Rewind back to the start. Past that one time you thought bleaching your hair would solve your problems. Even past your first dip into the dating app world that would give you those problems to begin with.
We’re going straight to those confusing teenage years. Who were you? What were your hopes and dreams? What were your fears and anxieties?
As queer people, we often didn’t get to openly live the life we wanted to live in our youth. Perhaps you weren’t in a safe place to date or identify the way you’d like. Discovering who you are and who you can be takes time too. Closeted or not, adolescence is tough and the added pressure of being different from what’s considered “normal” takes a heavy toll.
On RuPaul’s Drag Race there is an ongoing segment at the end of every season where RuPaul asks the queens what they would say to their younger selves. They’ll give advice on heartbreak and loneliness and finding happiness and resilience — and probably throw in a style tip or two.
It’s the inspiration behind part two of our Pride Month feature, where we asked LGBTQ2+ Asian millennials: if you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
With age (hopefully) comes a little bit of wisdom. When you can zoom out with the benefit of hindsight, suddenly what really matters comes into focus. Maybe you were too hard on yourself. Maybe you wish you lived more openly. Maybe you should have gotten that haircut sooner!
So, take a moment to reflect on what you would tell your younger self and read on to see what wisdom our contributors have shared.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Karl Chen – @uwuloo
Growth is not linear (or pretty) – and that is okay.
Going through life, there will be a lot of experiences for you to learn from. There will be good parts, but the bad parts are what will make you who you are in the future.
You will go through emotionally abusive relationships, you will experience the loss of close friends in the community to suicide, you will endure bullying for much of your life, you will fall victim to sexual assaults and much more.
These things are horrifying. Things that no one should ever go through. But you will be grateful that you went through them.
Because of these experiences, you will learn to be mindful, you will understand the power of speech and words, you will recognize your privilege, you will practice empathy, you will gain the knowledge and sensitivity to know how to help and protect those who are going through what you went through.
You will be okay.
Ariana Zhang – @arianatzhang
It’s okay to be scared, but on the other side of that fear is an endless abyss of joy and self-love. Also, girl. You literally wanted to marry your female friend in 1st grade. I’m impressed with how long you were able to deny your queerness. Also, just a heads up, you’re gonna be really cool as an adult. Just saying.
It’s okay to question yourself and your sexual orientation. Church and your culture has made you feel that you must follow heteronormative standards but you don’t need to. In fact question yourself and the world around you as much as possible. Also you’re still bi even if you lean more towards men or have only dated men; bisexuality has nothing to with dating history and everything to do with who you’re attracted to. Embrace it! Embrace your attraction!
I’d go back and tell myself that your parents love you more than you think they do and more than you perhaps deserve. Your parents will have always been cheering for you and one day you’ll be able to share moments of deep emotional bonding with them. Your parents love you despite your sexuality, and you will learn to put yourself in their shoes and grow with them. You will realize that the love from your parents, especially your mother, will translate into you one day hoping to bestow that love onto other people.
Stop trying to push things out of your head when you feel them. They are real and you can be, too, if you give yourself a chance. Continue to love your family, but also understand that they can be wrong and there is a world of people like you who are sending messages your way in the forms of books, movies, music, policy, and activism. Stop limiting yourself with ideas of pointless sacrifice when honesty can give you an entire planet that understands you and wants to listen to what you have to say. You’re actually wanted beyond the pick-and-choose attitudes that normally call you over.
Mikaela Kane – @mmkaela
To chase after more girls!!! LOL!!! I “hooked up” with guys I was not interested in whatsoever because I went to Catholic school in a close knit Filipino community and absolutely NO ONE was out of the closet when I was a teenager. If I could help my younger self I would tell her that the opinions of your peers will never matter in the long run. I would tell her to be more bold with dating and actually making an effort to form relationships with women and not constantly second guess that you can’t ask her out because she “seems straight”. I would hope that if my younger self did this, she would save herself from a world of heartbreak and confusion and depression that I felt after dating straight men.
Martin Hui – @martinhui
Life’s unpredictable, but trust that you have the capacity to grow, evolve, adapt, to tackle any obstacle along the way. Know that even in the worst of it, things get better.
Felicity Li – @felicetea.li
I would tell younger me, despite what her mom says, to get short hair as soon as possible because long hair isn’t really her look. As well, I would tell her to not care so much about what other people say and do what makes her happy.
Ren Flores – @ren.nifer
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to be more patient and kind with myself. My greatest enemy during my process of coming to terms with my sexuality was myself. If I was kinder to myself I think I wouldn’t have struggled so hard.
Julian Lao – @julianlao
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to live my life authentically and unapologetically. As I reflect back, I lived my life with many struggles based off of insecurities. Although, I do not regret how I dealt with it because it’s what made me who I am today. I can admit that my life would’ve been healthier because when I was younger, I really tried to change myself to please others, to please society. By wearing blue coloured contacts to look less Asian and to trade in my bubble tea for a Frappuccino at Starbucks because I was told it was too Asian. I felt as if this took a toll on “who I was” with all this pressure to be someone other than me. As a result, I lived many years not focusing on who I am, what my actual interest and passions are but rather one that was fabricated towards an “ideal image” of self. Consequently, I lost time in getting to know my cultural heritage and the things that makes me “me”.
Chang Xu – @Xuyuanify
Do not despair and give in to “norm” because the “norm” is not always “right” – stay true to yourself and accept others for who they are.
I would tell myself not to try so hard to fit in with all the other kids. It’s a very lonely experience through middle and high school if you’re not authentic to yourself, so if you’re trying to be someone to fit in, then they weren’t your friends to begin with.
Ri – @klauses_eyeliner
Honestly? I’d just tell her that even though it sounds super cliché, things really will get better in the end. She even got straight A’s! (But that’s the only straight thing).
Francis Tran – @transtampp
A piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to always be unapologetically you! You shouldn’t care about what others think of you and don’t sell yourself short because of who you are and what you identify with.
Brandi Kwan – @retrodemon
One thing I would tell my younger self is to be more open. I’ve always been open about my sexuality, but never about what I truly wanted and needed to fulfill my sexuality. I’ve dated men and women, I classified myself as “Bi-sexual” even though I knew I was very gay. I didn’t want to feel that I was too different from the crowd since all my friends in high school were all very straight. After graduating from high school and coming to the realization that I was completely gay, I felt a sense of relief. I was able to take a deep breath and not feel embarrassed or ashamed that I was different from everyone else around me.
Showna Kim – @showna_kim
Actually, I did not know what LGBTQ meant when I was young. But after one of my best mates died from suicide, I would know about LGBTQ, but I would not tell anyone for ages why my friend died. Because I noticed that most of my mates did not get my friend’s gender and death and no one wanted to bring up the topic too. I think that was really painful in my heart that I did not say why my friend died honestly until moving to study in England. So if I could go back in time, I will say to younger Showna, “Do not worry about what people say about you and your friend’s death. Just be honest.”
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