the voice and vision of a new generation
GLAAD

Dating—and finding my power—as queer, femme, and Asian

February 15, 2019

Valentine’s Day season can be rough when you’re single. When the love you give out is never reciprocated you start to question why it never does. Are you at fault?

That’s a question I’ve always asked myself since I was young and the answer stared at me every morning in the mirror. Growing up I always believed my identities were at fault. Could you blame me? I am an Asian-American gay male, who leans more towards to the feminine side of the gender expression spectrum in a male dominated, colonial, white, and Western society.

Historically, Asian men have been feminized, desexualized, and accessorized in society, especially through our media depictions. I never grew up with (m)any Asian male leads to look up to that validated my brown skin as something sexually sought after. The Asian characters I would see in the media were always sidekicks to white men or the comedic relief quick with a punchline ready. With Asian men playing the “less than” of white men, they become associated as the counterpart of white male masculinity: femininity. Femininity for men in general has always been looked down upon due to the preference of masculinity in Western culture and the strict gatekeeping of gender norms in the binary.

The preference for these strict binaries is especially seen in the gay community. Internal sexism, racism, and homophobia is rampant on dating app profiles: “sorry: no femmes, no Asians” and “masc4masc only.” If desirability is white and masculine, what does that make me? How can a queer femme Asian date?

For a while, not being the sexual ideal made me feel being Asian and femme was invalid. Dating was a masquerade. It forced me to conform to the latter of my Asian-American identity and admire and identify with white queer folk who were the only examples of acceptability I was exposed to. When I was still in the closet I put up a straight and manly façade; yet even after I came out, I kept it up. I thought to myself, ‘lower your voice or you won’t get a second date. Only wear long sleeves or else people will see your scrawny arms and think you’re not masculine enough. When they ask about your race say you’re only half Filipino, that’ll make your Asian identity more acceptable right?'

This conformity and self-hatred of my identities was amplified by the societal belief that Asian men and male femininity should be devalued. In my early stages of development, when I started to grasp the concept of love, I was already aware that my identities would get in the way. That opinion was confirmed by the way men who came into my life treated me. This mindset was toxic but I allowed myself to be poisoned because it was either that or face the consequences of my truth.

Learning more about my queer Filipino and femme history helped me honor my truth. Visibility plays a big part in being able to harness your identities. I was able to find some last summer as I learned about stories of my ancestors, the Babaylans. They were indigenous Filipino femme men who showed disinterest in playing traditional male roles. Outcasted by men in power for their feminine excellence, they joined forces with women and worked as healers and warriors; unapologetic of their non-conformity. Understanding the history of my identities and acknowledging them as valid made me rethink the way I saw my brown skin and feminine energy. It’s important for young queer femme Asian folk, like myself, to listen to stories of people like us to have proof that our identities are just as valid, excellent, and worthy of love.

Dating will always be a struggle as a queer femme Asian because we will never live in a post-racial society and the impacts of settler colonialism will forever be ingrained into our world. However, what makes dating easier for me is to understand that not everyone can see the beauty in what comes with my brown skin. My ancestors had their own experience of encountering men that did not understand their majesty, similar to my own when I meet men who cast me off for my identities. However, I come from a long line of powerful, indigenous, queer, femme, non-conforming ancestors who exude so much beauty from their culture, stories, and virtue. With that, I will forever find beauty in my identities as a queer and femme Asian even when other men can’t.

Andre Menchavez is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and junior at University of Washington studying law, society, and justice. Andre also serves as the youngest ambassador of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in the organization's history. 

the voice and vision of a new generation