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4 Feb 2005


Are most gay Asian men in America incurable potato queens because they suffer from a strong inferiority complex? Hidesato Sakakibara asserts the importance of being free to choose by taste rather than by any inferior feelings we have about ourselves.

In the few years that I have been living in New York, I have noticed many interesting aspects of gay society. I am of the strong opinion that a lot of gay Asian guys who immigrate to the US of their own volition (e.g. not refugees, political, economic or otherwise) often do so because they are potato queens (PQs), Asians (and other non-whites) who are attracted to white men. They have seen white men in their own respective countries that they like as well as the gorgeous hunks in the media, and decided that the US is the place that they must be.

But Baywatch and other such hunk dramas aside, let's face it, even if they were born in the US, most gay Asian men in America are incurable PQs. However many are PQs not simply because they are attracted to white men, but because they have a strong inferiority complex.

Imagine why any really good looking young Asian guy would want to go for a man who is much older, often overweight, etc. The reason is not so much that they are attracted to that type but because of their inferiority complex. They see any man, old, young, fat, bald, etc., as acceptable as long as he is white. That same Asian, while he may also be attracted to other Asians, Hispanics, etc., would never accept the same physical characteristics as he would in the white male. So while the PQ would be more than willing to date a white male who may be 30 years older, he would shudder at the thought of dating an Asian male who is as little as 10 years his senior.

It is also my opinion that there are in fact very few bona fide RQs (rice queens), that is, white men attracted to Asians (or Hispanics). In New York City there are now at least three east-west groups dedicated to bringing Asian and white men together. There is also a disco where a lot of white men go to meet their Asian counterparts, as well as a bar which has an "Asian night." This would lead many to believe that at the very least New York, if not the whole country, is bursting at the seams with white men anxious to have Asian boyfriends/partners. However this is far from the truth.

From what I have heard directly from so-called RQs as well as from my own observations I believe that it is safe to say that the vast majority of these so-called RQs are RQs mainly because they are unable to meet other white men who match their criteria for a partner. Simply put, many RQs become so either because they are themselves not attractive enough to get good looking white men, or because they are much older and no younger white male will give them the time of day much less date them. Period. And despite this crowd the vast majority of white men prefer other white men.

This is one reason why I have noticed that the white crowd is often far less attractive at these east-west gatherings, be it group or bar/disco, than at places for the general gay public. This is also true of the gay white crowd living in Asia of their own volition (excluding expatriates sent on company assignment).

I have been told more than once by older white men that they were not so attracted to Asians until they became older. Their attraction is mainly for the young and cute, and when they ceased being attractive to other white men, they simply turned to the next best thing, younger Asians.

This is why it is fairly easy to see east west couples comprising of a younger Asian male and a much older (and often physically unfit) white male. However, there are far fewer couples where both the Asian and the white male are of near equal age. In addition, couples where the Asian is older, especially more than a few years older, are almost nonexistent.

So the white male is, in general, attracted to the "young and cute." If that is the case, then older Asians should have trouble finding their white counterparts, and from what I have seen, they do. However this scenario is quite different than that of Asian-Asian (Asian) couples. Most Asian couples comprise of two men that are of similar ages, quite the same as for white-white (white) couples.

Another interesting thing that I have noticed is that there are various terms used to describe Asians who prefer other Asians: sticky rice, chopsticks, and others I am sure. However there is no term that I have heard of to describe white men who prefer other white men. Is this because the gay community in the US naturally sees white men as the most desirable, and that for a white man to prefer another white man to be the ultimate? I mean, why shouldn't white men preferring other white men be given a term, like "mashed potatoes" or "potato salad"?

The term "sticky rice" often has negative connotations, implying that it is wrong for Asians to mix only with other Asians, and thus wrong for Asian men to only prefer other Asian men. However, a glance at nearly all gay literature, "picture books," etc, shows that it is not only acceptable but preferred that white men choose other white men as their lovers/playmates, and friends.

If two men (or women) find each other attractive, then why is it so wrong for them to be together regardless of ethnic background? Is it so wrong for Asian men to be attracted to other Asians? Although nobody verbalises such feelings, from the media and society at large I am made to feel that inter-Asian love is wrong, and that I, having another Asian partner, have somehow gone against the grain, broken an unwritten taboo.

I stated earlier that an inferiority complex on the part of all too many Asian men is one reason. If that is the case then perhaps we should start taking stock of ourselves and consider exactly why we date the men that we do. Is it because we are really attracted to them? If so, then fine. But perhaps if we can look at our behaviour from the viewpoint of a third person and analyse our feelings, I would not be surprised at the conclusion; that we are complexed.

Increasingly I see more and more Asian couples, a sight that I have been told was rarely seen as little as ten years back. More Asians are increasingly able to rise above any negative feelings that we may feel about ourselves, and reach out to those that we want to love, and not to those that we feel we have to.

Perhaps at that point we can set ourselves free, free to choose by taste rather than by any inferior feelings we have about ourselves. And if we can do that, then in many ways we can be more a part of the fabric of America (or any other country) than otherwise. We can like the people for who they are, rather than for who we don't want to be. And that, as I see it, is what a real east-west relationship, or any other relationship, is all about.

Just a thought.

This column reflects the personal view of the writer and was first published in March 1999 in OG Magazine. Hidesato Sakakibara's columns will be published on alternate Fridays. He lives in New York with his husband "M" and has a Master's degree in business, but enjoys writing on various topics that may be of interest to gay Asians.

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