Pride: A Reflection

It shouldn't simply cease to exist with the end of June.

Photo by Simon Chetrit, featured on Man Repeller

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. Earlier this month, I contemplated the inherent queerness of my favorite bisexual musician, Michelle Zauner. Next, I took you all on my journey of discovering my queer style. Finally, for the end of Pride month, I reflect on Pride, what it means to be queer, and why it can't simply end here.

I'm happy with my gayness.

No, not happy. Ecstatic. Out-of-this-world delighted, filled with joy and pride with my gayness, of my gayness, for my gayness. For those who are also gay, lesbian, queer, trans, nonbinary, agender, asexual, bi, pan, etcetera, I am also ecstatic for your queerness.

I see you. I hear you.

I might not live the same experiences as you. I don't know what it's like to have severe cases of gender dysphoria that lead to dramatic bouts of anxiety and depression, and I will never understand the contradicting subjectivity of being a queer woman of color. Nonetheless, I see you. I hear you. That's the beauty in finding pride with our queer community—no experience is identical, yet we are still able to be visible and form our own queer space in a world that tries to tear us down. In a political environment that strips our rights and identities through toxic policy change. In a society that views us as un-normal, as deviant, as straying from the default of the heteropatriarchy. Most importantly, we create a community that, although holding differing experiences and lives, works together to be radical against the idea of straightness, of conforming to typical gender ideologies, of conforming to gender or sexuality at all. 

And at the end of the day, finally finding pride means that

We exist. We exist. We exist.

This is why pride month this year has been both so groundbreaking for me, but also why I've been so outward about my queerness this June—after 20 years of living, I finally feel like I exist as my most authentic self, like this is where I've been trying to be my entire life. Maybe I realized I needed to be that person when I was nine and was the only one of my friends who didn't have a crush on any 4th-grade boys and didn't develop "feelings" for one until three years later when some of my boy-obsessed friends started ~dating~ and I forced myself to like this one boy only because he had good music taste for a 7th grader. Or I could have found it when my crush on Naya Rivera from Glee emerged in 8th grade, and I felt my world collapse after watching her character come out to her abuela and I cried then because I had an empathetic nature but now I realize I felt such heavy emotions because I was worried the same thing would happen to me. But no, I found it at age 20. At age 18 I was married to the fact that liking girls wasn't a one-time-thing, at age 19 I understood that only liking girls wasn't a one-time-thing. At 20, I feel the sun for the first time as it hits the skin that I finally feel comfortable in, and I feel an equal sense of exuberance and calmness when not only I call myself a lesbian, but I say it to others—not in a way that implies coming out, but in a matter-of-fact way. Yes, I like girls, and no, it shouldn't come as a shock or be a big deal, but still, I will be radical about it until it is like this for everybody, for all races, for all genders, for those who don't wish to conform to gender, for those who don't have the privilege of being out. 

I attended not one, but two prides this summer because I wanted to find pride in every way imaginable. I spent the past 20 years learning and living and understanding that this form of joy can really be found everywhere—in the streets, in the home, on the screen, in our words, in gestures and policies and movements, minuscule to radical, and in the slightest of actions like the happy tears we cry because we are loved, and we are living. I wanted to manifest these into physical events this Pride month—DC Pride and NYC Pride—because one just isn't enough, especially after experiencing my first official Pride last summer in New York and feeling the world shift beneath my feet because for the first time in my life, I felt visible. 

In DC, the place I've called home for the past two years, I got to experience Pride for the first time with all of the people I hold close to my heart. I got to share the masses of joy we have for our identities with my queer friends, and my non-queer friends allowed me to be seen, to have my own space. I found pride in the new friends I made, in the old friends I cherish. Sharing my most authentic self with the people that see me for who I am is crucial to my well-being; experiencing Pride alone feels not only futile but, in the simplest of terms, downright lonely. Even if you do experience it alone, make friends! Share the love! Hug a stranger who needs one, kiss a cutie if you're feeling bold. It is our day.

