the race we ran

chasing something lost
looking for what comes after —
time like falling stars;
I never could have finished
the race we ran together.

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 11)

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When the sun set that day, events seemed to take a full one hundred eighty degree turn. In other words, things seemed to go back to normal. Katsumi and Tadashi came downstairs together at around five to start prepping dinner, and they both were acting completely like their usual selves – as if the dream, the wild awakening that morning, hadn’t happened at all. They said nothing about it. I watched as the two of them fluidly moved about the kitchen, bantering and laughing, Katsumi with no trace of the prophecy on his mind and no sign on his face that he had cried. Their abrupt reversion to normalcy was in itself strange, but I accepted it without complaint. Forget my confusion; I was just glad that the earlier tension in the house had disappeared.

I turned on a music program on the TV and lounged on the couch. After exploring the contents of the fridge, Katsumi went out to the garden to pick some vegetables for dinner, and he came back with a feast. Tadashi was obviously delighted. He tied his hair back and the two of them set to work, and I relaxed for the next half hour as delicious aromas began to fill the house.

At some point in the midst of this calm atmosphere, I heard Tadashi suddenly call out my name.

I fumbled for the remote and paused the show. “What?”

“Come here,” he said. “You’re gonna learn how to cook something.”

I yelped. “No!”

“This is easy, promise. Just come here!”

“I’m going to ruin it,” I vowed.

“There’s no way to ruin this,” Tadashi laughed. “Get over here.”

I turned off the TV and reluctantly plodded into the kitchen. Katsumi was busy cutting corn and squash in wildly impressive ways; I looked over at him, wide-eyed, wondering how he managed to not cut his fingers off.

Tadashi pulled me over to the stove and gave me a pot. “Put water in it,” he said. “From the sink. Fill it a little over halfway.”

“Okay.”

I filled it up and brought it back over to him.

“Put it on the stove,” he said. “Make sure to center it, okay?”

It turned out that all he wanted me to do was boil some green beans. He’d already cleaned and cut them; he just had me boil them, and that was all. Still, I’d never done it before, and I stood over the pot embarrassed and fuming as I tried to figure out whether or not they were cooked yet. Tadashi stood next to me the whole time, giving basic advice, all the while smiling gently and trying not to laugh.

“See, Chas,” he said when I’d finished, “easy, right?”

“Maybe, but anything harder than this and I’ll ruin it,” I replied adamantly.

Tadashi shook his head. “That’s what everybody thinks about everything they don’t yet know. See, you’re letting me teach you guitar, you’re letting me teach you how to cook – doesn’t it feel good to learn something new? A couple weeks from now you’ll be laughing at how much you underestimated yourself.”

“Boiling green beans isn’t cooking,” I said. “Holding a guitar isn’t playing it.”

“There’s a first time for everyone and everything in this world,” he replied.

I scratched my head. “Maybe, but…”

Katsumi came up from behind and threw his arm around my shoulder, startling me. He looked at the plate of green beans I’d just boiled, and then he looked at Tadashi and threw his head back and laughed.

“You made Chas do it,” Katsumi grinned. “That’s so funny.”

“It’s not funny!” I objected. “Gross, your hands have corn juice all over them, don’t touch my shirt!”

Katsumi ignored me. “You look nice with your hair tied back,” he said to Tadashi.

Tadashi blushed a little. “Thanks.”

“Ahem,” I interrupted, “can I go back to my show now?”

I managed to escape back to the living room, but before long, it was dinner time. As usual, we all moved out to the porch to enjoy the meal. Tadashi loaded my plate with the green beans I’d cooked, accompanied by a dipping sauce he had made, and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

“Aren’t you proud you made something that tastes good?” Tadashi prodded me from across the table.

“A little,” I admitted. “But it’s mostly your sauce that’s good.”

“It needs more salt,” Katsumi cut in.

I laughed at hearing his typical complaint. Yes, I thought, he’s gone back to normal.

