Living as a gay Asian (a.k.a. gaysian) man in America has had its challenges. Growing up, I never saw any Asians on television or in advertisements, let alone LGBTQ Asians. Over the years, Asians that entered mainstream media were represented as supporting roles, typically the exotic and mysterious love interest or the awkward computer geek. On the rare occasion that a gaysian did break through, they always fell into the stereotypes of hyper-feminine, passive roles. But a new year (and decade!) is upon us, so what better time to address and eradicate these tired old myths and stereotypes? Here we go…
Myth #1: All gaysians are submissive.
Being submissive is not solely based on our skin color, race, ethnicity, or genes. Not all gaysians are bottoms, nor all we all tops. We’re across the entire spectrum with varying degrees of sexualities and sexual dominance, just like everyone else. Being submissive or dominant doesn’t discriminate. These characteristics permeate through all ethnicities. (And, just for the record, there’s nothing wrong with either!)
Because these characteristics aren’t associated with anyone’s race, ethnicity, or genes, they are impermanent. We can be submissive one day, and become dominant the next day. Today’s bottom can be tomorrow’s top. Instead of trying to define ourselves based on black and white labels in this gray world, we should invest more time redefining our labels and discovering ourselves.
Submissive or dominant. Top or bottom. We can be one of them, or all of them, or none of them at the same time.
Myth #2: We’re secondary.
Currently, Asians comprise about 60% of the world population. 60%! But based on UCLA’s 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report, Asians make up only 3.4% of all film roles in Hollywood. With the success of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians and 2019’s Parasite and The Farewell, it’s no wonder that the same report found that Asian leads produced a higher median global box office than their white counterparts ($93.0 million vs. $51.2 million). So it pays to put Asians in the lead. Tens of millions of dollars, in fact.
Myth #3: We’re all quiet.
From over 250,000 people marching in Taiwan to demand equal rights to the millions that took to the streets of the Hong Kong protests, 2019 was a monumental year for Asians speaking up.
Comedians such as Joel Kim Booster, Margaret Cho, and Alec Mapa have all made headlines speak out against queer Asian stereotypes in their work and on social media.
Author Ocean Vuong and poet Kit Yan have written about their experiences for the world to read, and it resonates.
Ocean Vuong was awarded the MacArthur “Genius Grant” last September.
Actress Awkwafina and director Bong Joon-ho both won Golden Globes in major categories last week.
We’re not quiet. The world just hasn’t been listening.
Myth #4: If it’s a stereotype, there must be some truth to it, right?
These stereotypes are based on hundreds of years of oppression and historical inaccuracies. Early novels and plays depicting Asians were based on limited experiences from periods of wartime and colonization. The few Asian women that inspired Madame Chrysanthème, Madame Butterfly, and Miss Saigon were hand-picked by foreigners who sought a particular aesthetic and model wife.
These stories became the cornerstone of Asian stereotypes that influenced generations of books, movies, and even advertisements. But times are changing and myths are being unveiled. As more Asians and queer Asian voices become visible, the diversity of Asian personalities quickly dissolve the stereotypes based on these biased narratives.
Outspoken trans Asian influencers like Chella Man and Geena Rocero have used their social media platforms to redefine gender norms and rally for trans and disabled rights.
Hunky Alex Landi shattered casting stereotypes as Dr. Nico Kim on Grey’s Anatomy, playing the series’ first openly gay Asian surgeon on prime time television.
Gaysian Tan France (Netflix’s Queer Eye) was cast as a new host of the reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and redefining leading roles
Whatever race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or religion we identify as, stereotypes cannot and will never capture the essence of our individuality. By eliminating these over-generalizations and mis-categorizations, we can truly begin to see each other for who we really are.
Steven Wakabayashi is a second-generation Japanese-Taiwanese-American, creating content and spaces for queer Asians in New York City. He is the host of Yellow Glitter, a podcast on mindfulness for queer Asians, and shares a weekly newsletter of his projects on Mindful Moments. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Affirming this is true. Having done many trips to Asia, Asians have the same variety of people as any other race and culture. My encounters with Asian men has been phenomenal. Actually they are a lot of fun, if a person DOES NOT have these stereotypes, all of us just treating each other with grace and civility.