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In NYC, my experience was drastically different, but I've been thinking about this day nonstop for the past five days. Last summer, I attended my first NYC Pride, but this year, I felt that I truly experienced my first NYC Pride. It's difficult to put into words the happiness and pride I felt, so I'll instead discuss those feelings in moments, in images, in memories.

I saw pride by the thousands of people who took over NYC, who queered NYC, who made the space their own for at least that single day. I witnessed pride when passing two girlfriends kiss freely in public, when passing a group of teens who couldn't be older than 15 and decked out in queer gear, unabashedly showcasing their identities at such a young age, when watching a young, trans person waving their flag with a huge smile on their face, watching the parade alone but feeling the joy of everyone around them.

I felt pride when witnessing the kindness of strangers—at a bar while waiting in line for the bathroom, on the streets when trying to find friends that were packed into tight crowds, on the subway when people would ask me for directions then, before leaving, happily say "Happy Pride!" to me. "Happy Pride" doesn't cover the full range of emotions I experienced. I felt pure joy for myself and others who are out and proud, relief for those who are not out but could still be their authentic selves and partake in Pride this year, sadness for those who are not here today due to hate crimes, police brutality, sexual assault, mental illness, and how all of these disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ people.

I remembered the people who brought us Pride—Black, trans sex workers that did not want marriage equality but simply wanted the radical right to live and exist and to not be affected by these systems of oppression. I saw the corporatization of Pride, I saw police roaming through the streets, and I only felt disappointment—this is not what Pride is about. It is, as I said earlier, about the radical right to exist, to go against these structures that only harm us and others in the community. It is not about assimilation, it is about simply being, no changes necessary. But in a world where being queer is not necessarily accepted we have to be radical, we have to be loud, we have to be angry. If we have privilege within the community, we must let others who have less speak, and we must listen. We must stand up for the rights and well-beings of all members of the community—the people of color, the poor, the ones kicked out of their homes, the trans members who are not cis-passing.

Pride is not a party. Pride is not a corporate celebration. But most importantly, Pride does not simply end here. We not only have to be loud and proud of our identities all year, but we also have to speak out about these issues all year. We should be able to take up our own queer space 12 months of the year, for all years of our lives. I find pride in everything, all year long. If you identify as someone in the queer community, you should do the same. Pride is not a month-long celebration where all of our proudness and loudness about our identities are shoved into 30 short days. Pride is year-long. Pride is lifelong. I make pride a crucial part of my identity that lives on no matter my circumstances. Are you doing the same?


After Four Years of Blogging, I Finally Understand My Personal Queer Style

A journey just as difficult as my coming out process.

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. Last week, I wrote a feature on one of my favorite queer musicians. Next up: a personal essay on my own journey with discovering my queer style. 

It took me six years after my initial fascination with women to finally come to terms with the fact that I not only would never be in a relationship with a man, but also that my identity is inherently tied to this fact and that queerness will always be a crucial aspect of my life.

Whew. Glad I got that out of the way.

Obviously, it took a lot more than a simple realization to make it to where I am today. Who knew that the coming out process wasn't a linear and singular narrative?! Nonetheless, I made it. Meaning that I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, finally feel comfortable about writing to the world about a part of my life that I feel so strongly about.

While sexuality has always been this minuscule detail in my life that I never paid much attention to until a few years ago, style has been there since day one. When I was ten, I cared more about my outfit than I did having friends; at 13, I thought I was the coolest kid in middle school because I solely shopped at Urban Outfitters; three years later, I understood that style was a huge part of my identity and I started this blog to celebrate that realization. For four years! It's insane to think that I've been so into my personal style that I've been constantly writing about it for that long, especially when it's taken so many turns that it's hardly possible to track every phase I've gone through. One could argue that my journey with discovering my real style has held far more challenges than actually understanding my sexuality. A bit exaggerated? Maybe. But when I finally realized that my style and queerness are so heavily connected, maybe saying that the two have been difficult journeys is accurate, as so much overlapping has occurred. 

