Tag Archives: family

Just What I Needed

Hey there. I apologize for not having posted anything in over a month. I decided that I should focus on enjoying the last weeks of my time in Bangkok, so that’s exactly what I did. And now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m working on getting everything in order for my move to NYC. Needless to say, there has been a whole bunch of other stuff on my brain lately!

Having experienced a great deal of anxiety and stress after a work incident, I quit my job and booked a flight to my hometown abroad in order to get away from everything and everyone. I promise to explain all of this vagueness eventually, maybe in the next post, but it still highly upsets me so we’ll see how well that goes. Anyways, I was overseas for six weeks in May and June and my only plans were to see my relatives and de-stress.

Wat Phra Kaew

One of the many sights at Wat Phra Kaew

In the weeks leading up to my flight to Bangkok, I actually became somewhat nervous. I haven’t come out to my family in Thailand, and I knew that this new hairstyle paired with my affinity for men’s apparel would scream “GAY!” I couldn’t predict my aunts’ and grandparents’ reactions once they saw me, and I couldn’t tell if it would end up being perfectly fine or worse than how my mother reacted. All that went through my mind was “I’m going to be stuck in this house for six weeks if this doesn’t go over well.”

When I finally arrived at the house via airport taxi, everyone was waiting for me downstairs. I heard my grandma asking my aunts “Who is that?” as I entered. Everyone was a bit surprised by my change in appearance, but I ended up getting way more comments on my tattoo and the size of my arms (which are now puny due to the lack of lifting) that night than on my haircut. I felt so relieved and immediately knew that this trip was going to be wonderful.

And wonderful it was! I spent time with my family, ate a bunch of delicious food, and relaxed like it was my job. What was especially great was I didn’t encounter any annoying negative consequences stemming from my physical appearance while there. Is it wrong that I like looking masculine? That my best days are when I look in the mirror and feel handsome? My gender expression shouldn’t be something that negatively impacts my everyday life, and it wasn’t in Thailand. How refreshing!

Traffic by Central World

Colorful buses and taxis everywhere

I was out and about every day in Bangkok. Some street vendors and store associates mistook me for a man when greeting me, but it never surprised anyone when I spoke. Can I just tell you how amazing that was? People in Bangkok are well aware of the fluidity of gender expression, thanks to the the many masculine presenting women (known as toms) and trans women (katoey) who make up a highly visible percentage of the population. I felt right at home! So much so that my public restroom anxiety completely disappeared while I was there. I got one or two glances tops and never any double takes or stares. I used the men’s room maybe twice, but only because the lines for the ladies’ rooms at this one mall were way too long (something I’ll never understand) and not because I felt uneasy.

There are so many toms in Bangkok that I actually think it’s cool if you happen to be one. On several occasions after dinner, my aunts and I discussed the popularity of toms among young adults and what it means to be one. My grandpa liked to point out during dinner that he saw women on TV who had short hair and similar styles as me, so I often used this as a segue to get my aunts’ knowledge and opinions on tom presence and culture. I never considered myself a tom until this year, so I had some learning to do. The conversations I had with my aunts confirmed my preexisting notion that tom identity isn’t black and white. There are some toms who identify as women and use female pronouns, while there are others who use male pronouns. The ones who use male pronouns don’t necessarily have to consider themselves men either. In Thailand, women usually end their sentences with “ka” and men with “krup” for politeness. The lines are blurred when you throw toms into the mix, and it’s really a matter of what’s most comfortable for each individual.

Mural Selfie

Wat mural selfie. I had to, okay?

I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but my gender identity gets extremely confusing to me sometimes. I consider myself a woman, but I want to look like a man. I like that I pass as a man in certain spaces but hate being mistaken for one in others. I think about my gender identity a lot in the U.S., as if I should be able to stick myself into a specific box to make it easier for society to comprehend. I didn’t have these thoughts in Thailand because nothing is clear-cut there and that was okay. I loved feeling 100% accepted wherever I went, and I miss that now that I’m back in Virginia. I have to go back to reminding myself that I should just exist in a way that feels most natural and comfortable, like how I lived in Bangkok, but it’s noticeably harder here. Just the other day, I was at Life Time Fitness on a free trial pass and lost count of the number of people who glared at me as I walked through the locker room. But we’re not getting into that now. More happy thoughts from Thailand!

I should assume that my family members, at least my aunts, have inferred by now that I’m gay… or trans… or something that’s not straight. They haven’t said anything to me regarding my sexuality, and I haven’t been asked if I’m seeing anyone. As I previously mentioned, I’ve never explicitly come out to them and I don’t intend to until I’m in a loving relationship with someone who wants to hang out in Bangkok with me. But the significance of my aunts knowing and not saying anything is that it doesn’t matter to them. I can be who I want to be, present myself the way that feels right, and still be the same Bo they’ve known and loved for the past 26+ years. It means the world to me and makes me wish I didn’t live thousands of miles away.

This vacation was just what I needed. It opened my eyes to another part of the world in which I felt fully accepted for being myself. I think Bangkok might be my city. You know, my city–the place that will always be perfect to me no matter what. It will forever remain my home and I hope that I can make it back there again soon, maybe even for good.

Wat 2

 

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Initial Reactions – Part I

My mom and I have a close and loving relationship, and her acceptance of my masculine image has come a long way over the past several years. There was a time when she was hesitant to walk into the men’s sections with me, passing judgment when I’d purchase something new on our then regular mother-daughter mall outings. These days, however, she’ll even point out and suggest nice button-ups or bottoms whenever we find the time to go shopping together. I know she doesn’t advocate the way I dress, but she actively tries to show her approval and I’m thankful for that.

My haircut idea was not something I thought my mom would okay with, though, just because it was big change that would push me further along the scale of masculinity. But to my surprise, when I told her of my plan and showed her some potential styles, she actually approved. It’s not like I needed her approval for a haircut, but it was nice to get positive feedback from the person whose opinions I valued most instead of the unrelenting resistance that I had wholeheartedly expected.

So because I knew I looked different post-haircut, I had anticipated some sort of reaction, perhaps a gasp followed by a “Not bad!” or maybe even a small compliment. That was wishful thinking.

When my mom saw me for the first time, my new coif elicited the worst reaction I had received to anything in a while. Worse than all the times I mentioned wanting tattoos. Worse than the time I came home after clumsily smashing my face on the sidewalk on the second day of eighth grade.* Worse than the day I finally confessed that the girl who kept coming over every college break wasn’t just a good friend. The look on her face was one of complete disgust, mixed with a lot of disappointment and a bit of shock. It was completely unique to this situation and not an expression I’d like to see again.

“Are you a man now?” Mom asked. This may have been the first time I had to defend my gender. It was weird because this was my mother whom I was speaking to.

“No,” I said (she wasn’t convinced). “I just have short hair now. You even said you were fine with me cutting it.”

“Not this short,” she retorted.

We left it at that. She didn’t speak to me for two days.


*Being the lazy kid that I was, I decided it was a great idea to run down a hill instead of walking around it to save some time after getting off the school bus. Little did I know, that hill ended in a rather steep, unforeseen drop. I landed just fine when I jumped, but the weight of my backpack pushed me forward, and all I had to cushion the fall were my face and hands. Eighth grade was a rough year.

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