No, I Don’t Care If White Gay Men Want Me

Racism in gay dating exists, and it sucks a lot. Studies have shown that gay men of color receive fewer responses on dating apps, and Asian American gay men in particular get written off as desexualized and undesirable and experience fetishization. As a gay Asian American man, I have faced my fair share of dating microaggressions and mishaps, ranging from being fetishized because of my race on Grindr to having (usually white) men lose interest in me when they realize I have strong opinions about social justice, instead of being a submissive Asian wallflower. While these instances have felt hurtful, over the past few years I have adjusted my attitude to come to a more empowering conclusion: I really do not care about what white gay men, as well men in general, think of me, because I can love myself outside of validation from men.

I started thinking about the pointlessness of pursuing love from gay white men upon seeing the prominence of gay white men everywhere. Movies and books like Love, Simon and Call Me By Your Name focus on the desires of (conventionally attractive) gay white men. Shows like GleeQueer as FolkModern FamilyCrazy Ex-Girlfriend, etc. include gay and queer male characters who are almost exclusively white. It is not just the whiteness of these characters that feels repetitive; it is also the tiredness of their romance-centered narratives, in which gay white men feel incomplete before they find a romantic partner, with some even engaging in unhealthy behaviors to maintain a relationship. Due to the increasing visibility of these narratives, I can see why gay men of color feel pressured to secure love from and feel desired by gay white men. However, observing these narratives makes me wonder: why, as a gay Asian American man, would I want to reproduce these same patriarchal stories of using a man to complete myself when I am already a complete person?

adam silvera and benjamin alire saenz picture

Two of my favorite YA authors who write about queer teens of color, Benjamin Alire Saenz (left) and Adam Silvera (right). Check out their books! Pic taken from Saenz’s Twitter, @BenjaminAlireSa.

It is important to acknowledge how queer relationships can replicate patriarchal patterns, ranging from abusive tactics to basing our self-worth on whether a (oftentimes white) romantic partner will love us. Feminist writers have inspired me to think about patriarchy in queer relationships, to consider how the struggle for gay white men’s affection reminds me so much of how women are taught to base their self-worth on if a man provides them with attention and affection. I understand that queer love gaining recognition and representation is revolutionary – especially queer love between people of color – given how we as queer folk have faced discrimination based on our sexuality for the majority of history. However, despite what the media brainwashes us to believe, you can create a meaningful life and be a healthy, self-aware person who strives to make a difference in the world without a romantic partner. In fact, it may even be easier to do so without a romantic partner, given how romance and relying on someone else for our happiness can distract us from accepting ourselves.

Yes, fighting racism in queer dating is important, and it is also important that we gay Asian American men learn to love ourselves without the approval of gay white men. We can center queer narratives that focus on our lived experiences, romantic or not. As Rebecca Solnit writes about in her iconic essay “Whose Story (and Country) Is This?”, we should question how white men’s stories garner the most sympathy, as well as how their perspectives and desires receive the most value. A connection of mine once said that he felt grateful that he could feel close to me, because as gay Asian American men we are often conditioned to compete for gay white men’s affection. When he said this, I thought, yeah, fuck that shit, because getting a white man to love us is unrelated to our worth as people, especially when we have so much work to do within our own communities, like fighting toxic masculinity and anti-blackness.

I want to inhabit the leading role of my own life story, not play the romantic interest of another (white) gay man who felt incomplete before meeting “the love of his life.” Sure, I have felt attracted to men – including white men – and have dedicated more time than I wanted to on those crushes. But, without a boyfriend, I have cultivated loving and amazing close friendships, gained admission to a top-ranked Psychology PhD program so I can practice therapy, research, and teach, and I have gone to therapy and have cultivated a strong relationship with myself and my values. As a gay Asian American man, the intersections of my race and sexuality have emboldened me to examine how intersecting systems of oppression affect marginalized people’s mental health. I feel so excited to continue exploring these ideas while building a life full of meaningful relationships, with a romantic partner or without one.

holland neverland music video screenshot

Screenshot of openly gay K-Pop idol Holland’s music video, “Neverland,” for the sake of representing nonwhite gay men! Though K-Pop has its issues with glorifying whiteness, fat-shaming, etc. but, that’s maybe for another post.

I definitely did not delve into the complexities of bisexuality, the experiences of trans individuals, etc. in this post so I recognize that as a limitation. Still, I’d be curious about what your thoughts are on this issue, especially from fellow queer men of color and gay Asian American men in particular! It is also my birthday today, so, yay. Now that summer has arrived let’s hope for more posts soon, because I have many, many ideas. Until next time, dear readers.