After we finished dinner, Tadashi surprisingly brought out a couple of cases of beer.

“We bought it at the market the other day,” he explained. “Do you drink?”

“Not really. I’ll just have a little.”

He poured me some, and then filled a glass for himself and sat back down.

“None for you?” I asked Katsumi.

He shook his head slowly. “No.”

“Katsu drinks alone,” Tadashi explained to me.

He leaned back and started to drink, and the three of us sat around the table in a soft companionable silence, watching the sun dissolve over the trees.

I’d never gone drinking with Tadashi before, so I had no idea how he might react to alcohol. Everyone reacts differently, I knew – some people get crazy, some people fall asleep, and so on. It turned out that Tadashi was a silent but very happy drunk. As the evening wore on and he kept pouring himself more glasses, he spoke less and less, but he couldn’t hide the flushed smile on his face. I watched him a bit warily out of the corner of my eye, surprised at this new side of him that I hadn’t seen before. The feeling of normalcy surrounding dinner had left me.

At some point, as the world around us fell into a deep, glowing darkness, Katsumi struck up a conversation.

“He gets a bit wild sometimes,” he said to me, nodding at Tadashi sitting between us. The person in question didn’t seem to hear a word he’d said, still just smiling absently off into the night.

“Drinking?” I asked.

“Yeah. He doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he drinks a lot. And he gets ridiculously happy. He does it to get happy, I think. To momentarily push away the sadness.”

I nodded. “A lot of people do that.”

“It’s no good,” Katsumi said. “But we all need something like this once in a while.”

“Are you going to let him just keep drinking?”

He shook his head. “At some point, he’ll get really crazy happy and start acting up. After that he’ll throw up and pass out. Happens every time.”

It didn’t take much longer to reach that peak. While I was talking with Katsumi about something or other, Tadashi suddenly started trying to kiss him. Katsumi laughed and pushed him away a few times, but after a minute or so he gave in, leaned over, and kissed him back. I blushed and looked away in amusement. Not long after, true to Katsumi’s word, Tadashi looked like he was starting to get nauseous.

“Take him upstairs, would you?” Katsumi asked me. “I want to stay out here a bit longer.”

“Sure.”

I helped my ridiculously drunken friend to the second floor bathroom, cleaned him up, and got him to bed.

Afterwards, I thought I might go out to the porch again, but as I entered the kitchen I saw outside Katsumi’s lone figure and something inside me paused. I stared at Katsumi’s back and bit my lip, wondering. He was, for the first time all night, partaking in the beer Tadashi had left out on the table. I watched him drink for a moment, nodded silently to myself, and turned around.

After everything that had happened that day, it was no surprise he wanted to be alone.


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Chasing Life With You (Chapter 10)

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Tadashi whipped up some breakfast sandwiches, and the two of us sat down to eat on the porch, trying to enjoy the beautiful post-sunrise atmosphere. Before long, Katsumi came downstairs and joined us at the table. He looked at neither of us and said nothing. He was wearing a loose, comfortable-looking gray shirt and khakis, and his black hair was still wet from the shower. He dug into the meal in silence. I watched him warily out of the corner of my eye. I was trying to figure out what he was feeling, but that was really an impossible task. Considering the way he had woken up this morning, he seemed preternaturally calm… the sea before a storm, I thought. Or is it after?

“Chas,” Tadashi said after a while, “any plans for today?”

“Mmm, I think I’m going to listen to your album,” I replied.

“Cool. Let me know your thoughts, okay? Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“Want to give guitar a try?”

“Oh, sure!”

“Let’s do that this morning. You can listen to the album after lunch. How’s that?”

There was something of a point to his words, some kind of hidden motive, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I nodded. “Fine by me. Thanks for breakfast. This sandwich is really good.”

