Aching Queer Soul
the eloquence of effeminacy. where true power lies.
Jin Yong’s wuxia novel The Smiling and Proud Wanderer antagonist was given the name, Dongfang Bubai, meaning Invincible East, Asia the East, or Asia the Invincible. In the novel and film, Bubai heads the “Sun-Moon Holy Sect” (Rì Yuè Shén Jiào), an unorthodox martial arts sect. I mentioned this novel and films when I first began writing, in fact as a subtle indicator of myself, the author as Queer. Bubai wanted to learn a secret martial arts, and discovered the secret Sunflower Manual (葵花寶典), or the Kuíhuā Bǎodiǎn. Written by a eunuch, to learn its secrets, it required that he castrate himself. Gradually with study, Bubai became more and more physically androgynous and womanly. In the film, a sense of loneliness in the world haunts Bubai, whose ruthless ambition is to become the highest in the hierarchy of the martial arts world. In this novel, effeminacy, transitioning and androgyny is the path to achieving supreme prowess, and in the sequel to the first film (1992), legendary actress Brigitte Lin portrays Dongfang Bubai as a trans woman.
Dongfang Bubai’s character became a legendary Queer Icon in Post-Mao China as detailed in the book, Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Brigitte Lin played numerous androgynous characters in her career in film. Chinese and Japanese philosophy and fiction have been inspiring to me since youth, and I happened to come upon that novel though very early as an adult. So, then I discovered the wuxia film in my initial stages of “Coming Out” in college, and felt Lin’s portrayal of her lonely character related to me. But, I did not want to be lonely anymore. I wanted to find friends, that understood me. So, my first explorations was in a group of Aces (Asexuals), and I met and dated this asexual woman very briefly. I felt, that demisexual described me best.
There are Westerners, that depict modern Asian men, particularly Korean and Japanese as weak, or “effeminate.” However, much of the fiction that created these Queer icons throughout Asian literature are depicted as effeminate, or femina (woman), but it is not associated negatively as in European and American culture with weakness, but with power. There is a delicateness, eloquence, and balance, which is intimately tied to fundamental concepts in East Asian philosophy. It meant the exact same for me, which made no space for any negative attitudes regarding effeminacy. This produced in me, as I gradually worked out things about myself, good sexual self-esteem, and any fears that prevented me from first coming out.
As much as I can give about myself, I believe the way I think about my sexuality is in essence no one’s real business, other than close friends, or a significant other. Although, I feel comfortable sharing here, because I have nothing to fear. I came out years ago in a time during a difficult ordeal in my life to a number of close friends, and that meant so much to me and brought us closer, that I lost care if any other person did not accept me.
Since a kid in school, I have dealt with peers calling me ‘weird’ or ‘gay,’ as both apart of the banter and vernacular surrounding me, and the actual beliefs or rather suspicions, that I am gay. The experiences I have differ from guys who aren’t queer, nor gay, and so forth that have to defend their ‘masculinity’ by repeatedly exclaiming as loud as humanly capable, “I am not gay!”
Queer as hell. Yes, you can stop guessing!
There are two terms I have used consistently to identify, or describe myself if it came to any moment I’d explain. These two are “queer” and literally just “fluid,” and I am primarily attracted to women (this even includes trans women, non-binary, etc), while slightly romantically attracted to men. Whenever I say “fluid,” I’d often squint my eyes with my head to the side, as in my head it was the best I could describe it, or wanted to describe to the other person, because it is more complex.
There is a reason I am describing it in detail, and this is that: all this is simply describing how your brain sees attraction in other human beings. This is important.
In college, I asked myself a ton of questions many men do not ask themselves, or even put to the test, and I did this with others. Some men wait till far later in life, and when it is difficult for them. They get into a situation, and then they take their anger out on others, and even murder them to protect their honor and masculinity. The attitudes of specific women who have problems toward these things are also not better, and lead men to hide and stay in the closet. If the guy, like me, still likes women, they also do not want to be written-off from the dating pool by statistically the majority of women, who say they would not date bi and queer men.
As a child, the “you’re gay” insults never truly bothered me, and the more you heard them, the more dumb and repetitive they sounded. Kids would call me, e.g., “dyke,” which is not even a term applicable to me, but kids learn new words and repeat them. It was also because I had been in a relationship with a girl, that later came out as bi, and they called her dyke, so they called me dyke. I felt isolated, so I mostly kept to myself anyway. Some of the girls would actually often tell me to stop trying to fit in with the boys and be myself. While among the boys, I was constantly pressured to prove myself among the boys, and though tiring and pervasive, this was not always problematic, given the fact I am a very competitive and a prideful (in terms of self-respect) personality. There were those phases I tried to fit in with the boys, but not all the time. Sure, I loved to do all the things boys traditionally were active in, such as sports, but I also liked to hang out, talk and play with the girls. In my environment atleast, girls were not actively involved in sports, and there were no sports programs for them.
