Ramadan Day 17 – Pulse

Today my heart aches for the Latin@/Latinx community, for the dear souls that lost their lives or were wounded by the homophobic violence at Pulse. I kneel and kiss the ground in memory of Orlando.

Today I can barely focus remembering the personal despair of that time. It’s blurry to me. Yet the pain of today, of Orlando, is fresh and sharp. Is this how I should’ve felt last year?

I feel light-headed not fasting — as if I’ve lost something.

Weeks before the shooting, after my breakup, I no longer had my mental health. I couldn’t fast. I couldn’t speak to friends. I wanted to mourn, but I was already grieving. I was isolated. I lost my connection to community. I was consumed with rage. I was depressed.

Many people called me, queer people, queer Muslims, queer whites. friends, acquaintances. people who needed to talk about Orlando. they were depressed. who asked me to listen. but i couldn’t help. i said no. i said other things too, but i don’t remember.

i’m foggy as to who asked me how i was doing. were you there for me? i can’t remember. i did think about the difference between the straight people in my life and the queer people in my life. the straight people were more present. there were exceptions. i did think about the reaction in the latin@/latinx community and the reaction in the queer Muslim community. did think about the way that queer people turned on each other, the way we do. did think about the way that straight people continued not to care, unless somebody made them care.

but i don’t want people to know that i was mainly thinking of myself.

i was so ashamed.
i am so ashamed.
i didn’t have a big enough a strong enough heart, to mourn what was being done to my people by my people.
i was already broken.

A queer friend of mine, Blanca, shared with me that she was at a baby shower a year ago today. She had endured a chemical pregnancy loss and yet still went to a friend’s second baby shower. Blanca is Colombian and wanted to be with her community for a dance vigil for Orlando. She left the baby shower early. When she did, a straight friend told her off for leaving.

Blanca wrote me: I remember things the past four years in relation to our losses, even our community losses. Never danced as gratefully as I did at that vigil party.

These days, I wrote her, I’ve coupled my personal loss with the community loss very much so. I don’t know how to separate them right now.

She wrote back: No, we can’t

Ramadan Day 16

Gallery

Ramadan Day 14 – It’s all Fun and Games Until Somebody Starts Bleeding

I’m not a bloody mess. But I am. No fast today. I can’t tell if I’m relieved or not. I feel like I have 50% energy, and I’m not sure I like it.

I may not get to fast for the rest of the time until I try to knock myself up. I’m supposed to prepare my body for pregnancy.

Who wants to talk about my cycle? I think one unintended bonus of being on this journey is all the ways in which I’ve had to get comfortable talking about my cycle. I’ve never paid this much attention to my body. Actually, I’ve never had this many people pay attention to my body at once.
It makes me feel kinda hot.

No really.
I mean I’m knocking myself up and all.
Ok, ok — What’s like a period?
That was the start of a joke about periods, but I don’t really remember it. IF you finish it, OR BETTER YET if you e-mail me or submit in my comments the BEST PERIOD JOKE EVER — I will let you submit a name into the running for my future baby(ies.) Of course I reserve all rights in naming my baby(ies.) Also, on your honor, please don’t randomly google period jokes – or if you have to do that — maybe modify it or at least have some taste!

 

Today I picked a donor. I won’t go into all the gory details (yet), but I will say that I basically had a breakdown that led to a breakthrough in the last 24 hours. I had to call Queen, Bollywood Heartthrob, and T, and then literally hold a family meeting / conference call that was interrupted by a rat exterminator. No joke. Then I got mad and interrupted the rat extermination.

 

Here’s a member of the family who didn’t say much during the conference call.

 


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Turkey was really into the extermination.


 

Here’s another fun game — attribute comments to the right family member for points.

“This guy has the sexiest voice.”

“Do you think he’s gay? Can you rank them in order of gayness?”

“Guys, none of these donors really strike me as being gay.”

“How would you know?”

“I’m just saying he sounds like he might be gay.”

“He has really big lobes.”

“Big lobes are good luck for Chinese people.”

“Is this lobe conversation helping you? Because if not, can we move on?”

“Is it okay if he’s an ugly baby?”

“Don’t worry, our genes will kick in and take care of that.”