Tadashi smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

I glanced at Katsumi, part of me expecting him to butt in with one of his typical banterous rebukes, but he gave no indication he’d even heard our conversation. Tadashi followed my gaze, frowned, and focused back on devouring his food.

In the midst of this uncomfortable silent tension, the three of us finished our breakfast and cleaned up. Tadashi beckoned me up the stairs; Katsumi followed us up but then whisked by and vanished into his room. Tadashi looked after him for a moment, quiet and unreadable. Then he met my gaze, set his jaw a little, and led me into the studio.

“Sit down here,” he said casually, pulling out a chair.

I plopped down obediently and watched as my friend crossed the room and picked out one of his acoustic guitars from the rack.

“Let’s go with this,” he said, turning back to me. “I like this one. It should be easier for you to play.”

He pulled over another chair, sat down, and rested the guitar on his leg for a moment to demonstrate how to hold it before handing it to me. I took it, slightly surprised by its weight and size. As I experimented with getting accustomed to this new item, Tadashi began to talk about music, about the differences and similarities between various instruments, about how a guitar actually works, about the sounds a guitar can make. I tried hard to understand what he said and commit it to memory.

For the entirety of the morning hours we spent in the studio, I did not actually learn any chords or try strumming or anything. I simply sat there with the guitar in my lap, listening to Tadashi’s impromptu lecture, asking questions whenever I had them. Tadashi brought over another one of his guitars so that he could demonstrate various things to me as he talked about them, and I paid as much attention as I could. It was a somewhat strange experience for me. I hadn’t learned anything new in a long time, at least nothing as new as this, and I didn’t know how I should feel about it. But some part of me was very tangibly thrilled.

Sometime around ten or ten-thirty, Katsumi walked in. Tadashi was in the middle of playing part of a complex guitar solo in front of me; he stopped midway and stared as Katsumi entered. The black-haired musician ignored us, walking to the back of the room and picking up a left-handed bright yellow electric guitar. He sat down in the corner, set up quickly, and started to play something very fast and very loud.

Tadashi looked back at me. Rather than being annoyed at the interruption, his expression seemed slightly triumphant.

“Thanks, Chas,” my friend said, leaning in close so I could hear. “Let’s stop for now, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks for the lesson.”

I gave him back the guitar and left the two of them in the studio together. Unsure of what to do next, I wandered downstairs and loitered aimlessly around the kitchen for a while, listening to the chaotic music raining from the floor above.

I wonder what he thanked me for… That was kind of weird.

Slightly unsettled, I poured myself a glass of cold water and sat down in the living room. Outside, birds vibrantly chirped about, and upstairs, Katsumi’s solo playing went on and on. As I gazed out the window I thought about the various events of the morning, beginning with that horrifying scream. It was definitely a change of pace from how rhythmically relaxing the past few days had been. Suddenly remembering, I opened up my laptop to jot down my impressions of my first guitar lesson.

Just as I was finishing up my notes, I heard Katsumi upstairs cut himself off. I cocked my head towards the abrupt silence, wondering what might be going on. A few minutes passed, and then Katsumi started playing again, on acoustic this time. He launched directly into a song, and before long Tadashi joined him. The melody was strangely familiar…

The two of them began to sing, and then it struck me.

That’s right, I thought. It’s the song they played for me that first night. What was it called again…

“Unsuitable.”

I sat quietly and listened to the song for the second time all the way through. It was just as beautiful as it had been a week ago. I wondered why Katsumi had chosen to play it – why this song, and why now. I don’t normally try to psychoanalyze people, but his strange behavior the whole morning had been a mystery to me and I wanted to understand it. More than anything, I wanted to know what his prophetic dream had been about – but fat chance of finding out, I knew. If he wasn’t telling Tadashi, there was no way he’d tell me.

Unsuitable…

As the song came to a close, I silently agreed with the conclusion I’d come to after first hearing it: strange name, and strange lyrics, for a love song.

