Sunday, April 12, 2009

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.

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