Hi crush monsters, this is Straddler On The Street, a feature where I celebrate all of you incredible Autostraddle readers by hunting you down, demanding you chat with me, and then writing about you on the Internet so we can all crush on you. Get excited, because butterflies in your stomach 24/7 is a fantastic way to live.
Header by Rory Midhani
Straddler On The Street: Hannah, 24
This week our Straddler On The Street is Hannah, and per usual I will be one thousand percent upfront and tell you honestly what my relationship with Hannah is like: I am deeply in love with her. She was my camper in the Blackhearts cabin at A-Camp 4.0 this past October, and despite her sarcasm and tendency to tease me slash hit on my girlfriend, at the end of the day she is just a total sweetheart and really wise beyond her years, even when she doubts herself or downplays her total badass perspective on this great big world.
This interview was one of the more tricky ones to edit into a coherent conversation, because whereas I usually conduct a fairly formal conversation via gchat with my Straddlers each week it was impossible for Hannah and I to stay on topic for more than three minutes and we kept going off on random tangents ending with proclamations of love. Nonetheless, we eventually managed to chat about a bunch of really interesting and important topics, and once I cut out all the random lines from our chat that said variations of “I LOVE U SO MUCH!!!!!” I found a really full and interesting conversation that made me even prouder to know Hannah and call her my friend.
The moral of the story is that interviewing your friends and your campers is hard, Hannah is super wise, and everyone should go to A-Camp and fall in love with the humans who inhabit the Straddleverse because we make up a damn great community.
You have moved around a fair amount! Tell me where you’re from and where you are now.
I live in San Francisco right now. Where I’m from is a bit of an essay. I was born in [a country in East Asia], I moved to New Zealand when I was 11, graduated from high school, went to college in Boston and then my parents found out I was gay so I had to move back to East Asia.
Wow, what happened when you moved back?
I had to transfer to a university back home and got a degree in Spanish and I have no idea what I’m going to do with that. I graduated in February 2012 and was supposed to go to grad school at the same uni but at the last minute I was like what the fuck am I doing with my life so I quit, saved up and moved to San Francisco. Halloween was my one year anniversary here!
Do you mind talking more about your parents? What do you mean when you say they found out you are gay?
They found a love letter I got from my first girlfriend [and they] asked me if it was from a girl or a boy because clearly it was from a girl. But still they chose to ask and honestly I think if I had told them it was from a boy they would’ve bought it.
And they made you come home as soon as they found the letter?
They actually didn’t make me transfer right away… but at the end of my second year they started guilt tripping me really hard, and that’s also when the economy went to shit and I really hated that I was relying on my parents for my tuition. At this point my mum was very depressed, my dad’s business was not doing well, my brother was about to start HIS private university so everything sort of pushed me to going back home because it was cheaper, my mum could have me nearer, etc.
How was life with your family once you moved back?
My dad stalked me for a while. He knew where I was, who I was with… once I went to film festival with this girl I met online – not in a romantic way! – and then my dad went to HER SCHOOL and some how found her and told her to stay away from me. Luckily she was really cool about it but that’s when I sort of decided, “Shit, now I’m going to get other people in trouble, I can’t date anyone but I don’t think I can even pretend to be straight so I’m just going to be alone forever.” Which sums up my feelings while I stayed [at home].
Oh Hannah, I am so sorry that happened.
That’s why I was freaked out before going to A-Camp 3.0, because I really didn’t want my face on a queer girl’s website. But then I went to camp and then my face was on the first LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE CAMP FEELINGS open thread post and then I realized I actually love having my face on Autostraddle. AND LOOK I’M DOING THIS NOW SO. Also, if my dad is still stalking me, HI DAD. By the way, I still talk to my parents, contrary to popular belief.
Do you want to say some words about that? I think it might be helpful and interesting to people with similar relationship dynamics with their folks.
It’s interesting because… well, I don’t want to generalize, but I think I see where my parents are coming from. They see homosexuality as something that must be cured, and they’re just trying to help me because they love me so much? Like if I [were sick] they’d do anything to get me better, and I know it’s fucked up, but I see where they’re coming from, especially because I know what kind of cultural background, family background they’re coming from.
I think that is a super valid way to view things. I think it is brave to try to understand them and pursue a relationship with them – though it would also be fine if you didn’t want to, of course.
When [my parents] tried to take me to psychologist/psychiatrist, they saw right through it and told us that we had to work on our relationship before anything else, which to my parents meant curing me and to me meant making my parents accept me. So now we’ve been trying to focus more on our relationship than trying to change each other, and I mean it took ages, they didn’t just go, “Oh okay, that makes sense.” It’s taken us four years to get to this point and if I’m actually being quite honest, this is probably the best it’ll ever get and it is probably temporary. But I just want to enjoy this moment as it is and not worry about what’ll happen in the future so much.
What are some ways in which you handle your precarious relationship with your immediate family?
It’s weird. I’m not sure how to explain it but everything feels so surreal to me. Maybe I’m in denial. I just sort of feel like everything will happen the way it does and sometimes you don’t have any control over it. And it does suck and hurt but I know I will get through it.
Do you have any advice for people with similar parental circumstances?
It’s not your fault. I think that’s the biggest one actually. It’s not your fault. Sometimes it feels like it is your fault that your parents are crying at night but it isn’t. It took me a long time – and some therapy sessions – to realize that.
Do you have a strong support system in San Francisco?