“Oh, Koreans are the same as Northern Chinese anyway.”

“My best friend is Korean. We have lunch once a week.”

“He’s a doctor.”

“That guy’s a dick.”

“He reminds me of dad. He can build anything, and he’s getting a Ph.D.”

“This guy’s essay was the most concise. I kept imagining how his grammar would really bother you.”

“He has a mole on his forehead. But don’t worry — you can get it removed like the two of you did in Taiwan. Remember?”

“Oh my God, Oh My God — this guy looks like Daniel Henney. Daniel Henney is so hot. He is soooooo hot. Forget these guys. Let’s get you sperm from Daniel Henney. Oh my God he is so hot. So hot. Oh, don’t worry I won’t say this about your kid.”

“Ok, that was weird.”

“I think this guy would make a pretty girl. I mean, he would make so many pretty girls.”

“So you ARE really shallow.”

“He’s kind of fratty.”

“Oh he’s very smart. He wants to save the world. He’s a good person. Pick a good person.”

“I’m not picking for you. I’m just offering my suggestions.”

“I read that he and his mom were on his own for a while. That’s a bonus for me.”

“We have cancer and everything else so it doesn’t matter if he has MS in his history.”

“Who cares? Everybody has problems.”

“He had a happy childhood, and he seems like he’s pretty happy with what he’s doing in life.”

“Do you have a height thing?”

“His ears really stick out.”

“So do mom’s”

“I said he was a dick, not an asshole.”

“His answers are really clipped. Let’s just say if I discovered this was my donor when I was 18, I wouldn’t want to meet him.”

“When we open our sperm bank, we’re getting baby pictures from the celebrity look-alikes so people can see what they really looked like. Look at our _____________. He was an ugly baby, but he was really cute now.”

“I was an ugly baby.”

“Sorry about that.”

“I don’t think the celebrities will give away their baby pictures.”

“No, but don’t you think their mothers and aunts, and grandparents will. Just offer $100.”

“Wow, you’re meeting much nicer men than if you were meeting them on the street. These sperm banks have really nice men.”

“I’m not meeting any men on the street.” (yeah, you know who this is.)

“I call heads.”


So many gems here.

A spoken word poem waiting to happen.

Ramadan Day 13 – It’s a Privilege


 

what is most heartbreaking
about an obsession with beauty,
is that it begins with a belief
that something is ugly
-nayyirah waheed

 


 

Do you want to be a mother?

 

Right now, I’m up to my ears in babies. Sperm banks don’t give you pictures of the donor. Not as an adult anyway. They give you baby picture(s) of varying quality, as supplied by the donor.

 

I’ve never been the kind of person who squeals every time she’s in the presence of a baby. I like them, and I know I’ll love mine. But yours are usually just okay. Unless I know you, in which case your baby probably did make me squeal. When I know that a part of you walks around in the world, I’m happy.

 

I once thought to myself that I should license and create a domain uglybabies.com because there’s nothing wrong with a baby not looking like it should be cast on pampers.com. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and never has that been truer than when using a sperm bank.

 

It’s like asking somebody who doesn’t have a sweet tooth to run into the candy shop and pick the best candy.

 

I told someone, either my sister or Bollywood Heartthrob, “What am I supposed to do? It’s not like I’m trying to date these guys. I’m not sure how to pick. Am I supposed to go with a deep attraction or feeling or something?”

“Nope, definitely not. They’re babies!”

Ok, that was confusing.

 

Right now, my obsession is with dimples. If I pick a guy with dimples will my baby have dimples? I always used to want the one my sister has. My nephew fell off of a night table when he was young and now he has a dimple too.

 

Once my family went to Monterey and had clam chowder without me. But they didn’t want me to feel left out. They came back from the wharf with a picture of me, my sister, and my brother mashed together and hung it on the fridge. It would be what our child would look like? Yes, I know my family is weird, and in our defense, so is yours.

 


 

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photo credit: B.L.

 


 

I regret to inform you that the Lin mashup was frightening.

 

I wasn’t able to write yesterday. I had a terrible fight with a family member. Yes, during Ramadan. Yes, I totally lost my temper. Yes, I did it during a holy time. Yes, I feel some kind of way about that.

