Finding my Pride in Pride.
I grew up in a sheltered, conservative family. In the 90s one would say conservative but 2020 hindsight replaces that with systemically complacent.
My sister and I grew up in a white, suburban neighborhood in one of the [at the time] most affluent counties in New Jersey—Morris County. I was a smart kid, but I didn't know much. Diversity begets knowledge, and we had little of it growing up. I was always one of the only Filipinos. I frequently tell the story of having culture shock in high school because as far as I knew, I grew up as a white CIS male.
I also learned things later than most, and usually through small, traumatic experiences.
Let's fast-forward to my freshman year in college. I had joined PBL, which was the college arm of a business club I joined in high school. As this was one of my first forays into the web that is college social life, I befriended and hung around the officers of the club. One night we were in the living room of a friend's house. I was sitting on the couch, legs crossed. It was then that two of men that were at the gathering started hitting on me. As they were bigger than I was, they complimented my small Asian stature and one of them tried to grab my crotch.
I... didn't know how to deal with this. It was like the Big Bang had just occurred in my head, and galaxies of thought were still millions of years away from forming.
I quickly straightened my legs and cowered next to a friend. I was reeling. Laughing ensued—from everybody. You know, standard college stuff. I asked why they were hitting on me and after a little while they finally realized I was being serious:
We all think you're gay. You're always happy, and friendly, and smiling [...] I mean you skipped for a mile after dinner last week.
Here I am—a 19-year-old kid who had only ever dated nerdy Caucasian females adorned with thin-rimmed glasses—sitting there, learning how to speak again. Other than being confused and upset, I don't really remember much else of that night. But much like the "Asian father" discipline I had received as a child, I tried to forget about it.
Later that school year, right before Spring break, my first roommate had decided to move back to Colorado to be closer to family. The person that replaced him was a gay African American who consistently hit on me. The two weeks we roomed together were amongst the most turbulent. I spent nearly every waking moment as far from my dorm room as possible out of fear. Unexplainable, ignorant fear. I started spending nights at my friend's dorm room next door, unofficially becoming his roommate and eventually commuting with him from his family's home 30 minutes from campus.
That, along with my general ignorance of the greater world, contributed to this fear and confusion. Not only around what I thought about homosexuals, but my own gender identity. As I progressed through college, and my career, this general feeling of being "misplaced" followed. I wasn't the most masculine of guys. I didn't go to Cochella or Burning Man, I didn't drink whiskey, I didn't hang out after work—and I paid for that. I digress. This is another story in and of itself.
Forgive me if this is all over the place.
As an aside: Over the time I've been writing this, a lot has happened in the Twitch community with regards to survivors of sexual assault coming out and bravely telling their stories. While this post wasn't originally inspired by the stories told, it has certainly upended my original intention for the post. That said, I'll try and finish it in the way I originally intended. More than this though, I implore you to read the stories of the brave. We need to be better. We should have already been better.
When I've referred to the content creation industry in the past, I've talked about how life changing it was for me. Not only was I able to face myself in a light that I've never seen myself in before, I was able to be introduced to a rainbow of amazing individuals from all walks of life. It wasn't until my time at Twitch that I was able to interact with, understand, and befriend members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and it was instrumental at dissolving any of the ignorance that remained from my past.
I remember the first time a community member of mine felt comfortable enough to come out to us, to be the first group of people they told that they had found themselves.
It was a weird mix of new emotions. To be trusted with something so personal. I still don't really have words for it, but you couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Over the course of the last 6 years they've reached out to me and educated me about their experiences, their trials, and their triumphs, and I've found comfort in my own style of being, through them. I've continued to learn, ask the silly question here and there, and have become best friends with many in the community. They've been patient with me, and I am grateful for them.
You know who you are, and I thank you. Because of you, I am an ally.
A proud ally.