Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Gender Issues

Going harder on my teenage years

I have more to say about my teenage years.

I really wish that I had known much earlier that my family was fucked up. That it wasn’t just cultural difference. Yes, my family is Taiwanese American (my parents are Taiwanese, full-stop), but it was also highyl dysfunctional. My parents never should have gotten married, and my mother had (and still has) very toxic ideas about family and what it means to be a woman.

I had untreated depression and anxiety. To be fair to my mother, she found me a therapist when I was fourteen or fifteen, but it was a man from the local uber-Christian college. He was pleasant enough, but he was not used to dealing with emo angst-ridden teenage girls. Who weren’t white. I was also bullied a lot in school for many reasons, including being Asian and fat. I would venture, though, the fact that I was just weird contributed to most of it. And I mostly got teased by girls, which can hurt way more. Boys are mean–girls are cruel.

The worst was a girl who picked on me every day in…I want to say chemistry. Not sure of the class. But she was just mean to me. For no reason. Except that I was a weirdo. I did not knwo how to fit in (my empathic skills did not help me out until I went to college), and I just stuck out like a sore thumb.

This girl (I still remember her name) would not let up. I tried to ignore her, but it did not work. One day, I had enough. When she teased me, I grabbed her hair (very short), yanked her head back, and calmly told her I would kill her if she did not leave me alone. Then I let go of her hair and stared down at my desk. She told me I was making a fool of myself, but there was fear in her voice for the first time. She left me alone after that. I felt horrible, and I never did that again. I took the wrong lesson from it; that violence was not the answer. I mean, it’s not, but that shouldn’t have been the sole lesson. What I should have noted was that sticking up for myself worked. Then I should have found ways to stick up for myself verbally. But, you know, I bet she learend a lesson as well–to not fuck with someone. And, yes, sometimes, might makes right.

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I’ve been thinking about gender more because I watched Next in Fashion and had some really big issues with the way gender was portrayed. Or rather, how rigid gender was defined. It also darkly amused me that they were talknig about how gender didn’t matter, and yet, everything for women had to be form-fitting. And showing off nonexistent boobs.

When I was eight, I hated being a girl. Not because I felt like I was a boy–I didn’t. But because I was told by so many women in the Taiwanese church that I wsa not acting like a girl should act. Over and over again, I was admonished for liking to run outside, climb trees, and for laughing too loudly. I hated wearing dresses/skirts, and if I did stay inside, I just wanted to read. I did not want to play with dolls or makeup or clothes.

I never felt like a boy; I just did not want to be made to act like a girl. Yes, even as young as eight, I was aware that the gender I was born into was not the one that felt comfortable for me. My solution at that time was to pray to a God I didn’t really believe in to make me the other (binary at the time) gender, a boy. God was all-powerful–or at least, that was what i was told when I was a kid. It should have been very simple for him to make me a boy. Yes, I now know that God doesn’t work that way, but, honestly, why couldn’t He? I still don’t understand how the God who was presented to me when I was a kid as all-knowing and all-powerful couldn’t make me a boy if He so chose. He could have, the explanation went, but He chose not to because He works in mysterious ways.

Look. I get it. God is not a vending machine. You can put a quarter in Him and get a candy bar out of Him. He’s also not a McDonald’s in which you can have your burger made to order. At the same time, Christianity tried so hard to sell Him as the God who can do anything, you would not be remiss to wonder what you needed to do to get Him to pay attention to you.

Let me be clear. I have never felt like a boy. I never thought I was a boy. I just hated being a girl because it felt so limiting. Think about that. At eight years old, I had been fed so many poisonous beliefs about girls that I wanted to be anything but one. I used to wake up disappointed because I was still a girl. That was not a good feeling, I’ll tell you that much for free.

Then, when I was in college, I hung out with mostly dudes. I did not like so-called girly stuff like clothes and makeup. I did not want to giggle and gab because that was just not my style. I was a down-to-earth person. At the time, i liked sports. I did not like outdoor activities, which made me an anomaly in Minnesota, but I definitely leaned more towards the male side of things, and I didn’t see any reason to hide it.

