Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An email from a Southeast Asian student in Scotland with cruising/pulling woes

A couple of weeks ago, a reader sent me the following e-mail:

Dear GB,

I'm a student from Southeast Asia in my early 20s studying in Scotland who enjoys reading your blog a lot. Back home I live in a multicultural cosmopolitan city and have had experiences with many locals and foreign students. I have never really had problems chatting up guys I like which I think is partly due to my good looks, height and physique and my confident and friendly nature.

However, I have been disillusioned by the gay scene here after arriving to study last year. Almost all the locals will not consider engaging in sexual activity with me and express disinterest the moment I approach them. Hell, even the locally born Southeast Asians have the same attitude. As you can probably tell by now communication is not a barrier for me at all. I mostly end up engaging with other international students but their numbers are limited (well, the gay ones anyway) so I still eventually have to try my luck with the local crowd.

I have been to Manchester and had a similar experience though subjectively it seemed better than what I usually experience in Scotland. It's the same thing online, I get much better responses from foreigners than locals. I have met foreign students from London online and they told me that the situation in London is slightly better but that I have to accept that this is a fact of gay life here.

What should I do? I am tired of kissing so many frogs just to find my prince for the night. And if I just lurk I get unwanted attention from men who seem to suggest that I should be oblivious of the wide age gap between us. Even though I never end up sleeping with them the attention from them apparently makes me appear even more undesirable to the younger crowd. What is your take on the situation I am facing?

PS: To be fair I'm not saying the Scots were rude to me or anything, but the rejection has happened often enough than chance alone would seem to dictate (people have different tastes after all)

My first thought when I received this email was that it was one of most eloquent emails that I've ever received, which somehow makes his plight seem even more unjust. Since then, I've exchanged a couple of e-mails with him, and in his last e-mail he also asks

I wonder how you came to be with boyfriends number 2 & 3 and if you don't mind, what your attitudes were toward ethnic minority gays when you were my age, whether they have changed over the years and if so what you think brought about those changes?

I don't think there's any easy answer to his main query, but it's not a problem answering his subsequent questions relating to boyfriends number 2 and 3. Long time readers of this blog will know that my boyfriend number 2 is a Southeast Asian guy from Singapore, and that although boyfriend number 3 is British he's ethnically 100% Indian.

When PJ interviewed me last year, he asked for my 'coming out' story which I supplied. When I was a student my attitude to any gay guy, whether English or Asian, was simply fear. It was fear because deep down I knew the truth that I was gay, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it, and I was scared that if I was too friendly with a gay guy my secret would be exposed.

Eventually when I did come out, the truth is that initially I had a similar attitude to gay guys who weren't white Caucasian that the reader has experienced from some of the local guys in Scotland. I think I know why too. I was taking one step at a time, and admitting that I was gay was a big deal for me. Having to deal with gay guys with cultural backgrounds that I didn't really understand was simply too difficult. What I wanted back then was someone who had been through exactly the same experiences that I had, so that I didn't have to explain my perspectives to them.

But my attitudes have definitely changed. When Reluctant Nomad interviewed me, he asked me whether I had a race preference, I said that "... I find that Asian guys tend to have less attitude than Western guys. So if I’m online and I spot two guys that I fancy, one Asian and one Western, it’ll be the Asian guy that I’ll start chatting to first." Actually I think the real truth is that these days I prefer guys who are not ethnically British, and the main reason is exactly what was too much for me originally, the fact that their backgrounds are usually completely different to mine. I'm always looking for new ideas and fresh perspectives, and I'll always get something that I find exciting and unexpected from an encounter with a guy who's not ethnically British.

The thing I find bizarre though is the fact that in South East Asia a lot of the locals seem to prefer white Caucasians too. I have a perfect example of this in my very first posting, because when I logged onto in Singapore in February 2005 I was overwhelmed with guys wanting to meet me. Perhaps American cultural hegemony in the modern world is somehow to blame?

Long Yang Club, LondonIn terms of the reader's original question, I remember reading a very relevant article in QX magazine last year. There's a feature article on page 26 of issue 616 titled "No Fats, no Fems, no Asians", and it's all about the problems that East Asian guys face on the UK gay scene. It tells the same story that the reader tells in his e-mail. The article mentions the Long Yang club of course, but apart from the fact that it's in London, it's also clear from the article that it tends to be a place where older Caucasian guys meet younger Asian guys.

