Photo by Nick Paris.

Uyenmy Yamamoto dreams of good conversations.

As Yamamoto speaks, using words like “male-bodied” and “female-bodied,” it is clear she simply likes people and sees them precisely as just that. In a world of definitions that can both include and exclude people, Yamamoto is open to all exterior genders and defines herself as a “queer womyn of color.”

Yamamoto is a fourth-year Vietnamese Kresge student from Sacramento majoring in psychology and history of art and visual culture. Yamamoto laughs as she explains that even before she realized her queer identity, she had always been interested.

“I always wanted to be queer,” Yamamoto said. “I was really open to it in the first place, but I just hadn’t met anyone that proved it true to me. … I wanted to be able to fight for that equality and that consciousness.”

Yamamoto has dated males, but has felt the most connection to females. She discovered her queer identity during her junior year of high school, when she met the person who changed her perspective.

“It was the most natural thing for me, because I just met someone and it just clicked for me,” Yamamoto said. “I’ve never really felt magnetized to anyone before. I kind of just dated guys and it was whatever until I met someone and they just opened a whole new world of emotions for me. There were times when I just let myself question it, but I’ve just never felt as strong of a human connection as I did. It was the most natural thing ever. It felt real. We never went out, we just remained friends, but it was just the first time I felt that way.”

Yamamoto came out to her parents and received surprising support before leaving for college.

“I was pretty open about it in high school but totally hid it from them for the longest time,” Yamamoto said. “They also actually came out for me because with the people that I was bringing home to hang out with, the way they appeared was a lot more stereotypically queer. Their presence was different and my parents noticed that and kind of figured it out.”

However supportive, Yamamoto still feels doubt from her family.

“My mom secretly thinks that it’s a phase and that I’m just young,” Yamamoto said. “When I talk to her about relationship problems, I feel like she’s open to talking about how to help me without being biased, but sometimes at the end she’ll say little comments and I can tell that she thinks that it’s just a phase.”

While Yamamoto has found people to be very accepting on campus, she still faces some adversity.

“Little comments hurt me. I feel like when people find out that I’m feminine and queer, they try to ask about my sexual life and sometimes I feel like for people, it becomes a game,” Yamamoto said. “They’ll say, ‘It’s because you haven’t met a real man yet.’ They’ll try to get at me in both sexual and emotional ways and they’ll try to psychoanalyze me. It’s disgusting. I know it’s because I’m feminine — if I were more masculine, I know I would get a completely different reaction from guys.”

Yamomoto is currently single and is open to dating people of any label. Even though she has found female connections to be much deeper, Yamamoto does not necessarily reject any male-bodied individuals just because they are not female.

“I don’t want to be discriminatory toward people — whoever it is that I meet and make connections with and fall in love with,” she said. “When I would imagine people in my head, I wouldn’t think about their biological sex, I would just imagine their personality to be amazing. I would take snippets of what I liked about people and I would just imagine them in my head.”

Yamamoto’s philosophy on love regardless of label does, however, invite conflict even within the LGBTI community.

“Even people within the queer community sometimes don’t understand people who identify as being bisexual. There’s a stigma to it that you’re always confused,” Yamamoto said. “It’s hard for me to talk about it because a lot of people don’t understand. For people who I came out as queer to, my fear is that they won’t understand what it’s like to just like … people. People are so stuck on identity. Are you lesbian or gay? Are you trans? Are you bisexual? What is it? Love is complicated.”

Yamamoto ends the conversation with a smile.

“I think my best falling in love moments have happened when it was just friends first.”


About the Series: Coming Out

October is LGBT History Month. In honor of the month, City on a Hill Press sat down with members of the LGBT community to hear their coming-out stories and insights into what it means to be queer and questioning in 2011.