While I had come out in college, “queer” and “fluid” was just half of what was truly going on. I kept to myself the fact, that since the age of four at my fourth birthday, in a moment I looked in the bathroom mirror. I spent many years in fact hating the male body I was in, whenever I looked at my sexual organs. It felt horrible, and that is not something I feel everyone could understand, because it is difficult to describe. It is important to understand, this had nothing to do with being ashamed of my skin color. It was an existential thing. It is the first time I remember being conscious of my self. I did not feel I was a boy, despite being “born a boy.” I felt within more like a girl, and as I got older, though being a guy and having mannerisms associated with men, I also had mannerisms that did not fit, because I also felt like a woman living as a man. I stood the way I wanted and walked as I wished, and it minced and fluctuated between “masculine” or “feminine” presentation. The more I did not adhere to expected presentation to fit in, or worry what others would think, the more I mentally became better, and able to live happily.
“Queer” is a very inclusive umbrella term, that conveys a sense of community, inclusiveness and ambiguity, while for some, it is also an identity. It basically indicates in my case, that the person is on a spectrum of gender and sexual fluidity; or that one does not identify as heterosexual, or heteromantic. One could not be thus simply called “gay,” but it clarifies, that the person is not straight, nor can be so easily categorized into heteronormative identity.
People may realize this, when they are mentally confused themselves as to where to place you, and this happens to me. The issue is that, the power of where to place you lies alone within you, and has never been the choice of others.
The person who is not really living with me, or spending any time with me cannot possibly see what I am actually like, and even then, it is not in essence about how I dress, or my mannerisms. I feel it most when I am flirting with a woman. In the sexual act. In the genuine moments I spend with someone, who would be able to see it, or see me as I am, as some (the friends I gained) have seen me, and not any particular masculine or feminine mannerism or clothing they can outwardly judge. So, coming out to everyone was unnecessary to me. While having broad shoulders and masculine facial features, they could not possibly however really know what I identify as by just assuming “gay” or “straight.” The person is just likely to be confused trying to neatly box me.
By my mid to late-teens, gradually, I had developed a more healthier attitude and relationship to my body, by instead reconciling and reclaiming a sense of what I’d call now, “agency” over my body. The experience of feeling as if you are in the wrong body is not a narrative everyone like me shares, although it is the common way it is observed.
So, I think I should add also, that I never saw or described or defined my experience in any spiritual, or mystical sense, or through the concept of reincarnation. There were other things I began to do in college, like finding the clothing style that expressed me. It went from preppy to androgynous, and blending of men and (or) women’s style from either, or both clothing store sections, because in my view, men’s clothing sections are very boring. It is not just coping, but there was some kind of reconciliation I call it, as said, where there is this balance that feels right, as opposed to the sense of dysphoria I had felt prior to my mid-teens and young adult years since a child. So, transitioning was not a concept I knew of then, and even later when I did, it was not for me. I dealt with things in other ways, and I am fine with being as I am born. I still have to endure the struggles and experiences of being a male in the world, but which will differ from other men according to my own experiences.
Now, there are those with bad intentions, that like to dig into a person’s life story to find exactly where, when and what it was that caused a person to become gay, queer, and so on. No man or woman has ever sexually abused me, and no one forced or propagandized me. It comes as a surprise to some, and some may even try to invalidate your experiences.
Certain men, particularly Black men that are anti-gay and believe there’s a “Gay Agenda” have various theories about what leads a Black male to become gay, trans, queer, and so forth. Mostly, this involves blaming the Black mother (specifically single), or assuming, that a “strong Black father” was not in the house to raise the child. All these are non-applicable to me, so even my parents, not even my own conscience could make their arguments. I was not raised in either a single-parent household with an absent father, nor in a married parent household. I was always surrounded by family and extended family.
While everything in my house and family wasn’t perfect, I had ample examples of what a “masculine man” was, and what a “feminine woman” was in my household. Grandparents and parents were tough people, that believed there were no excuses in life.
Although, my father for the life of him cannot understand the concept of a gender spectrum, my father has been by my side every crucial step in my life. Growing up, I was raised surrounded by self-sufficient men who cooked, cleaned and worked just like the woman, and I was taught to be the same. My father, you could say, is what one associates with masculinity and was a gangster and brawler. I witnessed men in his presence respect, or tremble and fear him, but he had a nurturing side to him. Children love him, and always gravitated to him. The qualities associated with just a mother and father were thus ridiculous to me, because my parents showed me, that boys can be more than what American culture depicted of men.