 

With family, we can treat somebody terribly. We can say things that we would never say to a lover or a friend or a colleague or even a stranger, because they’re not going anywhere. WE KNOW THIS. They’ll still be our sister or our brother or our parents the next day. Yet fighting with your family is one of the worst stressors we have.

 

Maybe it’s because we’re related that most of us never take the time to solve our underlying issues when it comes to family. We think that tomorrow or the next day we can deal with it. Your sister is never going to leave because she can’t. And before we know it, we have a year’s worth of tomorrow or the next day’s problems.

 

Before we know it, somebody has left

Even if you’re still in the same room

drinking orange juice and watching tv

 

I texted Bollywood Heartthrob who patiently waited for the full story of my family quarrel over text sobs. It’s probably one of the first times that I’ve ever truly felt comforted by a text exchange. Usually, I cringe inside when people ask me how I’m doing over text. I’m a writer, I want to say, we know how hard it is to convey feelings through words. How far away we always are from really knowing how another person is doing.

 

I knew that if I picked up the phone that I would start crying and wouldn’t be able to speak. Superstar said many comforting things, but in the middle of it all – this text floated out from her:

 

Being a member of a family is a privilege, not a right.

 

In so many ways, I’ve always taken it for granted that I love my family, and they love me. It’s something my father instilled in me repeatedly – you do everything for family. Reading it last night, that statement broke my heart a little. What does it take for someone to understand that family is a privilege?

 

Three sperm banks later, I’m ready to give the Bank a five and call it a day. Yes, I’ve decided, I would like to be straight and, especially, to have a hetero-normative life and relationship. I could deal with every part of it, I imagine, except the reality.

 

Here’s a proposed e-mail to the California Cryobank: Yo, you’re an institution. Could you just pick out somebody, anybody? P.S. Their ears can’t be bigger than mine because I’ve been feeling self-conscious all day about my ears. P.S.S. Also, it’d be nice if they weren’t flat-footed. P.S.S.S. If a family member has had a heart attack or cancer, that might not go so well with my genetics. P.S.S.S.S. What if they have childhood asthma? No. Addendum: Ok, this isn’t a requirement, but it’s a strong, strong preference. They can’t be allergic to cats or dogs. Because I am, and I don’t want my kid to have to suffer the way I have.

 

Go ahead, go down the google hole. I just gave you about thirty ways to sink yourself right in.

 

Irony #1: if I were picking an egg donor based on my family health history, I wouldn’t pick me.

 

One of my favorite donor comments (that my mom also enjoyed): “I’m donating my sperm because I know any child with my genes as a blueprint would be really lucky.”

 

The first play I ever acted in, I played a Korean egg donor based on a real-life person. (I may even have a picture floating around somewhere…) What is life without irony? I asked a friend of mine to consider donating sperm. As this friend processed his feelings about sperm donation, he began to have more and more reservations. It was a stressful situation in a difficult time, but of the many things I remember about that interaction, one thing stands out. He told me that he never wanted children so he didn’t want children out there from his sperm.

 

What is nature and what is nurture? You don’t screen for features or genetic testing in the same way when you’re using a partner’s sperm. When you’re a mom you can’t screen for nurture.

You have to assume evolution.

Deep down inside, not knowing what my baby is going to look like is killing me. I go back to that conversation with T about how it’s a crapshoot. I go back (again) to the night I told her that I wasn’t going to be able to use sperm from a friend.

 

“You know what it means letting someone you know, your friend, become a sperm donor?” she added. “It’s asking for drama! Who knows, 10 years from now, 5 years from now, if they don’t change their mind about being involved, it’s their parents. I mean, you’re making a lifetime commitment to this person. You should take advantage of one of the benefits of being a single mom. You don’t have to deal with anybody else’s shit when you make decisions about your children.”

 

My friend Blissey gave me advice as a straight, single mother of two 10-year old twin girls. She and the girls’ father divorced when they were almost five. “The nice thing about not depending on any partner is that you won’t have to deal with the constant disappointment of wanting someone to help out. The hard part is that it’s hard not having somebody, though if you can afford somebody to help, do it. The worst part is that when you have to discipline your kids. There won’t be somebody else to help discuss or to provide another perspective for you, or to balance what you’re saying.”

