on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

representation matters

Yesterday I watched a video interview with Kristen Kish, whom I discovered via Iron Chef. Apparently her mentor put her up to compete in Top Chef – she was reluctant to, but her mentor said that there needs to be representation of women chefs on tv. I found myself nodding vehemently along with that remark, especially after watching a ton of cook shows dominated by men. It was wonderful for me to see a queer asian female demonstrating her skills and passion as a chef.

It is similar to seeing Barack Obama becoming president, regardless whether we agree with his politics. We’ve been somehow taught by culture that only certain types of people can belong to certain positions. Perhaps human beings are naturally herd creatures and will only venture out of our comfort zones if there are visible roads ahead. A very rare minority blaze the trail, and we are so much better off because of them.

It is one thing for trail blazers to carve out new paths quietly, another thing for them come out to the world and say, hey I did this thing no one has done before and perhaps you can do it too. It is always sort of scary to be the first one, especially if it is a socially unaccepted situation, like the first person to come out with HIV.

I am not a trail blazer, but I seem to have a penchant for finding less-trodden paths. And I know these paths exist only because there were people who were willing to be public examples of having trodden these paths. There are plenty of subjects there were formerly socially unaccepted but now moderately tolerated at least, because of some people willing to represent these matters. I believe in a pay-it-forward system. If we have benefitted from others before, we should try to benefit people who are yet to come.

This is why I write I guess. I also unashamedly post public pictures of my partner and I celebrating our monthly anniversaries. Yes, being in love is a somewhat private thing. Yet love as a queer person can never be a private thing in a world like this. Straight people can be private because no one is going to bat an eyelid when they hold each other’s hands in public. They don’t get beaten up for public displays of affection. For people like me, the attempt to be private buries the path a little for others. It matters to see queer couples in a healthy mundane relationship, because the mainstream media likes to portray us as deviants. There is nothing deviant about my relationship apart from the fact that we share the same biological sex. We decorate our home, go on food adventures together, support each other’s journeys – just like any other couple. Representation and advocacy cannot be a once a year thing. It has to be baked into our daily lives, until no one will take a second look when they see us together.

I have made many unpopular choices in my life. I had the courage to do so only because I knew there were others doing so – however rare. Dropping out of school, choosing to become a designer when it was unpopular and lowly paid with hellish working hours, becoming self-employed at a time when it was pariah to do so, working remote in the mid 2000s, publicly writing about depression, attempting to work in SF even though I didn’t have the educational qualifications (but I did have the corresponding experience – though the process was a real pain), deciding to come back when the tech industry was at its peak, publicly writing about chronic suicidal tendencies, publicly documenting the journey of my chronic illness…It has been extremely lonely, but I continue to be driven by believing that representation matters. My loneliness in public will keep some random stranger on the internet a little warmer because they will know they are not alone.

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