Observing these things exhibited by both the men and women in my childhood demonstrated to me the serious and responsible aspects of life, that did not necessarily depend on whether you were male or female. It depended on your will and other factors. Power and Strength was not about your masculinity or femininity, and femininity or effeminacy did not mean weakness. I had examples of old love, and those simple ways of genuine partners appreciating each other are inextricably apart of how I envision my own experience with a future partner.
So, explaining parts of my journey is impossible without reflecting on my romantic and sexual interactions with the opposite sex, and the difficulties of navigating this.
I have had only one serious relationship, which is not something I want to dwell on, but it is part of my journey, because it messed me up bad for a long time. The woman I was in a relationship with accepted everything about me in the beginning, and while there were multiple issues that led to the end, I was given multiple confusing reasons and no real closure. But, what stood out was the fact, that during the relationship, she began to think about what it meant for her if she was dating someone like me.
It definitely made her panic in the end, though I believed and kept telling her she was overthinking things. I could realize that by what she was saying till the end, that she had come to the thought clearly, that she is a straight heterosexual woman, and only wanted to date straight heterosexual men, and she said she was no longer sexually attracted to me, that she was a Christian girl before being with me, that I hated Jesus, and she wanted her children to be raised as she was. She said she felt cold, and didn’t care. I realized, that she did not understand me, and she told me last, I was not the man she thought I was.
For a long time of being single then, I had someone more than I could ask for, and it was still a great learning experience. I cared for another person in ways I thought I never could, and it surprised me, and I have not been able to be that for anyone else, because I have not been able to be that for myself. In an instant, all the confidence I had since coming out in university before meeting her went away when she told me those things, and I was upset, sad and confused, and we both said horrible things to each other. I realized this woman who had become a friend to me more than anyone I’ve ever met, seemed to not know me at all so suddenly. Two people who deeply loved each other came to hate each other’s guts in the end. I had much to learn.
Despite being queer, I am mostly attracted to women, and date or prefer to date women, and thus still have to deal with similar issues any other guy has to deal with or learn and adapt to when dating women. So, I am not special, and this makes it difficult for me to understand certain guys that hate on gay and queer men, and believe dating and sex is plentiful and an orgy, if you want something real. If you want something real, it is difficult like anything else.
Women in my experience often assume I am gay first, as in not attracted to women based on whatever criteria they’re judging. There’s honestly nothing I can really do about anyone’s assumptions, or attraction. I am not a different species, so all one should do is just ask if you’re genuinely intrigued, and find out for yourself.
In reality, the majority of women do not care, since the majority statistically do not want to date queer and bi men. Certainly, once you describe it, or put a label to it, they are likely to panic. Such attitudes and approach is part of the reason many men stay closeted. I cannot do much about this, given the way media and tv portray bad representation as in this portrayal of biphobia and bierasure.
While I do not identify as bi, because of assumptions, I have experienced the biphobia that bisexuals experience in various other situations. At my current age, out of my twenties, my attitude towards biphobia and homophobia is frankly I just don’t care what a person thinks anymore. Also, if the person isn’t attracted to me, makes assumptions instead of asking, or have a problem with me, or heavens, she ghosts or runs, I not only will feel too tired to chase, or bother, I would not want to date such a person. These reasons about a woman being jealous of having to compete with men and women is insecurity and a turn-off itself, besides just being an excuse.
Covid period recuperation. Coming Out is not the end.
There are women, that absolutely believe they are free to their preference, and get very upset about being called homophobic or biphobic for not dating queer or bi-men. They will say, that it sounds like rape and forcing someone to like you. So, I do not get into arguing about people’s preferences, but it would be disingenuous to discount those portrayals on Bisexual Tropes. Also, I say, fine, but I am just going to go where I can be genuinely appreciated and loved, so such persons have no right to complain about any woman I’d date.
Things became better for me mentally and emotionally when I started to get as the phrase goes, my house in order, cut out fake friends, and all drama from my life. I had great conversations with people along my journey, and counselors.
I have found my own way of being masculine and far more, and embrace all the quirky, queer aspects of me, so that I learned to cope in different ways with that gender dysphoria in my own way. Yet, I can feel strong and full of a will of fire, just as I am, by embracing all of me.
There is in me an eternal waltz with springs that do not run dry, and I am at peace. I’ve gone through pain, lost, sacrifice, regrets, sense of worthlessness and feeling unattractive, or unwanted. Eventually, I had to pull myself up, but not entirely without the friends, that stayed with me and helped me along the way.
A situation involving a coworker evangelizing to coworkers he targeted as LGBTQ at work last year by chance brought us out and together, and it inspired me to write this. I dedicate that inspiration to a pretty cool person I met there I’ll just call V. I took quite a liking to her. Haven’t felt that sense of friendship in a long time. They’ll never see this though. But, it is because for years, I had kind of hid myself back into a closet half-way, totally lacking confidence in myself. So, this marks a new phase in my life, realizing that coming out was not the end. I am still becoming a stronger person.