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BEING GAY AND ASIAN IN AMERICA

 

What is ‘Gay’ and ‘Asian’?

gay-asian-social-dating-photos-01America has traditionally been called as the Melting Pot, where all kinds of people come for the hope of success, and subsequently these people contribute to diversity. However, the diversity can and has caused instability in this nation at the same time, because of tension among people with different identities. This tension is still causing distress to many of us who face racial and sexual prejudices on a regular basis.

This blog specifically caters to those who identify as both ‘gay’ and ‘Asian’ and who want to learn more about the relevant issues. This is not because the author intends to discriminate lesbians nor other races, but rather because this is the topic the author can best handle, as someone who identifies with these identities.

The ‘Asian’ identity
The first and most important question would be: what is this ‘Asian’ identity ? We come from different cultural backgrounds, even within a same ethnic group. Some Asian people are third-generation Chinese Americans who have resided in the SF bay area for almost hundred years. Some other Asian people just migrated from South Korea in their teens, because their parents decided that America is better for their education. Some are scholastic, and some are athletic. Some are adopted to white parents, and are identified as ‘banana’ – yellow/Asian outside, white inside – by other Asians. Some want to maintain their authentic culture inherited from their ancestors.

Nonetheless, the identity is not just based on self-identification, but also on identification in the eyes of other people. Many times, identification in the eyes of the others outweigh self-identification. Therefore, in the eyes of the others, we are all classified into one ‘Asian’ ethnic group. And this is created not only because of the white men’s gaze but also the gaze of other Asians on ourselves, and sometimes our own internalized stereotypes on our Asianness: what Asian men should be like.

Gay-Asian or Asian-gay?
While we cannot escape the ‘Asian’ identity that is cast upon us by society, different people embrace their dual minority identities in different ways. The most important difference would be how people prioritize their dual minority identites. Here I want to draw an analogy to J.T. Sears in the article “Black-gay or gay-Black? Choosing identities and Identifying Choices.” For those who identify both as ‘gay’ and ‘asian,’ their priority can vary widely. Some of us have a very strong bond to the extended family-like network within the Asian community and think their sexuality merely pertains to who they choose to date. Some others consider their sexuality more important than their bonding to the Asian heritage. These differences are highlighted because this shows non homogeneity of gay/Asian dual identity.

Takagi, D. Y. (1996). Maiden Voyage: Excursion into Sexuality and Identity Politics in Asian Amereica. In R. Leong (Ed.) Asian American Sexualities. (pp. 21-36). New York: Routledge.

Sears, J. T. (1995). Black-gay or gay-Black? Choosing identities and Identifying Choices. In G. Unks (Ed.) The gay teen: Educational practice and theory for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents. (pp. 135-157). New York: Routledge.


Gay Asian Masculinity

“We have free penis enlargement pills to give out … nobody wants them? Any Asian man here? you know you need some!” – An unidentified host for porn company “Raging Stallion studio” booth in 2006 S.F. civic center fair.

gay-asian-muscle-dating-pictures-03The ideal male sexuality in American society is described as a right amount of ‘masculinity’. This ideal masculinity oftentimes means a tall white muscular man with a big penis. In his article “Looking for My Penis,” Richard Fung points out that Asian men are typecast into effeminacy, while Black men are typecast into hyper-masculinity. In this spectrum, the White male masculinity is assumed as the ideal amount of masculinity. Therefore, all Asian men are assumed to have a small penis, which can not threaten the white male masculinity. His article was written in 1996, but as seen in the quote above, the prejudice still prevails and surfaces itself freely in public sphere.

“Here we have an Asian boy with a small penis. He needs a well-endowed top who will show him a good time in bed tonight.” – An unidentified drag show host in 2008 in Raleigh, N.C.*

*The quote was modified and paraphrased to delete vulgar language.

What is the worth of a gay man who has a penis that cannot dominate another man by penile domination? To take a receptive role in anal sex would be the answer. Within this logic, all Asian men are therefore assumed to be the receptive role, regardless of their actual preferences.

Pretty depressing, isn’t it?

However, the efforts to break down the stereotype are slowly but surely changing the perception of the public. One of the most prominent efforts will be the annual calendar named “Asian Men Redefined.” http://www.asianmenredefined.com/
Started in San Francisco in 2006, the calendar’s website claims that “It is time for Asian Men to strut their hot stuff and show the world that Asian Men are BOLDER, SMARTER, and SEXIER than ever before.”

Also featuring of masculine Asian male characters on television shows, such as Lost, has presented a possibility of masculine gay Asian man to the nationwide TV audience. Yet, the battle is hardly won. Standing up against the stereotype is the only way to break down the stereotype that still exists in our society.

