Archive | April 2016

Coming out, again and again and again and

An unexpected skill I’ve developed in the eleven months (woah) since coming out, is being able to better maneuver the conversation to lead to my coming out. Until we eradicate the ubiquitous thing that is heteronormativity, myself and all the other gays+ in the world will be coming out for the rest of our lives. We come out to new people we meet, old friends/family we were closeted towards, the annoyingly chatty store clerk who thinks “guys love when you wear crop tops” (if you aren’t too tired from fighting the patriarchy to correct them), et al.

I wrote before about how there’s never a right time to come out – people don’t conduct sexuality check-ups (“Hey, how’s it going? How are the kids? Still straight?“) and because of heteronormativity, the onus is on queer people to come out.

But what’s the right way to come out? To the person you’re coming out to, it will always seem out of the blue.

Straighty: “The weather’s going to be great on Sunday!”
Queerdo: “Totally. I’m gay.”

Straighty: “I just wish my brother was more understanding.”
Queerdo: “My brother understands I am gay. Also I don’t have a brother.”

Straighty: “There’s this new ramen place I wanna check out.”
Queerdo: “Are there cute girls there because that’s what I check out.”

Note: Straighty and Queerdo are fictional names and characters. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.

The first twenty people I came out to, I did in a variety of ways, ranging from drunkenly pulling them off the dance floor to the corner of Clinton’s and telling them “THERE’S NO RIGHT TIME BUT I NEED YOU TO KNOW” etc, to being terrifyingly sober in between episodes of The 100, to stammering nervously in a car merging onto a busy San Fransisco highway*. I documented my coming out to the first twenty people I told – they’re all under My Coming Out Journey tab.

* I managed to violate the one rule of coming out – which is to do so in a safe environment. Pls don’t take my gay card away.

Yesterday, an ex-coworker of mine suggested grabbing dinner over some career advice she wanted. An hour after we’d finished our delicious Cubanos, I had roughly 15 minutes before I had to meet another friend for drinks. I had to manhandle this conversation and steer it into gay territory.

It was a bit of a push, but I brought up the type of company we’d wanna work for next. I mentioned one of my friends working at Apple, which had an LGBTQ support/advancement group. They could (literally) afford to, and they had the number of employees to support it, and I really liked that aspect of working for a big company. She unintentionally hijacked the conversation, bringing up her friend who worked at Apple part-time and was entitled to $2,500 in learning credits per year. I let her run her course before bringing the conversation back, reiterating how important these charitable causes were to employees. “If I’d had access to those resources, I may have come out sooner.”

She nodded.

I waited.

…Then “Wait what.”

There it was. I repeated myself. Her eyes widened (bless her), “YOU’RE…?”

“Gay, yup” I smiled.

I carried the conversation for the next ten minutes – whether this was out of fear she’d ask something outta left field or because I felt I had more experience in this topic, I’m not sure – and she never brought up my sexuality. Despite her initial shock, it didn’t really seem like a big issue.

But I felt pretty proud about the way I handled it. Although I’m no longer with that company, it was the first time I’d come out to a(n ex)co-worker. Nobody in my industry knows. I don’t think it’s important that they know. I said before that “there’s never a right time to come out” but the truth might be that seeing opportunities to come out is a muscle you have to flex. As a babyqueer, it’s much harder to spot, but I think I’m getting better at finding openings and seizing them. Or making my own.

It doesn’t get easier – you just get better.

The Fortune-Teller from Hong Kong

Shortly after my younger brother was born, my mother revisited a fortune-teller who’d made a name for himself in Hong Kong. Her first visit dated back before I was born, and she was told her future vaguely involved “moving around frequently”. Based on her later experience of having to move homes every two years for over a decade with her husband and small children, she’d drank a gallon of whatever Chinese Kool Aid the fortune-teller had sold her.

Two kids later, she went back, wanting to know more about what good her offspring would do, and probably how low to set the standards for us. Of me, she could expect me to find a partner (“husband” was probably the word he used, so already you know he’s bogus) who would love me dearly. Of my brother, he would be the one expending the love and care.

She retold this story at a family gathering with the cousins and aunts last year. The aunts, uncles, and my parents were at the table after dinner, making small banter while my cousins and I were on the couch nearby, in our own conversation. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on my mom regaling them with this story. She went on to say that between my brother and I, my brother was the more giving one and that I was comparably more selfish, so this “fortune” made sense. But she continued, saying that this selfish characteristic would end up pushing me farther in life, specifically in my career. Her observation caught me by surprise, but I wasn’t even mad. I thought it was a pretty accurate extrapolation.

It’s irritating though. I am selfish. And I am selfish in so many ways. And that’s going to hurt me in finding a partner. That’s my biggest fear – me being so selfish that I’d be too reluctant to give parts of myself to someone. Figuratively.

