is all over the place. I don’t know.