The fact that he won't always be living in Scotland isn't much help of course. Based on my own experience, the reader somehow needs to try and find local guys who are very comfortable being gay, and who aren't so worried about what other people think. The QX magazine article doesn't mention, but if he doesn't already have a profile that might help. In my experience, guys all over the world who like Asian guys have profiles, although I don't know how many guys who live in Scotland are registered there.

This blog isn't a dating agency of course, but I can't help wondering whether I have any other gay male readers in Scotland who are in their early 20s. If that's you, and if you find the thought of meeting a Southeast Asian student interesting, just e-mail me a brief description of yourself and I'll gladly pass on your contact details to the reader who sent me the e-mail :-).

Apart from that, do any other readers have any thoughts on this matter?


Jiggy said...

Arghhh....forgive me for saying this...but it is common knowledge that UK and racism go hand in hand...when I was doing my internship, I found myself at the receiving end too...not so much in London, but definitely so in Wales and Scotland...
most of the Brits haven't yet got over their fixation for white is, undoubtedly, a sad state of affairs...

Tales of the City said...

Oh Please.. the young south asian gentlemen should get over it and move to London.. if he is not appreciated there then move to somewhere he is (especially if he is as good looking and confident as he says he is). I dont think one can hide behind racism on this issue... People find other sexually attractive for a number of reasons.. As a rule I dont find black guys a massive turn on.. thats not me being racist, that is just me not wanting that.. like I am not into leather or very pale skinned white guys or gingers..
So the point is you cant be every one's cup of tea. Just accept that and get on with life (remember young man - you dont like older men - think how they feel when you reject them).
That said I once met a public school boy who was slightly embarassed to be with me.. age difference, colour difference.. did not know how he could explain it to his friends.. (still sex was fab). And I do know that asian boys tend to prefer white to their own...
Just get out there and enjoy life.. dont create myths and prejudices..

NotABloggerYet said...

I'm the guy who emailed GB.

rebel all the way I wouldn't call what I experienced racism it's just I have mostly met guys who have set ideas about what I should be like. In other guys I think it has just never crossed their minds to try someone of a different ethnicity.

I remember my early experiences back home when I restricted myself to guys who were of my ethnic group or who were white European. Growing up watching more American movies and TV shows than regional productions, feeling attracted to goodlooking white guys felt as natural as feeling attracted to a guy of my own ethnic group. When I was a kid all the posters of models in clothing shops back home featured white Europeans. Funnily enough it was only after America embraced diversity in advertising that things here began to change as well.

Anyway, it was only after a year or so that I realised I needn't restrict my partners by ethnicity. I've always had friends from other ethnic groups but it had just never dawned to me that I could be sexual with people from these ethnicities too. It didn't help that interracial relationships still weren't that common so there were not many 'role models'. But I'm glad to say I have never looked back after I had a few experiences with like-minded guys from other ethnic groups.

It sounds funny to say this but I do have different criteria of what contitutes good looking for each ethnicity. These days I prefer guys who look good and presentable and are comfortable with who they are. I then hope that they are good in bed.

cuteCTguy I still prefer to stick to my age group. Call me anything you want but I think having a racial preference and an age preference are two very different things. I don't think it's odd for younger and older guys to be together though, they are both consenting adults after all. And even though I sort of take the moral high ground of not having an ethnic preference, I never comment on the attitudes of my friends back home who will never date or sleep with someone of darker skin.

Will said...

I don't know whether it's anything like universal, but I keep reading gay bloggers and hearing gay guys express real appreciation for Asian men. I think American gay men are fairly open to inter-racial encounters and relationships if they run in that direction.

Anonymous said...

you say and hear those nice things because you are now older and have been excluded from the very same exclusive young white gay circle which you once reigned. of course you won’t hear bad things, if someone did have the time to start a blog bashing gay orientals or post racist comments it would be removed.
i guess this guy is probably frm signapore or philippines just know how lucky you are not to have had to face the challenges of growing up here as an oriental (and gay) kid. just hve as much fun as possible before you leave. i too will be emigrating with my partner soon.