I’m always on the go, I always have something going on, I’m astoundingly in tune with world news, industry news, and pop culture. I demand a lot of myself and I’m afraid it’s too much for someone else to handle. Especially a girl. God damn. Being gay would be easier if I were a guy – men are so much more astute with the news.

Harmful stereotypes aside, who fucking knows. I’m in a very transitional period in my life and I’m meeting more people. Maybe I’ll meet someone in the course I’m starting next week. Maybe I’ll meet someone when I find a job. Who knows.

But, fortune-teller, you’d better be two for two.

She’s not the one

It’s a bit of a disappointment the moment you realize that she’s not the one.

Back in December I met a girl on Tinder (as millennial lesbians do) and we’ve been texting back and forth every day. However, she is not a fan of texting and does so only once every couple of hours. I’d normally read this as a sign of lacking interest, but when she responds, they’re elaborate paragraphs.

It took me almost five months to realize she’s not the one.

Despite texting literally every day for five months, we’ve only hung out (I refuse to call them dates) four or five times in person. I have fun when I’m with her and we get each other…but she’s not that great with telling me things about herself. It’s not that she’s secretive – she just needs prompts. Lots of them. “So what’s up with…” “How’s your…” “How’d you deal with…

I’m almost reasoning myself away from her -that’s what this blog is for: articulating my thoughts – but here’s what I feel:

She’s not very interesting.
Perhaps it’s more her not being one to share stories, but it seems like her life schedule comprises this: go to work, go home, Netflix, repeat forever. It doesn’t seem like she has much going on. There’s nothing she’s really passionate about. No cause or project. She doesn’t follow the news, she doesn’t like her data-entry job. Her music taste is very standard, all-radio. It makes connecting with her difficult when I can’t see a spark.

She’s detached.
When explaining parts of her horoscope that she identified with (yes, I’m disgusted with us too), she mentioned she was detached. When prompted to explain, she said if she gets broken up with, she’ll completely detach herself from the person. I took it for what it was. But I’m realizing now that THIS is what it means – she just doesn’t like sharing her ideas or thoughts or everyday life. She keeps everything inside.

We connect – just not romantically.
I called it from the beginning (again: link): I just think she’s more of a good companion. We would walk down a street, notice something/someone walk by, and without so much as turning our heads, be able to talk about it without having to preface it. Example: we were sitting in Trinity Bellwoods park, and people-watching. Out of nowhere, I said “She’s definitely not straight”, without pointing to who, and she responded “I was JUST thinking the same thing!”.

I think I confused our ability to be on the same page with a potential spark. And for the five months that I was texting with her, I put myself in limbo because I wasn’t sure what we were. I didn’t want to do something that felt wrong, but I failed to identify what we were. Labels suck – I fully know this, but it makes things so much easier, it makes lines so much clearer.

If I’m being completely honest with myself, I think a big part of why I want to be in a relationship is to prove to myself that I can be in one.

Compared to the average person, I’m far more empathetic, more emotionally aware of others’ feelings, more in tune with injustice in the world. But I genuinely think I’m a very selfish person, when it comes to my time and attention. It’s part of being an introvert, but it’s also my career-driven mind and my addiction to social media (problematic) and news. I’m much more relaxed now (relative to before I reassessed myself after coming out), but I still feel pressure to stick to a schedule and stay on task.

And because of this, I tend to drive people away by running away from them. I retreat into myself and block people out. Even worse, I do it subtly – enough that I don’t offend you, but you’ll naturally lose interest and eventually give up contacting me.

I think I’m a pretty fucking interesting person. I have (shamelessly) written about this before. Some people captivate you at first blush, then it fades. I’m the opposite – I get more interesting as you get to know me and I build on our friendship. It’s all about compensating It’s also what I look for in a partner: I want someone who is passionate about something, who has a curiosity and appetite for adventure. But not necessarily mountain-climbing-adventure because that sounds really tiring, more like boundless internet surfing and finding cool articles and online discoveries – that kinda adventurous, ya feel? No? Okay.

Anyway, it’s back to square one in the dating game. But I’d hate to think this five months was for naught. So it is back to square one… but with a different set of cards – I think I’m better equipped for the next person that comes my way. I know what to be aware of, know when it’s going nowhere, and know when to let go.

I’ll roll the dice when I’m ready.

Are these anxiety attacks?

I had never put two-and-two together, but I think I suffered from anxiety attacks growing up.