Katsumi didn’t play anything more after that. Without a partner to play with, Tadashi came downstairs to start making lunch, and I sank into the couch to get some work done, trying to put the jumbled events of the morning out of my mind. But it wasn’t happening. I was already swept up within that strange seventh day, and it wasn’t ending anytime soon.

Lunch came and went; Katsumi didn’t come down for it. I helped Tadashi clean up the kitchen, then lay down on the sofa and put my headphones in to listen to their album. “Unsuitable” was the twelfth and final track. I ran through the whole album first, to get an overall feel of it, and then the second time around I opened my computer and wrote down my impressions for each individual song. The style was diverse and captivating, and the technique and quality were on point, as I’d come to expect from the two. Taking in the album as a whole left me breathless with awe at the power these musicians had to convey and control emotions, to inspire and impress, to leave somebody in tears of joy and sorrow simultaneously. And with that morning’s guitar lesson, I couldn’t help being hopeful and excited at the idea that I could be that powerful someday.

I headed upstairs to find Tadashi, bursting to talk to him about it. He wasn’t in the studio or in the workout room, and the door to his and Katsumi’s bedroom was closed. I went to knock on it – but as I leaned in I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.

I couldn’t tell what it was for a moment, but then I suddenly knew: Katsumi was crying.

I stood outside their room in shocked silence, swallowed my excitement, and and fled back down the stairs. My thoughts on the album could wait.


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Entry #26 – Being Asian American and Queer

Hi all, Kohaku here. Is everyone okay? How was your week?

Today, I would like to talk about something very important to me, something I have been thinking about a lot recently: the intersectionality of being Asian American and queer. This topic is particularly on my mind because of some of the articles I have read recently. Here are a few of them:

“What It’s Like Coming Out as Queer in a Traditional Chinese Family,” The Stranger
“Question: Why is coming out to your Asian parents hard in Hong Kong?”, The Honeycombers
“‘It gets better,’ but for Asian Americans, coming out can also get complicated,” Voices
“How Cultural Norms Make It Hard To Come Out As Gay To Asian Parents,” Newsy

There were a lot of common threads between these articles, and I found a lot of things that I heavily related to. So today I would like to use my weekly journal entry to speak about this topic at length as it relates to my own life.

My name is Kohaku Toran. I am Asian American, the third and youngest child of two Taiwanese immigrants. I am a writer, a musician, and a student who was at one time suicidal and is still sometimes affected by depression. And I identify as queer and nonbinary. All of these parts of my identity have combined to shape my life in unique ways – ways that are still developing, ways that I’m still trying hard to understand. But I know that writing things down, telling a story, is an imperfect but integral part of the process of understanding. That is the meaning of this journal.

Race and Sexuality

My Childhood, My Parents

I think I had it better than a lot of people. Growing up, the atmosphere in my household was for the most part tolerant and accepting. All three of us children went to a high school with a strong social justice-minded humanities program, a place where systems of oppression like the patriarchy and homophobia were openly discussed and unpacked by teachers and students alike. With this kind of educational background, we were supported by older mentors who preached coexistence, surrounded by close friends who loved us unconditionally, and inspired by fellow classmates who lived out and proud and willing to be true to themselves. It wasn’t perfect – far from it – but it could have been much, much worse. Meanwhile, at home, my parents watched TV shows with gay characters in them, and my middle sister M continuously challenged traditional notions of femininity and masculinity. From a young age, she fiercely rejected feminine-associated traits and behaviors that she did not like, refusing to wear skirts and dresses, for example. When she was a senior in high school she came out to us as bi and then pansexual, explaining to my parents what these words meant. She wore a suit and tie to prom, accompanied by a close male friend. Then she went to college, and came back with a beautiful boyish haircut, tattoos, and a girlfriend.

