Jason Tseng

Fried Rice: A Failed Attempt at Subverting Sexual Racism; pt. I

Filed By Jason Tseng | April 09, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Chinese gays and lesbians, fetish sex, gay men, race, racism, relationships, rice queen, sex, sexual racism

I've been called a lot of things in my life. shrimp.jpgThe standard pejoratives come to mind: faggot, Cocksucker, Chink... Commie chink. Although I took that last one more of a compliment, than anything else. But easily the most painful name came not from the homophobic jock or the drunken frat boy... It came from a lover.

It came tangled between bed sheets; heads buzzing with the freedom afforded by alcohol, he whispered softly in my ear, "You're perfect. My perfect little geisha boy." To this day, those words, which I'm sure were intended to make me feel treasured and beautiful, continue to haunt me.

Now, I have had my fair share of racially skewed relationships. In fact every substantial romantic relationship I've had has been with a rice queen. I had grown accustomed to questions asking where I'm from. Seeing their confused faces after I tell them "Washington D.C.", I have learned to always qualify this with "but my family is from China." I see their disappointment in learning that I don't speak my "native tongue," or that I have never been "back."

I had even become desensitized to the inane guessing games they would employ to infer my ethnicity. "Yeah, I get Korean a lot. It's my face," is my rote response.

I found myself feeling less like a person and more of an idea; an amalgam of expectations; a blur of tawny skin and slanted eyes. I had gotten to the point where when I walk into a bar, I immediately gauged myself against the other Asians in the room, because I know it is by this criteria on which I will be judged. They are not my friends, my comrades, my brothers in arms. They are my competition. They are the enemy.

At once I am caught in a vice of being required to captivate my prospects with my overt displays of ethnicity, yet cut off from those whom share this oppressive experience. Unable to form alliances for fear of cannibalizing our market, we are divided and conquered by the inevitability of economics.

I eventually reached an impasse; the proverbial back-breaking straw where I realized that I could no longer live in this colonial schema of rice queen and exotic object of affection. But in all of my personal and romantic experience, men who like Asian guys but are not rice queens either did not exist, or required too much vetting to be viable romantic prospects.

I realized a fundamental flaw in my equation: if we, gay Asians, continued to entrust gay white men with the keys to our eventual happiness, they would inevitably fail us. They are born into a culture in which systemic racism encourages widespread subjugation of nonwhite people.* Of course there are a select few who are able to resist this pervasive culture of appropriation and wholesale theft. But attempting to seek these individuals out, using our hearts as collateral, is simply too costly. I reasoned that the only truly revolutionary thing to do was to renounce the world of rice queens and go sticky rice. What a novel thought, gaysians dating gaysians.

I would renounce the code of beauty which casts us as undesirable, small-dicked, pansy geishas, incapable of fucking or owning our agency. Rather I would seek to escape the fundamentally imbalanced politic of inter-racial relationships, and find happiness in a world free from racial power disparity: with those of my own race.

to be continued...

*NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This post has been edited from its original form in response to the dynamic and spirited debate that has been drawn out from the Bilerico community. If you would like to read the original text, feel free to find it at Belowthebelt.org, which has retained the original text as a historical record.

(Crossposted to www.belowthebelt.org)


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Thanks for sharing this. Exoticism is one of my big frustrations and it comes in so many forms. I look forward to seeing the next part.

Thanks for your comment Tobi!

I was with you until you made this statement: "I realized a fundamental flaw in my equation: if we, gay Asians, continued to entrust gay white men with the keys to our eventual happiness, they would inevitably fail us. They are born and bred to subjugate." You in one fell swoop, made a broad generalization about a group of people, just as you are bitching about people making broad generalizations and racist assumptions about you.

I would say that "rice queens" are a certain segment of the gay white male population- but by no means all.

Speaking of, I see you continue to use the terms "rice queen" and "sticky rice" etc in your column. I've always found those terms demeaning and marginalizing- what's your take?

I personally would just prefer not to be called a food, even if its something as good as sticky rice, or in my case southern friend vanilla ice cream. (i'm from the south!)

Hi jeremy,

I qualify this statement with the next sentence:

Of course there are a select few who are able to resist this pervasive culture of appropriation and wholesale theft. But attempting to seek these individuals out, using our hearts as collateral, is simply too costly.

So gay white men in this schema are either racist or non-racist. And even in the event that they are non-racist it requires too much energy to determine if they are or are not verifiably racist.

I absolutely acknowledge that not all white people are racist. But you are also born into a racist system which puts you on top... and then that's all you know, it can be very difficult to see outside that lens.

I will tell you that it has been EXHAUSTING to be constantly vet every single person you date for possible signs of fetishism. And in my experience it's just not worth it. Hence: post.

and re: rice/food nomenclature. Hey, I didn't start the whole terminology, i'm just running with it.

TammieHuber | April 10, 2009 3:32 AM

Its kind of sad, but maybe I am a bit naive, I just do not understand how people in our community would hold certain prejudices. But then again I guess we all are human and being GLBT is just a part of who we are as a person.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 9, 2009 11:28 PM

Jason, as a Caucasian who has slept with all flavors of Caucasians, Hispanics, Arabs, Africans and Asians I think you begin this piece with an over sensitivity to words and need instead to concentrate on the quality of actions of a potential lover. May I first suggest that you love yourself completely? Not in a narcissistic manner, but just be comfortable in your own "skin" if I may put it that way.

You mention "vetting" someone as though you are filling staff at a presidential library instead of "connecting" with another human being. People are not as disposable as that. It does not have to be just about sex, sizes, positions or prejudices.