On my red-eye flight back, I was cramped and uncomfortable in the dark in my aisle seat on the airplane. I tried desperately to sleep through the four-hour flight, but managed to stay unconscious only periodically, waking up in between, like gasps of air, except it was the opposite. During one bout of semi-consciousness, I felt a huge wave of dread and my mind was racing unstoppably through self-destructive thoughts of “you’re so high in the air right now, what if you had an anxiety attack? There would be no  doctors to help, no where to run. You’re stuck in this cabin, hundreds of kilometres up in the sky.” I don’t know how that idea planted itself in my head but I couldn’t help it, and these thoughts pulled me so far down, to the point where I was struggling to breathe and had to force in big gasps of air, pulling air as hard as I could into my abdomen. I didn’t quite feel awake – I felt I was struggling for consciousness and for air. I remember forcing my right arm up, half-disguising it as a stretch because I was also aware of the people around me and that this might be just in my head (??? This sounded more complicated once I wrote it out), but mostly in a blind struggle to get out of this state. My mind kept racing through terrible thoughts and I fought to suppress them – by forcing myself back into unconsciousness.

Next thing I know, I had woken up from the plane’s wheels bouncing off Chicago’s runway. Cranky and groggy, I put what little focus I had onto locating the next terminal in my layover.

Thinking back on it, it was absolutely terrifying. My eyes were open and I can still see the darkness of the cabin, with a few dimly lit wayfinding signs. People were quiet, sleeping. It felt like I had forgotten how to breathe, while at the same time violently wrestling with very bad thoughts in my head.

I’ve been thinking about it since it happened – this loss of control over my body was a scary experience. What was that??? I turned to Google and typed the first question that came to my mind: What does an anxiety attack feel like? I was almost afraid of what the answer would be.

An anxiety or panic attack often comes on suddenly, with symptoms lasting only a few minutes. For doctors to diagnose a panic attack, they look for at least four of the following signs: sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing your mind, fear of dying, flushing, feeling that danger is nearby, a racing heart (heart palpitations), and feeling an intense need to escape.

– EverydayHealth.com

I bolded what I felt on the plane. I’m inclined to look into this later, but I wanted to round it back up to my opening sentence. This was an isolated incident (knock on wood it won’t happen again), but it pushed me to re-evaluate if this had happened before. Specifically, I questioned if periodic “episodes” I’d experienced frequently in my childhood were panic/anxiety attacks.

Upon failing to finding where I’d documented (read: blogged as a teenager) these feelings (perhaps it was an old diary??? Anyway), I’ll describe them here:

It’d mostly happen when I was alone and left to my thoughts. I was a bit of an insomniac as a child – I could never sleep right away, and after a reading session I would still have thoughts in my head. Sometimes, I would think about dying. Not in a suicidal way, but the concept of death and its inevitability. To a seven year old, this is fucking terrifying. I would feel my thoughts accelerating as I thought about death, and – I remember describing these as “gunshots”… if only I could find where I wrote it!!! – I would be suddenly hit with a panic of how inescapable it was and my heart would race, knowing that death would “come to us all in the end, and it would be… sleeping forever… and nothing would matter… and you wouldn’t know anything after death”. I would physically jump up at this terrifying thought, often I’d get out of bed and pace hurriedly around the room, or even yell “NO”. Sometimes a longer, anguished “Noooooo…”, angry that this would be for naught – what was the point of making us feel all of this if it was all for nothing, I’d rhetorically ask nobody. My childish brain could not wrap itself around the concept of death, and I probably still can’t. The only difference is my older self knows better than to let my thoughts go down that dark path.

I distinctly remember one night it got so bad, when the “gunshot” hit, I flipped on the lamp, ran out of my room and into my mother in her ensuite and wrapped my arms around her hips as tightly as I could, through a muffled “I don’t want to die”. In the midst of her removing her makeup, she brushed it off, probably saying something in Chinese along the lines of “No need to be scared, go back to bed”.

Of course that didn’t help.

I don’t get these “gunshots” as often as I did when I was a child. The last time I consciously remember getting this must’ve been a few years ago. I was on the TTC subway when I (accidentally?) let my mind wander. I desperately controlled myself and didn’t jump up and pace around, but I did definitely twitched – probably pressed my finger into my eyes and hurriedly scratched my head, to feel something physical that would distract me from the mental, as I waited for it to pass. Everything felt more vivid – I wasn’t sure if it was in its realness or its nihilistic nothingness.

I don’t think they’re anxiety attacks… They don’t happen too often – perhaps once a year now. I just felt I had to write this down after experiencing what I did on the plane. I never talked about it with anybody other than in casual conversation with my mom. But she certainly would not “diagnose” it nor flag anything about it. After all, Asians don’t believe in mental illnesses…

It’s not causing me great stress, but I’d love to hear if anybody out there has experienced the same thing – I’ve yet to meet anybody who has echoed this. Then again, this wouldn’t come up casually in conversation.

Fab in Portland

Last summer, I was impatiently waiting at the boarding gates for my flight to San Francisco when American Airlines cancelled it five minutes after the scheduled boarding time. For missing an entire day in SF, all I got was a lousy $200 flight voucher.