My parents’ general attitude toward all things LGBTQ+ tended toward passive acceptance, at least in terms of the existence and humanity of gay people. They never really talked about it. I don’t remember them ever saying anything to my face about the gays, whether good or bad. But, like I said, they made their household a tolerant and accepting place. As I grew up, I saw gay characters on TV, I saw my sister come out as pan, and I didn’t think anything about any of it. Because of their parenting, I just unconsciously understood and accepted the existence and humanity of sexual minorities. It was only in high school when I realized that the rest of the world didn’t necessarily feel that way.

I’m not really “out” to my parents as queer. I’m not out to a lot of people, really, but for the most part it’s not because of fear. From the way my parents raised me, as well as my own individual personality, I just don’t feel the need. I’m not hiding anything. If they asked me straight up if I were gay, I’d tell them. If I get a girlfriend, I’d tell them. But I don’t feel that it’s necessary to sit my mother and father down and say, “hey, I like girls.” If I were to do that, their reaction would probably be the same as it was to my sister M: “okay.” My father would nod and keep playing on his iPad. If I said specifically “queer,” my mom might ask, “what’s that mean?” And then after I’d explained this new English word, she’d probably go on about how she doesn’t like labels. Or she’d just say “okay.”

How can I be so sure? Besides their parenting style and my sister M paving the way for me, I remember one particular event in the summer after twelfth grade that truly affirmed my mother’s understanding and love. I was in a doctor’s office, privately talking with my mom’s acupuncturist S about some health problems. At some point in the discussion, S said, “If you have or get a boyfriend, we should talk about that.” Intending only to say that I wasn’t currently interested in a relationship, I replied, “I don’t want a boyfriend.” Immediately S asked, “So you want a girlfriend? You like girls?” I felt suddenly cornered, stammering a noncoherent answer. S smiled down at me and said, “That’s okay too.” I walked out of her office slightly mortified. Still in shock, as I walked with my mother back to the car, I told her, “Ma, [S] thinks I’m gay.” My mother asked, “Are you?” I struggled to find a response for a minute – I didn’t want to have to go into my queerness yet, I didn’t want to explain to her a lot of new words, I didn’t want to put the nail in the coffin when I was still questioning my identity myself. In the end I settled on saying, “I take people one at a time.” And my mother nodded and said, “Me too.”

I’m lucky to have such accepting parents. But I still have fear and tension of being out or bringing a girlfriend around my extended family on multiple axes. On one hand, my father’s side of the family, at least the part that emigrated to America, is largely Christian, and I don’t know how conservative they are, I don’t know how they would react. This is the one part of my family about which the words “I’m not hiding anything” become an absolute lie. But looking along a different axis, I am also afraid of the older generation of my extended family on both sides, those who live or have lived in Taiwan, those who are much more culturally traditional. Taiwan is one of the most LGBTQ+ accepting nations in Asia. Same-sex marriage was just legalized last year – the first Asian country to do so. But legal marriage doesn’t mean social or cultural acceptance. And this is where the intersectionality of being Asian and queer really starts to come in.

Social and Cultural Pressures

Take a glance at any of the articles I linked earlier, and you’ll find basically everything that I’m going to say here. Many Asian cultures in general are community and family-based rather than individualistic; they place more focus on ancestors, family respect and duty, and collective family reputation. There’s not a lot of education about LGBTQ+ people, and not a lot of social acceptance, either. So when I think about “coming out” or being truly myself around the older generations of my family, I’m faced with questions like these:

Are you respecting your ancestors? Are you representing your family well? Are you going to trash our family’s reputation? Are you going to carry on the bloodline? Are they going to disown me or otherwise cut me out to save face? Will I be allowed at the family banquet next winter? If I get a girlfriend, will they let her attend?

And so on and so forth. Some of these questions are more intersectionally nuanced; carrying on the bloodline or family name, for instance, is more relevant to my gay male cousin than to me, and he really struggles with this burden. But questions like these plague us all – my cousin, my sister, me, and many other Asian queer folks out there. It’s an added cultural level that further complicates the whole process of questioning and accepting yourself, coming out to family, and living true to your heart.