If someone is on constant trial to get to know you how long before they move on to other pastures? Now, saying that, I have known Gay Thai men who are only interested sexually in other Gay Thai men rather than "foreigners." I think that is fine as the individual should "float their own boat." Enjoy yourself exclusively with other Gay Asians if you wish to, but it seems to me that you are in danger of becoming insular like some of my Gay mentors in New York who would never consider going home with someone to New Jersey.

I can hear Raymond's voice now: "...and of course, no one above Central Park." :)

i use words like vetting because i have learned that in this colonial structure where I have to be on constant guard for fetishists. as a white person, i don't think you can fully grasp how completely dehumanizing it is to be exoticized like i have been. to know that the person you have been opening yourself up to all this time is only interested in you because of your race. And then to know that you're virtually interchangeable with any other asian guy. and then to have this happen over. and over. and over.

You learn to protect yourself. i've had many conversations with other gay asian men who have similar experiences.

I'm not sure... and don't take this as an attack, cuz it isn't. But I'm not sure you understand the point of this post. This isn't a personal problem. this problem is systemic. A wholesale devaluation of gay asian men amongst the widespread gay culture coupled with being pigeon-holed by fetishists. This isn't a personal problem this is a macro problem. And since I can't act macro-ly I respond personally to a macro problem. Hence... the post.

I'm just so tired of having race be such a monumental issue in my relationships, and it always seems to be in my long list of inter-racial relationships. The next logical step is to try it out intra-racially, no?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 10, 2009 1:45 AM

Jason, I do see your point, but I also know that anything we care to post about is usually personal. By all means you have to do what you best enjoy. I remember once being turned off in college by someone saying to me that I had "sexy lips"!?! People say stupid stuff.

Perhaps it is the blinders I have had on in business, but I do not see race-religion as anything to be overly valued or devalued. I found the best and brightest people I could work with and they were often Korean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese.

But to suggest that you are "interchangeable" with any other Asian guy is baffling to me or that there is a subset of Gay males you call "rice queens" as I have never heard that term before. (Sorry, I must have missed that memo :)I suppose it must be me as physical "beauty" only lasts a minute with me. I want to know the person behind the personna.

Perhaps instead of the word "vetting" it could be very satisfactory (for anyone who feels your "objectification" may I say?) to proceed slowly and know that,(as wonderful as you are inside) you should take your time and separate the chaff from the wheat. If a potential partner is really interested in you they won't just want to "come and go" but rather get to know you. Set your own limits of time or goals to achieve.

Far better to go home alone from the club having had good conversations-flirtations, and no sex, knowing that you are not allowing yourself to be stereotypically "devalued" racially. Hold your honor and self worth at the top of your "vetting."

Am I starting to get it now?


Robert, it might be helpful for you to read Derailing for Dummies, specifically the points "You're Taking Things Too Personally", "I Don't Think You're As Marginalised As You Claim", and "You Have A False Consciousness" (addressing "color-blindness").

I realize that you (probably) aren't intentionally derailing or dismissing Jason's experience, but you need to know and understand how it looks for a white person to question a PoC's experience of racism.

thanks so much for this Alex! What a great resource!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 11, 2009 1:12 AM

Why thank you Alex, I will be sure to work on self improvement and put a halt to my thin skinned caring ways.

Brad Bailey | April 10, 2009 1:39 AM

Hi Jason, Thank you for a very honest and informative commentary. I believe that racism within the gay community is a very real thing, and needs to be addressed. I believe that racism and religious intolerance on the part of white gays played a significant role in the passing of Prop 8. Seventy percent of blacks voted for it, and recent studies indicate that religion plays an important role in the lives of at least fifty percent of gay blacks. If we are to expect open-mindedness in others, we must first practice it ourselves.

RebelPrince | April 10, 2009 11:12 AM

Brad-

It is completely irresponsible to continue spewing the lie that 70 percent of blacks voted for Prop 8.

That myth has been disproven time and time again, and when people repeat it, it allows the vicious and divisive cycle of mistrust between straight African-Americans and queers to continue.

Racism IS a huge issue for LGBT folk-- I agree with you there. But (although I don't think you meant to) misusing statistics only worsens the problem.

PS I think this is a really thought-provoking and important piece, Jason.

I also found "They are born and bred to subjugate" offputting, but I think it's worth getting past that and trying to listen to where it's coming from. It's a place of pain, and pain deserves respect and compassion. There's way too many people who want to jump on stuff. I'm willing not to be them.

Yes, the comment about an inherent inclination to oppress was over the top, but it was not the defining point of the post; so get over it, people.

I'm Hispanic,have still my accent (not to the point where it's disabling, but it's discernible), long wavy hair. Typical Spaniard look with some Italian in the mix. I'm aware people consider me exotic.

To a point, I share your disdain for fetishizing minorities. The fake-Hispanic accents in gay movies and making us look like sleazy, dumb foreign whores irritates me, at least. I'm not dark-skinned, so I'll often meet those with a fetish for certain stereotypes that resent me for not being dark-skinned and resembling a Chicano thug.

At the same time, I do enjoy some aspects of being exotic. I do not try to fit to the beauty standards of the crew cut, blond, All-American boy in behavior and tastes. I have my own brand of sexiness, so to speak, rejecting an ethnocentric take on the dating game.

You cannot imagine how many times I get stares and hidden giggles when I'm speaking Spanish through the cell phone. I will usually just smile and insult/curse them out in Spanish, making each verbal assault seem like the sweetest compliment.

To give you a direct personal experience, my cousin and I took the younger nephews to Island of Adventures some years ago. My cousin, she's pretty damn hot. So here come a bunch of dumb American boys and start to clumsily hit on her. The first comments? "Oh, you people have cell phones too?". I wanted to respond "Yeah, but they rarely have reception while we're hunting tapirs in the jungle or wrestling with anacondas."

