As an Indian teenager growing up in the UK, I struggled with the concept of being gay.
In my family it was clear that homosexuality was a foreign concept that was neither accepted nor talked about in our culture.
For me, white tall men with perfect bodies and six-packs represented the gay world. These were the images that I repeatedly encountered during my formative years, as I searched online for clues to my feelings towards other men. Like many other gay youth of colour, I learned to idolize the white gay man and was unable to find anyone non-white attractive.
When I finally gathered the courage to reach out to some gay men in person, they were often dismissive, describing my culture and my family as “backwards.” I felt like I couldn’t belong anywhere, rejected by own culture and rejected by a predominately white gay community where I was expected to simply assimilate.
Eventually, I was given the opportunity to move to Vancouver and live publicly as a gay man away from my family. Intriguingly my race was perceived differently in the eyes of the local gay community here. The sexual racism that I often observed on online dating sites was again directed at “no Asians” but in Vancouver it was not directed against my “type” of Asian.
Why is it that sexual rejection in a geographical gay community tends to be directed at the largest minority population that is perceived to be the “annoyance” within the local demographic?
At least I had finally come to a place where my race was not seen as undesirable or annoying but very much craved by a small subsection of the gay community. I began to enjoy my new “popularity,” even though it was not quite what it seemed.
I noticed that white people who desire a particular race are given discriminatory and derogatory racist labels (like “rice queen” or “curry queen”). I find it disturbing that these labels are commonly and casually used in the community, and even encouraged by some of the non-white people alluded to in the labels.
In a throwback to the colonial era, gay youth would tell me how they attended “rich rice queen daddy parties” where food and alcohol ran freely and multiple Asian guys would attend to be “selected” by their white hosts.
I began to doubt the basis upon which my new popularity was built. It was not only questionable but, in the end, short-lived. As soon as I experimented with changing my physical appearance to no longer fit with my racialized stereotype as an Indian man, I encountered aggression and confusion. I was told that I didn’t appear like I “should” for an Indian. One person even accused me of photoshopping a picture of myself to look more white.
Eventually I came to the realization that these people did not desire me as an individual but as a racial stereotype. Similar to my formative years, I again felt isolated and judged by the white gay community because of my race, but this time not because of rejection but fetishization.
I challenge people to question their assumptions and attractions. We are all more than entitled to preferentially find whomever we want physically attractive. But I would encourage you to base your attraction on a specific person’s features and qualities, rather than their race and what you think that should entail.
Can you really exclude and dismiss millions of people based on falsely held stereotypes? What if someone dismissed all gay men as potential lovers because we all shop too much or hit on straight guys?
The beauty of our community is supposed to be that we struggled against oppression together to develop a culture where everyone can feel included and accepted. We should all try harder to challenge our racial assumptions and live up to the core principles of inclusion on which I believe our community was founded.
Many years after I came out to myself as a gay man, I matured and was able to shed my own exclusive desire to be accepted by white gay men, and instead learned to appreciate the beauty inherent in all races, including my own. No photoshop required.