Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Neurodiversity and me

I want to talk more about neurodiversity. Yes, again. Deal with it. Did you know that part of ADHD is hyperfocus? It’s OK if you didn’t because many people don’t. Rightly so because it’s always talkead about as if it’s just a lack of focus or the inability to focus, but it doesn’t have to be either of those.

I have lived all my life knowing there is something wrong with me. It has been said to me over and over again in so many different ways. I was talking with my Taiji teacher today about this. One of the reasons I liked her from the beginning is because she was very honest about her own weird childhood. She grew up in bumfuck, South Dakota to parents who were not the most supportive. We could relate with each other on this level.

She was bullied as a child as was I. She told me that it reached the point where she realized that she could do nothing wrong–so she might as well do what she wanted. She added that she never thought she was a bad person so that helped her push back.

In may case, I thought I was a stain on the world and that it would be better off without me. This is something my parents imparted on me, mostly implicitly, but in a few explicit ways. No, not that they actually said that I was worthless, but the way my mother nitpicked and criticized (still does) everything I said, thought, felt, had the same implied message. I was wrong as I was, and I better not let the real me show.

Here are just some of the things that she has made very clear she does not care for one bit in me:

1. My sexuality. I’m bisexual. I realized that when I was in my early twenties. When I told my mother, she did not take it well at all. For many reasons.

There were several times before then, though.

2. Me being a tomboy. This was something that early on, had I recognized it, should have clued me in on how the rest of my life was going to go.

Continue Reading

A letter to my younger self, part four

In yesterday’s post, I went off on a tangent because of course I did about how much I love tangents/side notes/footnotes/side roads. Then, because I’m me, I spent a healthy chunk of time on that instead of what I actually meant to write about.

Which, in this case, turned out to be about how much I was bashed about the head when I was in my twenties for not womanning the right way. And how it was the planting of a seed (ironic in the context of having children) for me questioning if I was a woman at all.

Side note: Here’s the thing about gender–for me. My biggest feeling about gender is that I am not a guy. I wanted to be once when I was a kid because boys clearly had more freedom and autonomy, but that’s not the same as thinking I am one. More to the point, I don’t want to be one because of the negativity associated with being male. In the general sense, I mean, not specifically. And I don’t want to have to deal with that bullshit, either. The patriarchy hurts women, yes, more than it hurts men, but it’s not great for the latter, either.

When it comes to thinking about my identity as a woman, I draw a giant blank. This is because I (still) don’t know what that means. I can think of how I’ve been treated because I was perceived as a woman, how women treat me (for better and for worse), and how that has affected me. But it doesn’t make me FEEL like a woman.

As for nonbinary, I probably would have chosen that (maybe) when I was a teen if I knew it was a possibility back then. K and I have talked about this–how we both would have went with nonbinary if it was a thing when we were teens/in our twenties. As old people now (in our early fifties), it’s not at the top of either of our important things to do.

Also, for me, there is no gender that feels right to me. I sat with ‘woman’ for a long time, and it did nothing for me. I can relate to women because we’ve had shared experiences, but when I focused on the word woman and tried to relate it to myself, I came up empty. I did not feel anything other than a vague, “Oh, yeah. I used to be called that.” I don’t hate it when others call me she, but it doesn’t really ring true with me, either.

I have explained it thusly: It’s like an ill-fitting raincoat. Yes, it’ll keep the rain out–mostly. But it’s uncomfrortable and restricting (if it’s too small), and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief once I take it off. In other words, it does the job–barely–but it isn’t the best for the job–by far.

When it’s raincoats–I don’t have to stick with the too-small coat. I can buy another one, an umbrella, or just run around in the rain (which is my personal favorite). When it comes to gender, though, they all feel weird to me in one way or the other. With that in mind….

Continue Reading

A letter to my younger self, part three

In yesterday’s post, I went completely off the rails  as is my wont. I’m not going to bother justifying it because it’s just how my brain works. In fact, it’s part of my neurospiciness, which I did not realize until just a few years ago. I can’t get past the thought that had I had a more accurate list of symptoms at a younger age, I would have dealt with so many things in a much better way.

Side note: I have loved side notes and footnotes in my writing ever since I was a young one. I will gleefully add them until there are more side notes than actual text. And, as I demonstrated yesterday, I will side note a side note if that’s what it takes to get my point across. I have also put a pair of parentheses in another parenthized statement within another–like nested Russian dolls.

