I’m NOT Afraid – and here’s why.

Yet another person – this time a straight ally – praised me yesterday for being super open about my sexuality. He’s a firm believer in Christian faith and he assured me that I have the unconditional love and support of the God of Christianity, even though I may not be a believer. I get appreciated like that from time to time by unexpected people – not all of them are that religious though – and it makes me feel good about myself. Their words remind me that, even though how I express myself and what I do may seem utterly ridiculous and totally out of place in society, I am still a decent human being, that I have the right to express myself freely, and that my way of life actually inspires some people to dare to be different or to simply be who they are and not be scared to show it. The last GSA meeting for my freshman year was quite memorable. We had some activity where each member was told by everybody else at the meeting one good thing about them. A lot of people remarked on my confidence and daring in being out and expressing myself and encouraged me to keep up the good work. It was some precious thin moment, and I decided there and then that I would always present myself genuinely at all times. The promise, however, isn’t working out very well so far though – but that should be a topic for later. Recently, I got to wondering why and how I’ve been able to express myself the way I do and not be scared or shy about it. These would explain:

  1. I came out in a liberal college campus setting in the blue state of Iowa.
  2. I have never encountered hardcore discrimination based on any part of my identity – race, religion or sexual orientation.
  3. I am a centre-stage person who just has to be in the spotlight and show myself off to the world.

I had come out to a few friends before I left for college that I was interested in boys. Some scoffed at me and some didn’t care – because I was pursuing a girl back then. Then I got to college and lived with a don’t-ask-don’t-tellbisexual/bi-curious” label. Then I came out around mid-November. There were conflicts between me and my family but I could easily shove them off and did so, since we were living 7000+ miles apart. The college community, in general, was accepting – although I wish they’d been more supportive and resourceful. We’re in Iowa, yes, where there’s been marriage equality before it was cool, but I’m not from around there. This queer bloke from a third world country who just came out needs something, which I was never sure what. Anyway, in February, I was one of the school’s 4 delegates to the 2012 MBLGTACC (Midwestern Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender Ally College Conference) – which was fun and educational and is by far the proudest moment of my life. In April, I was strutting all over campus (classes and all) and the downtown area in heels and makeup. I once even went to a Karl Rove vs. Dee Dee Meyers debate that a school fraternity organized in drag. No, I wasn’t trying to make a political statement – the GSA was just hosting a drag-themed tea before the debate and I just happened to go there in drag. But a lot of students took it as a statement. Must’ve been quite a scene, ahem! College makes people do crazy things, and I sure am a college student.

The blind fears no ghosts. ~ That’s an old Burmese saying. In my life, I’ve always been different from the crowd but nobody has ever done me serious harm except look askance at me or talk behind my back. Back in school, I was always different from other “bright” kids – as in I never got high grades although I was a good student – but teachers didn’t really have much to complain about me and no one really got jealous of me (or so I thought). I am half-Chinese and half-Burmese and Burmese people are racist against the Chinese, but the racism here is covert and I’d always denied my Chinese identity, so nothing bad came my way. And coming out was no big deal in college. Even when I finally got home, my gayitis had worsened to the point where I can’t go back into the closet. I hear constantly about institutionalized discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people from different parts of the world and the occasional suicide news of LGBT people – which should be intimidating for a gay person who is so very out and have struggled with some depression. But I have not even faced the occasional name-calling. Nobody has ever used the word “gay” to refer to something stupid or undesiring in my present, and I have been called a “faggot” only once – and that one time was by a close friend who substituted that word for “bitch“, which I told him would’ve been preferable. Of course, I’ve gotten a few remarks with the Burmese version of “gay” which is unclear as to whether it refers to homosexuals, drag queens or trans-women and is a taboo and offensive word. But those negative remarks (about my sexuality) in Burmese barely make sense to me, and thus I try to educate them when I can – which is very rarely – or tell them off. But then again, those negative remarks from the Burmese community aren’t very many either – at least not in my face. I know there are a lot of things about me going around town; I know there’s a “Let’s Defame Han Zaw!” party going on in town and I know people, some by name, who are celebrating Han Zaw’s falling to the status of a second-class citizen because he’s no longer a “real man” and all that shit. But what they do doesn’t matter, because they don’t matter to me – or anyone, if at all. I am a whole human being, with talents, skills and abilities, capable of dreaming, making plans and achieving them, able to love, lose, move on and do so many wonderful things in my own life with my own mind, body and will. I am completely oblivious to the nay-sayers about me, because they would never have the guts to stand before me, look me in the eyes and tell me the same things that they say behind my back. And while they celebrate what they perceive to be my downfall, I am working my ass off for myself, those who love and support me and those like me who have to live in oppression.

Batman roller-skating in underwear

When people complain about how I express myself:

On an unrelated side note, my mom has suggested over and over again I shouldn’t be out of the closet because people hate the LGBT community and I will never be treated as a normal human being. I beg to differ. Oppression and discrimination against our community is exactly why I should be out when I can be out! There needs to be resistance against this oppression or else …

I love the stage, I love the spotlight, I love attention. I admire who are able to and do stand up in front of or in the middle or a crowd and tell stories, with or without drama. I like to tell stories, too, mine and others’ and I happen to like it smothered in some drama. I’m a natural performer, and, although you may know what I’m gonna do next in the centre of attention, you’ll never guess why or how. Anyways, this is getting egotistical, so, um … Yeah, I like to express myself – whether you consider what I present or how I present great, mediocre, mundane, brave, shameless, taboo, interesting or boring. I’m not gonna say I don’t care if there’s an audience, because I do. I want and need an audience but I’m not going to dictate who is to be my audience and who is not. I know I always have 3 crowds around whatever I do: those that cheer me and stick around, those that jeer me and try to bring me down; and those that don’t care and turn around. (Geez, this is oddly rhyming.) The sizes of the crowds may vary and I’m good with that, as long as I can be me and show the world that I am so.

Oh yeah, I am NOT afraid! I have my reasons.

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