Hello. I’m in NYC right now. I started writing at this super trendy juice bar in Soho. I paid $9 for a juice lol -_-. But there are a lot of hip and attractive people here and it’s got some real good vibes so I guess it’s worth it? Right???
So overall I think I’ve been feeling pretty good. Like… pretty content to be honest. Even though my schedule started off pretty relaxed, I don’t feel worried or pressured to perform and stay busy like I used to do. I realized recently that I worry… like a lot.. Like, I noticed that every time I go to a new city I would worry because some people weren’t responding to me in a timely fashion or because I didn’t necessarily have a fully fleshed out plan for when I got there. I did this in every new place I went and I guess I didn’t really see the pattern until now. I literally had to tell myself to CALM THE F DOWN. After I did that I realized that I actually told myself that every time I went somewhere new. And as I thought about it, I realized that I’m always worrying about shit in my life and I hold all that in to myself and pretend that everything is okay. I thought about where this comes from and realized that I was acting like MY GRANDMA, who was a CONSTANT worrier. She worried about every little thing. I remember being with her every day after school and she would pace around, making sure the door was locked, wondering when my aunt would be home, etc. I’m wondering if I get it from her? Historical trauma from surviving war, political strife, family conflict, immigration and more. So… yeah that was kind of a breakthrough moment.
Anyway, so basically what I’m saying is that I’m continuing to learn more about myself and continuing to be reminded that the type of energy I put into my mind and body is the type of energy I will feel and will come out. It’s easier said than done obviously lol. A couple weekends ago I had a moment where I felt really in my head, not present, feeling really socially anxious, self-doubting, self-conscious. I was at an event and tbh, the whole night felt a little like parts of middle and high school again for me – when I was really scared to be myself. When I would constantly worry about what others thought of me. I was basically a self-conscious wreck lol. That’s kind of how I felt that night. Didn’t really notice it until the night was over though. I knew I felt like crap when I got home but I wasn’t sure why. I had to do some serious self-reflection about this the next couple days after.
But it comes back to this. I let that negative energy spiral in my mind without even noticing it and it ended up affecting everything I was doing – from my interactions to my mood. Instead of feeling anxious and self-conscious, I could have been free and confident. I could’ve danced the night away – even by myself. I know what that feels like. I know how to put myself in that head space. I guess I just really wasn’t mindful enough at the moment to be able to do that. It’s like there are two versions of myself that exists – the shy, nervous, and self-conscious version, and then there’s the free-spirited, determined, and confident version.
I’m beginning to recognize more of this about myself. And it’s guess it’s timely. It’s Pride month. And here I am in NYC for World Pride – the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. I’ve been thinking a lot about Pride. About my growth. About who I am today versus who I was 15 years ago. It’s kinda hard to imagine that I came out 15 years ago. That’s half of my lifetime! The world felt so different. When I was in high school, I didn’t know any gay people. There were no gay students in school. All I knew about gays was what I would see on TV from Friends or Will and Grace. What I would hear about gays was how much of an abomination we were, according to our political leaders. In the 2004 election, the year before I came out, 30 states voted to ban same-sex marriage. It’s crazy to think how fast things change. I remember I was lonely, confused, and depressed. Didn’t know who I was. I would have thoughts cross my mind, “what if I was gone? Would anyone notice?” Really, I think I just wanted people to notice. Thankfully, I found an online community of fellow LGBTQ youth from all over the world. We talked about gay stuff, coming out, politics, but also other random things that teens talked about – video games, movies, etc. It helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in this world. This group saved my life. And coming out afterwards changed my life. Some things I’m thinking about as I celebrate being out for officially half (!) of my lifetime:
- My mom. One day, when I was in middle school, we were listening to NPR in the car going home and they were talking about some sort of gay issues. This is in the very early 2000s when GW Bush was President, so of course, whatever was on the radio was not positive. But after the program my mom said to my sister and I, “you know, if either of you are gay, I’d be ok with that.” What a profound statement. She probably didn’t even realize how profound it was when she said it (or maybe she did?). I obviously didn’t at the time because all I wanted was to not talk about it. But as I get older, I keep going back to this moment. I knew through that statement, that my mom would love me no matter what. It shows the type of person and the type of mother she is.
- My cousin Katie. The first person I came out to in December 2004. I think I told her on MySpace or AIM. Katie is one year older than me. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked her for the simple love and care she gave to me. We aren’t always aligned politically, but she gave me the support that I needed. Which gave me courage to keep coming out. She even took me to my first gay bar when I turned 18 – a drag show at the Gay 90’s!