Hang in there, darling; don't give up on finding Prince Charming!

P.S. You'll have to forgive me, but I fell off my chair with laughter at the "my little geisha boy" remark.I had to picture you in a powdered face and kimono, playing around with fans and instruments.

Haha thanks for the comment Lucrece. It's interesting to hear about your experiences with fetishization as well.

And ironically enough, I have gone as a geisha for halloween... but more as a "fuck you" statement than caving to the man. :P

And I assure you, my geisha was fierce and in control haha!

Your "born and bred to subjugate" comment is still over the top even if you do try to mitigate it by saying that not all white people are racists. And it's intellectually incoherent, as well. China hasn't exactly been a wallflower in the big dance of conquest. We all have our histories.

It seems like, basically, you are arguing for a kind of color-blindness that is impossible.
I hope as you get older you find that exoticizing is not automatically racist. (Well, by definition it's racist if you define racist simply as noticing the difference, but I would argue that it is, or can be, value-neutral.) There will always be assholes in the world -- don't let them make you live your whole life so defensively. Domination/submission, self/other, strangeness/familiarity, objectification -- I think these are all inherent dynamics of erotic attraction. They can be your friends.

When I moved to Texas a few years ago I suddenly found myself the object of lots of attention from Mexican and Mexican-American men who for some reason think white men who look like me are hot. I'm having a hard time finding anything bad about being surrounded by handsome men who are into me. I've had great sex, made nice friends, learned a lot about Mexico and the border, and my Spanish is improving. What's wrong with that?

hey golikewater,

I stand by my statement. Sure it's incendiary but I don't think it's over the top. White culture is expansive and pervasive, yet masked by its ubiquity. And I certainly acknowledge China is far from free from a problematic ethnic history... I'm not Chinese. I was born in this country. The child of immigrants. A part of a community the American government attempted to excise from its shores through a strategic system of latent genocide - prohibiting the immigration of asian women while prohibiting inter-racial marriage... they attempted to age-out the Chinese population in America. This isn't a conspiracy theory... this is the history of America.

I'm certain that in China, I might have access to different kinds of power, but I don't live in China. I live in America, and it is under this cultural context in which I write.

And i'm sorry, maybe it is indeed my youth, but I cannot fathom any context in which exotification is NOT racist. Maybe you can enlighten me. Your example doesn't seem to resonate with me... because while your experience with having your whiteness act in your favor, it also doesn't hinder your access with other prospects. Your whiteness is fetishized for it's ability to have wide accessibility to anyone you want. Where as those mexicans who were all over your ass were chasing you for your access to white power. White guys chase me because they have that power and I do not. In addition, my race... my yellowness, unlike whiteness inhibits my access to prospects. It's not small subsets of the population, either. It's sweeping swatches of gay America that simply isn't interested because of race.

Also please keep in mind this is a first in a series of posts. The mental space I was in before I took this journey through sticky rice land was several months ago and I am now reflecting on that journey. Hopefully in future posts we'll be able to take that journey together and come closer together in thought. Thanks for the comment and continuing the conversation.

Hi Jason,

Nice post.

After reading through the comments I think you might have gotten your point across better if you had used "fetishists" instead of "rice queen" in your original post.

To those who seem confused by what he's talking about, I think you've just never met/noticed this type of fetishist. And there's no reason you would have if you're not Asian. I'm a white guy who's been out and about for years and I just met this type for the first time a about a month ago down at my local gay bar. I wound up talking to this guy (a friend of a friend) who has this fetish. There were a couple of Asian guys on the other side of the room and he saw them and then launched into this whole spiel about he loves to "take an Asian ass home and pound it" and then he went on and on with things like "those Asian boys have the tightest little asses" and "I just love to pound them over and over again".

I had just met this man about five minutes earlier. He didn't actually know any of the Asian guys he was talking about and most of them had their backs to us and it was fairly dark, so you couldn't really tell if they were cute or not. And in this guy's view of the world all Asian guys were submissive bottoms who would just lay there and let him do his thing with them for as long as he wanted. It was one of the creepiest things I've ever heard, it was like he saw these guys as potential sex toys or something. I really hope none of those Asian guys went home with him. If they did they were only going to to be playing a clearly defined role in HIS fantasy.

Hey Tom,

Thanks for helping clarify for those out-of-the-lingo-loop. I can forget how isolating this experience is sometimes, that the majority of people probably haven't taken notice of the fetishists in sheep's clothing walking amongst them.

I've talked about this before on Bilerico and sometimes it feels like i am having this conversation ad nauseum, but it's helpful to remember that most people don't have to deal with this issue, constantly in their lives. So it bears repeating:

There's a widespread disqualification of Asians by Gay men (white and otherwise...). Coupled with this pervasive "Asians Need Not Apply" phenomenon, are also the development of fetishists who fervently seek out Asian men. Now as in all human experiences, these men live on a spectrum. Some Rice queens are simply attracted to primarily to Asian men and engage with them on a multiplicity of levels. And some are the blindingly racist fetishist who is looking for a doll in his sick colonial fantasy. And so what happens is that with these constant rejections from mainstream culture, Gaysians can often either mistake the affections of a Rice queen as affirmation, or simply be a victim of rejection fatigue and give in.

All this goes back to what I said in my post about how this equation is fundamentally flawed because Gaysians are not fairly taking into account the possibility of romance, sexual compatability, etc. with other Asians. This is largely due to an internalization of this Anti-Asian (or Pro-White) beauty standards.

*whew* I hope that was enough background info to contextualize my post. Thanks again Tom for clarifying!

Jason, put down the Marx. Just put it down and walk away.

... i'm not sure i understand how my statements were marxist. it's been a while since i read the Communist Manifesto, but i don't remember anything about navigating racial landscapes.

