Not written by me, but by some guy who impressed the admissions officers at Harvard.
Increasingly, I find that I'd much rather talk about queerness than write about it. I've yet feel comfortable enough with my words to trust how they frame, limit, and structure my experience. I don't yet notice the experiences for which I have words and those for which I don't. I also wonder how adeptly I can to tease out my sexuality anyway, how well I can place it at center, since my particular queerness has had everything to do with my Asianness and uppermiddleclassness and youth. Again, I've yet to learn how to discuss these weaves in tandem yet, but I will.
Living behind the Orange Curtain, I feel that my sexuality has grounded me outside society. I remember encountering lust during early childhood. I think his name was John, and he was in sixth grade. It seems like my desires have always been there; I simply did not acknowledge them, at first, as particularly interesting or, more tellingly, substantial enough to construct a name, a category, or identity around. My identity remained based in far more conventional structures: although I knew I liked boys, I still expected to become a successful heterosexual doctor, find a dutiful Asian bride, and have an obscene number of children. Sexual orientation, unlike money, racial authenticity, and status, had yet to become a foundation upon which my life rested. Masculinity and sexuality had yet to emerge as an issue.
Gradually, I began to realize that my peers were treating me differently. I wish there was a fresh way to describe alienation, how painful it is to feel like an absolute freak, how name-calling and insults cannot be dismissed as "teasing," how children relish in making people suffer, but such coming-of-age melodramas become trite, even laughable. I remember them mocking me for innocent hand gestures; I remember beginning to watch myself neurotically for any action that they might construe as effeminate; I remember violence; I remember feeling stiff and stale, like granite, icy, numb, each encounter, each slur and slap laying the blocks, smoothing the mortar of my new, emerging self. From behind the rising walls, I watched them becoming couples and realized that I could never have that easy way, that I could never commune with others without sadness.
My parents only complicated the matter. As traditional Asians, they demanded that I, the eldest son, serve as the tantamount heterosexual, a role model for my brothers, the carrier of the potent seed that would foster the next Chiu generation. Soon I learned that the identity they had built for me not only stood on wealth and cultural and familial loyalties, but around virility and manliness as well. I had been obedient for my entire life, willing to fulfill every expectation. Now I faced disownment. I was terrified; I had lost my sense of direction, false or otherwise. As I grew aware of my Otherness, I began to see my life as a series of illusions. My prospects dissolved, and from these mirages emerged barriers, bastions I had never recognized.
Because what I had always considered natural was now wrong, I was framed as the unacceptable, the deviant. Silently, insidiously, the world had reified a Self for me, cemented my most intimate and meaningful desires into an identity of Pervert. It had warped me into a suffocating, totalizing essence, pinned me with the girders of weakness, monstros-ity, and leprosy that supported their dichotomous construction of Homosexual. I couldn't let myself stay a freak, so I decided I didn't know who I really was and attempted to redefine myself. First I went ascetic, soaking myself in Buddhism to extinguish my desires, to tear down the source of my aberrant nature. My peers, however, would not let me go so easily. Seeing as they had already decided that my sex-uality was my self, I then decided to seek solace with fellow perverts. So, I came out.
Coming out, I was told, would solve all of my problems. Sure, there would still be the leering, the homophobic slurs, and all that, but I would at least be "proud" of my sexual preference; I would "stand up and be counted." In reality, my momentous coming out was anti-climactic and disappointing. I expected that by telling people that I was gay I would metamorphose into a braver, stronger being. I didn't. To a certain extent, I never rested deeply in the closet anyway; because of my "flamboyance," my private and public lives never seemed genuinely partitioned or obscured from one another. For me, at least, the closet emerged as another strange edifice, another harsh, warped, and dichotomous lens through which to understand myself.
Consequently I returned to my original foundations, plunging into schoolwork to redeem myself through academic excellence. Still miserable, I turned to extracurricular activities and community service, trying to erect an identity in a facade of social responsibility and activism. I found myself searching for the approval of others. Their praise of my right image, my unperverted, correctly structured image-my stellar transcript, my hours of community service, my ability to blow into a flute and scratch out a few greeting card poems-reassured me of my worth. Despite the rigidity of my A-student identity, I still felt stale and numb, dizzy and nauseous, my body floating in black and crimson. My life was nothing but a series of unstable illusions, shadows that consumed and rejected me, a society that told me that, beneath any self I pieced together, my sexuality made me essentially perverse and nothing more.