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Fashion and fat-phobia go hand-in-hand

In my post yesterday, I wrote my review about the second season of Next in Fashion, a Netflix show. I have more to say about it, apparently. It’s been lurking in the back of my mind, waiting to have its day. The further I get from watching it, the more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think it’s because they tried so hard to be diverse and to say that everyone is welcomed  in the industry when it’s simply not true. It has never been, but I get that it’s nearly impossible to see outside your particular framework.

Or, as is often the case, the people who can see the issues have no power to change or improve the situation. there may be people at the entry level who realize what bullshit it is, but they can’t do anything about it. In addition, there are millions of hungry young people who are eager to be in the industry. They are willing to be exploited and abused. If any one individual isn’t, then they will get pushed out of the industry.

Side note: Another reason I don’t like fashion is because there is s much rigidity in the gender roles. There are men and there are women, and enevr the twain shall meet. On the show, it was considered daring to have clothing that people of any gender could wear. Or making a skirt for a man. I mean, come on. Putting a skirt on a dude is almost quaint at this point.

I was annoyed that in at least one of the briefs there was the edict to make an outfit for a woman and an outfit for a man. Yes, I know, that’s the way the industry has always been. That’s not next in fashion, is it? It’s just a little precious to me that they were saynig they were tyring to find something fashion-forward and daring when they can’t even get out of the binary and get past the fatphobia.

I know it’s asking too much. The industry is steeped with sexism and fatphobia. It’s not going to change any time soon. But, can they at least join us in this millennium? I don’t get the stubborn insistence that they have to design clothing for women who look like 12-year-old boys. Tall 12-year-old boys. No boobs, no hips, no ass. Thighs not touching, and, yeah, I’m going to say it, anorexic. It seems like the guys are getting thinner, too, which was not the direction I wanted this to go in. Equality to me means allowing every the opportunity to expand–literally. It’s really hard for me to have any interest in an industry that is actively telling women they need to be so much less.

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Next in Fashion Season 2 review

I don’t watch much TV, but one genre I like is what I call gentle competition. They are shows with contestants, but they are helpful to each other and the shows emphasize camaraderie rather than competition. Think The Great British Baking Show (you can tell when I last watched that show) or Sugar Rush. I prefer the ones that are a season long, eliminating one person per episode, but the latter’s format of four teams per show and one winner at the end of each show is fine, too.

My bestie, K, also likes these kinds of shows. She has a stressful job and it’s her way of relaxing. We talk about them and recommend shows to each other. She told me about the bartending one, which I really liked. Drink Masters, it’s called, and it’s on Netflix. I don’t love the fact that they feel the need to hire comedians for the emcee/host and feed them tired old jokes (for all the shows), but I’ve accepted that is part of the genre. Tone Bell is the host of Drink Masters, and he’s probably my favorite of all the hosts across all the shows. He’s much more laidback than the others and has a warmth that feels authentic.

I watched the first season of Next in Fashion, another Netxflix show, despite my skepticism. I am so not a fashion person. I mean, it would not be too much to say that I am the anti-fashion person because I just don’t care what I look like. Also, because my gender is undetermined at this point, I can’t with the hyper male/female emphasis in fashion. K and I talked (outside of this show) how we both were more comfortable with androgynous people in general. I have talked at length about my current identity (agender), which is mostly because gender is not important to me. I don’t see how I need to act or dress in a certain way because of my perceived gender, and it’s really hard for me to be all GIRL POWER when it’s based on something that is hyper-feminine. I’ll get to that more in a minute.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed the first season of Next in Fashion. There are a few reasons for that. One, the chemistry between the two hosts, Tan France and Alexa Chung, was strong. They seemed like two buddies who would go out and grab a meal together, just to chat about life in general. Yes, there were cringe-indiucing humor that wasn’t funny, but they seemed to be equals. I put that out there because I want you to remember it when I get to talking about the sceond season.

Another reason I really liked the first season is because the winner (spoiler, obviously), truly was different, fresh, and something that hadn’t been seen before.

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Gender! What is it good for?

