Return to site



We all deserve to love and to be loved. I learned early on, however, that I was probably the exception. I learned that wherever there is love, there is loss. They either die or they leave, or they simply take and never return. Nevertheless, I still chose to love.

I was the hopeless romantic who would have intense feelings for someone and pass notes in class to ask them if they liked me back. I calligraphed poems and anonymously left them in pockets for them to find. I met my first love, my first girlfriend, on Tumblr. I left a message in her inbox because I thought she was very pretty and had a great heart. She was my high school sweetheart.

I felt accomplished. Our pairing was acceptable to society and to God. I could marry her and have children and pass down my family name. Unfortunately, when you are closeted and in a het- erosexual relationship, problems will inevitably arise. It took a year of trying to work something out during the first year of university, our fourth year together, a year of bending myself back- ward and forward to keep our relationship ablaze, for us to fully realize that we could no lon- ger grow together. Our inevitable break-up was immensely diffcult for me to accept. My world- view, my plan for my future, my ticket to heaven, was shattered.

Did I love her? Yes. Was I in love with her? Probably. Was I fully myself with her? Definitely not. That was no problem for me though. I was used to sacrificing parts of myself to please the world. I was used to fighting for my space.

broken image

Image illustrated by Ruobing Chen

This part of me, the part that simply loved and yearned for love in return, the part that I compartmentalized into a box and squished into the deepest, darkest corner of my mind, decided that without her, it was this part’s chance to take over. It finally fought back. And it won. This part, that happened to like men, was set free.

That summer, I stayed at the university to take a few courses (but mostly to escape my hometown). I was alone. I didn’t know nor did I try to find any queer peo- ple. I did however allow myself the freedom to explore what it meant to be homosexual. And what did 18-year-old me think was the main (i.e. only) part of being homosexual? The answer was: Sex. So, I downloaded Grindr, and I frequented the personal m4m pages on Craigslist.

My experience was anything but fun. It was filled with man after man preying on my youth. Caring nothing about me but my flesh. I starved myself to be skinny enough to be called a “twink”. I started smoking to combat my hunger. I fell for the fake and superficial valida- tion from these men. Because at least it was validation. If I could make them happy, I am thus a successful homosexual.

I was addicted. I was reckless. I was depressed. That summer, my innocence died.

I let anyone use my body as if they owned me. Even if I didn’t have the energy, perhaps espe- cially when I didn’t have the energy, I went out. I was forced to do things I didn’t want to do. These nameless faces giving me noth- ing... and taking everything. All I could think was, “I deserve this.” To me, I put myself in these positions, so I had no right to complain. To me, this was all the “love” I deserved. To me, this was the cursed life that was meant for me and for people like me. That part of me that longed for a connection with someone was beaten and broken each time.

Still, I survived.

Fall term began and I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I suffered in silence. I put on my mask every day. With the help of this mask, I was able to build some strong friendships. I found people who saw me, who unknowingly were vital in pulling me through. No one knew that I was carrying so much baggage. Maybe they did know, and they cared for me anyway...

With each connection moving forward, I began slowly building my self-worth. Eva was one of those connections. One day in the library between classes, I decided to share my secret out loud for the very first time. I told them I was seeing someone, and I pulled up his Tinder profile and revealed to them that I was seeing a boy! Eva did not bat an eye, and this was all the validation I needed to keep on keeping on. To this day, Eva has remained one of my main supporters as I journey towards living out my life as my true, authentic queer self.

“To me, living an authentic life means choosing to not modify who I am on the inside when expressing myself out- wardly. It means recognizing the effect that my internalized shame has on my thoughts and actions and choosing to be who I am anyway – unapologetically.”

To me, living an authentic life means choosing to not modify who I am on the inside when expressing myself outwardly. It means recognizing the effect that my internalized shame has on my thoughts and actions and choos- ing to be who I am anyway – unapologetically. Living authentically means accepting my past, accepting my body, and accepting the reality of the systems that I am confined to live in. In doing so, I can find inner peace and look up towards a better tomorrow.

The reality is that I am queer. I may not be straight, nor am I thin, nor am I the “right type of Asian” (all of these were “deal- breakers” according to the men I’ve spoken to on Grindr), but I am strong, I am passionate, and I am enough. I deserve to cultivate love in my soul and to share it unsparingly with the world.

This cultivation of love is rooted in self-love. This means taking the focus towards the approval of others and portioning some of that energy towards discovering who I am and what I create. It means giving myself the same benefit of hope and curiosity that I extravert. Self-love means finding my core of compassion and using it as a source of light as I relate to others and the world around me.

It is with this approach that I write this piece today, almost a decade later, working on projects that align with how I relate to the world. I am here living near the Village with my boyfriend and puppy. I read the books I want, I play the music that inspires me, and I welcome those seeking that same safe place for the culti-vation of love and creativity that I craved for all those years ago.

Edited by Sophia Liu & Lola Leving