Representation

Besides my struggles with questions of family and culture, the other big problem I had (and still have to some extent) is the lack of social representation of Asian or Asian American queers. In the mainstream media in Taiwan, there’s not a lot of representation of LGBTQ+ people; in America, there’s maybe a bit more, but intersectionality is a big player. Yeah there’s gay characters in some mainstream shows and films – but they tend to only be gay white males, and when there’s people of color, they’re almost never Asian. So when I was questioning my sexual orientation and other facets of my identity in the past few years, I kept wondering: What is a queer Asian female-assigned person supposed to look like and act like? And underlying that question, another: Am I queer ‘enough’? Will people accuse me of pretending, of not actually being queer, because I don’t look or act ‘right’?

Lack of representation of the subordinate group is a manifestation of any system of oppression. Minority faces are erased, their voices are silenced, their existence is shoved backstage or downstairs, so that the dominant group can control and rewrite both history and society. So the lack of representation of queer Asian women is a form of oppression and something that I believe needs to be fixed. However, at the same time and on an individual level, I’ve recently also come to understand this lack of representation as a form of freedom for me. There isn’t any particular way I have to look or act or be – I can just be myself. I can be true to my heart without worrying about matching up to media representations of what other people think I’m supposed to be.

Race and Gender Identity and Expression

My Childhood, My Parents

Now I’m going to switch gears and really talk about my experience of being Asian and nonbinary. I decided to separate this section out because it really differs from my experience of just happening to be attracted to girls. In looking at the ways being Asian or Asian American has impacted my life, its intersections with my sexual orientation and my gender identity exist on different planes. Where my parents were tolerant and accepting of gay people, they were more resistant against things that contradicted social and cultural norms of gender, and I don’t know how they’d react if I told them I identify as nonbinary.

As I mentioned before, my sister M really paved the way for me. She rejected a lot of traditional female gender roles. She refused to wear skirts and dresses and ‘girly’ things, she didn’t like shopping or makeup. She went to university, and she went into engineering. She changed to a more masculine-presenting haircut and image. Our maternal grandmother recently found an old picture of her, back when she had long black hair and presented more feminine, and commented to her, “Look, you were a girl then.” She still is – she just expresses in a more androgynous or masculine way. And she taught me that it’s okay to do the same. She taught me that it’s okay to be comfortable in myself, to present myself however way I feel best. It wasn’t easy for her, and it’s still not easy for me. My parents still tried to get me to wear feminine clothes for the longest time. My father would sometimes remark that my knee-length shorts were ugly, that I should wear shorts that are much shorter – like a girl. My mother would still buy me skirts and dresses. My father doesn’t really like my short hair. They didn’t always understand my preferences, they weren’t always the most open to letting me express the way I wanted to express – but I know that on the inside, they were and are still trying, and it’s getting better.

I just don’t know how they would feel about this new term, “nonbinary.” I introduced it to my mother last year, in a somewhat passing side conversation. I mentioned that Apple had released new nonbinary emojis, and used that – I know it sounds ridiculous – to explain to my mother what the word means. I don’t know if she really understands. I don’t know if my father would understand. But for me, for the most part, that’s alright, because like I said, I don’t feel the need to be out, and I don’t care very much about how other people see or think of me. That’s why I don’t care about what pronouns are used to refer to me. But for other people, who need recognition and validation, who need to feel explicitly accepted by their families and others, life like this can be really hard. That’s why education and representation are so, so important. Being Asian or Asian American adds another level of complexity.

