Q: Introduce yourselves. How did you two meet? Who was the first to express interest?
T: We met when I was in high school! I was either 17 or 18, and I met him during my visit to RISD for Accepted Students Day. Dennis was a freshman at the time, and answered some questions I had about POSE (Pre-Orientation Service Experience), a community engagement program for freshmen at RISD. I remember later on during POSE, for which Dennis was one of the leaders, I had thought that Dennis was cute and funny, but I didn’t really become interested in him until I got to know him a lot better during my sophomore year (and his junior year). We eventually matched on Tinder, and his initial DM’s made it seem like he was friend-zoning me, so my interest in him was put on pause for a while, especially after I learned he was dating someone else, but we still had some bonding moments like pulling an all nighter together.
Eventually, after spring semester started, I learned that Dennis had broken up with his previous partner and my interest resumed, and after having a conversation with him until 3am one night, I checked Tinder to find that he had messaged me, and so we planned our first date together. So I guess you could say Dennis was the first to reach out to me about our mutual interest in each other.
D : What he said.
an exclusive interview with:
Tinan & Dennis
Q: How has your partner influenced you since you began dating? Have any of your mannerisms, interests or opinions changed as a result?
T: Dennis has for sure influenced me a lot. I can definitely say you’ve made me bolder. You’re incredibly unapologetic in the way you approach things, but you also aren’t uninformed, and I think because of that I definitely am able to put myself out there more often, but not in a way where I prioritize my own perspective and my own opinions. I’ve become louder while still trying to be mindful of the space that I take up. I think that you’re like this too, especially with regards to Queerness, and that’s definitely rubbed off on me. Like before I was just a sad and angry seething ball of fury who took on the guise of someone who was passive and neutral. But I think after dating you, I’ve become happier because I’ve learned to be loud about my opinions and put my voice out there, yet still remain grounded.
D: I like how you said I had a lot of wisdom earlier but tbh I feel like most of that has come from you. Like I feel like the person I was at the beginning of our relationship versus now is someone who is a lot more perceptive and aware themself, their privilege, identity etc, and it definitely feels like its a result of getting to know you better and learning from you.
Q: Do you think the queer dating scene has impacted the way you’ve presented yourself when looking for relationships? Do you find yourself subscribing to any stereotypes or norms?
D: I feel like unfortunately I was being influenced by the way people presented themselves on dating apps. Like seeing what images people chose to show of themselves and what they would write about in their bios made me think that that was the standard I should also also subscribe to. Which was terrible because it made me think that if I want people to swipe me back, I would need to show a shirtless pics or something, which like no thank you. That and be like, “I am this, I am looking for this, I only want to date this”. It felt toxic and really unnatural.
T: I didn’t know any types of stereotypes or norms beyond how Queer folx were represented in popular media--everything about the Queer dating scene was new to me. I was very low-key about how I presented myself, and at times I wasn’t even sure if I should have been on Tinder. I don’t think I was going by any stereotypes. I was also afraid of dating because of how my family would take it, having still been closeted to my younger sister, and I didn’t know how to approach it. Actually, a lot of times I would even turn off the option to see other “men interested in men,” and just strictly see “women who were interested in men.” But like...bisexuality isn’t as simple as switching back and forth between masc and femme folx as you please. Also, as someone who is demisexual but didn’t know it at the time, Tinder was also kind of infuriating at certain moments because I questioned my ability to feel sexual attraction at all. And in terms of online dating, I can’t think of a single platform--Queer focused or not--that aims to be inclusive of Queer folx who experience sexual attraction differently (such folx who are demisexual or asexual) or even provide any information about us, even though these are valid and real sexual orientations
Q: What is your favorite moment or memory that you have with your partner? (If you can’t think of an absolute favorite, just any memorable moment will do! It also does not have to necessarily be happy, it could be something that influenced the rest of your relationship so far, something that was an important step forward, etc.)
T: I when we stared into each other’s eyes for 5 minutes straight, in the Maldives. That was first time I felt like I was on the verge of tears in front of you because of how overwhelmed I was with my adoration for you. I was like a 5-minute long reminder of how lucky I was and how much you meant to me, coupled with the fact that I would soon be separated from you for almost three months.
D: ^oof that’s cute. I think traveling with you in general really impacted the way I feel about you. I feel like I’ve heard that the best way to get to know someone better is to travel with them, because you really get to know what a person is like when they are not in their usual setting. At the time I had only known you in the setting of RISD, so getting to know you better when we were traveling was such an awesome time and I for me I feel like the whole experience really cemented my feelings for you. Specifically during that trip, when we were standing on the lookout deck atop the Burj Khalifa, that was really special. I was like, yeah, this feels right.
Q: How does your Queerness affect the way you interact with each other’s families, if at all? What about your own family, and how they interact with your partner?