 

Over the years, I’ve asked many of my friends who had single parents and asked them if they would intentionally become single parents. Each of them said no. (If you’re my friend and you’re not saying no to that question – please come talk to me!) They all talked about how amazing their mothers were. How much they’d given them. But that it seemed like it’d be too hard, and they wouldn’t want to go through what their mothers did.

 

None of the single mothers I know have ever said it was easy. They say it’s really hard. None of them say that they regret it, in the slightest.

 

“You know those questions would be more accurate if the mother could be anonymous, right?” My sister once told me.

 

Knowing that the children of single mothers sometimes grow up dreading the fact that they’re parents do sacrifice for them (as do parents who are couples) is probably why I haven’t given up on writing or lawyering, even though I keep telling myself that is what I have to do. I think of how I felt when I heard about what my parents sacrificed to raise us. Everything. I felt Rotten. Maybe a little ashamed. Maybe I still am. A little bit ashamed.

 

“You’ve always had problems even when you had the time to write. Have you ever considered that you’ll write more efficiently, or write at different times when you have a kid?” The things that Doctor says!

 

But even this far along in the journey, the truth is that I’m stressed out. If it weren’t for Ramadan, for this fast, for this Ramadan journal, I wouldn’t be writing.

 

Last night, Queen and I ended up having a relaxing video hangout. They needed to clean their room. I needed to hang out with somebody and not think about the fight I’d had. It was soothing to talk about queer Muslims. After I tell Queen about some shitty interaction with family or friends, Queen usually says: “You know it’s not about you, right?”

 

This time, Queen said a corollary, “So you know that you being upset isn’t about them?” Queen folded a couple more shirts. I was too tired by then to sleep. It was so late. So I kept hugging my pillows and talking. We wandered around from topic to topic.

 

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what a privilege it is to fast,” Queen said.

 

I agreed. We’d both been thinking about what it means to not fast because of mental health, in particular. I described to them the weakness I felt last year, being unable to fast because I was so depressed. “I didn’t think of it as a health exemption,” I said, “but it was.”

 

What if I feel depressed, and I have this baby, and I’m too tired to get everything that needs getting done, done? What if I’m too sad? What if I’m too alone?

 

Once, Cherry, a mother of two, one of whom is a special needs child, asked me: “How good are you at asking for help?”

“I’m not the greatest,” I said.

“Then you won’t be a good mother. If you want to be a mother the most important skill you have to learn is to ask for help.”

 

The acupuncturist told me to stop fasting before I try to inseminate. “Your body needs to be prepared to be pregnant.” I know that being pregnant is an exemption from fasting. Is there an exemption for a woman to try and get pregnant?

 

Is there an exemption for women who are trying to get pregnant who are queer and who are fasting about losing their temper?

 

Is there an exemption from having to go through this process and to reproduce by budding?

 

It’s a privilege to fast. It’s a privilege to try and get pregnant by having heterosexual sex. It’s a privilege to try and get pregnant without it and without a known donor because then you have to afford sperm. It’s a privilege to have a body that could potentially become pregnant via that sperm. It’s a privilege to have your mental health and faculties enough to make the decisions to go down the path of pregnancy.

 

When I pray, I ask God for a baby.

 

The Doctor once said: Instead of worrying about all the bad things that could happen, what if I considered all the great things that could happen if I were to become a mom?

 

I don’t look like many of the women I know. I’m gender non-conforming and a queer-do. I don’t think I even conform to other queers ideas of being queer. I was queer when I was nine. I was truly queer, as Cherrie Moraga said, so queer that even as a child before I knew about sex or sexual orientation, I was queer — she said this after she put on Digging Up the Dirt in Santa Ana. I am queer beyond words, beyond gender, and I am this way because before I knew what a queer was, I had a big imagination.

