The more I wrote about women, the more distanced I felt from the figure I saw in the mirror.
Almost two years ago, I said goodbye to one of the most important people in my life: my first therapist. I’d started seeing S while in the throes of what I now suspect was a meltdown, the kind of aimless yet suffocating malaise in which hours would pass without me realizing. I’d come to in my dark, carpeted bedroom, lying face-down on the ground and wishing I could cast through the floor and melt into the earth. Sometimes I’d mix it up by having a panic attack: My entire body would go numb, and my partner would have to carry me.
just how bad
amThank you for writing this piece so thoughtfully, as an Asian American woman
I started wearing pants again, after years of expressing that I wished I could only wear skirts and dresses forever. I remembered that the reason I went through such an intense depression, which precipitated my visits to S, was likely because I’d started on a low-dose hormonal birth control pill. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sentence I’d written in that letter to myself in therapy, the queasiness and embarrassment I’d felt for expressing it, and the fact that the feeling was now growing stronger and stronger, like a parasite that fed specifically on my insistence that I was—I am—I have never wanted anything more than to be a woman.
Without women’s media, I wouldn’t have a career—and I might never have found a way to articulate how poorly I identified with womanhood at large.
To all the people who’ve sent work my way because, in part, of my identity: thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but I’m not the only Asian American “woman” who can write about these things. To my friends and my sister: I would indeed prefer if you started calling me Lio, but I understand that old habits die hard; I have patience, if you have persistence. To my parents and my partner: I keep having dreams in which you leave me, and I don’t know what to do with that. With my parents, this may have to be just another thing we sweep under the rug; you’ll tell me my hair is too short, and I’ll remind you that you used to tell me that my hair was too long. With my partner, I cannot express how thankful I am for your love and courage.
To the young women who’ve stumbled upon my work, both the pieces that are built on the idea of me, a woman writer, and the ones that aren’t: I still have things I can tell you, teach you, but what you’ll learn in your own time is that anything can change. The industry, your interests, your skills. Your feelings about the world, about the people close to you, about yourself. What I urge you to practice is honesty and empathy toward every version of “you” you shed and grow out of. And when the next generation turns to you, implore them to do the same.