Early on today I saw this photo journalistic piece about queerness in China, specifically Beijing where one side of my family lives. It at once made my heart sing and made me rush to the bathroom of my office building to cry. I was overwhelmed by their willingness to participate in this project and stand up for what they believed in. I felt happy, sad, joyful, and frustrated.
I remember last year on this day clearly, I was sitting in a class about queerness, stewing in my own, very new, understanding of my own queerness. Someone I knew turned around, told me all about their coming out story, and then asked for my own. I was embarrassed I didn’t have one, having only recently started the process of coming out to myself. I was angry that this white girl was asking me when I had come out to my Chinese immigrant parents. I was frustrated that the binary of out or not out was still ever so present, and seemed to shut people of color out of mainstream queer narratives.
Much later I read an article titled “3 Reasons Queer Asians Can’t Discard Their Families–And Why They Don’t Have To” and resonated deeply with its message. It seemed to disrupt the binary of “out” or “not out” and allow for more nuances than the mainstream queer narrative of being ashamed, moving to the big city, and finally standing up to homophobic families. It factored in the idea that, for many queer Asians, homophobia is not our only source of oppression. That shunning our Asian community for a queer one did not mean we would feel welcome, seen, or fully open in the new “liberated” space. I’m often reminded of a passage from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands where a student of hers thought homophobia meant fear of going home. Sometimes though, I wonder if my fear of going home is more fueled by the homophobia within Chinese American and Chinese culture, or by the white understanding of the backwards Orient, always more barbaric than the enlightened West.
I came into this day determined to hate it. I couldn’t help remembering the bitter taste last year left in my mouth. I was resolved to resist the white narrative of “coming out.”
It’s funny because today is also the day that my first published poem was officially released and it’s called “Love Letter to all the Queer, Christian, Asians Who Have Come To Me For Advice: For Those Times I Can’t Be There To Hold Your Heart.” I think part of the reason I felt it important to include so many different parts of my identity in this poem was because I felt like they were all fundamentally part of who I was. It’s part of an anthology published by Project As[I]am called “Our Greatest Resource” which asks the questions:
How do we build a world we want, rather than focusing on what we resist and what we don’t want? What if we prioritized this work of loving and treating each other better? How do we want to see each other grow, thrive, and live in joy?
It reminds me that as angry as I can be about white supremacy, homonationalism, and all which makes me feel small and insignificant, there is also so much that makes me feel profoundly powerful. I think my greatest “coming out” story is not to my parents, or my friends, or my sister, but rather to myself. Decolonizing my mind, my heart, and my soul is the grandest, most difficult process of coming out to me. Part of that includes understanding, embracing, and loving my own queerness. Other parts of it include awakening to white supremacy, to understanding, loving, and critiquing Asian American culture.
All of it includes learning how to love and accept myself better. For me, that is what coming out day is all about.