Asian Men Redefined. (2006 – 2009). retrieved from http://asianmenredefined.com/ April 12, 2009.

Fung, R. (1996). Looking for My Penis: The Eroticitized Asian in Gay Video Porn. In R. Leong (Ed.) Asian American Sexualities. (pp. 21-36). New York: Routledge.

Nguyen, H. (2006). Reflections on an Asian Bottom: Gay Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association . 2009-02-04 fromhttp://www.allacademic.com/meta/p114659_index.html


Dating and Mating

“Like the stereotypical Asian, I prefer to date Caucasian men.” – a 25-year-old Asian American man quoted in Tsang’s article

gay-asian-relationship-02Men who identify with gay and Asian identities in America face a different, if not more difficult, challenge in dating and mating than those with gay and White do. Ethnicity plays an important role in intercultural dating and mating, oftentimes creating emotional distress.

“Ethnicity: caucAsian
In 1996, D. C. Tsang wrote an article “Notes on Queer ‘N’ Asian Virtual Sex.” The article describes an on-line gay Bulletin board, which catered to men of all races. He mentions an interesting case where one Taiwanese American man changed his ethnicity in his profile to White on a whim and suddenly found himself tremendously more desired by other gay men on the board, with everything else on the profile being the same.

This phenomenon can be explained if we consider that the criteria of masculinity in our society are set to that of White men, and therefore White men in the dating and mating competition are considered more desirable.

In this environment, certain gay men feel like they are “Accidental[ly] Asians”-they claim that they are gay men who only happen to be Asian (Yoshino, 2006). This is somewhat similar to gay-Asian/Asian-gay difference; which identity is more important? (Refer to “What is ‘gay’ and ‘Asian’ section) They claim that they have no difference in their mannerism from the mainstream white people, other than their skin color. So why should they care about their ethnicity?

Ironically, these gay Asian men’s claim about their conformity proves that the topic of ethnicity is unavoidable. As they said, they are part of the white mainstream culture. However, they are not treated so in the realm of dating and mating. If they were, they would not have had to reclaim their conformity. Although blatant racism in this country has decreased over time, no matter how hard they try to ‘pass’ as part of the white mainstream, they are not.

On the other hand, there are white men who are predominantly attracted to Asian men: they are called Rice Queens. Tsang quotes a short-lived print newsletter, Daisuki-Men, on the reason why these white men have a strong attraction to Asian men.

1. China Doll syndrome (i.e., Asian males are seen as feminine)
2. perception that Asians are submissive;
3. and the rice queens’ obsession with [all] things Asian

Richard Fung argues in his article “Looking for My Penis” that, even when certain rice queens seek out masculine Asian men, they find them attractive because of the rice queens’ obsession with Asian things. Fun claims that these rice queens are fantasizing about the Asian martial arts masters when they seek out for masculine Asian men.

However, Fung’s article and Tsang’s article were published in 1996. Do these assumptions still hold true in 2009? Unfortunately, the old habits die hard, and as can be seen from the section “Gay Asian Masculinity,” the only way for the situation in dating and mating for men who identify as gay and Asian is to stand against various stereotypes that are set on Asian men. Until then, the therapists need to understand the degree of distress which these prejudices cause to men who identify as gay and Asian.

Asian man and another Asian man, problem solved?
Then, when two Asian men date each other, do all the issues in dating and mating suddenly go away? That is not the case. The term ‘Asian’ covers many countries in the Asian continent. Northeast Asians – Chinese, Korean, Japanese people – are drastically different from Southeast Asians – Filipinos, Vietnamese and Laotians, let alone Indians who are occasionally included in the broad ‘Asian’ people. Further, Each country has a very unique culture. For example, a Korean Asian man and a Japanese Asian man might still experience ethnic and cultural differences that can cause emotional distress.

Tsang, D. C. (1996). Notes on Queer ‘N’ Asian Virtual Sex. In R. Leong (Ed.) Asian American Sexualities. (pp. 21-36). New York: Routledge.

Yoshino, K. (2006). Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. New York: Random House.

Fung, R. (1996). Looking for My Penis: The Eroticitized Asian in Gay Video Porn. In R. Leong (Ed.) Asian American Sexualities. (pp. 21-36). New York: Routledge.

The most important thing to remember is that finding a right time to come out is completely up to the person who wants to express and share his sexuality with his family. If he thinks he or his family is not ready for the coming out, then it will be better if the coming out process is postponed until the right time surfaces, whether it be a time of his financial independence or the family members’ change in attitude toward homosexuality.

Hom, A. Y. (1996). Stories from the Homefront: Perspectives of Asian American Parents with Lesbian Daughters and Gay Sons. In R. Leong (Ed.) Asian American Sexualities. (pp. 37-50). New York: Routledge.

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