Let's look into my dark, dark past, shall we?

This is when I was 16 and thought pants were the devil. I also thought that I would have long hair for the rest of my life and wear a full face of makeup until death. My cringe-y, junior-year self, aka my peak of femininity.

17-year-old me did a little better: she discovered bleach for the hair and sneakers for the feet! Also, the dress carries some qualities I'd wear today—we love a good button-down dress. Femininity still there, but it feels a bit cooler.

She discovered her first article of clothing that would hold a lot of queer power, but she didn't know it just yet. She also discovered short hair! This is two weeks into my freshman year of college, thinking I was super cool because I was wearing a dad shirt and had a bob, but I still felt v femme by wearing a denim skirt that I no longer own because I can hardly move in it. However, this shirt is what made me give up bras for the most part, and today, I wear it whenever I want to feel like my gayest self. Very queer, right?

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Me in NYC, I'm 19. A few months before this photo was taken I had ~officially~ started calling myself and telling other people that

*insert dramatic pause*

I am a LESBIAN!!!!

BUT! I didn't know how to incorporate this wonderful, wonderful identity into my style just yet. I was struggling with the fact that I was gay but was head-over-heels in love with fashion and knew how heteronormative the industry is and that liking clothes isn't a typical thing that lesbians partake in. Toxic ideas, yes, but they were also very relevant ideas that I could not get out of my mind. I knew I didn't necessarily feel like a typical femme lesbian—all of the representations I was exposed to were very invested in lipstick and wearing skirts, and I learned to hate the two but was still attached to a personal style that was not high femme but nowhere near butch.

I knew I loved pants, especially of the baggy type, but also liked tight tops and fun feminine shoes that seemed to define my style even though I had no idea how to put that concept into words. And that resulted in the above 'fit: a look that did not resemble my queer style at the time but, after some analysis one year later, might just be the mirror image of what I internalized with my newfound queer sexuality.

After (sadly) leaving NYC for school came a long year of some heavy soul-searching. You could say that my year as an 18-year-old was when I spent hours, days, even weeks trying to figure out what I identified as, and that my year as a 19-year-old was when I rethought everything I once knew about style. I ditched trends and prototypes that I assumed queer women to look like, played with the idea of masculinity and femininity a lot, I realized that I hated the concept of dresses unless I felt like my most authentic, queer self in them (like this one). I fell in love with pants and graphic tees and realized that I equally liked sneakers and heels, depending on my mood. I kept cutting my hair shorter and shorter but still felt an attachment to feminine pieces, but would only be able to wear them paired with masculine pieces—think open-toed mules with Levi's or a midi dress with Vans.

I've always known since day one that my personal style was constantly shifting, but now that I connect this phenomenon to queerness, I feel like I've unlocked a mystery I've been trying to figure out my entire life. Identity and style are connected, but what happens when the two are constantly shifting?

Does one impact the other, do they move together, does one change while the other stays the same?

The answer that might be frustrating to some is all of the above. The beauty in style is that it can perfectly match your internal identity, can partially match it, or just be a completely different vessel that showcases a whole other aspect of your life. You don't need to present yourself in a way that society expects you to—the whole point of queerness is to be authentic to yourself, and this is evident in what we choose to put on our bodies.

So I finally figured it out. Some days I like masculine looks, other days I like feminine ones. Most days I like a mix of the two. I feel really good in my short hair, I feel on top of the world when I wear what feels comfortable and true to my identity. That's what personal style is all about, no?

And to give photographic evidence of my final form:

Top, jeans, and sunglasses by Madewell (yep, still working there). Shoes are vintage.

I could get into the science of this whole look: I finally feel like my true, lesbian self with my new hair, double-denim is a look that makes me feel gayer than ever, and I have a perfect mix of masc and fem features to make myself look like the queen of androgyny.