I have learned that this is a trait of neurospicy people. So is having terrible handwriting–which I do. I have such bad handwriting that I gave up trying to make it better when I was in elementary school. I practiced and practiced and practiced–and it still looked like chicken scrawly. It’s even worse now, in part because I never write anything by hand any longer.

In fact, in looking up if this was, indeed, a sympton of autism. And the solution is making the kid do gripping exercises and other things to make their handwriting acceptable. I’m not saying they shouldn’t try to improve their gripping ability, but I do think this is one way of looking at the world through a neurotypical lens. In this day and age, what does it matter how pretty a kid’s handwriting is? It would be better to teach them to type than to waste so much energy on handwriting.

This is something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately, by the way. How the world is so very unkind to neurospicy people. And how we can reimagine a world in which this wasn’t true. I have mentioned in the recent past about my irritation at the fact night owls are now being pathologized. Which can also be a part of neurodivergency, by the way–different sleep patterns, I mean.

Continue Reading

A letter to my younger self, part two

In yesterday’s post, I was talking about how I had so much sympathy for Mini-Minna and all she went through. I don’t know when I went from actively hating her to feeling sympathy for her to wanting to protect her. I will say that it started with Taiji, probably, because everything good that I’ve done/thought/believed started with Taiji.

Side note: I will never stop saying how Taiji has saved my life. But, more than that, it has given me self-confidence, assurance that I deserve to live, grudging acceptance of my body, and more. It has also given me a love for Taiji weapons that I did not know existed deep within me. It has made me more comfortable in my body, and I’m better able not to hurt myself when I trip/fall/runt into things, etc.

Taiji helped me with my personal relationships, especially with my parents. I was more able to deal with them and not blow up or want to throw myself into the ocean. Believe me when I say that this is a vast improvement from my first twenty years.

Here’s the thing about Taiji. Hopefully, I will never have to use it for its intended purpose–which is self-defense. Despite what Westerners want to believe about it, it is a martial art that can be used for combat.

Side note to the side note: When I used to frequent Twitter, I would wax rhapsodic about Taiji weapons. I would get a markedly different response from men and women (yes, this was specific to people of the binary). Men would tell me how hot it was and want to mention Kill Bill and similar films. Women, on the other hand, would recoil from it and scold me for doing something ‘violent’. The former response, sadly, was not unexpected, and it’s something I could ignore. The latter was from women I respected, so I would actually try to engage with them.

I tried to explain that it wasn’t that I was violent–at all. And that while they were weapons, it was still Taiji. It did not matter. One was so disappointed in me! I felt bad about that, but at the same time, that was more about her than about me.

Side note to the side note to the side note: One thing my teacher and I talk about is how different men and womn (yes, the binary again) are raised in this world. And how that affects their approach to Taiji. Men are taught to be alpha, aggressive, and dominant (in the real world). When they try Taiji, they have to be told to relax and go softer, as it were.

Continue Reading

A letter to my younger self

For the first twenty-plus years of my life, I was a deeply depressed kid who didn’t want to be alive. I wasn’t suicidal, exactly, but I would not have cared if I died. I thought I was a waste of space and a blight on humanity. There are many reasons for this, but that’s not the point of this post. Suffice to say, that was not a great time in my life. I rarely like to think of it because it was so painful.

I hated myself back then. With the fiery passion of a thousand suns. No one could have been as mean to me (and believe me, they were very mean. I was a fat, neurodivergent, unhappy Asian kid in a very white suburb in the seventies and eighties) as I was to myself.

I look back at little me and have nothing but compassion for her. She was just trying her best in a world that was actively hostile to her. She had no idea how to be normal. She did find, through trial and error, mostly, a way to pass for normal. Ish. If you squint. From a very far distance. But it never matched how she felt inside.

There is talk of masking in the neurodivergent world.

Side note: I did not even have a whiff of a hint that I might be neurodivergent until I was in my thirties. Mid-to-late thirties. This is a shame. A BIG shame.

Masking is when a neuroatypical person acts like ‘normal’ in public so in order to get along with the normies. It’s exhausting when you have to be very careful of everything you say or do in order not to raise suspicion. It’s not only things such as fidgeting and being unaware of time (I don’t have either of those, by the way), but also things like having sensory issues and not liking things that are popular. I have both of these.