I remember a bunch of stuff about the proletariat and the means of production... Perhaps you can enlighten me. I haven't studied Marx nearly as much as I should. :)

Jason,

I am a white man that actually understands where you are coming from. Why? Because I am considered even more excotic and easier to fetishize...I'm a redhead.

Where you get questions on where you're from and your family, etc? So do I...and then the inane questions of sunburning and freckles and pubic hair and blue skin and redheads as better sex partners and...

Yes, I am also leary about why people say hello to me in a bar or online. And nothing is a bigger turn off than someone saying, "redheads are so hot."

Like Tobi said in the first post, exoticism comes in many flavors, and just because I am a white gay male, doesn't mean I cannot empathize with you, as I have received the same treatment.

hey matt,

thanks for your post. It was not my intention to alienate gay white men with this post, but to illustrate the damage that sexual racism inflicts on Asian men. the post isn't only about exotification but also of the pervasive disqualification of Asian men as prospective partners because of their race. I'm glad that your experience as a redhead has helped you empathize with my experience.

OMG, I will objectify you!

Don't run away, mi fosforito!

Hah! Thanks...umm...

Brad Bailey | April 10, 2009 12:58 PM

Rebel Prince: The statistics come from the CNN exit poll taken on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_8_(2008)#Religious_organizations_2

I don't see how quoting this poll can be called "misusing statistics."

I've been waiting to see a post from this perspective.

I had the rather unusual experience of getting my first in-person taste of gay culture while living in China for several years (long story), so I ended up often being exoticized, rather than the other way around. I was also raised in a multi-cultural family (step-dad and step-brothers are Native American) with an anthropologist for a mom, and I'm somewhat more aware of racism than other Caucasians. Not that my experience is identical to yours -- and being young and horny at the time, I didn't complain about being exoticized -- but I can see where you're coming from.

I've always found the fetishization of Asian guys in this country kind of disturbing, to say nothing of how readily it's taken for granted. I've met some Asian guys who've had their hearts broken because they thought white guys they were seeing really liked them, but then they found it was only because they were "exotic."

My issue with racial fetishes, regardless of what that race may be, is that they involve attraction to a guy's race rather than to the guy himself, and this is all based on stereotypical assumptions of how he is supposed to look and behave. I think you were right to be upset when that guy called you his "geisha boy," hoping you would fulfill his stereotype of the demure, Asian bottom boy. I wouldn't find a comment like that charming, either, even if it was meant affectionately.

Though I agree with and appreciate your post, I took exception to the comment, "They are born and bred to subjugate." I realize this was a comment on structural racism, and that you did qualify it, but the wording makes it look like something that's inborn in the overwhelming majority of people of European ancestry, and that's not really fair.

You might want to bear in mind that not all "rice queens" are white. I've met black rice queens, too, and their attitudes with regard to Asian guys have been identical to those of white rice queens. One time I was at a bar, and during the drag show, the drag queen brought an Asian guy on stage to introduce/embarrass himself. When asked if he was a top or bottom, he replied that he was a top, and the black guy sitting behind me said, "Now, if he'd said he was a bottom, guys would be all over him." And he didn't exactly have a critical tone to his voice when he said this.

I'm not blaming you for your perceptions or trying to invalidate your experiences, but be aware that there are plenty of Caucasian guys out there -- not just a precious few -- who can have relationships with Asian guys without fetishizing them, myself included. Hell, the guys in China I always fell for were masculine tops. Maybe you're just looking in the wrong places.

Just as I have a problem with racial fetishes, I also have a problem with racial exclusion, whether it comes in the form of "I don't date guys from such and such a race" or "I only date guys of my own race." That's the same thing, being attracted to or repelled by the race rather than the person. It's also resigning yourself to the notion that a person of a different race either can't possibly be attractive to you or can't connect with you on any deep level.

Alaric,

thanks for your comment. i really appreciate it. There seems to have been a lot of nit picking on the 'born and bred' line, and you're right it was a comment on systemic racism, not some kind of biological imperative that drives white people to be racist.

Re: black rice queens, you're right on the money. I've met plenty of black rice queens. Heck, I've dated black rice queens. While i agree that it's still a problem, I've found that I at least can have a racial dialogue about fetishism etc. with black men because they get a good deal of that as well.

I'm sure you're right that there are plenty of white men out there who can have completely unproblematic relationships with asian men. Who aren't racists or fetishists, etc. But I think it's clear from my post that my repeated exposure to sexual racism in my short time as a queer person has severely damaged my ability to trust white men. So much so that I almost have a paranoia, needing to know if I'm being set up for yet another heartbreak.

My choice to go sticky, is less about excluding people and more about opening a door i hadn't tried before. I had never pursued relationships with other Asian men. So if history shows that all of my inter-racial relationships are so consumed by racial tension, then perhaps when you take away that racial difference the relationship can escape that element. In the end it's a social science project. A very personal... social science project.

Your choice is your choice, and I won't question your right to make it. But I have to ask rhetorically: Why hadn't you tried relationships with Asian guys before? You mentioned in your post that every substantial romantic relationship you've been in has been with a "rice queen."

Most of my relationships, substantial and forgettable, have been with Asian guys, but that's just because I was in Asia most of the time during my fast-and-loose phase of development. I also had a relationship with a white guy that lasted several months and a week-long fling with a Nepali guy for whom I still have feelings, even though it was seven years ago. Since returning to the U.S., I've been with white and black guys as well, and I've been with a Chinese-American guy for two years who's almost 10 years older than me.