But technicalities aside, this outfit feels like the epitome of my queer self, at least for now, just because, to put it simply, I feel like myself. It feels good. Not much more to say on that one. I wish I could write a dissertation on this singular outfit, but style has always been a visual vehicle for the ideas that I can't seem to put into words. The outfit says it all!

TLDR: if you're queer and have not taken a second to think about your style, stop and think. Truly think. Are you presenting in a way that you want to present, even if it doesn't match up with society's expectations? Or are you letting other queer representations do the work for you instead of carrying a style that you wish to carry? I've said it once and I'll say it again: to be queer is to be your most authentic self, so your style should also be only what you want it to be. It's that simple, even in a world where sexuality and gender get more complicated each day.

To my fellow queer readers: do you feel that your style and queerness are inherently connected? Let me know in the comments—I'd love to chat!

Photos shot by Lucy.


Japanese Breakfast, the Queen of Bisexual Lighting

The woman that changes every mindset you once had about queer music.

Photo courtesy of Out.com

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. First on the list: an ode to one of my favorite musicians, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, and how she breaks all the boundaries set up for her as a queer female musician.

When listening to what we would today call "queer music," there lies an abundance of expected requirements that should be checked off before ever deeming it to belong in that category. First, at least 85% of the music has to be about sex, and this sex (obviously) has to be with the same gender. And of course, if we're on the topic of gender, the sexual and/or romantic interest's gender has to be explicitly stated. Names, pronouns, the whole shebang. Apart from the music, the presentation of the said musician must fit into queer standards. If she's not butch in the slightest, can she really create queer music? If she's not currently in a relationship with a woman or gender non-conforming person, or at least not trying to be in this sort of relationship, how can she both be queer and fit under the category of "queer musician"?

Well, if you were unaware, the entire idea of queerness is to break boundaries, diminish set categories, and, most importantly, muddle all ideas that we once assumed were true. Sure, some of my fav queer musicians are what I described above, like Syd from The Internet who solely sings about her explicit desires and relationships with women. But it's inaccurate—and 100% not necessary—to explicitly bring your queerness to everything you do, especially if it has to fall under these rigid expectations that the general public wishes to see. 

Upon seeing Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Michelle Zauner, last week, I realized that she not only is an excellent musician and performer who breaks boundaries for women in indie rock, she also extends past everything we ever thought could compose the typical prototype of a queer musician. She doesn't outwardly say she loves women in all of her music—what's the fun in that? Of course, we always love an artist who does just that (talking about Syd again, and maybe also Hayley Kiyoko), but the beauty of music, and especially queer music, is that not every single part of a musician's life has to be put on display through their art. We don't expect straight musicians to be transparent on all their personal tea, so why should we expect queer ones to? And yes, while I do love a queer girl anthem that I can play on repeat while going through the motions of crushes and relationships with women, something about those songs that are implicitly queer are even more fascinating, more mysterious. Maybe Zauner doesn't do the same work as my other favorite gay ladies, maybe she is married to a man, making some question her authenticity as a queer woman. But her blurring between private and public spheres is an inherently queer act in itself. Let me explain.

Photo courtesy of Under the Radar
  • She's a Korean-American woman living in a culture that doesn't seem to understand her identity... so she named her project Japanese Breakfast instead. She says that American culture fetishizes Japanese culture, making it a more interesting name, and that, more interestingly, Korea and Japan have a painful history, and that, finally, people constantly assume her to be Japanese because of both their own ignorance and of the deceitful name. And it shows in her music: 

  • Speaking of the above music video, it can be implied that she's singing about loving a woman based on the few scenes of her riding on the back of a motorcycle with another woman. BUT... the beauty in the song is that gender is not a significant part of the song itself; it's actually never mentioned. Zauner could be singing about anyone, which is all the more suitable, as it's clear that she might be bisexual (or at least queer, which she's been public about in the past).
  • She might not publicly use the term bisexual to identify herself, but it's obvious that she's a big fan of bisexual lighting. Janelle MonΓ‘e showed us the beauty of that aesthetic in her "Make Me Feel" video, a song that makes it quite obvious that MonΓ‘e is into all genders, and Japanese Breakfast uses it on more than one occasion: in many of her photoshoots, like the one above, in much of the lighting she uses while she performs, displayed below,

          and also in my favorite music video (and song) for the artist:

  • The above song and visual are a mixture of both musical and artistic genius and pure evidence of the queering of love music today. How, you might ask? Well first off, that blue, purple, and pink lighting combo displayed over an overly heteronormative school dance has to mean something. And the three girls, walking into the gym wearing full makeup and men's suits, automatically disrupt everything we once assumed about school dances and gender roles. Are they sad that they're coming in alone? Are they longing for a certain boy, or for a certain girl? We don't know. What we do know is that the lead falls in love with herself at the end, which is something you really don't see with representations of women in music, or even more prominently, representations of women of color.
  • Finally, Zauner's style of music carries a duality that, once again, makes us question everything we once imagined about queer music. She knows how to shred it on the guitar, she knows how to hype a crowd with her intense vocals and on-stage dancing, yet she also is really good at making her audience feel "tender", as she described two of her songs ("This House" and "Triple 7") which she performed near the end of her set. However, this isn't a set binary—she likes to sing about marriage in a way that is only depressing, and one of her songs is solely about falling in love with a robot (robots are genderless, correct?). Pretty queer indeed.

Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue.

Existing as a queer, Korean-American woman in the rigid world of indie rock is already difficult enough, but creating music that doesn't fit the mold that was already set up for her is near impossible. And that, my friends, is how you flip the scene.


Love Summer, Hate Everything Else

The hashtag that swept the nation.

As I lay by a pool, preferably a rooftop one in NYC but realistically my campus one in DC, feeling the sweat drip down my back and the humidity cling to my skin, sipping on preferably a cold glass of Provencal rosΓ© but realistically some good ol' H2O to stay hyrdrated, wearing nothing but a bikini and cat-eye sunglasses that keep falling down due to the constant stream of sweat on my nose, I have realized that it is summer.


I dreamt of it for eighteen months, I looked to cinema to calm my winter blues, I endlessly scrolled through Instagram just to catch some inspiration and to keep my hopes up while I dreadfully waited for the season to come. 

Now that it's here, I'm surprisingly not sure how to feel. The East coast skipped straight past spring and right into the heat of summer, going from 40 degrees to 85 in the span of one day. The lack of a transition period completely threw me off, and my summer dreams 180ed into an entirely different plan. My NYC rooftop instead became the same DC campus that made me hate winter, and the dream of summer became its sticky, sticky reality. DC humidity is real. But! I knew I had to continue dreaming the summer dream. I waited what felt like years for the three months of sweat and sun, so I was going to make it count.

Then I stumbled upon the hashtag #lovesummerhateeverythingelse, thanks to my fashion role model Leandra Medine Cohen who coined the term and started a revolution. I immediately started noticing all of the wonderful, wonderful perks of summer: 
  • My birthday practically kicks off summer (May 31st, if you were curious). Also, Gemini season is arguably the best, right next to Cancer.
  • It being 100% acceptable to eat ice cream every day, even when you're trying to be dairy free.

  • It also being 100% acceptable to not wear pants or an actual top, especially when drinking rosΓ©.

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  • Or just ditching the top altogether.

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  • The ability (and freedom) to spend days reading. And not for school, but just for the sake of reading.
  • Way too much color, both because why not, and because Pride month is here!
  • Those barely-there dresses that require nothing but a body but really only work between the months of May and August.

  • Those tiny sunglasses that seem to hardly protect our eyes from the sun but look really cool.

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  • Drinking approximately five La Croixs every day, and always having a backup in your bag. 
  • The ability to finally play those songs that make you dream of summer without being sad, because, my friends, the wait is over.

If you've enjoyed my other playlist posts in the past, get excited, because they are officially becoming a regular thing! Once a month, that is.