My name is Peterson. I’m a second-generation Vietnamese American. I’m queer and non-binary. I’m from Garden Grove, California, where I was essentially born and raised in Orange County. And where I lived was predominantly Vietnamese on one side and on the other side of the street was very Latino. 

When I had my MySpace, it said, Who are your role models? And I put two people: Dat Phan, the winner of Last Comic Standing, and Chloe Dao, the winner of Project Runway. Those were the only two people that I knew were Vietnamese American and were successful on television. 

I think it was kindergarten when I had my first male crush and I think he was also Vietnamese. And then it was, like, first grade when I was six, maybe a year after, where I got asked if I was gay. And I didn’t know what that was. I was also overweight as a child, and other kids would ask me if I had an Adam’s apple, because if not I was a girl. Because of the fat around my neck and my chest, I was pointed out as different: not like one of the boys, and yet not a girl. It was always like the butt of the joke. So it made me feel as though that part of me, my sexuality, my gender, it was something that I had to hide. 

So it was in high school where I tried to “butch things up.” I was told in Chorus that “Only girls sing like that!” So I changed my voice to be deeper. I remember I would sway my hips, just because I thought it was cute, from watching TV; I was told boys don’t do that either. So I had to really change literally parts of myself in order for me to feel comfortable. 

I had my first date with a boy when I went to school at UC Santa Barbara. The person that I found was a person of color, and we really connected over that because UC Santa Barbara was so white. In West Hollywood, which was also very white, it was white men who would be going after me. Even in Asian spaces, when I went to a men’s group for Asian men, one of the white men immediately proclaimed that he was here to find an Asian boyfriend. And it didn’t make sense because I was, like, “Why are you here when it’s an Asian support group?” 

I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and one of the reasons why I went into that field is because I realized that my lived experience is a great starting point to have conversations and to help other people. But it was also to help me. 

About participating in this project, I was kind of on the fence about it. I’ve been working on my toxic and pervasive shame around my body, my Asian body, my queer body also. And there are lots of moments where I just feel as though I’m not attractive, not like that image of the masculine white man that might be seen as the ideal attraction. And when I was dating as a queer Asian person, I would always be told certain things about my skin and certain things about my body composition, how it’s shaped, how it’s colored and textured. I have a lot of marks from eczema, from traumas, from acne, and it’s things that I’ve been working on in terms of feeling more comfortable and confident. Whenever I was dating, there’s always those people who are exotifying Asians and very interested in meeting an Asian person. But there’s a lot more people who are also, like, “No fats, no femmes, no Asians.” It was just never good enough, and it was always for somebody else, and I’m trying to take it back and make it for me. And that’s one of the big reasons why I said Yes.