- My journey. How far I’ve come from being that shy, lonely, self-conscious, socially anxious teenager. I’m better at understanding my emotions, I’m more confident in who I am and what I want, I guess “successful” by certain standards. Maybe it comes with being 30. But what I didn’t expect at age 30, was that the teenager version of me will still show up (like what I just wrote about), more frequently than I would like to recognize. I guess our insecurities never really leave us, do they?
- I think about all the LGBTQ movement leaders who have supported me, invested in my growth, and taught me how to organize from a place of authenticity, vulnerability, and confidence. I wouldn’t be the person I am if it wasn’t for all the queer and trans movement leaders who paved the way and showed me what it means to be queer. Queerness not only in terms of sexuality but also as a political identity. Queerness as a fight. Queerness as a dream.
- I think about all the queer people of color and queer APIs who created space with and for me. Who showed me the power that comes from community. Who helped me feel what it’s like to be seen as a whole person with multiple identities. Who fought and organized, won and lost, cried and laughed with me. Who loved me like family.
- I think about what it means to be LGBTQ in the time we live in today. A time where we can walk around during Pride month in all of our big cities and see rainbow flags outside every storefront, where we see ourselves in advertisements and all over the media, where we’ve become so “mainstream” that even straight cis men are ok appropriating pieces of our culture (that’s how you know you’ve made it, right?). Did we ever think we’d be here 50 years ago? It’s a time where we can go out and celebrate with our friends all over town, march in the parade, while at the same time many of us go home to our parents all over America to find that we can’t even share with them what we did last weekend. We see corporate sponsorship all over our Pride events, while these same corporations donate thousands to anti-LGBTQ politicians, they actively destroy our planet, they treat their workers like shit, they change our neighborhoods and displace our communities. Have we as a community forgotten what it means to be queer? Did the vast majority of us ever even know? It seems like we have been fighting so hard for acceptance that we lost track of what our end goal was. Out of Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Front and STAR were born – they weren’t fighting for acceptance, they were fighting for for liberation.
- We need to raise the bar. It’s not enough for institutions to put up a rainbow flag and tout to the world how “accepting” they are. Like do we actually think they’re doing this because they give a shit about our lives? Or are they using us to raise profits and visibility for themselves? Where were they 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? What exactly are they actually doing for our community?
- At the same time, I still see the importance that these symbols have on those who are still struggling. I recently went to a film about 5 queer and trans Asian Americans who were struggling with coming out to their parents. At the World Pride Human Rights Conference I was reminded that for those in rural America, being queer and trans is still a difficult thing. And, in countries all around the world, being queer and trans is still a crime.
- So yeah, I guess I don’t have an answer. They feel like contradictory things but maybe they’re not. We need to do both. We need to do better in recognizing which institutions are actually in it with us. We need to set the bar higher. And through that, we can show the world what LGBTQ allyship actually means.
- I’m thinking about the trailblazers, both past and present. I think many trailblazers don’t seek to be such, they do it because they’re just trying to live their life. At Stonewall it was just a bunch of mischiefs – young, homeless, trans, drag queens, black and brown folks – who had finally said enough. I’m thinking about every person, young and old, all over the world who, despite fear, danger and other challenges, had the courage to say enough and to fight to live their full authentic lives. We brought ourselves this far. No one else. And we will together, take our movement to the next level.
So here I am now. Last week, I went to a panel hosted by the Victory Fund at the World Pride Human Rights Conference. Their presence and story of running as their true authentic selves as LGBTQ people was so inspiring. It’s made me even more determined to be the leader I want to be. What does my leadership mean for our movement, our community, our youth? What does me living my authentic life as leader mean to those around me? What would it mean for 15 year old me? Representation matters. So much.
So yeah, I guess I’ve always had mixed feelings about Pride, but this is the first time I’ve ever written them down. Feels nice to have some clarity 🙂 As someone who worked in the queer movement, Pride always represented a bit of exahustion as well – from all the long hours of work during the day and then partying in the evening… the entire weekened. The straight people can be a bit overwhelming. I see too many corporations and rainbow flags and not enough about the history of our movement, what it means to be queer and trans, and how we continue to fight for liberation. But all that being said, when we began marching yesterday, my body became overwhelmed with emotions and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I’m happy to have the privilege to be out here, for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, at World Pride in New York City. To be able to celebrate with my fellow QTs. To be able to reflect on where we’ve been. And to be able to keep fighting on.
❤ ❤ ❤