Social and Cultural Pressures

A lot of the cultural struggles and questions I listed above for sexuality also apply for gender. In a culture that is so based around family and reputation and fitting in, it’s hard to be yourself if that means standing out. Gender roles in traditional Asian cultures at large are pretty defined. One of my personal biggest challenges was getting through cultural activities in Chinese School. In one year, my class was supposed to do a pop dance, and it was pretty gender neutral, so even though I hate dancing, I participated – and ended up as lead dancer, on account of being the only one who did the homework and actually learned the dance. Even though I didn’t like it at all, I got through it. But the following year (and maybe the year after, I don’t really remember) we were supposed to do a traditional Chinese dance, wearing qipao. For those unfamiliar, a qipao is a very feminine close-fitting dress. And I absolutely, absolutely hated the idea of wearing one, let alone going up on stage with it and waving around a fan and dancing. I couldn’t see a way out of it – it’s not as though I could have gone up to my teacher and said “I’m nonbinary” and she would have let me sit it out. I don’t know if there’s even a word in Mandarin for nonbinary gender. In the end – and I’m not very proud of this – I used my bad shoulder as an excuse to not have to do the dance. My shoulder probably wouldn’t have been that much of a problem for the slow type of dance we were supposed to do, but I said that it hurt, and I got out of it. “Bad girl,” they might have said if they knew. “Shameful.” “Disgrace on your family,” yada yada yada. (That’s an exaggeration, obviously, but what if it wasn’t just a school dance?)

Representation

And what about representation of gender-nonconforming (whether identity, expression, or both) Asians/Asian Americans? Little to none, though in some sense that’s debatable. Conceptions of femininity and masculinity in Asian cultures aren’t always the same as in the West; Asian men are often depicted or described as naturally Western-feminine, and looked down upon for it. So seeing images of guys who looked more “feminine” to me was in itself a form of representation. But in my questioning of my identity, I was personally searching for more representation than that. For something bigger, something more meaningful, I really had to dig. What came up was Japanese visual kei.

I’ve talked about vkei a lot before on this blog and elsewhere, but for those unaware, visual kei is a Japanese musical style that emphasizes the visual appearance and expression, typically in ways that result in gender-nonconforming costumes, hair, makeup, and so on. I remember the story of how the all-male members of X Japan, old vkei giants and one of my favorite bands, were once criticized for dressing too feminine – so the next week, they showed up dressed as princesses. Hearing stories like these, of musicians challenging traditional conservative gender norms, thrilled me. I loved getting into various visual kei artists, watching videos of their concerts, exploring their different modes of expression, because for me, this all meant representation. It meant representation and it meant empowerment, and it was something that at the time I was hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Vkei is still my favorite music, its artists still my favorite and sometimes the only artists on my daily playlists, and I’m still slowly and steadily exploring this style.

Visual kei was what gave me, personally, a reflection of my gender-nonconforming self and all the ways I could be free to express the way I wanted to be. But the fact that I had to dig hard and come up with an Asian musical genre to make up for the lack of representation of Asian queers in America says a lot. Gender-nonconforming folks of all races and backgrounds, as a whole, do not receive much representation at all, and this needs to change.

Closing

This is my story of my life so far and how the intersectionality of being Asian and queer has shaped it. What I want to hear now are your stories. If you’re Asian, or queer, or both, or if you know anyone who identifies as such or has been affected by these identities, I want to hear what you think about this topic. Leave a comment or an email. Let’s talk about it!

Take care of yourselves and have a great week.

KT

the dream you left behind

trampling through fields of dead roses,
       with a mournful serenade gracing your ears
you hold your head up high, gazing at me
       locks of your brown hair falling to the ground one by one
       tracing our shattered destiny on the maps of time
I didn’t know what I was leaving behind.

the shadows of your fingers entwined in mine,
I still remember
       the words you said to me that day
       the strength of your loving embrace
but you knew, I knew, I had nothing left to give
       and so you walked away without looking back
knowing that I was just waiting to die.

breaking the endless lines with your bare hands,
       to the soundtrack of a selfless hero
you climbed the walls we had built together
       and tore through the eternal night that was nothing but an illusion
              nothing more, nothing less than a single night’s dream
       the dream I could never see
the dream you left behind for me.