You, on the other hand, seem to have avoided significant relationships with other Asian guys and made a bee line for guys who turned out to be rice queens. I say "avoided" because you've lived in New York and Washington (according to your profile), both cities with significant Asian-American populations. Then, you come to the conclusion that 90-something percent of guys with European ancestry are trapped in a colonialist mindset and would only have you as their "little geisha boy."

I don't mean to invalidate your experiences, and I can certainly see why you'd consider the ones you've had to be a representative sample, but something tells me that you've been perhaps unconsciously setting yourself up for these kinds of experiences all along and, as I said, looking in the wrong places. I don't know you or know all the facts of your love life, and I could be wrong, but that's what I infer from your post and replies. If you find true and everlasting love with an Asian guy, then all power to you, but it seems you're doing this for the wrong reasons.

From my experience, the sort of image or vibe that you project does a lot to determine the types of relationships you get into. Think of all those guys who wear sexy and revealing clothes and part hard and then wonder why their relationships never seem to last. Likewise, if you come across as a potato queen (the Asian counterpart to a rice queen, and I didn't make that up), then you're bound to attract rice queens and wind up with racial tension.

I found your comment about black rice queens interesting. It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance on their part to face sexual racism but also practice it, don't you think?

Jeremy, Golikewater, and others,

I understand folks have some real emotions about the phrase "born and bred to subjegate," but really, what do you think white supremacist american racism is?

Racism at it's core is a institutional system of cultural-wide oppression, not just personal prejudice and making generalizations. It is not possible to live in america and not learn and internalize some racism. Part of this teaching is to teach people of privilege not to see their part in it. The fact that this has been happening throughout america's existence and passed down from generation to generation demonstrates very well that this is a system in which some people, by birthright and breeding, are expected to subjegate others. Sure it is possible to resist that training and that expectation, but it is not possible to not experience it.

This post is beautifully touching, personal, and meaningful. It's frustrating to see folks picking it apart for word choice that would be more white-person-friendly when that clearly wasn't the point. Some suggestions about how this post might better navigate sensative white folks who don't want to think that they interact in a racist society, might be well meaning, and might actually be effective if that was the goal. But this is clearly a double standard as no one demands that the posts here about homophobia need to meet a similar standard of being straight-person-friendly.

I'm jumping into dangerous territory here, but oh well what the fuck.

Tobi- I've been to about 300 anti-racism trainings and I've heard it all, the systemic racism, the ivory tower intellectualism, the blame white people for every fucking problem of every marginalized group, and maybe much of it is true. But I stopped going, and also wondered why I didn't see many white people engaging in it...

As I've begun to do trainings for straight union members in my job, and have honed my training skills... I think I figured out for me, why anti-racism trainings that make statements like Jason's that "I realized a fundamental flaw in my equation: if we, gay Asians, continued to entrust gay white men with the keys to our eventual happiness, they would inevitably fail us. They are born and bred to subjugate." don't work for me.

Simply, it shuts your audience down. I could go into my trainings and just blast all the straight white union folks in there who have done nothing to help their LGBT co-workers, their families, etc- but what would that accomplish?

I want people to engage in a conversation, and to engage in a conversation. To see each other's point of view, you have to be able to think you're in a safe space, to feel that others value your point of view, and that you have something to bring to the table.

Statement's like Jason's shut that conversation off for many white people. So if your goal is to get shit out there, throw out all the injustice you perceive that's great- make statements like that. But if you're trying to engage people in conversation and learn from each other- statements like these that are in the core of a lot of intellectual anti-racism curriculum don't do it.

Final example. One training I did was with Teamsters, and this Teamster started going off about how all gay people have AIDS, going to hell, bullshit, bullshit. I let him speak.

Afterwards another Teamster got up and talked about his gay son, what it had been like for his son to be bullied in school, and how he was kicked out of Boy Scouts, and how the father hated hearing anti-gay jokes on the job. The room opened up, the other man who was spewing the hate speech, actually went up to the guy afterwards and they talked and we learned that the anti-gay teamster's best friend in high school had later died of AIDS- and how he blamed AIDS and his friend being gay for taking his best friend out of his life. It was a moment of learning for this Teamsters hall in Sacramento. Two months later, they decided to stop funding the Boy Scouts.

Sorry for my wordiness, but all I am saying, is if we are really trying to come to common ground and learn from each other, then we have to meet people where they are, and not marginalize each other.

The smell test I try to use is, if we changed, Jason's statement to gay black men, or let's say the Chinese were born to subjugate would that be ok? I don't think so. So his statement around gay white men, for me doesn't pass the smell test.

There is a lot of important topics in Jason's piece, but his choice of that sentence, even with a preface, just shut me down, from wanting to hear what else is there.

In Community Spirit,

jb

I just wrote a reply and was going to make a similar comment.

I understand and even agree with the intent behind that statement, but the wording was the problem.

Jeremy does trainings and I'm a journalist, so both of us are intimately aware of the importance of how you word things when you're trying to get a point across.

It's not about being "white-person-friendly," it's about crafting a message that gets through to people and engages them. Saying that anyone of European descent is "born and bred to subjugate" just comes off as accusatory and as a sweeping indictment, not as a comment on systemic and structural racism. It's very possible to make white people think about white privilege and how it affects them and those around them, but making it sound like something they're guilty of and worse, making a "born and bred" remark that basically says every white person is an incorrigible racist, will just turn people off and make them feel defensive, especially if they have not done consciously done or said anything racist.

Alaric, you and Jeremy have hit the nail on the head. These conversations are a pointless waste of time if the overarching message is never heard.

The fetishization issue got lost in racial invective. I get how dehumanizing it is having had it turned on me once or twice - ironically enough by an Asian man around my own age who I would have otherwise been interested in.

I agree that this entire conversation has gotten out of hand. I had hoped to share a very personal response, be it wise or unwise, to a systemic problem of sexual racism. It saddens me that the conversation was rerouted to a pissing contest of which group is more prejudiced. This was not my intention.

