Ask A Queer: Mimi Nadia Chenyao
Today’s queer is Mimi Nadia Chenyao, a 22-year-old a writer and content creator who resides in San Francisco, California. Mimi has a degree in computer science and currently works as a technical writer (someone who writes documentation about code) at Google.
Mimi runs two blogs — Fake and Basic is an ongoing essay collection about the “real and complex” (existentialism, being non-visibly trans, the dark parts of life that nobody likes to talk about), and Sweetness and Light is a tech blog dedicated to making computer science topics accessible to a wide audience. You can find Mimi on Instagram under the handle @fake.and.basic.
If there is a word you don’t understand in this blog post, you can consult the main page of “Ask A Queer” for definitions. Now let’s get into it! The following responses from Mimi were only edited for clarity. These words and this experience are all his.
How do you identify? What are your pronouns?
I identify as a pansexual trans guy and use he/him pronouns.
What do you wish people understood about your identity?
I wish they understood that there’s no one way to be trans! I’m a guy through and through, but I love my dresses, long hair, and pink lipstick. Outer presentation doesn’t dictate inner identity, but the majority of my struggle since coming out has been getting people (both in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community) to see me as a valid trans guy.
What can allocishet people do to support your community?
I wrote a post about this a while back! The biggest ones are using inclusive language (referring to everyone as “they” until you learn their pronouns, not using “sir” or “ma’am” if you can help it) and respectfully staying out of spaces that are not meant for them, such as queer bars and certain events during Pride.
What do you love about being queer?
I love the way I can play with fashion and turn perception on its head — nothing makes me happier than putting on a preppy church dress and going about my day being my very loud, very queer self. For me, the very act of putting on a dress is a form of subversion. I also love how there’s an immediate sense of familiarity whenever I meet another queer person. Our existence can be a struggle sometimes, but I really do think that that struggle brings us closer.
How do you stay connected to the LGBTQ+ community?
I write a lot about being queer and try to join as many LGBTQIA+ groups at work as I can. I also love keeping in touch with my community on Instagram — it’s so fun to see what content other LGBTQIA+ creators are coming up with!
What does the LGBTQ+ community need to work on? How can they better support your identity?
I think they can completely do away with the idea of “transtrenders,” or the notion that some people are “faking” being trans because they don’t have body dysphoria. Dysphoria manifests differently in everybody, and even its absence doesn’t make a trans person invalid.
Besides LGBTQ+ equality and rights, what issues matter to you most?
I’m passionate about ending “hustle culture,” which causes people to burn out at incredibly high rates. I hate the idea that productivity is what makes people valuable, as well as the notion that everybody needs to be working to be happy. It’s an issue that is pretty personal for me, because I was totally that elitist productivity blogger before I stepped into Silicon Valley for the first time and got a large taste of my own medicine. Since then, I’ve been adamant about work-life balance and not selling your soul to your job.
When did you start to realize you were not allocishet?
I think I was in fifth grade or so. My sister had been joking that I was “as straight as a circle” for years by then, but I was so deeply in denial that it would take me five more years to come out!
Describe your coming out experience in 5 words or less.
Came out on the Internet 🌈✌🏼
How was queerness discussed during your upbringing? Were you raised with any specific perception about the LGBTQ+ community?
My parents are Chinese immigrants and had been brought up with pretty conservative views themselves, but they’ve always told me that I am my own person and should pursue whatever makes me happy. That being said, I did grow up thinking that it was “wrong” to be queer, and that being trans was a “mental illness.” I didn’t completely rid myself of these notions until I met some wonderful queer/trans people in college, who were really patient with me and totally accepted me once I was out.
I eventually spoke at length about being queer and trans to my mom, who is now super accepting of my identity. I couldn’t be more grateful to have her on my side.
What are your favorite pieces of LGBTQ+ media?
The tv show The L Word, “Not Just A Tomboy” by Caspar Baldwin, and “Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity” by Arlene Stein.
Who are your LGBTQ+ role models?
Honestly, all of the amazing people I’ve met on Reddit who have taken the time to honestly and vulnerably talk about their journeys to becoming themselves, as well as the lovely guys on r/ftmfemininity.
Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ celebrities?
Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and Contrapoints!
And finally, are you alright with me referring to you as “queer,” or does the term make you uncomfortable?
I’m queer as the rainbow itself and as straight as a circle, so I’m totally comfortable with the term!