|Related Articles: LGBT, All|
Memoirs of a Gaysian
Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Sep 21, 2007
The disco lights were flashing. The fog machine in full effect. Music was blaring from the speakers and the crowd was bouncing happily along. A stranger grabbed my wrist and whispered the sweetest nothing in my ear, “Hi, I think you’re the most beautiful looking thing here.” Aside from feeling somewhat like I was in an outdoor market, I was in heaven. Then all of a sudden…kerplunk: “Where are you from?”
I was taken aback; where was I that my appearance would prompt such beguilement? I’m from San Francisco, but I guess even in a city of roughly 800,000, where close to a third of the population is Asian and more than 15% is gay, a face like mine might still seem an anomaly. So I half muttered “San Francisco, thank you.” And somehow, amid the jingle jangle of mandolins and gongs, he was still able to question, “No really, I mean originally.”
“Oh, you mean originally? Well originally, I’m from the planet Fu Manchu. I like to do math and eat cats.” What did he want me to say? He probably wouldn’t have appreciated what I really had in mind, so I smiled weakly and turned away. It’s surprising how often something like this happens because this isn’t some foreign harbor and he was no sailor. I am not Cio Cio San and he was definitely no Pinkerton. Deep down, we Asians (and I suspect the same can be said for all minorities) don’t enjoy being made to feel like some exotic jungle house pet or ornament.
I guess I was asking for it though. What else did I expect from going to a self-proclaimed Asian paradise? Certainly, I thought maybe I’d meet men of the same creed. Maybe my knight in terra-cotta armor. It never occurred to me that I’d be made to feel like some porcelain China doll. Up until that point, I had always regarded the term “gaysian” as my favorite of all urban portmanteaus. Mainly because that is what I suppose I am and, judging from a night out at Club Dragon, there are a lot of us.
You see, far from being a derogatory term, "gaysian" simply means gay and asian, or so I thought. Realistically, we’d be hard-pressed to argue that there isn’t some sort of Orientalism attached to it somehow. After all, what need would there be to define ourselves as Asian if not for some implied purpose of maximum marketability?
As sexual a culture as gay culture is, we term everything by its most discernable and desirable trait so as to better capitalize and categorize it for fetish niche. And accordingly, the term “gaysian” will play its role in what Edward Said’s postcolonial studies described as 'the Eurocentric ideals of a masculine west and a feminized east'. In most confrontations like the one I described above between myself and Mr. Xenophiliac, there is invariably some implicit game of master and slave, of the conqueror and the conquered, and, to put it simply, of top and bottom.
Romantically we want to take attraction at face value, but the cynics in us say that sex and power are the basest of human desires. And as such, relationships between two human males from backgrounds with a history of Imperialism will inevitably fall into the game of would-be jingoism. It’s like when people decorate their rooms with the Buddha. The Buddha is a religious figurehead to millions of people, not something you put in your meditation room to feel "zen".
That’s not to say that “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” as Rudyard Kipling once said; that’d only be half the story. He continues: “But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, when two strong men stand face to face.” As gaysian Americans, many of us stand as testaments to that. We prefer foie gras on dates but like to eat rice at home. Just don’t expect us to cook it for you.
by Philip Wong on Sep 21, 2007