Well, I decided to use that voucher and here I am, five days in Portland, Oregon.

Um… Why Portland?” –  everyone who I told about the trip.

Portlandia hype aside, it’s a very livable city and oozes a mellow, relaxed culture of people. Its cycling culture is as close to Copenhagen as it’d get in the states. The coffee and beer industry is very competitive and well-developed here and to be honest, it’s 75% why I picked this city. The other 25% comes from how liberal the city is – everyone’s free to be themselves and present themselves in ways that break all mainstream norms. Read: gender and sexuality is fluid AF here.

Six days in and I’ve seen some very Portlandish things:
– Half the female population is gender non-conforming
– My gaydar goes off on every other girl
– An older woman at the bus stop handing out printed copies of her own poetry by the bus stop (the epitome of Portland)
– A gang of preteens walking down the waterfront, casually dressed in jean overalls from the 70’s and Converses
– So. Many. Bikes.
– Hair on every body part is free flowing and probably encouraged
– Suits are extinct (banned??)
– Lots of homeless people 😦

Prior to the trip, I had reached out to a feminist group on Slack, Femsplain, introducing myself. I wasn’t expecting anything but someone from Portland replied and offered to show me around. I took her up on it. I sensed from the blue ombre hair and association with a feminist group that she was unlikely straight. And my gaydar continues its perfect streak, as she was bi.

The meeting was purely platonic. We went to brunch at Mother’s (rated #1 brunch spot), where I discovered in casual conversation that she was bi… and married to a man. Nonetheless, we had a great time.

I returned to Tinder, with no end goal in mind. Eventually, I matched with one woman and after talking a bit with her, she invited me to a strip club and I said okay.

Portland has the highest number of strip clubs per capita and I do want to go. But I also don’t want to die. She seemed normal enough but after checking her profile out on Facebook – three profile pictures, two of which were her cleavage and one was the Greenbay Packers logo, and only 15 fiends – it seemed as though this was a throwaway account. The name didn’t sound real either. “Cham”.

I sat on this for 15 hours before deciding against it. I’d argue this was bad for my YOLO pact, but on the other hand, great for my well-being and survival.

I’ll go into more detail but I’ve come to love this city. It’s best described as “somewhere I’d love to raise a family with my future wife”.

But first, we gots to find me a wife.

Looking Back: Coming Out

Every now and then I think about the first time I came out. It was a double-whammy because it wasn’t just coming out to my “best friend”, it was also me saying it aloud to myself for the first time.

I held no qualms with the timing – I wouldn’t have been ready any earlier and it took a tipping point* – but I’m not sure if I would’ve picked the same person to come out to. Indicative from the quotations, I only used the term “best friend” out of ease to describe someone whom I’ve known for a long time and would confide in every now and then. But I don’t believe in the concept of a “best friend” – perhaps this is my trust issues talking but I don’t have that one person whom I’d completely trust with solid advice, consistent companionship, and topical conversation. If you do, then please be grateful for all the serendipity in your lives that brought the two of you together.

* I might’ve deleted the original post a while ago, explaining what forced me to come to terms with my sexuality. I may rewrite it in a separate blog, but long story short, I kept fucking up opportunities because I wasn’t willing to let others into my life and I realized it was because I hadn’t even accepted myself. The last straw was a girl whose advances I kept pushing away and she eventually got a boyfriend. Story of my life. So far.

She’s not the greatest with words (as confirmed by a mutual friend) and when I came out to her, I was in a very vulnerable state. She obviously only had the best intentions, but some things she could’ve handled better. I understand I’m the first person to come out to her and I would’ve appreciated if she’d had some words of solace and comfort that weren’t so… generic.

Perhaps with that I was asking for too much. But something that sticks out in my mind is at one point, she mentioned that she “didn’t think it would happen so close to home, and that this was only on TV”. In hindsight, accounting for the fuzz of emotions that were probably happening, it’s easy to read that for what it is: she grew up in a suburb outside of Toronto and people in her life typically conformed to gender norms, heteronormativity, and fairly conservative values. “Coming Out”s only happened on Glee. But just understand that it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to hear in one of my most vulnerable moments and the phrasing of it felt like it implied it was on the same level as cancer.

This being said, I don’t regret anything about coming out. Would I have picked someone else to come out to? Perhaps, but I can’t say I’d want to go through that emotional roller coaster again. I did, however, come out to another friend within an hour later, who was much better with words as he himself was gay and, having recently come out, was much better with advice and words.

At the end of the day, coming out is not about the people you are around, it is about you. Yes, it’s a process of social validation, but nobody ever talks about the self-validation of coming out to someone for the first time. That day I validated my sexuality to myself.

As for the process? It is what it is.