“Sorry, but I’m not into Asian guys.”
After hearing those words repeated by one hot guy after another, I was sure that Satan had duped me. Having struggled for years with my need for same-sex intimacy and with my religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness, I had shed 55 pounds and my Christian beliefs and turned to the community of gay men for understanding and the promise of fulfillment.
However, as every other guy I’d meet continued to reject me based on my race, I couldn’t help but feel that I had fallen into some sort of trap. My years of Bible study had me fearing that Satan had tempted me with my fleshly desires and had ensnared me in a world where I would never be fulfilled.
It seemed so unfair that everything else about me — my capacity for love, my personality, my unique blend of looks, tastes, touch and humour — could be completely ignored due to my misfortune of having been born Chinese. I understood that attraction is a complex and individual experience, but I was shocked that sexuality and romance could be so racist.
Although I was frustrated and hurt, I didn’t feel I could blame anyone for not being interested in me. But even as I tried to accept that it was just me they rejected, I’d find even more messages through telepersonals and online that simply stated “no Asians.”
I began to see myself as defective and started noticing how different I was when compared to the perfect, desirable form of the young white male. Only 22, I quickly grew ashamed of the body I had worked so hard to train and cultivate.
Soured on the club scene, I eventually found my way to the underground world of all night partying. Each weekend, through the murky haze of the coloured lights, the shirtless torsos and the drug-fuelled hedonism of my new home — the after-hours gay dance club — I found a place where my body and my desires were welcome and accepted, if only for a few hours.
That was where I met Tim (not his real name), a 21-year-old Asian-Canadian university student with a sexy body and a gorgeous smile. After locking eyes with each other, we danced, chatted and made out, sticking to each other hand-in-hand amongst the jungle of muscles and sweat.
We got to my place at around 9 am Sunday morning. As we lay on top of each other in my bedroom, I removed his shirt and started to undo his pants but something strange happened when I looked at his naked body in the daylight. His pubic hair, his nipples and his skin tone seemed uncomfortably familiar. I suddenly felt as if I was looking into a mirror that magnified everything I’d grown to resent about my body: how I was different, substandard, Asian.
Tim noticed some hesitation in the way I kissed him and stopped to ask, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Uncomfortably I answered, “I think I just realized something. I’m really sorry, you’re a really great guy but I don’t think I’m into Asian guys.”
He left shortly after that.
I couldn’t believe what had come out of my mouth, but I also couldn’t deny how repulsed I felt at the sight of what I had come to see as imperfections.
Up until I came out, I had been attracted to many of my Asian friends and classmates. But for the first several years of trying to find my place in the community of gay men, I had become exclusively a “potato queen.”
I tried to be cleverer in my racist sexual preference with catchphrases such as, “I don’t date Asians; there’s only so much homo in this homosexual.” I ignored the advances of Asian boys because I kept looking to what I thought I’d be missing, trying to prove my worth in the eyes of a white guy. I came to believe that white love was better than Asian love. I became a sexual racist.
Through the years that followed, I hooked up with several different white guys and had some good and some not-so-good experiences. In that time, Vancouver’s gay scene has changed too.
As the city has become so very multicultural, gay boys of various backgrounds have grown up alongside each other, are coming out at an earlier age, and are having more experience in exploring their tastes and desires. I’ve definitely benefited from this, and my need to prove myself to white boys has eased. Somewhat.
My journey through self-hatred and alienation seems to be a traditional rite of passage for many more gay Asian-Canadian males. I watched my dear friend Nathan (not his real name) go through it. We hooked up for a few fun romps some time before he had exploded onto the gay scene. As he explored the club scene, I watched as he went through a very similar experience hearing him reject Asian guys altogether saying, “Ew, he’s Asian, Erck!”
But just as I eventually grew to enjoy the qualities we’d shared in our Asian-ness, and more, Nathan has since found himself a sexy and sweet Asian-Canadian boyfriend with whom he shares an obvious delight and peace.
What I’ve come to learn is this: desire comes in many forms for many different reasons. Sometimes people are running towards something they want and sometimes they’re running away from their own insecurities. Considering the fluid and sometimes self-loathing nature of desire, while rejection hurts, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
The scars of my rejection still run very deep on my self-image but experience has taught me that the rules of attraction are many and varied and go beyond what we love or hate about ourselves.
I’ve also learned to differentiate between love and desire. Desire is wanting what you don’t have, love is wanting what you do.