D: Queerness made me more cautious when getting do know your family, because from what i knew about your father and the way you had described him being in the military and being strict and very protective parent growing up. It painted him as a very conservative person that wouldn’t take well to his son’s boyfriend. I think it made me realize how fortunate I was to have had an older sibling that had come out before me. But then I met your father and he was really really kind, and then I met the rest of your family and they made me feel so welcome in their home. I feel like as a result I was pretty comfortable from the beginning after coming out since he had kinda paved the way.
T: I feel like I was less nervous because from what I had heard about your family, they seemed more supportive of Queerness than mine--not that my family isn’t supportive, but for a while I definitely felt like there was a difference between my parents’ acceptance of my Queerness versus their support for it; they definitely accepted me the way I was, but I didn’t see much of their support for it in the way they talked about it or what they did to make me feel comfortable in my Queerness when I was at home. Now I can definitely say my entire immediate family--my parents and my sister--are all very much supportive of my Queerness. But before I definitely questioned their support. Also, since you have a brother who is gay and since two out of three of your siblings were also dating Southeast Asians, I definitely felt safer in meeting your family for the first time. I was less concerned with my Queerness and more concerned with the impression that I would leave, knowing your mother was already pretty close with all of your siblings’ significant others! But I definitely feel like Queerness is (or was) influential in my family’s interactions with you. For a while, I noticed they kept referring to you as my “first relationship,” which seemed to imply that they were confident you weren’t gonna stick around for long. I don’t know if that’s true or not--I never asked--but now I think they’ve stopped doing that, and love the fact that we’re dating! I honestly feel as if my family genuinely loves you too, and that couldn’t make me any happier.
Q: What is your opinion on ‘tribes’ in the gay community? Has it impacted what type of person you wanted to date? Do you like this categorization?
T+D: I hate tribes.
D: What irks me the most is when I hear or see people saying they only date xxx tribe. I feel like the whole concept of “tribes” has metastasized into this weird hierarchy within the queer community. I hate being categorized into a tribe, I think it's objectifying and belittling.
T: The term “tribe” here is also so offensive. It’s racist, appropriative, and colonialist. Like WHO thought this was a good idea? I also just hate the subjugation of people’s bodies to categorization in a way that feels demeaning and potentially shameful. I feel like it just highlights the faketivism of white cis gay men (and cis gay men of color who conform to this culture), and how they often equate gayness to agency over all of the ways folx experience marginalization.
D: On a somewhat related note, white cis gay men are also just the worst. I have encountered so many white cis gay men that will justify their actions by saying “well I’m gay so I’m oppressed” and therefore its okay to make racist, sexist remarks. Like that being queer is your get-out-of-jail-free card. Being queer is not a scapegoat for anything nor should it make you think you can get say whatever you want and not be held accountable. They’re truly the most toxic within the queer community for reasons like making “tribes” amongst other things.
T: There are a lot of misconceptions in the way Queer couples are defined--only femme/femme or masc/masc couples are Queer. When a couple is masc/femme, they’re automatically assumed to be cis and straight, although, many times this isn’t the case--there are bi folx who exist. There are pan folx who exist. There are demi, ace, aro, panro, and even more sexual orientations that experience attraction differently that all exist. There are TRANS, NONBINARY, and GENDERFLUID folx who exist! The most common misconception I’ve noticed as someone who is bi is that there is only one type of Queer couple, and that anything beyond that isn’t Queer.
D: I think whats bothered me the most is that other male identifying people assume that I am automatically attracted to them because they know I am gay and looking for a relationship. I remember once at a party a fellow classmate of mine thought that me dancing next to him was me
expressing interest, so he then decided to pull me into him and grind on me (he also had a girlfriend at the time). Wtf, do you think that I would like that? Like, “oh, Dennis is gay, he must want to fuck me”. Like, Um, hello?? Ugh, it was really fucked up and he played it off like it was no big deal. Also I feel like men think situations like this are just them experimenting with their sexuality and therefore it’s fine. No, it’s sexual harassment and it needs to stop.
Q: What are some misconceptions regarding Queer relationships? Anything you’ve seen, heard or experienced firsthand?
Q: What are some great things about dating as a Queer person?
T: I think one great thing is being able to date other Queer people. Oftentimes as a Queer person, the people you date are also Queer, and so there is a higher level of understanding and comfort and a willingness to learn between partners. This isn’t always the case though--I’ve gone on dates with cishet female identifying people before (these dates never became actual relationships), and I was definitely way more hesitant to mention my bisexuality. If I were to date a cishet female identifying person again, I would still be hesitant to do this, and even more hesitant to mention that I am also demisexual. I think that for anyone who dates multiple genders, there is definitely a fear of coming out to a partner who is cis and straight. Even though demisexual people are Queer in terms of how sexual attraction is experienced as opposed to who someone feels attracted to, I’ve actually had more people skeptical of my demisexuality than of my bisexuality.
Q: What are you looking forward to in your relationship with your partner?
T: Living together (not in a dorm)! I’m excited to what your career grows into, and I’m looking forward to what else we can learn from each other/alongside each other. And raising a puppy.
D: Sharing more time together. Exploring more places, having more unique experiences. And of course, raising a dog (s?).