Anonymous said...

It has taken white gay people many decades to fully have the government come to terms with their plea for equality so they have usually been seen as the victims. There currently seems to be, even proportionately, a lot more interracial straight dating going on than gay. Hopefully in a few decades there will be more interracial gay dating than straight seeing that the gay community is supposedly more tolerant of diversity than the general population. So I say don't ever give up!

Anonymous said...

LOL, this guy must have shocked the older guys when they thought he was easy prey.
Will, I don't know how you came to that conclusion. I apologize for being frank here but those young minority guys in predominantly white communities will have it harder when cruising. This is because Hollywood doesn't want them to be sexually attractive. Do you think that before Hollywood made african and asian women sexually attractive and desirable there were as many white man-african/asian woman couples as there are now? What you see in the media really does have an impact. African-Asian couples are the rarest in the media and also the rarest in real life. You could argue that it's the other way around and that the media portrays real life but how real is "life" portrayed in the media? And do the media influence lifestyle trends or do real life trends influence what celebrities wear on TV? It takes the media to make a bold move to change the public's perceptions.
African Americans have their own film production campanies which cast attractive African American men in a wider range of roles. I have yet to see the Asian Americans do the same.
I am also reminded of how Abercrombie and Fitch were found guilty of employing minorities only in stockrooms where they were not in contact with the general public. Also they only had a token number of black models and made the excuse that this was in line with their brand image i.e. attractive = young, toned, preppy good looks and white so if you are young, toned, have preppy good looks and are of african/asian origin then you are not attractive enough for their brand image. When's the last time a brand of casual contemporary clothes targetted at teens and young adults was made primarily for only one ethnic group?

Anonymous said...

this issue is probably as old as when the first gay asian arrived in britain.

cutectguy, humans tend to be attracted to those of similar race and age range. the problem with some older gays is that they still want to get guys 20 or more years younger than them. i know i won't be like that when i get older.

it might seem to you that asians prefer white to their own but this is simply because asians are the minority here and the biggest pool of potential partners to choose from is white. those who were brought up in white majority communities who reject their own for no good reason have self esteem issues and have still not grown out of their teenage mentality of yearning for white peer group acceptance, which are unfortunately the ones that the guy who sent in this email came across in scotland.

In asian countries those asians who go for the white guy might simply be because the white guy is good looking. white guys are also sometimes exotified there much like how some white guys here 'try out' asians and blacks. the asians that many asians secretly find irritating are those that go for old or ugly white men simply because they want money (if the white guy is rich) or they have not seen many white people before and are therefore blinded by their stereotyped image of whites.

This 'blinded' phenomenon is quite peculiar. some asians see white handsome heroes on film and advertising and when they actually meet one even if objectively they know he is unattractive they think the guy is white therefore he must be attractive. The same is true in white majority countries. I have had a number of white guys tell me i'm good looking, hot, cock much bigger than what they think i "should" possess but i can only be their ons because they don't feel comfortable being seen going out with an asian guy.

only self assured white guys with no insecurities will date outside their race. self assurance comes with life experience and age so i guess that is also why older men are more open minded towards interracial sex or relationships, but i still think they should try to stick to their own age range, otherwise there will be lots of lonely old coloured gay men around (they chose a much older white partner so it is likely the white guy will die first - a vicious circle!!!)

Anonymous said...

this is sad but so true. i'm in north england and did not want to beleive race is a problem. i don't know why i did it but i made a second dating profile with just my body photo and race not stated and got so many more views and messages some even saying i got a nice tan. at least i know my skin colour is nice. but now i regret doing that because it reallt hurts my self esteem knowing that my real profile is not popular because of my race. not that i only date white but most gays here are white. feel so sad being a gay asian here but found that black guys have same problem too on the net. sigh.......

Anonymous said...

It's true. American tend to be more open to inter-racial relationships. Plus they're more open and less anal-retentive. Recently a Welsh female of friend of mine broke up with her cryptic English boyfriend and she ended up happy with her new American boyfriend!

My advice is, go for Americans, culturally they are more familiar to Asians/Oriental because we obviously watch more of their tv rather than boring, convoluted British shows.