Also, we’re not all East Asian! Include some brown skinned Southeast and South Asians in Asian representation, if you’re going to throw around that 60% figure! That will help drive home the point that Asians are not a monolith and shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush.
Did you not read the one about Tan France?
This is so true. I’m not Asian but it pisses me off that Asian representation in the media is so minimal. It’s a misrepresentation of the real world.
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
Ya missed one of the biggest incorrect stereotypes about Asian guys. That they all are members of the itty bitty teeny weeny committee.
I have always found Asian guys to be super attractive and I have been with many, as well as a nine year relationship. And the proportion of average to very large is the same with any other group.
Agree! I’m surprised that untrue stereotype was left out.
Why is Hollywood representation that’s important? Where the white representation in Chinese cinema or Bollywood?
Could it be people like to see films of people that look similar to them? Certainly the Chinese and Indian film markets seem to indicate that.
Lol I wonder what your argument will become when white people are no longer the majority in the US.
Am I the only one who will f*ck any race as long as I find the man attractive?
I dont get this race discrimination, even supposed racists have sex with the race they supposedly claim is inferior.
I’ve dated the rainbow. If you are funny, kind, and decent looking, I’m more than willing to give a dude a shot.
I’m not sure why it was relevant to take the broadest possible stroke and say Asians make up 60 percent of the world population then take a really narrow stroke (Asians account for 3.4% of American Hollywood roles). It is a deliberate and loaded attempt to gaslight readers to believe there is extreme under representation. A more honest and realistic representation would be to point out Asians make up 5.6 % of the US population and account for 3.4% of roles. But, these stats don’t paint the picture of victim hood the author is trying to portray.
@marion and @rock-n-rollHS Except nope bc your argument suggests that only Americans are hired for Hollywood movies, and only Americans watch Hollywood movies. If Hollywood is hiring from other countries (which it is), and/or wants to appeal to global demographics (which it does), then the world population matters. Or at least maybe taking a look at the % of English-speaking countries or people (even tho even that is not entirely the whole picture regarding Hollywood movies).
@boalt, except nope! That is still not comparing like for like; in that case we would need to take total world roles e.g. Bollywood, Hollywood, China and Hong Kong all international movie industries. and determine what percentage of roles are awarded to each nationality or ethnicity.
Oh please. How many Hollywood films are set in big cities like NYC, Seattle, SF, etc? How many of those films are made up with predominantly white casts?
Except that most US films and TV shows aren’t set in Montana or Wyoming, etc., which have minimal Asian American and Asian populations, but cities with sizable Asian (and Black, Latinx, etc. ) populations, like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, etc,. or the suburbs of those cities. On top of which US films are make most of their money from the non-domestic market, and Asians (including all of Asian from West Asian, which includes the Middle East, through East Asia) constitutes a sizable portion of the viewing market. China and India alone each have 1 billion+ people. So your comments about being “gaslighted” (“gaslit”) is fallacious.
There ARE cultural differences between groups–not the same as a stereotype. These cultural differences are learned behaviors, and not always easily changeable. I’ll tell you one thing, as a teacher at a urban community college, my Asian immigrant students are among the hardest workers. In fact, my immigrant students work hardest all around, but my Chinese and Korean students are among the hardest working.
Otherwise, don’t need to be lectured by a Gen Z or millennial. Hollywood owes you nothing. Stop whining.
I have a strong liking and am drawn to Asian gay guys. Why, I am not sure why. In relationships, no matter if straight or gay, I do not see nationality and skin color/tones as a factor in whether or not I like or dislike them. I have seen often how Asian people are portrayed on TV and in plays, and I find it quite offensive myself. Cultural beliefs and practices should not be used to select or accept a relationship with another person. Get to know the person better before taking the big step into a relationship. Thats the smartest thing anyone can do.
You think American media underrepresents Asians? Then you haven’t seen Canadian and Australian media. Asians are around 15% of the the Australian and Canadian population but you would hardly find any Asian character on their TV and movies. If there are, they certainly don’t make up 15%. Probably less than 5% only.
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