Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Don't See Skin Color or Eye Shape

Growing up, I never really felt a sense of my Asian-ness. One time, when my sister told my parents she wanted to be a journalist, my mother pulled us aside and started crying and screaming that as long as we live "the white people" will never see us as one of them. My sister ended up studying human biology. I never really made that connection until now.

Society (at least in DC) has never made me feel different for being Asian and I never felt a strong societal pressure telling me that being gay was anything but ok. Ironically, gay society (which I have only recently been immersed in) has made me keenly, and at times painfully, aware of both. To be gay and Asian in DC is to be discriminated against. And this is obnoxious because gays bitch a big game about how they want to be treated as equals and cry to Lady Gaga about acceptance, but gay men are some of the most prejudiced people I've ever met.

In terms of a preference towards Asians, men typically fall into three categories. There are guys that just come out and say it. Per the essential question on OKCupid, "Would you strongly prefer to go out with someone of your own race?" they answer, "Yes" unabashedly or "No, not strongly..." They say things in person like "no offense, but I'm not into Asians." Even so, the honesty can be refreshingly efficient. At least I know not to bother. 

The second group of guys like to point out "I taught English in North Korea and I built village pumps in East Africa... I'm not racist." In light of their service, it's probably true that they aren't racist. But not being racist and being able to see [love] somebody beyond their race isn't quite the same. In the end, they are colorblind only in principle. In practice, they never go out with ethnic guys and usually fall for that tall, lanky white guy that makes clothes out of hemp and plays in a kickball league.

Lastly, there are the guys that actually are into Asians. But in typical gift/curse fashion with them it doesn't feel natural or organic. They don't see you as just another person that they happen to like and happens to be Asian. They like you because you are Asian. They want to speak to you in Chinese and discuss anime and K-pop. I don't even listen to K-pop. Will somebody please tell me what the fuck is K-pop? Does K stand for Korea?

I sometimes talk to white people about my racial qualms because it's interesting to get their perspective and, because I know it's there, I kind of just want to get them to admit they are the tiniest bit racist. They usually just laugh everything off and tell me that racism in 2012 is unfathomable. "Oh my god shut up, don't say that! You just need more confidence." I don't really know how to dignify a blatant attempt to sweep a legitimate issue under the rug but it's safe to say that white people don't want to discuss race issues because, for them, when nobody talks about it, it doesn't exist. 

I realize these are blanket statements about race that do not necessarily hold true in all cases. Maybe guys don't avoid me because of my race. Maybe it's because I talk too much about Mariah Carey and Desperate Housewives and the lingering racial issues of the 21st century. Maybe I do, in fact, lack confidence. Maybe, just maybe, I say "maybe" too much. I'm also aware that I'm presenting a very limited perspective: scorned Asian challenging the oppressive white man. There are plenty of other ways to look at this, like, why am I so obsessed with white people?

My roommate's parents recently came to visit from New Hampshire, where they've lived all their lives. Their curiosity about my "culture" was kind of endearing but it also spoke to a lack of exposure that is probably the culprit behind all of this unpleasantness. They asked me if I "liked being Asian in America." Not knowing how to answer that without bawling my eyes out and reciting a paragraph from The Joy Luck Club, I told them it's had its ups and downs. 

This is when his mother said, "How could it possibly be bad, you have all that incredible food." And then his father asked me why there isn't a word in Chinese for love.


Anonymous said...

I don't hate you because you're Asian; you're Asian because I hate you.

Anonymous said...

Did they really say that? I had my share of interactions with older white people but the last question was just...

JP said...

I know what you mean and it does suck, but then I think about it some more and realize that I too have my own preferences which pretty much mirrors the way others might see me.

Hetero-Challenged said...


I'm sorry for shouting but I just want to hug you right now. Not because you're Asian, but because you've captured everything I hate about the gay "Equality Now!" community.

"To be gay and Asian in DC is to be discriminated against." --- Truth.

I never "felt" my race growing up in the "redneck south" but I definitely did once I got into the gay dating game, like, last year.

As one of those straight-acting/masculine gays, I was also lucky not to be called a fag/queer/cocklover throughout most of high school, but was often called those only as a term of endearment. Including cocklover. jk.

But lo, I jump into gay dating and I've never felt so aware of my sexuality and especially, in capital letters, my RACE.

I've felt more bullied for being Asian in the gay community than I ever have been for being gay in the straight community.

While it's hard to say, how or why guys ignore you, I can pretty much bet a lot of it (hookup culture) is based on race and racial characteristics like Asian characteristics.

I did this very informative and 60 Minutes worthy coverage (even Barbara Walters) of changing my grindr picture from an Asian to a White and talking to the same people. I don't need to spell out the results of that experiment...and the fun I had pretending I was white, young and hot.

On paper, I'm absolutely worthy of a date or at least not be ignored.

23, 5'11, 170lb, magna cum laude, funny, broad-shouldered, easygoing, nice, and Asians in DC have said I have nice eyebrows (the best compliment I've ever gotten from a gay person/Asian person.)

But mention "Asian" in the mix and well, bye bye Prince Charming, hello creepy White Uncle Seymour who has a weird Asian thing.

Though it makes me into a complete douchebag, I'd say I'm a pretty awesome and confident guy to people I meet and it's a shame so many Prince Charmings never get to see it because I can't get past their "No Asians" tag.

Now, if princes find that I sigh and self-loath a lot after every date/sex so they leave, that's fine. But at least give me that chance! Right? No? Oh you won't even respond? Okay. I'll just make myself feel better by eating my incredible food.

Aek said...

Great post. I've also read other similar posts elsewhere. It seems to be a ubiquitous issue.

Now, it's fine for people to have their own preferences and all, but there are "good" and "not so good" ways of going about it.

And yes, K stands for Korea in K-pop. I don't really like K-pop.

D. said...

I was so going to do a post about this until I saw yours! You and Hetero-Challenged basically summed up my thoughts. Yes, even in racially diverse California, this stuff happens. So maybe I'll do a post with a California perspective...

Anonymous said...

I hate when white people say that all asians have halitosis

Mike said...

The question remains has DC Cised ever dated Asians or someone non-white?

Anonymous said...

I wonder the same thing mike. the whole "why won't white men love me" thing is getting real old and pathetic