Living Asian, Christian, and Queer

She was not the first girl I loved, but she was the first one I allowed myself to love. An artist, passionate about her craft and her subjects. There was something about the way she held her hand flat over her sketchbook as she drew, immersed in her own secret world. Head down, earbuds in, her bangs brushing the delicate pages. She always looked so focused. Still, she always had time for me, taking out an ear bud whenever I came near, flashing me a shy smile. I came over, a lot, because I loved her. Because nobody knew that I loved her. 

Looking back, I should have known. Me and my clammy 17-year-old feelings, always looking for a kiss. When I finally admitted to myself that I was bisexual or pansexual or just queer in general, the biggest surprise was that I was not suprised. Instead, the phrase going in and out of my mind was “you have no excuse to go back into the closet now, do you?” 

Romance frustrated me. I hated the feeling of a crush, the dizzying butterflies trapped in my disgusting stomach acid always made me cry. It didn’t help that boys never liked me back. I confessed twice in my life and both times my heart was trampled upon. I was a human being, not some tin can to be kicked around.

At 13, I resolved I would never love again. I poured myself into school work, and my Asian parents were proud. I wasn’t allowed to date anyways. Being Asian means that there are some things you can’t talk about with your parents. Being Asian and Christian means there are even more. When gay marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015, my mother asked me how I felt about it. “What do you mean, how I feel about it?” I asked, at the time still oblivious to my own sexuality. “Good for them, I guess?” “‘… Good for them?’” she responded chillingly, and it sounded like a threat. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. 

My father, an ambitious and austere man, once told me that if any of my brothers turned out to be gay, he would be ashamed. My father was not, and is still not, a Christian. He is simply aggressively Asian, and also aggressively male. My mother, who is indeed a Christian, once sat me down and asked me if I was a lesbian. I was not, and am still not, a lesbian. I think she just wanted a reassurance that I liked boys, and would marry a boy. She had risked the uncomfortable idea of talking to me about a boy I liked in hopes that I did have a boy to talk to her about. And I do like boys, and I might marry a boy one day, but girls are pretty.

Girls have always been pretty to me. As a pre-teen I have always felt shy in the locker rooms, turning away when I see the other girls slowly peel off their sweaty gym clothes with the tip of their fingertips, exposing the white cotton trim of their tiny bras. I remember being fourteen and completely unable to look a girl in the eye because of the silly realization that she was naked underneath her cropped shirt. I remember being fifteen and wanting to kiss a classmate I didn’t know well because she was wearing a spaghetti strap tank top.

 I wonder all the time if it’s the Christian or the Asian that hurts me. Coming out to myself at seventeen was so exciting, and even telling some close friends felt like I was walking on air. My second adolescent made me brave. I was impulsive for the first time in my life. I asked my love to sit at lunch with me, to go to a convention with me, to go to prom with me, and even to model in a student fashion show with me. It wasn’t until the day of the show did I remember that I was terrified of my own body. I sat shaking on the prickly carpet in the back of the stage, the lights were dim and my breath was quick. She was on the floor only inches away from me, watching me tremble with my legs bent to my chest. Slowly and hesitantly, she reached my hand on my kneecaps and held it tight, then laid her head onto my shoulder. I could hear my own heart beat so, so fast. It was so, so right. 

The following summer was the last one before starting college. One quiet night, in a city far away from my own, my younger brother confessed to me something he had never told anyone: He was gay, and had known since he was ten. Because of that, he had hated himself since he was ten. Between us blossomed a conversation that I had never had with another Asian or Christian before. How do you deal with being an outcast in two different worlds that you love? 

In college, I started coming out. First, to other people I knew were also queer. Then, to close friends. After, to people I shared classes with. My university is extremely liberal, and I was an art major whose classmates were predominantly queer themselves. I was an adult, and occasionally on the days I wasn’t in studio too late, I went to parties. Once or twice, I drank alcohol on Saturday nights and went to church on Sunday mornings anyways. I fell in love again. The first year, it was a boy. The second year, it wasn’t. The shame finally hit me then, and it hit like a fright train.

One day, I was a good Christian girl and a good Asian daughter. The next, I was a sinner. A failure. An object of disgust. I finally realized why my brother was so unhappy with himself for so many years. A switch flipped, and I didn’t know if I could go back to church anymore. Or call my parents, for that matter. I was melting into a puddle on the floor of my dorm room when I realized I was one of the only queer Asian girls I knew. I pulled up the university’s LGBTQ+ group chat on my phone, and I could count the amount of people of color in one hand. As far as I knew, there was not another Christian person either. At some point in my life, I would like to be okay with myself.

Eventually, I would like to love myself. Confidence has never been my strong suit, but there are some things that I know to be true: When I slowly emerged as a feminist during my teenage years, my mother educated herself right alongside with me. My father, who is Asian and masculine and harsh sometimes, votes Democrat in every election. God, who loves all people, has always loves me and always will. My brother, who previously did not have a queer role model in his life to look up to, now has me. 

At some point in my life, I would like to come out to the world. Live authentically, both in church and in my Asian body. Write a memoir one day, maybe, all about loving art and loving books and loving people. But for now, here’s triple-fold identity crisis: Living Asian in a White world, living queer in a straight world, and living Asian and queer in a white-dominated LGBTQ+ community. But, I also know the power of a story, and the importance of representation. The journey is easier when you know you’re not alone. So here I am, representing.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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