Every year during the month of June, the world comes together to uplift LGBTQ+ communities across the globe – diverse, beautiful, and unique in our struggles and our identities. To celebrate Pride Month 2020, RV’s LGBTQ+ teammates are sharing their narratives through our new “Love Letters” series.
Each piece in the series will focus on the power of the letters across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and how they shape our perception of ourselves and others.
Let’s use this Pride Month to love openly, learn proactively, and listen intentionally to our brave RV peers who are welcoming us into this important conversation with vulnerability and celebration.
Katherine Fan (pronouns: she/her) is a senior travel features reporter at The Points Guy. She’s been our RV teammate for one year, and firmly believes the Austin, TX office is the best of them all! Katherine identifies as bisexual/pansexual: “I’m still figuring out this distinction, but I think I lean toward gender being irrelevant as an attraction factor!”
As a senior reporter for The Points Guy, I get to tell stories for a living. Sometimes I tell them for others; other times, they are my own.
The story I’m telling you today is mine, but it’s a relatively new one for me. From time to time, it still feels like a story that belongs to someone else.
One of the unique characteristics about sexual orientation is that it can be completely invisible if you really want it to be. I’ve always known that I identify as a woman, and I’ve always known that I’m of Asian heritage. But I didn’t know I was pansexual until two years ago.
For the first 30 years of my life, it never crossed my mind to question my sexuality. After all, I knew I liked boys. My first crush was Huntley when I was seven years old — an older boy with green eyes and brown freckles who was too cool for our Suzuki music school.
But even Huntley was off limits for me. My parents sacrificed everything to give their kids the safest upbringing they could think of. As a result, I grew up in a hyper-conservative, religious environment where dating and crushes weren’t allowed. In our highly curated social circle of like-minded people, marriage was supposed to be an early end goal for girls like me, resulting from courtship with an eligible man pre-approved by both sets of parents.
I was homeschooled through the 12th grade, and attending the University of Texas completely transformed my life. Courses in ethnic studies and journalism taught me about the history of marginalized people, and why their stories matter. I learned about the concept of allyship as words like “intersectionality” and “marginalization” found their way into my readings and assignments. A gender and sexuality class introduced me to the Kinsey spectrum and the generalized aphorism, “Gender is what’s in your head, identity is what’s in your heart and sex is what’s in your pants.”
Change was a gradual process, but over the next ten years as I graduated and began my career in the tech industry, I walked away from most of the belief systems of my childhood. I read extensively on a variety of topics in my spare time. But while I learned to question everything else I’d grown up with, it never occurred to me to question my sexuality. I dated men exclusively, and even married one for a few years.
In 2017, I came across a nonprofit called StartOut, which supports LGBTQ entrepreneurs and professionals in workplace settings. The Austin chapter needed volunteers to help set up before events, and I decided to pitch in as an ally for LGBTQ rights. But a few sessions into hearing StartOut speakers share about their journeys of self-discovery, I began to realize that I related to their stories far more than I expected.
As you can imagine, realizing that I might be bisexual was a total curveball for me at age 32, and I spent the remainder of 2017 wrestling with this possibility. Since crushing on boys like Huntley was such a taboo growing up, it never crossed my mind to consider that my first crush might actually have been Erica, a violin prodigy I also knew from Suzuki, at age six. I never stopped being attracted to men, so I didn’t notice that numerous women had caught my attention through the years as well.
I finally mustered up the courage to speak with two different friends from the LGBTQ community about my confusion. Both separately gave me the same sage advice: “Forget the labels if you can. What matters is the person in front of you, and how you feel about them.”
These affirmations and several others, coupled with a lot of deliberation, finally helped me accept myself for who I truly am.
I’ve always been pansexual; I just gave myself the permission to own it when I was 32. The day I finally admitted it to myself, I sobbed. Part of me was heartbroken that I had been so certain I would be rejected for my sexuality that I had hidden it away even from myself for so long. Another part of me was overwhelmed — in a good way — by how fully me I felt. It felt like I had lived most of my life at, say, 92 percent; just good enough that I didn’t realize what I was missing. Accepting my bisexuality, however, brought me to a whole 100 percent.
Have you ever watched those YouTube videos of colorblind people donning special glasses and seeing a full range of glorious color for the first time? If I compare my tears from Coming Out Day to rain from a thunderstorm, the LGBTQIA+ rainbow is a perfect metaphor for the life I ushered in.
Since coming out, I’ve discovered a shift in how I relate to others. In all of my interactions with people since — romantic or otherwise — I find myself focusing on connection with my fellow humans above all else. With my heart newly open to 7.5 billion people on the planet, there’s so much more love and connection in my life.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the saying, “Rainbow is my favorite color,” because it truly is (aqua is a close second-favorite). I used to hesitate about saying it back when I believe I was only an ally for the community, because I didn’t want to appropriate a symbol that so beautifully represents the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community.
But now that I find myself part of the LGBTQIA+ family, I’ve realized two things:
- Like whatever the hell you want, be it people or colors (or color spectrums!)
- The more rainbows we have in this world, the better
As I’ve timidly stepped into the metaphorical LGBTQIA+ household, I’ve been absolutely enchanted with the way we use the word “family” to describe this community. One Facebook group admin begins all of her posts with, “Hi, fam.” Total strangers embrace me without question and assure me constantly that I’m “one of us.”
I still feel like the new kid sometimes — but one who’s been adopted without question.
People say there’s the family you’re born with, and then there are the ones you choose. For me, the rainbow community represents both.
Q: If you could, what would you tell your younger self about your LGBTQIA+ identity?
A: If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d tell her that there’s a world outside of the one she knows. I’d tell her to be brave, curious and kind, and to question anyone who disagrees with the way she expresses those qualities.
I have always been deeply touched by the “It gets better” slogan/campaign/movement, which began in response to struggles that many LGBTQIA+ individuals face when owning their truest selves. There is so much power in sharing our stories, even when they don’t yet have a happy ending. If nothing else, our stories show others that they aren’t alone.
Q: What advice do you have for those who want to ask questions and learn about different identities?
- If you’re curious about identity and sexuality, please just ask politely! I, for one, am always open to answering your questions — on any topic — via Slack or in person, and most people I know feel the same way.
- Consider becoming an ally for the gay community and attending a few events like I did with StartOut. Even if you don’t end up discovering a whole new side of yourself like I did (talk about a surprise), you’ll find yourself with so many wonderful new friends who bring a wealth of diversity in their perspectives.
- I’ve had a few people ask me if my divorce precipitated my coming out. A couple of people have also asked, “So what have you ‘done’ with it since you found out you’re bi?” The answer to both is “no/nothing” (and the second question, honestly, is pretty rude on several levels). My bisexuality has far less to do with whom I’ve dated or slept with, and far more to do with living a deeper, more authentic version of myself.
- I’d also love to use this opportunity to highlight a couple of causes near and dear to my heart! TPG sponsors several LGBTQIA+ nonprofits including Rainbow Railroad, which assists people seeking asylum from persecuting countries with oppressive and homophobic laws.
And this June, TPG’s Brian Kelly is personally matching up to $50,000 in donations to the Ali Forney Center, which supports LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness.
Since a very high percentage of these youth are people of color, donating to the Ali Forney Center qualifies for RV’s donation match program this month toward causes supporting racial equality.
So you can double-match your donation through both Brian and RV by donating through this GoFundMe link, then submitting proof of your donation through this RV Google Form. (To single-match donate via RV, use this link.)
Keep the Pride celebration going strong! Read more of our Love Letters series here.