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

10 responses to “No, I Don’t Care If White Gay Men Want Me

  1. Happy birthday, Thomas, and thank you for such an important post!

  2. Bravo, Thomas. Well shared. I sense and feel your strength.

  3. x.w

    Hi Thomas,
    Happy Birthday!
    This new post along with your last post has reminded me so many issues I’ve faced when I tried online dating in the U.S.. I am a straight asian woman but I see a lot of similarities on some problems you’ve written here.
    I wanted try out dating apps because every girlfriend I have known then had tried. I’ve heard good and (lots of ) bad stories from them so I was curious. I felt that I was in a strong place in my life and I wanted to see how bad/good it was. After six month I decided it was not my game. I think the biggest problems are what you mentioned here: racism; and the stereotyping for asian women. So many times I felt confused and I couldn’t figure out a better way to “filter out” the people I didn’t want to spend my time with.
    I talked with a very close friend about how I felt. Interestingly, as a white woman she totally agree with me and she hated how a lot of white men behave on dating apps.
    I also read about a survey online that year, one dating site shows their data tells (in the straight dating game) the most popular profiles are of white men, and then asian women. I remembered it said black women and asian men were among the least popular. I was very upset after reading that. My friend and I both agree that while dating online, people’s issues, like racism is magnified for many reasons. But how do we tell from personal preferences from fetish in a short period of time ? And to know if a person has hidden racism issues? I wanted to be able to know quicker because I want to protect myself and also I don’t want to invest too much time on dates which are not worth it. Maybe I will figure out some day… ;P
    But I am sure you are filtering out many people who are not for you, by being who you are and keep your standards. I also believe that by being who we are, we will eventually attract the right kind of people in our lives to love, and to be friends with.
    I agree with you that people can do many great things without a romantic partner. I think people FEEL “completed” when they find their great loves. It’s a great feeling but I don’t think a person’s life or a human being needs to be completed by someone. Therefore, I also think that the validation coming from whether a person has a wife /husband/ a partner is just stupid. Another thing of the validation from the love of white men (to asians)—oh my gosh, it is still a big issue which I definitely see among the asian women I’ve known, and it is even worse here in my country.
    While all those issues are ongoing I think eventually when we meet the right person it doesn’t matter who he is, and how he looks. It is not for the sake of dating/marriage, it is just because they are kind and strong and overall great person, right? (haha i’m a hopeful romantic).
    Again, I wish you a great birthday and a wonderful year ahead!!

  4. Happy birthday, Thomas! I hope your day is kind to you. 🌻

    This is such a great post, and I’m always so in awe to see how you’re so eloquent and thoughtful, no matter what you write.

    I’ve noticed how romance always seems to become the focus where queer characters are concerned as well, and be the aspect that “defines” them – and I really hope that, going forward, writers will put more emphasis on how being your own person above all, and valuing yourself outside of your romantic relationships, is so much more important.

    Also, I’ve been wanting to read something by Adam Silvera for the longest time, and I’m definitely going to prioritize one of his books now.

  5. Happy birthday and thank you for highlighting these issues so boldly yet carefully and helping get conversations going.

  6. Happy birthday! And thank you for posting — somehow they always come when I need them the most.

  7. Happy belated birthday, Thomas!
    As a gay Korean (European) woman, I have not openly faced racisim from white lesbians, but I have felt the double whammy of the sexual and cultural divide. But then again, I’m not actively a part of a LGBTQ+ community nor have I any dating experience, so take this with a grain of salt :9
    I’ve learned from the documentary series “Queer Britain” that gay men have to face a lot of racial prejudices and are pressured to aspire a certain body image – there was an interview with an Asian gay man who (apparenlty having internalized the prejudices and stereotypes) described himself as inferior to white men and how happy he would be if a white man deigned to date him. It was horrible to watch and left a bitter taste. I applaud your fortitude and healthy conviction that you are not incomplete by yourself and that you do not need a white man’s validation to be happy and fulfilled.
    After reading the caption about Holland, I searched a bit around and apparently quite a few of the entertaint agencies didn’t sign a contract when Holland said that he wanted to incorporate contents relating to his sexuality in his album. 😦 Korea has a looooong way to go. I especially find its blind importation of all things America (framework, arguments, even the negative reactions) troubling.

  8. Kendra Lee

    Happy belated birthday!

    This post was so well thought-out and touched on so many important issues that I wish I could take you out for coffee and good IRL conversation.

    I was completely blind to the racism in the LGBTQ community until recently. I’m white. And most of the time I was dating I was blackout drunk (not proud of that, it’s just my truth). But when I moved to Atlanta and started marching in support of Black Lives Matter, I noticed how few gay folks turned up for the marches. I was STUNNED. As my gay, black, preacher friend points out, “HRC is willing to use civil rights rhetoric but not willing to speak up for black lives.” True. And I believe we could extend that to a lack of willingness to stand up against whiteness.

    Your point about “reproduc[ing] these same patriarchal stories of using a man to complete myself when I am already a complete person” was also spot on. I chased the notion of completing myself with a relationship the ENTIRE time I dated. Not until I got sober almost 10 years ago did it ever occur to me that I am enough in and of myself. So are you.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I loved it.

  9. Pingback: May Wrap-Up // Much Ado About My Avg. Rating on Goodreads + I Gush About YOU 🌸 – Sprinkles of Dreams

  10. Pingback: Wrapping up May 2018, a trip to Bolinao, and bouncing back from an unplanned blogging hiatus – That Bookshelf Bitch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s