In this cute little café in the middle of Boston, between crêpes and French toasts, I met Mild Laohapoonrungsee. Originally from Thailand, she moved to Massachusetts to achieve her undergraduate degree in business at Babson College. In middle school, she dreamed of becoming either an architect or an animator. But once she got to her international high school, she was surrounded by friends who all wanted to get into the business world, so she somehow got swayed by the idea, since she didn't have a clear passion in mind.
Turns out it didn’t take too long for her to realize business isn't something that comes naturally to her, even though she liked the school itself. While taking some alternative classes, like literature and philosophy, she discovered an inclination for storytelling. So when it was time for her to choose a grad school, she applied for a journalism program.
Back home, Mild didn’t have much reference in terms of what a queer person could be. As a conservative country, led by a military government, Thailand offered very little representation in media, public spaces, spotlight positions. On TV, for example, the LGBTQIA+ representativity was limited to drag queens in a stereotyped, hyper sexualized angle, which contributed for her to see the word or concept of “gay” as being an insult for a long time.
She suppressed her sexuality until last year. The pandemic not only forced her to be at home more but also to face herself. When she decided to come out, the first person to know was her best friend from hometown. She came out as bisexual, but she knew she was in fact into women. Even though her friend has been generally forward, she encouraged Mild to think about the consequences of becoming open about her sexuality. In her point of view, if Mild ended up dating a man she would’ve gone through all the trouble for nothing (unfortunately, these kinds of beliefs are not very uncommon).
Eventually, Mild came out to her mom inspired by a Thai series called I Told Sunset About You. The plot was pretty similar to what she had been through in high school, which resonated with her. She was prepared for a very dramatic conversation and thought it would be the end of the world, but her mom was actually more confused and curious than intolerant. She just wanted to ask more questions.
With her dad it was relatively okay too, although he’s had a fixed image of what a queer person would look like, so he somehow expected Mild to change dramatically, dress up in a different way, look “more queer”.
Timeline wise, the theme for her master’s thesis came along right after she came out. She had never had a vast queer exposure, so she wanted to get to know people and explore the LGBTQIA+ community. Since she used to be very introverted and shy and didn’t know how to walk into a bar and just hit up someone to start a conversation, she used an alternative Gen-Z approach: Tinder! Yes, that’s right. The dating app.
Mild put up a profile saying she was "looking for a strictly business relationship with people" and later elaborated her hope to have conversations with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Surprisingly, she got a lot of feedback. She’s interviewed around 25 people so far, half of the participants being from Tinder.
When it comes to personal connections, Mild says she’s pretty new to this queer world so she’s still learning the process. Who isn’t, right? :)
Big thank you to Mild for sharing so much of her story with me and big thank you to all of you for reading it.
See you on the next!