I also want to stress that this is the first post in a series about this personal experiment in trying to navigate this increasing complex landscape of race. I would ask that you reserve judgement until the completion of the piece.

I want to thank everyone who has already responded or their candor. If apologizing for the comment will help us move beyond this increasingly circular argument and address the spirit of the post, I have no reservations to do so.

People calling you on your bullshit is not a "pissing contest." And there's no "circular argument" here. If you are frustrated that people are not addressing what you think is the spirit of your post, then you might take another look at your post and try to understand why people might have misunderstood it's "spirit." This is not a problem of your audience, it's a problem of your writing. You're obviously very smart and have a lot to say, but learn how to accept criticism, and, most importantly, how to be self-critical.

Jeremy,

You're examples really resonate, and as someone who does trainings myself, I completely agree with you about trainings. If I was crafting a training specifically for white folks, I'd never use language like that, and I'd try to be as sensitive as possible to framing a message that won't shut people off.

My point is simply that blog posts like these are not a training for white people. I don't know Jason's exact intent, but there's nothing here that leads me to assume the primary audience is white people, either, but your concern about how white people will hear it feels like you are prioritizes white readers over others. To be fair, it's not just you I'm reacting to, I'm partially reacting to a largic dynamic I've seen a lot of times where people nitpick about the tone of an argument to such a degree that it derails any conversation about the subject. It's almost always dominant group members complaining about how other dominant group members won't appreciate the tone that oppressed group members are using. After hearing that same argument about tone again and again, oppressed group members often end up shutting down. I think that's what happened to me on this thread.

And reading and re-reading your comment here, I'm realizing you spent a lot of time addressing how to make dominant group members feel safe, but never addressed the impact conversations like these have on oppressed group members. Sure, you let the teamster speak at your training, but would you have let him speak at your support group? At your pride celebration?

Could changing the tone or wording improve the impact? Perhaps. But it doesn't create a safe space when people of color constantly have to be on gaurd about using the right tone in order to avoid white people jumping on them for it. I've seen it happen in a few of the more prominant posts on race here at Bilerico, and honestly, it makes me hesitant to post my writings about race here.

Tobi -- the complaints were not about tone, and they were not about anybody making white people feel safe. I for one do not expect you to coddle me. I expect you to listen and to be honest. The complaints about Jason's post were about a specific sentence that was inflammatory and inaccurate. Oppressed people have the same obligations to be honest and ethical as do their oppressors. Shoddy journalism does not further your cause.

Perhaps your comments weren't about making white folks feel safe, but I was responding to Jeremy who was specifically talking about making people feel safe. I inferred it's about making white folks feel safe because that's what his comments were focusing on. You might also notice other commenters who agreed with the concept behind the statement but not with how it was framed. That's what I was primarily talking about.

As for the accuracy, from my perspective, it's accurate and obviously so. I explained my reasoning in my previous comment, but since you're not engaging with that reasoning other than to call it stupid and condescending, I suppose we'll just have to disagree.

So what's really the point here? Jason is mad because there are some guys who ARE into him, or AREN'T into him? Every time a guy is into or not into somebody Asian/black/fat/feminine/redheaded etc., etc., it's not necessarily because the guy is a bigot.

Try rereading the first three paragraphs after the cut. If you think exoticism is just about liking someone or not, rather than being about icky and hurtful behavior even after reading this post... sigh... I don't know. I'll make you an offer though, I'll cut the condescending definitions of racism when you stop yelling at people of color who dare to speak passionately about their experiences with race and power.

Oh, please. My criticism of the "born and bred to subjugate" line was not about my emotional reaction. It was about the shoddy writing, which reveals shoddy thinking. It was a stupid, sloppy generalization. I don't have any problem with being provocative. Just be precise. And accurate.

Yes, we know what racism is. We know what white privilege is. Spare me your condescension.

So what's really the point here? Jason is mad because there are some guys who ARE into him, or AREN'T into him? Every time a guy is into or not into somebody Asian/black/fat/feminine/redheaded etc., etc., it's not necessarily because the guy is a bigot.

Seriously boys. Life is too short, and you won't always be young and cute. In a few years, you'll be very grateful that there are some guys who totally exoticize old men.

i think Jason has every right to be offended by a lover calling him a "perfect little geisha boy." why should anyone accept or embrace that?

I'm just going to throw out that i thought this was a great post. It opens up a can of worms that needs to be opened up. While I'm not Asian, I definitely get the fact that it's beyond annoying to deal with people who think that you're not an individual human being.

As for the one sentence that everyone's picking up on, yeah, it's troublesome with its implication that the author can read the genetic code of a certain race. But like Lucrece said, it's not the point and I think some people here are looking for an excuse to dismiss the entire post. (You hear that, Lucrece? We agree a lot. Like seriously. :))

But I also see where Jeremy Bishop's coming from. After just stepping into one of those big academic, "safe space" arguments decrying a particular person's privilege, that assumed that all participants had the exact same experiences with privilege as the authors, I can see how some people would be turned off.

It's easy to say, "You're coming from a position of privilege and so you don't want to hear what I have to say!" It's harder to phrase it in a way that people from said position of privilege will read and understand it.

I dunno. Two years ago I prolly would have just said something along the lines of "Fuck people who don't want to get it." But after nearly 1800 posts on a site that's designated as the opposite of a "safe space," that's dangerous because it tries to mix like every strand of the LGBTQ community together, yeah I can see the point of a little tact.

That's not to take away from Jason's point, and for some people maybe a "born and bred to subjugate" comment is the only thing that's gonna make them pay attention.