Growing up, people talked about how great my sister and my friends (the girls, not the boys) were with kids and especially babies. I was too busy throwing rocks and trying not to fall off a skateboard. When I was in my early twenties, all my friends began talking about having kids, but I felt awkward and strange joining in their conversations. Part of it was that I didn’t feel like I was like the other girls. I remember that my brother said when we visited Taiwan one year how excited he was that my sister would have kids one day. I became very upset. I have so many friends for whom it is such a burden that people expect them to have kids. They feel that not becoming a mother is becoming a failure. And I feel their pain. The difference is that they actually don’t want kids. I do. Almost everybody I tell that I want a kid is surprised at first. I know what it means to be pressured into becoming a natural woman.

 

Virgie, the kindest and one of the best people I know, asked me one day, “Do you want kids, Serena?” She was the first person in my entire life that ever asked me that question. My therapist. She was one of the only people who asked me that question through my entire twenties.

 

Of the women within a decade of my age (and I’m one of the eldest in the group) — in the tight-knit Taiwanese community in which I grew up — I’m one of only two women who don’t have kids and isn’t married.

 

“Why are you crying?

“Nobody ever thinks that I want to be a mom, and nobody ever asks me that. The few times I’ve talked about it — it’s when they’ve assumed I don’t want kids. I’m probably not ever going to be a parent anyway. I wouldn’t be any good at it. I’m not like my sister or my mom. I don’t like babies. Look at me — I’ll never be a natural mother.”

“I think,” Virgie said, “that you’d be a great mom. Think of all the love you’d give them. Think of all the creativity you’d share with your children. I think you’d give the most wonderful answers to their questions. You’d really understand them.”

 

“Family is a privilege, not a right.”

 

I want to be a mother.

 


 

btw – told you i had this somewhere…me as Lucy, an egg donor

 

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photo credit: cornerstone theater company

Ramadan Day 11 – Family Album

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Day 10 – News You Can Use

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I don’t have any tattoos, but I would like to get this and every other slogan off an Asian tee off the cloth and onto my back.

Today I watched a video of John McEnroe take down Margaret Court for homophobic comments and the outpouring of public support for his #takedown. Two white people taking each other to task for homophobia. I see a lot of this, and as a queer person, I’m glad it exists. I just wish I saw more of it around both individual, intentional acts of racism and systemic racism. See here for video.

Winnie and I spoke today about scarcity. It’s an interesting concept because attitudes about scarcity often manifest as anxiety. If we don’t say YES to everything that seems good, we worry we’ll never get another chance. I once had an opportunity to change a novella-length of mine for an agent who said he would love to try and sell it as a book. Mind you, I’ve been working on a different book for a very long time. I said no because I was too exhausted to work on changing my short story into a novel even though I knew I was lucky to even get this opportunity. What if this was my only chance to publish? But the truth is I didn’t WANT to do it. I didn’t want to spend time on that project. I didn’t, and even without a book published today, I still feel no regret. I spent a lot of time, per T and my Doctor’s advice, envisioning my success and fantasizing about it.

The Doctor once advised me, “Perhaps when you write you should think about what benefit it could have for somebody who’s meant to read it. Maybe it makes no difference to you, but it could make a difference to them.”

In watching the endless streams of commentary and ❤ emoticons supporting the new Wonder Woman, it seems so difficult and (unpopular) to even make visible Gal Gadot’s Zionism/Pro-Israeli Defense Forces stance and to criticize her for supporting the killing of Palestinian civilians. I actually ❤ Wonder Woman. My brother flung his first lasso thanks to her. Her invisible jet has been the subject of one of my worst jokes. A woman as strong as a man raised me because the tv that raised me had her in it. It seems really easy to proclaim that Wonder Woman has a universal message that empowers women. So then I have to ask why some women’s lives are worthy and others are not. This article, among many others, was great / enlightening: https://medium.com/@nerdypoc/gal-gadot-isnt-wonder-woman-23ce51d30859

The other night I was hanging out with Bollywood Heartthrob. We’d had a delicious Thai meal that redeemed my entire existence in the suburban Hell in which I find myself. There was an appetizer called moneybags that Bollywood Heartthrob pointed out was basically as cute as the ones in Duck Tales. Bollywood Heartthrob also lives with her mother in the burbs. This is the little known price I’m paying so that I can pay the price of sperm banks and single motherhood. It’s also a gift so I have no true complaints, but I am finding myself in a moray of boundary issues. Anyway, I was dropping Bollywood Heartthrob off when her mom called. “OMG, don’t you hate it when your mom calls on a Saturday night and asks where you are or what time you’re coming home?” I almost started crying I was laughing so hard on the inside. Relief. That’s what that was. Somebody else gets my pain.