In the last post, I was talking about a comment in the weekend Ask A Manager forum asking if a single woman and a married man could be friends. I digressed (as is my wont) before gettinrg to my main point about the comment. I was very sarcastic in recapping the comment (it was deleted by Alison) but in essence, it was saying that since Alison was grcious enough to allow LBGTQ+ questions, then we should STFU when straight questions are asked. It was upset by the comments from LBGTQ+ people (including me!), and it finished by asking how we would feel if they (presumably stragight people) dismissed our questions as LBGTQ+ nonsense.

Tell me you don’t consider LGBTQ+ people equal without saying you don’t consider LGBTQ+ people equal. The fact that she dared to drag Alison into the  mess is even worse (argument by authority, by proxy). It’s very much ‘This is MY house, and you are lucky that I allow you in it!” energy. The very fact that the commenter thought it was fit to mention that Alison was so graceful to allow us filthy queers to even ask questions in her pristine forum (again, not how she herself feels. At all) told me all I needed to know.

A question for the hets? All the fucking questions are for the hets! This is so fucking irritating about being the minority. There is a quote that is oft-said on this topic, but cannot be attributed (which means it’s probably a minority woman):

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

The finst time I read that quote, it hit me hard. I am a minority in so many ways, and I just dealt with the frustration of trying to explain my position to the majority by mentally shrugging my shoulders and moving on. But it still hurt. It still was frustrating. And this quote perfectly encapsulated why people in the majority push back so relentlessly on equality. They ARE losing something because they had a bigger piece of the pie for so long. It’s natural to feel upset when you get leess. That’s human nature.

In this case, though, as with many cases, it’s laughable. Heterosexual relationships/marriages are still the norm. Yes, being queer is more acceptable these days. We have same-sex marriage (still to my surprise), but that doesn’t mean discrimination still doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that het monogamous marriage isn’t still considered the norm.

The fact that this commenter STARTED by trying to put queer people in their place was very telling. It showed that we were there on the sufferance of Alison (in the commenter’s mind) and that we were outsiders and interlopers. The funny thing is that most of the queer people had thoughtful, nuanced comments. The lesbian who wrote that it was straight people nonsense, well, she wasn’t wrong.

Jealousy isn’t a straight thing, obviously. Neither is navigating friendships with people you’re attracted to/are attracted to you, but the way it was stated was very het. Single woman and married man. Marriage equality has been the law of the land in the States for less than a decade at this point. That means a lot of queer people didn’t have the legal protection that straight people had for much of our country’s existence.

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Friends of another gender flock together

In the weekend Ask A Manager, there was a question asked if a single woman and a married man could be friends.


Well! Glad that was an easy question to–oh, wait. What? Not everyone agrees with me? Oh dear. Do I really want to–


What year are we in again?

Checks calendar. 

2023. We’re in the year of our grumpiness 2023, and it’s still a question whether men and women can be friends*.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s tackle the thread and what was said. Remember, the site is overwhelmingly progressive women (in the commentariat). There were plenty of people saying why do you need different rules for differently-gendered friendships, and those are my people. But, there were sitll more than a small minority of people who had all these rules for a friendship of a single woman nda a married man. Funnily enough, most of them assumed you bcame friends after the man was married, not before.

In general, there was an undercurrent of ‘you can be friends, but not good friends’ for those on the ‘men are from mars and women are from venus’ crowd. There was even one who actually said something about that old saw about bisexuals…um, I may be old, but I’m not a saw! She tried to dance around it by saying that it was different culturalization, but not really. I gerw up in the same society she did–though I do have a Taiwanese background, which makes it doubly sexist. So you would think I would be more entrenched in sexist beliefs. But since my twenties, I have been questioning needless gender roles and tossing them aside.

That woman I just mentioned was a hot mess. She believed that every man wants to have sex with every woman, apparently, because she does not believe men and women can truly be friends. Which, fine for her (albeit very limiting), but she states it as if it were facts. Which it simply isn’t. It just is not. I have had many friends of different genders who have not wanted to bone me and/or vice-versa (including men!). Anectdote is not data, and my experience is just as valid as hers.