One thing I decided when I first moved to San Francisco was that I’d be out from the get go. It was fucking scary when I first muttered the words, “I’m gay,” but everyone has been so accepting and nonchalant about it, which to me is a strong support. Like, people aren’t saying, “Wow, you’re gay but I still love you and support you!,” rather they’re saying, “Wow, you’re nice and awesome so I love you!”
Yes, acceptance versus tolerance. Such a key difference! So now that you’re settled in San Francisco, what are you doing with your days?
Well I work at a coffee shop and I don’t know what I’m doing with my days. Which is actually really scary. For the longest time I had no goals because I was going through this shit with my family and I didn’t care about anything and all I wanted was everything to go back to “normal.” So I sort of gave up and didn’t care about anything else. Now I guess I’m trying to find out what I want to do, what my passions are. Which is frustrating and scary because you feel the pressure of societal clock ticking.
It really does feel scary. As someone in quite a similar place, I completely understand where you’re coming from.
Sometimes I feel like everyone else knows what they’re doing or what they want to do and I’m like what the fuck? Why are people so put together? But most times they aren’t, haha, so we’re all on the same sinking boat. Is that too cynical?
Haha nah, I don’t think so. Do you like living in San Francisco?
I do like it for the most part. I mean it’s fucking beautiful, probably the most diverse city in the US and all that, but it is freaking expensive. I don’t know how I get by, honestly. And there’s the constant urge to just move and travel and explore versus shut up and settle down in one city for just a little bit this time!
Oh girl I know. Where would you travel, if money and time were limitless?
Oh dear lord… I really really really want to see the Northern Lights and just travel through the snowy white north of Scandinavia. It’s probably a lot colder and dangerous in real life but it sounds fantastic in my head.
Well I didn’t know I wanted to do that until right now, but of course I do.
Of course you do.
Let’s talk about your A-Camp feelings.
I went to A-Camp 3.0 on a Campership and it was literally the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know that everyone has pretty much said that, but it’s true. And then I registered for A-Camp 4.0 and the closer it got, the more anxious I got, because the first time was so fucking magical with unicorns and fairy dust that I felt like I was psyching myself out and what if I didn’t have the BEST TIME EVER? But then I realized that it’s okay… Camp is pretty much what you make it to be and whatever it is, it is okay as long as you take something away from it.
Yeah, I think a good rule is to go into camp with zero expectations. Just be right there and see what happens, because each camp experience is a bit different but they’re all meaningful.
But also then I did have the BEST TIME EVER AGAIN at A-Camp 4.0!
May I also insert here that I was officially adopted by Riese and Laneia at A-Camp 3.0?
Yes, I think now is a great time to mention that fact. Also what a teaser – come to A-Camp and you may get adopted! Talk about intrigue. Anyway! You mentioned that you wanted to talk about what it feels like to be gay and female and Asian. Shall we do that now?
Yes! I have a lot of feelings about being gay and female and Asian, because I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I’m never the majority and no, that’s not what’s really important, I totally get that, but you know, sometimes it’s tiring. It’s so fucking tiring, trying to hide who you are.
Here in San Francisco, I can be open and be out about my sexuality but I still sometimes get called shitty things [related to the fact that I am Asian]. Then in Asia queers are very invisible still and it’s not even really a social issue yet. It’s slowly, slowly becoming one, which is nice. But still, other people finding out you are queer is probably the worst thing that could happen to a queer person in [Asia].
And honestly, that’s probably my parents’ worst fear. I don’t think they would’ve cared as much if there was a 100% guarantee that no one would ever find out. What others think of you matters so freaking much and your social reputation is so, so important. I mean, obviously I can’t speak for everyone in Asia… and I’m not trying to say Western society or the idea of individualism is better than Asian society or the idea of community. It’s just a really different society and in this queer’s case, it fucking sucked.
That sounds really hard and tiring. You said queer visibility is slowly becoming a social issue in Asia. What does that mean?
Well, the gay rights movement – or the lack thereof – is mostly based on the Western gay rights movement, and assimilation seems to be a big thing, which I know is an issue here [in the United States] too. Like the idea of, “We’re just like you!” But you know, baby steps I guess.
Baby steps indeed. On a much lighter note, I’ve got some fun questions to ask you. Who is your celeb crush?
Can I say Laneia? Wait is that too real? Oh I know, Hannah Hart!
What is one item of clothing you can’t live without?
My floral hat! I bought it right before camp sort of ironically for you, and then instantly fell into the beautiful magic of floral prints.
I love that hat. What is your favorite book?
That’s so hard, [but] Harry Potter will always be one of my favorite books until the very end. Fun fact, I went to high school in New Zealand and a prefect is a real thing and I was a prefect and I had badges. It blew my college roommates’ minds.
That is so cool! Finally, do you have anything else you would like to share with the Autostraddle community?
If you are a little lost and don’t know what you’re doing with your life, it’s okay because you’re living and that’s beautiful. That’s something someone told me when I was in a real shitty place and it helped me a lot [because] it wasn’t like, “IT’S OK IT’LL GET BETTER HANG IN THERE,” it was, “I know you’re hurting and you’re in pain and I don’t want to invalidate your feelings, and it’s ok that you’re feeling that way.”
If you would like to be featured as a future Straddler on the Street, please email vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Include a few photos, 3-5 sentences about yourself and put “Straddler Submission” in your subject line. Approximately a million people have submitted so far, so please be patient as Vanessa goes through her inbox — you’re all sexy with really smart brains, and don’t you forget it!