Oh, well, I'm waiting for the rest of this series because I think Jason has some shit to say and we oughta pay attention because that's the right thing to do.

Jason,
Thanks for the post. I can definitely empathize with what you're saying. I, too, have been in an intimate situation where my partner whispered that I was his "stud nigger boy." That was the most extreme case, but it's almost as if every time that I've dated or slept with a white man, my blackness was front and center. I look forward to the day when it won't be such a big deal.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 11, 2009 6:45 AM

Thanks Jason. I don't think an apology is in order. Your post provoked a necessary discussion both from the point of view of looking at the ways rascism intersects with GLBT life and how we'll have to deal with that. (My only advice is emphasize the 'bred' part of the equation. 'Bred' to subjugate is entirely accurate.)

Racism is pervasive in Anmeican life and won't be supressed until fundamental social changes take place. It, along with mysogony and anti-GLBT hatred are woven into the very fabric of US society and in the GLBT communities.

The key for us is to repeatedly say taht we reject racism in the political arena, inside our communities and in personal relations. It changes us internally by 'laying down the law' and it begins the process of alliance building. That includes debunking the malicious theroy that blacks or Latinos, instead of the sucessful use of Obama's 'gawd's in the mix' by religious cults was the problem in California. The 70% figure has been debunked time and agian, most recently by the NGLTF: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/issues/egan_sherrill_prop8_1_6_09.pdf

The idea of constantly re-emphasizing our opposition to different kinds of bigotries won't make them go away. That will never happen in a society where they're used to divide and rule a society run by and for the looter class. But it will help set the stage for the kind of fundamental changes that can supress them.

One of the best films ever made touching on this subject is Brother to Brother. It focuses on the historic continuity among GLBT folks in the black communiites and their struggles and also has a very telling scene involving patronizing and why it promotes anger.

Jason, it is not too late to remove the line about me being born and bred to subjugate (and, no, you can't claim that it is not about me because I am a gay white male). That line is dragging down the rest of the post.

On the real subject, I offer for consideration my reaction when, at the baths or at a sex club, a stranger will ask me "Are you Italian? or "Are you Jewish? Spanish? etc, I never personalize it. The questioner cannot control his sexual fantasies which are the result of all that he is and has experienced. When I first saw my husband, I was very attracted to his light blonde hair and blue eyes and slender build. I can't deny that and I would not try to deny it. That is why I approached him, but certainly not why we moved in together or why I married him twenty-five years later. (For the record, I am often attracted to black, Hispanic, Irish, etc etc)

There is a big difference between systemic racism and the fact that we all look different and some men like one thing and some another. This basic fact of attraction does not need to change. Part of growing up was, for me, owning the fact that I looked as I do, and that I would never look like Troy Donohue.

Unless you are Jean Paul Sartre, being sexually attracted to someone because of his particular looks is really not the same as subjugating him. And, it is not something we need to remove from our gayness.

"Part of growing up was, for me, owning the fact that I looked as I do, and that I would never look like Troy Donohue."

Are you saying that Jason, and people who experience fetishization, should come to grips with the fact that they'll never look like the "all-american" ideal?

Trey, I don't know as though the all-American ideal exists anymore in one particular look, so, no, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that I do not personalize it when a man lusts for me because I look Italian or Jewish or because he likes the shape, cut or size of my dick, or because he likes my military jarhead haircut. There is something to be said for the notion that all sex is fetishistic to a large degree. Some sexual overtures are insulting to me personally, and that is the difference.

...but why do some white men feel it is okay to make offensive overtures that are based on a racial fetish? How am I or anyone else not supposed to take that personal?

Conflating a preference for a certain ethnicity, hairstyle, or penis-type with a racial fetish diminishes a real problem with the gay community's sexual racism.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 2:18 PM

Father Tony, I do think there is a big difference between being attracted to someone, in part, because of the color of their skin and the expectation of of living up to blatant racial stereotypes like "my little geisha girl" or "stud nigger boy" (these 2 are examples of "systmic racism).Jason expicitly states that it is not the only time he's run accross it

What gay white guys (and I believe it's a guy thing, in large part) don't seem to understand or get is 1) They have and are unashamedly invested in all of the racial baggage and 2) It goes on a lot. A lot.

Personally, I haven't run across a lot of racial fetishising (but I could tell you about a 4-way where one guy wouldn't touch me because I am black while another guy couldn't wait to suck my "black d***")but...

I have and do run across the "nerd fetish" a lot. In a way, it has helped to negate the racial fetish; I hardly look like a Mandingo type, after all. Then again, that whole nerd thing comes along with yet another set of expectations.

As far as the "born and bred" line, while I do think that it's pretty incendiary racial invective, I also understand why Jason said it.

Dear Chitown Kev,
That one line really brings down his otherwise fine post. Who was that TV sports commentator a while back who made a statement about black men being bred for their sports ability? Didn't that comment justifiably ruin an otherwise respectable career? I think if all of us reading this post would try the ill-fitting shoe on the other foot, we'd be unanimous in asking Jason for its removal.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 4:19 PM

I can accept that and I even agree with you, to an extent, Father Tony.

But...(you had to know that was coming!)

I wonder would there be less "pearl clutching" if Jason had simply said he is tired of gay white men and their racial fetishizing or qualified it by saying "many" or "most."

After all, it is the use of Jason's particular phrase that's drawing everyone's attention to this post, after all. Otherwise, how many would even know or care how truly offensive racial fetishizing is to gay POC's?


That would be Jimmy the Greek.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 4:36 PM

I completely agree.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 5:41 PM

I am agreeing here with FT's comment that fetishizing is a part of sex "to a large degree."

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 5:16 PM

Ok, Trey, now to be fair...