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This is who I am

In the last two posts, I have writtena about what I am loooking for in a partner. That is all fine and dandy, but there’s a more important list I need to share–who I am. This is me; I’m not going to change. I may fiddle at the edges and smooth out some of the rough spots, but I am not going to make any major shifts. I’m not going to suddenly be outgoing, love movies, and want to spend my time doing things. I’m not going to be a bubbly Pollyanna who only sees the good side of things. On the other hand, I’m no longer the bitter cynic who only sees the negative. Still cynical, yes. Still see issues in things, yes. But I’m very grateful to be alive, and I know I’m damn lucky.

So. In no particular order. Things you need to know about me (and accept) if you want to get with me.

1. I like Taiji (tai chi) weapons. A lot. They are my passion, and they are something I’m going to want to talk about. Not a ton and not every day, but they are going to come up. I practice every morning, and I’m always up for learning a new weapon. Currently, I’m on a break from learning a new weapon because I’m focusing on Bagua, which is another martial art. But I still practice all my weapons every day.

I like to relate my weapons to dating relationships. The sword is my first love. It was love at first sight, and it’s been an enduring love for a decade. It’s not the hottest relationship, but it sustains me. It’s what I draw upon when I need strength. It’s the comfy house silppers that you love to wear on the regular.

The saber, on the other hand, is like that person you hate when you first meet them. There is no rational reason for it, but you can’t stand the look of them. That was how I felt with the saber, but I had a reason for it. I was expecting it to be like the sword, and it was not. At all. I struggled with it and felt it was going against me. It took me a few years before I finally got the saber and made my peace with it. It’s still not my favorite, but I can deal with it.

There are others, but what is my favorite? What is the new hottness that gets my juices going? The double sabers. You might be surprised to discover that I LOVE the double sabers when I had such a difficulty with the single one. It’s because first of all, I got used to the single saber. The double saber is a set of two, obviously, that fits together as one (each hilt is halved).

I saw my teacher’s classmate demonstrate it at the demo in 2020. Right before the world closed down. I bought a pair immediately and demanded that my teacher show it to me because I was captivated. I wanted to be the human blender/Cuisanart, and this was the way to do it. My teacher taught me the first bit, but then–pandemic. I ended up teaching myself by watching my teacher’s teacher’s videos on it.

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You don’t know what you don’t know

Alternate title: I need to learn more basic stuff, but that’s not as catchy.

I have teeth problems that I need to deal with. I’m not happy about it, but at least I know what needs to be done. An implant and three crowns. Ouch, my wallet!

Then, my car started acting up. It wouldn’t start. I called my bro to verify that I should hook it up to the battery charger he had given to me, and I did that. It startd, but had an ominous meessage about checking the hybrid system. Plus a very scary red warning icon. My brother came over to check it out, but he brought the wrong gauge. He had suggested hooking it up to tthe battery charger overnight and fully charge the battery.

He explained, as he had before, that I drive the car too little in order to keep the battery fully charged. It charges as it runs. So he suggested as he had before to drive the car twenty minutse or so once a month. It was the same explanation he had given me the last time this happened which was several winters ago, but I hadn’t taken him up on it at the time. This time, once I got it statrted after jumping it, I did drive for twenty minutes. But that was with the message flashing, which made me tense as I drove.

Before my brother left last night, he hooked up my car to the battery charger and told me to leave it overnight. I did. This morning, I checked it and the car started right away. The dreaded message was gone! The ‘fill the damn gas’ icon came on, which I did when I went out to go grocery shopping. I was nervous after twenty minutes in Cubs, but the car started without a murmur.

The ‘fill the damn tires with air’ light is also on, but that’s a profblem for next time I go to Cubs me. I will pay more attention this time to my brother’s warning and take the car out more often. I am so relieved that it wasn’t the more dire option, but it exposed how little I know about cars.

My brother is my go-to about anything technological/electrical/car-related, but I probably should know more about the basics. On the other hand, it’s not as if it comes up that often so even if I were to learn more about it for myself, I’ll probably not remember by the next time I have to deal with the same problem.