It toook me some time to figure out that racism existed. Same with sexism, and then homophobia/biphobia (once I realized I was queer). This is life in that we rarely have all the revelations at one time. But. I realized that I was of a different race and gender (well, the first time) when I was in my twenties. I wish I had realized more about myself at the same time. Plus, I also wish that I didn’t have it smashed into my face over and over again that I was a weirdo and what’s more, that I was a massive loser for being such a weirdo at a young age.

I first realized I was going to die when I was seven. Simultaneously, that was when I first wanted to die. Or rather, as I’ve said before, not wanted to be alive. Here is the letter I would write to that younger me.

Continue Reading

When I am the monarch, part five

I’ve been musing about how I would order the world once I am in charge of it. Which will be never, by the way. Yesterday, I veered into family dysfunction and empathy, which were related (hah), but not the main point I wanted to talk about.

In my ideal world or my diversity town, I would come up with a way to show people how they are privileged. I mean, that’s the whole point of diversity town. For those in a position of privilege to realize that what they consider normal is, in fact, privilege.

One thing I remember was being in a diversity training (not as the trainer) in which we were talking about how people of minority are treated on the daily. Microtrangressions, if you will. I mentioned being followed in stores plus other microtransgressions, and several white people tried to argue each incident and why it might not be racism.

One incident I mentioned was that at the Cubs I’ve been going to for all my life, I was once asked to show identification when writing a check (yes, this was in the Stone Ages), and I watched the next several people after me check out. One, a white woman, wrote a check, and she was not asked to show ID. Yes, I made sure to test this because I wanted to make sure the hunch I had was right. I wasn’t going to do anything about it, but I needed to check it for my own sanity.

In the training, a white woman trotted out the tired excuse that maybe the checker was having a bad day or maybe she was checking everyone. I mentioned that I had watched her NOT check a white woman, which shut down that vein of conversation. While maybe the checker was having a rough day, it’s not a coincidence that she chose the Asian person to exert a bit of power on. As I said, I had been shopping there for several decades and had never been asked for my ID before. It was racism, pure and simple.

One thing that is so frustrating about any ism is when a person of the majority simply will not believe the words of the minority. I am not saying never to question someone who is speakng on the topic, but the first thing a non-minority person should do is listen. This is something that is emphasized more these days, much to my appreciation.


Continue Reading

If I ruled the world, part four


I’m back to talk about my ideal world once again. In the last post, I went off on a rant about sexism. I can’t promise I won’t do it again. I have a lot to say about gender especially as it’s becoming an issue again with the expansion of gender as we currently define it.

One thing I got into yesterday was how I don’t get gender. I don’t get a lot of the arbitrary categories we throw people into. I get (even if I don’t necessarily agree with) racial categories. I get religion, obviously, and disabilities in general. I mean, I understand that disabilities are…I was going to say each one was a discrete thing, but that’s not even true. There are things that spill over or are shared between differing disabilities. And the fact that there is such a thing as hidden disabilities–I’m just all over the place, aren’t I?

My point is that it’s not so easy to say someone is abled or disabled when you get past what we think of as obvious disabilities (being in a wheelchair, for example). Nobody is 100% healthy. Well, very few people. But that’s another post altogether.

In my ideal world, I want people to be aware of other people. It’s really that simple. But not that easy to get there. It took me so long to realize that people don’t automatically try to understand people who are not like them.

Side note: I have had to do that all my life. I was taught at a very young age that I was the keeper of my mother’s emotions. She would pour out her pain to me for hours every night–mostly about my father cheating on her. I don’t remember if she mentioned his cheating explicitly, but we all knew that was what was happening.

My father did not hide it, by the way. He didn’t see any reason to hide it because if he was doing it, then it was fine. I’m not being snarky or hyperbolic, by the way. My father is a narcissist in the classic sense of the word, and he didn’t feel the need to justify anything he did. If he wanted to do it, then he did it. Why would he not?

Side note: Here’s the fascinating thing. I used to thinki that my father did not love anyone other than himself. Then, I thought maybe he loved my mother if he loved anyone. Now, howeve,r I don’t think he even loves himself. He certainly does not (or did not) enjoy life. He never had anything positive to say about anything, and I can’t remember many times when he smiled in delight about anything.

