In the spirit of transparency, I would like to disclose that this piece is doubling as a dating personal. I eat meat, date other women, go to church, and practice the art of monogamy in the Pacific Northwest. On my days off I can be found imbibing in the Kool-Aid of Crossfit, reading something off of The New York Times Best Seller List, and working my side hustle that chains me to a pager (hint, not a drug dealer). I’m also an ABC (American Born Chinese, for the people in the back), but my parents grew up in the Philippines and speak a Chinese dialect only made known to the mainstream recently with “Crazy Rich Asians.” My dating pool dwindles from limitless to impossible with each swipe left. With each intersection of my identity, thousands are felled in the proverbial sea. Each new layer I peel leaves my nose running and eyes stinging until I am reduced to a slobbery mess. This is not to be mistaken for the process of peeling an onion.
I often find myself standing at many intersections looking both ways before I cross. I have absolutely no desire to get hit by a bus à la Regina George in Mean Girls. The halo brace is not a lewk I think I can serve. So I tread lightly in the spaces I occupy. Sometimes, I don’t even cross at the intersection. I stand at the corner like a Wal-Mart greeter, waving in the friendliest, most welcoming manner I can muster until someone acknowledges the part of me I wish to present. I only present what I have deemed safe for human consumption, given the situation, the time, the context. I often find myself withholding pieces of my identity out of fear. In queer spaces I am often “not queer enough” because I am an active participant in a religion that has traditionally been oppressive to many like myself. On the contrary, in Christian spaces my lifestyle is an abomination to many.
But as cumbersome as each piece of my identity can feel (I know, the Crossfit can be polarizing), each piece is essential in my identity. An example of this would be my day job as a nurse. This primarily female-dominated job requires me to be okay with bodily fluids and playing with sharp objects. If I were okay with bodily fluids and playing with sharp objects, I would be a serial killer. If I were okay with bodily fluids in another female-dominated trade, I would be a porn star. For the record, I am neither a porn star nor a serial killer. The cross section of nursing requires these three elements. Without one component, my profession becomes something entirely different. Without one piece of my identity, I become someone else entirely.
To my previous point, I am well aware certain omissions have certain implications. At some points, I’m not sure what is worse, getting hit by a bus because I am standing in the intersection or being mistaken for a porn star because I’ve left out a piece of my identity.
But nevertheless, I am right here. I have been here. I’ve made myself a home at this intersection. It is a space I can authentically and wholly be myself, moving beyond survival into a space to dream. Not just any kind of dreaming, but the kind that happens when safety is a given and you know where your next meal is coming from. Even then, this can be a lonely place, more often than I would like to admit. Those periods of loneliness are alleviated by the people who have helped make this place my home. They have helped me settle at this intersection by the truth they speak and the love they give. Love is given in the form of affirmations, disappointment, things to eat, and things to drink. Love given in the form of disappointment is doled out in the you-know-better-than-that after flirting with old flames. Disappointment comes from my community remembering who I am and what I am worth, when I have forgotten. Like many, my heart can be reached through my stomach. There was a time I opened up the pantry to find a quart of maple syrup paired with a note that says “I’m sorry your week was crappy, hope this makes it sweeter,” from my roommate. My mother’s love manifests as dismay when she hears that I grabbed a burger at In-N-Out on the way home from the airport when she had been cooking my favorite dishes all evening. A pinch of this and a pinch of that had been simmering on the stove all evening. But, oh well, at least her daughter was home safe and seated at her table. There has been an abundance of love given and received. Because of this abundance, there is more to give. Here at the corner of Queer, Asian American, and Christian is where I reside and all are welcome. We have weighted blankets.
Janine Sy is everything she says she is the in the piece above. She is constantly on the prowl for new music and new podcasts to listen to. Recommendations can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You write beautifully. I’m a fan. I’ll look for you on Facebook. Thank you for covering such a *topical* topic. I have a child who lives near where you live. I suspect there’s a part of them, who is American-born Chinese and Jewish and 33, that even identifies as vampire. I’m an almost 70-year old former ‘60s hippie still learning and growing into new understanding and vocabulary in an English that continues to innovate despite all the destructive flailing of the Right Wing. I can scarcely stand it!