Friday, February 9, 2007

M. F., Filipino; Walnut, CA, 19

Growing up, I was never exposed to anything such as homosexuality. I grew up in a small town where the majority of the people I knew were white conservatives. It was difficult enough to be a minority living in an all white neighborhood, and being openly gay at that time would have just complicated things even further. It's strange because I led a completely straight life, or at least attempted to, without even knowing that I was in fact gay. I had girlfriends, I liked girls; or at least I thought I did. I never really understood what attracted me to them. It could have been their outfit choices and femininity for all I know.

After moving to Walnut and making a diverse group of friends, I realized that I became increasingly curious about men. It was in my sophomore or junior year of high school when I first came out to someone. I remember that day and the days to follow as if they were just yesterday. I remember being so scared when someone would confront me about it and ask me if what people were saying was true. A part of me always wanted to deny it and continue to keep myself closeted, but I didn't. I discovered that being gay isn't something that I should be ashamed of, and I also realized that people respected and accepted me more when I truly acted like myself.

In the few months following my "coming out," I experienced more things than I have in my entire life. I was very reckless and I went through all of the things that people usually experience at older ages. I had smoked, drank alcohol, gone clubbing, and had sex. But aside from all of those things that I did, I also had my first meaningful relationship with a guy. In the time that we were together, it was incredible. But, as an example of the stereotype that gay relationships usually don't last very long, our relationship came to an end. I have to admit, that just until recently, I believed in that description of the stereotypical gay male. I believed that all gay men are out to just hook up and have sex without any of the responsibilities that come with it. I also believed that gay relationships never last and usually end because of infidelity or loss of interest. But, being with my boyfriend now, I have gained so much confidence in our community and I believe that all of those views can be changed, and that we should seriously make examples of those who stray away from those stereotypes.

Now, being a first year in college and being out to the majority of my friends and a few members of my family, I have grown to become a more aware and more responsible person. I'm still 'within the scene' and, like most people of our community, go to Rage and network on myspace and downelink. But, I'm safer about what I do and who I become friends with and I think that's something really important that we should all practice. Being who we are, it will probably always be a struggle for us, but I realized that being gay is more of a unique characteristic than a flaw.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

G.C., Chinese; Los Angeles, CA, 22

I grew up in LA, in an area that was very Asian. My high school was predominantly Asian, and there were a lot of “Asian thugs”. I was not that way, I turned heads, I was “the gay guy”. I never cared about producing a straight-acting image. It helped me become who I am today.

I came out when I was 16 years old. I was pretty young when I was active in the scene. This has definitely played a significant role in my experience. The stereotypes deemed on us didn’t only come from white men; they were internalized, and even enforced by other Asian men. I find these stereotypes very offensive. Once, on gay.com, I was bombarded with messages from older white men asking me if I needed “financial aid”, thus implying money in exchange for sexual favors. I’m sorry, but I am not a tool nor a plaything nor an object. I throw up whenever a guy comes up to me asking for “boy pussy”. It’s vulgar. It’s offensive. I am not the stereotypical smooth feminine Asian boy. I was at LA Pride once, and I was walking in the parade. This group of Christians protesting our march shouted to me “Bad Bad Buddha!” Apparently because I’m Asian, and I’m gay, I’m sinning against Buddha. It’s sad to say that these views of Asian men are still common today.

My white friends always talk about Tigerheat. All the white boys are out on Thursday nights, while all the Asian boys were at home waiting for GAMeboi on Fridays. However, when my Asian friends and I go to Tigerheat, I notice many things. There definitely was an Asian corner. Even out on the smoking patio there was an Asian corner. What was so different about Buddha Lounge and Red Dragon was that those venues were spaces for white men to find Asian men. At Tigerheat, Asian men are never at the top of the list for men searching for men. We were ignored and stepped on. I’m not surprised, in a club full on guys who don’t find Asian men attractive, why would they be considerate? Stepping away from our Asian corner, it was like a foreign land.

GAMeboi is a place you can be you and have fun. This community is experiencing a movement. In the mainstream gay community, the gay Asian scene is always perceived in one category. We are ALL viewed as the femme bottom boys. The downe scene allows us to be ourselves and individuals, butch, femme, and all other respective roles. We have no need to push that stereotypical image. It’s empowering.

The word “verse” becomes so much more common among Asian men than it used to be. I once told a guy I was verse and he didn’t believe me. He replied “You’re verse? But you’re Asian?” Apparently white men don’t believe in Asians as versatile sexual partners.

What I love about this community is that we have moved past that. Experiencing stereotyping and facing them has made me realize my place in the fight for liberation. Liberation for this community and myself. I view downe as a community, as a group with common interests and goals striving for a similar cause.

V.L., Chinese; Oakland, CA, 19

I never envisioned it as a movement. I never saw a difference between identifying as gay and downe. Now that I have become aware of this issue, I am now noticing that this in fact is a movement. I grew up in a school environment that was very ethnically diverse. There were a lot of minorities at my high school. But despite the presence of many ethnic communities at my school, there was a lack of a queer community. Coming out my senior year of high school, I was not able to find a queer community to associate with. With the prominent portrayal of a “straight-acting” persona, I felt the need to portray the masculine straight-acting image in order for acceptance. That as well as family pressures and expectations.

The lack of white men on my campus as well as the community probably caused the lack of my attraction to white men today. In a prospective partner, besides being Asian, I definitely look for maturity, direction, independence and stability.

I see the downe identity similar to the down-low. Maybe even someone who does not what to admit they are gay. But I also see it as a sub-culture within the gay community. When one hears the word gay or sees a gay person, they have automatic stereotypes of a loud “gay-pride” kind of guy. I think the downe identity is a reconstruction of the gay identity.