Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Use This Web Blog

This web blog is created as the final project for 2009 Spring Study of Sexualities class: Clinical Consideration for the LGBTQ community.

This web blog discusses on various issues that distress men who identify as both gay and Asian. If you want to contribute to the contents of the web blog, you are more than welcomed to.

To the right, under the blog archive, there are six entries which serve as a menu panel. You can read from the beginning to the end as if it was one big web page, or you can use these links as if they were different pages.

* How to Use This Web Blog
Back to the main page, which is this post.

* What is 'Gay' and 'Asian'?
What does it mean to identify with both gay and Asian identities?

* Gay Asian Masculinity
How society thinks Asian man can not be masculine

* Dating and Mating
How does ethnicity affects dating and mating in the gay world?

* Coming out to Family
Dealing with coming out to family

* Clinical Approach
Then, how can therapists help men who identify as both gay and Asian?

* Further Information
Offering hyperlinks to further information

What is 'Gay' and 'Asian'?

America 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.
The 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."

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 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 from

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
Men 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.

Coming Out to Family

For someone who identifies with both gay and Asian identities, coming out to his family can be a very stressful thing. Asian American families tend to stand on the liberal side of the political spectrum, but their family-oriented ideologies are centered around heterosexual families. Asian families tend to put a great amount of expectations on their son, and this high expectation oftentimes means to get married to a woman and have a family of their own - with biological children.

The stressful situation goes the other way as well; for the parents and other family members, finding out that their child and sibling is gay can be a very stressful thing. His family has to go through the process of dealing with their internalized homophobia and their prejudices toward LGBT people, in addition to homophobia in our society (Hom, 1996).
... Mommy thinks everybody [is] a little bit gay. You have a friend, and you like your friend so much you don't know what to do. It's kind of gay ... especially in college, it's a very gay time. So many gays in college, You know, daddy had a friend like that. I will tell you a gay story about your daddy [when he was in Korea] ... - Margaret Cho on her mother and father
Many first-generation Asian Americans have a prior knowledge on homosexuality which they acquired before they came to the United States. They are, however, not as used to the idea of open homosexuality in society as most white families have come to be. This is mostly because of the amount of exposure the white families had beforehand since 1960's sexual liberation movement.

Another important factor is that Asian families tend to save up financial resources for college education of their children. This means that the independence of the gay Asian man oftentimes comes later than most white gay men. Also, the interdependence among the relatives in Asian American families sometimes means that the parents and siblings are more sensitive to the criticisms of the family relatives, and therefore the family also has to deal with the prejudices which their relatives express.

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.

Clinical Approach

APA's guideline to counsel LGBT clients include the following statement;
Guideline 9. Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the particular life issues or challenges experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of racial and ethnic minorities that are related to multiple and often conflicting cultural norms, values, and beliefs (American Psychological Association, 2009).
However, simple recognition of the life issues and challenged experienced by people with multiple minorities is not sufficient to provide a clinical help to the clients when the therapists have no background knowledge on what other men who identify as gay and Asian go through in this country. In this blog, I have discussed about the dual identity issues. gay Asian men's masculinity issues. dating and mating. and coming out to family issues. The common factor that affects all these issues is the marginalized status of men who identify as gay and Asian, who are discriminated from other Asian Americans for being gay and from the LGBT community for being Asian.

Narrative Therapy to Understand
In this situation, a narrative therapy is always a good idea to know better about what the client has experienced as a man who identifies as both gay and Asian. As shown in the section "What is 'gay' and 'Asian'?" each person identifies with their dual minority identities in a different way, because his life story inevitably differs from that of others. Although I talked about gay Asian masculinity, not all gay/Asian men want to be masculine, nor not all gay/Asian men want to date white/gay men. Listening to his life story is the way to understanding where he is coming from.

Finding the Support
Of course, there is no way that therapists can have a perfect knowledge for every single minority's issues. However, they can provide the clients with resources where the clients can find information they need. Unless the client is in a major metropolitan area with a big Asian American population, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta or New York city, it is difficult to find a local support group for men who identify as both gay and Asian. We are, however, blessed in a time of the Internet, and providing internet resources to your client can help them reassured that they are not alone, and there has been decades of research done on men who identify as both gay and Asian in America.

American Psychological Association. (2009). Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Clients. 2009-01-08. from retrieved on 2009-04-15

Further Information

Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center: Gay Men

Asian Pacific Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays

Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York

Gay Asian Pacific Alliance in San Francisco

Gay Asian Pacific Support Network in Los Angeles

Human Rights Campain Website: Asian Pacific Americans