I can’t stand the way racism operates in the US. It’s full of people who believe that there’s one way to be Asian, to be Black, to be Muslim, to be Hindu, to be Queer. And all of those ways are spelled like this: O-T-H-E-R. Or, N-O-T M-E.

The comedian Jenny Yang posted the following and flagged the headline as notable. I agree. It made me feel that happiness truly was everyday and truly was natural style.

Man Allegedly Bench-Presses Goose for 10 Minutes at L.A. Park; Goose Allegedly Loves It

 

I got into a heated discussion with a sperm bank receptionist the other day where a guy actually wrote under race: Asian, Mixed, Canadian, Taiwanese. I did my best to understand when the sperm bank receptionist said “Well, it’s self-identified by the donor, so he just wanted to put that about himself so you would know.”
“Right, I said, so what’s his racial mix besides Taiwanese?”
“What do you mean? He’s from Canada.”
“Is he Vietnamese from Canada, Black from Canada, or White from Canada? I’m assume he’s White right?”
“Well, we don’t know the exact mix, and that’s what he wanted to put.”
“Okay, well it’s not as if you’d let me put whatever I thought was my race, right? Like, can I put alien?” (okay, it was a thought.)
“He’s half white and half Taiwanese.”

Kazim Ali’s book Fasting for Ramadan is life-changing. He especially wants to know what you think of the recipes. The vegan chocolate ice cream is especially good.

I had a moment the other day when somebody posted about Manchester, and I realized that nobody cared about Yemen or Baghdad. It’s wrong how we distinguish which lives matter. But #BlackLivesMatter and so all of you already knew how we do here in the US. Skin color, genitalia, and class. (Coincidentally, you only know the first one of those with sperm banks – the second one is assumed – the third it’s not in their interest to disclose.) #Spermploitation. But seriously, as my dear friend Brilliant Black Girl said about this process — you start to get real rankled thinking about the amount of sperm being flushed down toilets and how men control so much and so many of them are gendered so as to share or spread their sperm (especially without having to be responsible for their babies) as much as possible and then when a woman wants sperm, sometimes precisely for the reason that a man doesn’t have to be in the picture or be responsible for the baby, then it becomes this rare commodity that the men don’t want to share and that the woman has to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for. Roughly $700 for one specimen. That’s the going rate. There’s a difference between fatherhood and spermhood, but there are days when I think the real problem is that our society hasn’t taught us how to distinguish between them.

Here’s a great episode from comedian and friend Kristina Wong. I adore her. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY KWONG!

http://kristinawong.com/blog/2014/05/04/full-episode-watch-kristina-wong-get-reparations-for-yellow-fever/#.U498JKZfVmE.twitter

Here’s some insight into the sperm industry for any of you who’ve ever had to navigate it, or are thinking about it. INSIGHT: I’ve never paid this much money and received so much meaningless information. And, there are so many bells and whistles with these mills — I mean banks. Dollars here for more photos. Dollars there for an essay. Dollars back here for an interview. Wait for it — there’s a service that will let you blend people’s faces together. Truthfully, I have no idea how any child is going to turn out, but I’m supposed to spend hours and hours on this crap of picking a sperm donor. Oh, did I mention that gay men can’t donate (if they out themselves, I suppose) to many, if not most, banks? Oh, did I mention how unavailable all of this is $$ for queer folks — who already have other economic barriers…exactly.

I don’t know if you want to read about sperm banks and motherhood. Maybe not. It feels awkward and weird to talk about it for me. But as I was talking about it with Lisa Ko, dear friend and author of The Leavers (best book of the year people), she helped me to realize that us not talking about this stuff, keeping it quiet, also means information is cut off and queer stories are cut off, and as a result, people like me feel alone and faraway from what’s expected and typical – to queer every system.

You deserve to have news you can use.

 


 

Get the book so your soul never goes hungry.

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Vegan Ice Cream…in Kazim Ali’s Fasting for Ramadan.

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Ramadan Day 9 – Life Goals

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