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More what I am not than what I am

One thing I’ve accepted about myself is that I discover more about myself by discarding things I don’t like rather than gravitating towards things I like. In some cases, it’s just baked into my identity, such as being Asian rather than black or white. It goes even further in that I am Taiwanese, not Chinese.

Sexuality–I’m not gay or straight. Back when I first realize this, the vocab was limited. I reluctantly settled on bi because it was the best of the bad options. I didn’t like pansexual or omnisexual for various reasons. Bisexual felt limiting, but queer just means gay to most people. To be honest, I would like to be able to say, “I’m sexual” and leave it at that, but it’s too easy to be misunderstood or to reduce it to just sex.

I’m very much not into labels, but not in the “No labels!” sort of way. I understand that it’s helpful to have heuristics and to be able to  group people together just to have a connection, but also to have a collective power to fight injustices. Plus, it’s human nature to categorize, and there’s nothing wrong in that.

Unfortunately, I am prone to being overly picky about how I am represented. It’s in part because when I was young, my parents did not see me as me at all. They assumed things about me or imbued me with characteristics that they wished I would have. In addition, they lied. Not knowingly, but both of them were unreliable narrators.

When I realized this, I was in my late twenties/early thirties. It was a reveelation to me that my mother was not to be trusted. I knew that about my father from a much earlier age, but I thought my mother was different. She was, but not in a good way. If something happened that made her look bad, she forgot it happened. She literally erased it from her memory. I saw her do it when she was here during my medical crisis.

She and my father had a huge screaming fight in which they ran into the living room (where I was). It was terrible–really awful. My father yelled at me and I yelled back at him. Later, he wanted to talk about it with my brother, and he was telling a completely different story (about why he was upset. And downplaying the screaming). I told him that we did not need to talk about it, which made him upset. My mother wanted me to apologize to him, and I said, “Why doesn’t he have to apologize to me?”

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More boobs, er, hills to die on

More talking about boobs. I just watched a video by Rachel Bloom called Heavy Boobs. It’s very catchy and I agree with the sentiment…. but she says she’s Double D. That’s not heavy. That’s what I said I was when I stopped buying bras, but I knew I was MUCH bigger than that. Much. Like, Z big. Yes, I know that’s not an actual size, but someone with Double Ds is average. I just Googled. The average bra size is 34DD.

Of course, we all know that women’s clothing and numbers are bullshit. It’s one reason I just don’t any longer. I stick to clothing that is S, M, L, XL, XXL, and higher. Oh, yeah. XS and going in the other direction as well.

The reason I gave up on jeans is that when I was as my skinniest (eating disorder, yo), I could not find a pair of jeans that fit properly. In theory, I was at the ‘perfect’ size to find a pair. I could not. I spent hours in a dingy Target changing room with lights that hurt my eyes, discarding pair after pair while my then-boyfriend waited with four or five pairs of jeans in his hand. Jeans he was going to buy without ever having tried on because men’s clothing goes by measurement, and not some nebulous number system that has no basis in reality. At the time, I wore anything btween a 0 (yes, there is actuallly a size 0 for women, or at least there was twenty years ago) to 11, depending on the brand. That’s awide range.

I could not find a single pair of jeans that fit. I was getting more and more depressed as I tried on the jeans, and then I realized, “Fuck. I don’t need to wear jeans.” And I haven’t since. If I have to wear pants, then I wear flowing pants that have elastic at the waist and are comfortable. What a relief!

Hm. So at the end of the last post, I was writing about how women are often the worst for upholding the patriarchy. So many women who think women’s bodies are gross just makes me incredibly sad. I can’t even get angry about it. Going through life with that much safe-hatred is tiring; I jnow this from experience. And if you’re wasting so much emotion on hating yourself, well, that’s time you can’t spend doing literally anytihng else.

This was something I realized in my late twenties (though I could not fully embrace it for decades): It benefits the partiarchy to have women focused on hating their bodies because it means they won’t think about other things–including how much the patriarchy sucks. In the last decade or so, there has been a slow movement towards the idea that an indidual of a minority can’t do anything wrong. Menaing, if a woman does something, the action in and of itself is feminist.

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