I have seen and talked to some POC's do the same to some gay white men. Now of course, it is not the same thing when a POC does it simply because of the (presumed) question of privilege. And I have fetishized a few gay white men myself.

One time I even did it in retaliation for being fetishized!

I think that racism may come in by the fact that some gay white men are more comfortable expressing their fetishized thoughts to there partners or fuck buddies with some pretty offensive racial language. Rarely (as far as I know) will a POC do that, that conversation is usually reserved for other POC's.

It's wrong when anyone does it. Are you saying that it's okay to racially fetishize another person because everyone does it? I'm not overly politically correct in any stretch of the imagination, but there are some racially charged occurrences that I find really offensive. Racial fetishism is one of them due to how dehumanizing it is.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 7:41 PM

Trey,

I am not saying that it's OK at all, unless both parties actually consent to it (which I did one one occasion, with all the appropriate potocols in place, and the fetishzation went both ways).

But I do agree with Father Tony that fetishization (is that a word?) of some sort is a pretty intricate part of sexuality.

In my experience, most racist offenses bulldoze over any level of consent. Actually, I think that's pretty much a historical fact.

Chitown Kev | April 11, 2009 10:02 PM

Trey,

I think my answer to this question got lost.

All racial fetishism is wrong and dehumanizing?

I agree with Father Tony that "all sex is fetisthic to a large degree." I think a lot depends on what you find personally offensive. For example an emphasis on my "race," to the exclusion of everything else, I would find personally offensive.

i have altered the original text. I hope those people who were incensed by the unintended reading of the sentence will be able to see my original intent with that sentence. I agree the wording could have been better, but i wanted for the original text to still be accessible to readers who might be interested, which lives on belowthebelt.org.

I respect this community, which I have grown to view as a family. Families disagree, but it is my hope that this disagreement can bring us closer. It is in this spirit I concede and hope we may be able to come closer together in thought.

Jason, that's a fine and respectable thing to do, and you should be well pleased with the discussion your post provoked. Be assured there are many of us who will be eager to hear more from you on the same subject. I'd especially like your thoughts on the difference between being attracted to someone's features and saying insulting things to someone under the umbrella of "humor". What if the guy who called you a geisha had used other words?

I, for one, never misunderstood the intent or "spirit" of the post or disagreed with it. I thought it was an otherwise great post that discussed an important but often neglected topic, and I look forward to the next one. The altered version of the sentence does a much better job of conveying the intended meeting.

However, speaking as a journalist, I can say that how you word things can make or break an article or blog post. This isn't a poetry slam or your personal diary; you're writing for a fairly general audience and obviously trying to connect with and enlighten it.

When you say that anyone with white skin is "born and bred to subjugate," you're making a sweeping accusation that's not entirely accurate. Think back to any time in your life when you've been accused of something you either didn't do or didn't think you'd done. Your initial response was probably be get defensive. Well, when you basically accuse people who don't think they're guilty -- whether they actually are or not -- they will react in the same way and probably ignore the rest of the article, and you will have lost an opportunity to reach them. I know it's satisfying to just let it all out, but that's not always practical.

I'm all for being confrontational and knocking people out of their comfort zones. I've done it plenty of times myself. But it's important not to take an accusatory and presumptuous tone when you're trying to open people's minds because all you'll end up doing is turning them off. I've done that plenty of times myself as well.

The thing is, you have to know your audience. Some people reading this -- like Tobi and I -- were already on the same page as you to begin with, but others clearly weren't. Some didn't even know the term "rice queen." If you want to reach those people, you're not going to accomplish that by passing judgment on them.

Jason, your rewrite reflects to a large degree my own experience. I was born into a past over which I have no control. My future on the other hand is something that I can control. It is something from this point forward that I can be held personally accountable for.

As a person who dates across racial and cultural lines I want to have the skills and sensibilities to celebrate the differences in a positive way while at the same time living the reality that there is more that unites us than separates us.

I look forward to your next installment.

Chitown Kev | April 12, 2009 2:10 PM

That's true Trey.

I am simply saying that I have seen people of all races (I prefer to say ethnicities, myself) drive that bulldozer, though. Some are called on it, some are not. Some people have the open discussion just to see where the "other side" is coming from, some don't.

In my experience, many LGBT's of color fetishize about white gay men. I hear it frequently in conversations.

That type of conversation, of course, is usually not for a white gay man to hear, in my experience.

I'm not sure what exactly you're taking issue with. It seems as if you're saying this is not that big of a deal. If that's the case, then we'll have to agree to disagree. So far, I've never really heard a good reason or excuse for someone referring to me in an offensive manner.

Chitown Kev | April 12, 2009 4:35 PM

Of course I am not saying that, Trey.

I am thinking less of the obvious stuff like being called a "stud nigger boy" or "my little geisha boy" or one comment that turned me off in the bathhouse about my "nigger lips" and more about the hidden (possibly racial) fetishes that I suspect we all have.

I am saying that maybe all of us need to examine the ways in which we racially fetishize.

Granted, because of the privilege questions, some white men may have the tendency to say any old shit thinking that a POC is grateful just to be with them. That's really, really racist, IMO.

But then just as racially offensive (at least to me) is the idea that I have heard from some LGBT's of color that the only thing a gay white man is good for is his money or his connections and that, alone, is a basis for getting with a guy (and that may be a class issue).

Am I not racially fetishizing if I want to do something of the "experimental" variety and doing it with a white guy pops into my mind instantly because none of the black guys that I know "get doen like that?"

mixedqueer mixedqueer | June 5, 2009 12:55 AM

wow, jason, thank you for the thoughtful and personal post!

also, you handled the well-intentioned yet infuriatingly offensive comments very skillfully.

alex - derailing for dummies = ah. maze. ing.

and now on to Part II!!