When I was in my twenties, my relationship with my parents was very rocky. That’s putting it mildly, by the way. Every time I talked to them on the phone (they had moved back to Taiwan when I was in my early twenties (father) and late twenties (mother). Or maybe early thirty for my mother), I was suicidal by the time I hung up. That’s not me exaggerating, either.

One time, my father was here after a conference in the west somewhere (can’t remember where). We got into a fight about something. Again, I can’t remember, but it’s not important. At some point, he demanded to know if I was grateful for all he’d done for me (home, money, etc. It was a lot. I’m not denying that). I told him that I wasn’t because I was a raging ball of anger at the time. Plus, he had pushed me so hard, I wanted to hit him where it had a chance of hurting.

He looked at me with such hatred in his eyes, I mentally recoiled. He spit out at me, “Then why should I love you?”

I died inside at that moment, but it also was a moment of such clarity. I had a sense by the time I was seven or eight that he did not love me. I knew it by the time I was in my early twenties. To hear him say it with such spitefulness was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t have to question it any longer.

Even though I knew it on some level, and even though I felt numb about my parents at that time, it still broke my heart. I simply said, “You’re my father. It’s your job to love me.”

I could not believe I had to say that to him. But that’s part of being a narcissist–the idea that you could love someone just for themselves is beyond you (or might be. I know it’s not the same for everyone).

My fdather is in the late stages of dementia, and it’s pretty grim. It’s weird talking to him now because he’s more expressive than he was earlier in his life. After I told him that he should love me because it was part of his job as my father, he started telling me he loved me when we talked on the phone, but it was very stilted.

Now, he’ll tell me with emotion in his voice that he loves me. I believe he actually believes it. Or at least that he loves the person he thinks of as his daughter. This was something I figured out after my medical crisis: neither of my parents love me as a person. They can’t because they don’t actually know me. And what they do know, they don’t like. I don’t think there is a single aspect of my personality that they think is a good thing. I made my peace with their disapproval, well, mostly.

How did I end up there again? My point is that I have had to soothe their emotions for all my life. I don’t know if I’m innately empathetic, but I have honed that skill over forty-plus years. Itt’s become second-nature to me, which is a positive AND a negative. Would I have chosen it for myself? I don’t know.

Back when I was in my twenties, it was the rage to say that bad things happened to people to make them have empathy. That enraged me because I didn’t think I needed to have gone through the horrid things I did in order to be empathetic.

I have realized, however, that some people do need to go through bad things in order to get empathy. Mainly, people who have been born into several categories of privilege and have not experienced the hard knocks many of us suffer through.

It’s so hard to explain privilege to people who have it because it’s normal to them. You can’t show the absence of something as easily as you can add to an experience/equation.

I’m done for now. More later.


If I ruled the world, part three

I have more to say about my ideal world because of course I do. In the last post, I was talking about From games, cishet white dudes assuming they’re the norm, and a bunch of other things.

Side note (yes, this early): That’s the way my brain works. I have discovered this is a neurodiversity thing, which makes sense. People get very exasperated with me because I can’t keep from going off on a tangent. In my writing, I love a side note, a footnote, an aside, and just anything that takes me down a different road.

Everything is interconnected to me. I can’t compartmentalize, which is to my detriment. I find it funny that I was talking about interconnectedness about a decade before it came a thing. I did not understand looking at, say, race without including gender. Things have an impact on most or all aspects of my life in different ways, and it isn’t as if I could turn off, say, being Taiwanese for a day.

There are some things about me that you wouldn’t know right off the bat just by looking at me. And there are some that you would. In the latter category, the following are included: fat, Taiwanese (Asian) American, AFAB, and old (although I look younger than my actual age).Included in the former are: neurogivergent, agender, and bisexual.

Even though I listed them separately here, I feel them all at the same time to varying extents. Each is a piece of the puzzle that makes up me, and if any one of those pieces is missing–well, it’s just not me.

There are other pieces, of course, including me being a writer, Taiji (especially the weapons) and now Bagua, my passion for FromSoft games, and others.