I reject these ideas. As Foucault writes, queerness represents a constructed, implanted perversity. People see my sexuality as the defining aspect of my persona. They see it as the sum product of my past and the determining factor of my future. Everywhere people limit me in ways far more insidious than stereotyping or anti-gay legislation. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is not simply a homophobic don't ask don't tell policy: in the contemporary consciousness, homophobia builds queerness into a monolith. With queer individuals reduced to nothing but absolutely, impregnably Queer, dehumanization becomes almost inevitable. There are the obvious examples: the gay bashers, the skinhead neo-Nazis, Jesse Helms, those who decry us as Satanic. Yet with the "gay-friendly" we become perverse too, metamorphosing from devils to ABBA-loving fashion freaks. Even queers sometimes yell too thoughtlessly for gay pride, as if having a sexual preference is something of which to be proud. Sexuality is not an accomplishment; it is not something that reveals who you are; it is not all that you are: it exists as a strand, one interwoven into all the other facets of Self.
What I want is gay dignity and freedom. I want to integrate my sexuality with all the other weaves of my self: burn any architectural plans that mount my gayness above my race, ethnicity, and age. In fact, I'd like to trash any designs on fixing my identity at all. I want for people not to trap me, totalize me in predetermined roles and lifestyles, to tell me that I have to resolve my deviance when they have constructed it for me. With horror, I know that I've lived my sexuality with relative ease, that I've passed through high school relatively unbruised, that I've always been able to wrap my Harvard successes around me like a shawl and beat my enemies back with my résumé. Still I am tired of fearing that I might lose my parents' support and never being able to return home after college. I am tired of wondering if a potential employer finds me too effeminate or if I need to carry mace on-campus. I am tired of having my sexuality dominate me, suffocate me, be my persona.
Of course, I certainly can't take it for granted either. For many years, I've distanced myself from certain queers, naming drag queens, transsexuals, and flaming gay activists as freaks or Other to bolster my sense of normalcy. Only recently did I become a crusading warrior princess myself. Gradually, I am coming to embrace the identity of Homosexual, the identity built so rigidly around my desire and so oppressive to my sense of self, and encourage others to do the same. Screw normalcy. Only through reappropriating this artificial category of Queerness we can name ourselves as a community. Only through political mobilization can we reclaim what it means to live Gay, bring our multiplicity as individuals to light, and achieve equity in our lives. Coming out means avowal, a desperately needed acknowledgment of yourself and your peers and a commitment to fight for them: not necessarily a collision of the theoretically public and private. Queers need to proclaim their supposedly perverse subculture, a subculture borne in the oppression, resistance, and struggle within and between the queer and straight communities. We must seek equity through visibility. Moreover, while our identities may remain socially constructed, their fabrication does not make them any less meaningful or real. Perhaps because I can afford to, I have learned to take pleasure in deviance, in flaunting my self; in reveling in sexual experiences; in passing as a girl or heterosexual boy. Certainly my experiences prove as legitimate as the construction of Straightness. We need to establish queerness as just as normal and "unnatural" as Heterosexual convention. We must understand that barbie doll cheerleader is just as contrived as the diesel dyke, that the muscle-bound jock is as much of a construct as the leather queen. Only after achieving a visible place in society and showing Straights how society has fabricated their identities as well will queers move from the deviant to the normal, from the periphery to the center.
So in looking toward my activism at Harvard, I perceive two emerging strands. First, I will continue to work on the numerous issues that I've pursued during high school because in doing so I do justice to all aspects of my self and serve all of my communities. Beyond my attempt to unify and integrate the weaves of my life, I would, however, like to become more present in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community, particularly since my home life and county of residence have largely curtailed my efforts. Despite the importance of the cause, I would definitely like to move beyond A.I.D.S. activism and attack broader social justice issues on sexuality that receive less attention. My human rights work promises to redouble in the area of sexuality as the international human rights community grows increasingly aware of the torture and oppression of sexual minorities worldwide. Moreover, I would also like to study and pursue the creation of alliances within queer communities, in terms of varying racial-ethnic and gender groups, and with heterosexual communities as well. Specifically, however, I feel drawn to the study and teaching of identity politics, particularly in how the social discourse constructs Homo and Hetero-sexuals. I feel a need to collapse the shaky dichotomy between Straights and Freaks, to demolish the structures we've erected to define ourselves. Understanding my queerness has become a process, a process of deciding that my difference will no longer isolate, relegate, or alienate me. Instead, it will build me a space from which I can expose the perversity in calling someone perverse.