In my ideal world, I would be able to talk about any of these with ease. I would not feel like I had to hide any aspect of my personality/being. Not to say that I would talk about any or all of them all the time because there’s a time and place for everything, but ideally, I would not feel I could not talk about any of them at all.

I did not begin to suspect I had a neurodivergency until I was in my thirties. Even then, it was just a whisper of a hint of an idea. I have mentioned that the fact that I was talking about ADHD on Twitter with a friend and I said that I didn’t think I could have it because I was able to focus on one thing –sometimes, for a very long time.

He told me that hyperfocus was actually an indication of ADHD, which was news to me. I didn’t pursue it at the time, but I filed it away for further reference. Then I didn’t pull it out again for at least a decade.

Continue Reading

If I were monarch, part two

In the last post, I was musing about what my ideal world would look like. Of  course, it’s difficult to say because I can’t account for every issue that we would come up against, but I did mention a few of the bigger ones. Racism, sexism, queerphobia, classism, and ableism. Of course, there are more than just those (religious intolerance and ageism spring to mind), which proves my point that you really can’t fix everything. In fact, even if all these issues were to suddenly disappear, others would spring up in their place. Why? Because human beings love to categorize and to belong to a team. In order to be part of a team, you have to have someone(s) who are not on the team.

Here’s the thing. It’s fine and dandy to say that in my diversity town (instead of my ideal world) it would be cishet white dudes who would go through the experience in order to learn. The problem is that assumes that if someone is a minority in one area, then they would be sympathetic to other minorities.

This is most emphatically not true.

You would think I would have known this ages ago, but I foolishly assumed the best of people back when I was in my twenties and thirties. In fact, when I was in college, I had a friend who was adamant that I was an optimist. I was so offended because I was a cynical pessimist, damn it. He listened to me rant for a good five minutes before calmly saying, “You expect people to do the right thing and then are disappointed when they don’t. That makes you an optimist.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but then I closed it again. He was right. I did expect people to do/say the right thing. I was disappointed when that didn’t pan out. In other words, I was an optimist. Damn it. I was cynical because I kept getting my expectations dashed.

Side note: The reason I started thinking about all this is because I was getting frustrated in the RKG Discord when a few people would not acknowledge that Sekiro was not for everyone. Though no one would be so mean as to say ‘git gud’, it pretty much is that sentiment.

It’s fascinating as well as frustrating to see people (let’s face it. Mostly cishet white dudes) not be able to see that they are not the norm. And, to be fair, in this case, the Discord was built around From games (loosely), so many of the people who are in the Discord are From fans. I am, too, but I am not good at them. And I am one of the few people who can recognize that.

Continue Reading

What a wonderful (ideal) world

In dreaming up my diversity town, I got to thinking about how I would want the world to be in general. If I were made the monarch of the world, I mean. I would rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove or a velvet fist in an iron glove….Probably the former. I’m talking about pie-in-the-sky, it will never happen ideal.

So. As is my wont, I decided t o write a post and figure it out as I write. This is not specific to the diversity town I’ve been talking about in my previous posts, but more how I would like the world to be in general.

One. No labels. Not in the smarmy “I don’t see color” way, but in the “I don’t want to limit people” way. Labels are fine as long as they serve their purpose–which is providing a handy heuristic for something more complicated and complex. For example, yes, I’m Taiwanese American. That’s an accurate label, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A label never can.

The problem is that often, people think the label is the end of the discussion and not just the beginning. What I mean is that, yes, I’m Taiwanese American. But that only tells you a sliver about who I am. I would have to explain to you my family dysfunction, my father’s rampant nationalism, the negative experiences I’ve had in Taiwan, and growing up Asian in a very white Minnesota suburb in the eighties in order for you too have a better understanding  of that piece of me.

In general, I am not a fan of labels. Again, not in a snotty ‘no labels’ way that some people use it to avoid taking ownership of their political position. Ahem. That’s a pet peeve of mine, but it’s not my focus. I want to say that I mean it that labels should not be constraining, and I often find them to be just that.

Let’s take another example. Bi/bisexual. This was something I chose when I was in my early twenties–when I first realized that I was attracted to more than just men. I explored other terms such as omnisexual and pansexual. I didn’t like them. At all. They sounded (to me) pretentious and pompous. I didn’t like bisexual, though, because it felt limiting. But I decided it was the least-worst of the choices and went with it.

Continue Reading