Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Email from a closeted Asian gay guy

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I found your blog just today while trying to find out about gym etiquette (just generally; wanted to know if gay men act a certain way). It was also my first time reading about cruising and these other activities that happen in the gym. I'm quite surprised as I'm very conservative and come from a culture where even public displays of affection by heterosexual couples are not allowed, so homosexuality is not even spoken of. That makes me wonder actually whether a lot of men where I come from grow up and force and impose upon themselves a normal family life based on the cultural and religious expectations or obligations. How tragic their lives must be and the more I think about it the more I am fearing for my life.

It is not easy for me. I am in my mid 20s and have been in London for a few years. I'm a closet, but for the most part of two decades I was in denial. I am a virgin. I am also one of those 'idealist' thinkers who pivot around the ideas of emotions (and long term relationships) as opposed to being sexually motivated. Don't get me wrong, I am not putting any labels on anyone but just myself, because growing up in a conservative society that was probably why I turned out this way - emotional longing before sexual needs. Sadly I have never been able to experience either.

I had been in denial so much that even surfing about gay material now evokes a feeling of insecurity, guilt and fear to the point I am looking over my shoulders to check if anybody is looking, even in the comforts of my empty bedroom. Even typing out this e-mail now, I am making some changes so that I may appear as anonymous as possible (but how more anonymous can I get over the Internet?). Yes that is the kind of fear that dwells inside me.

There is always a balance for everything; two sides to a coin. So for the fear that haunts me, there is also an equal intense feeling of longing. I am slowly coming to terms with being gay now but I doubt I can ever come out of the closet especially with the people I already know. It would certainly break their hearts (no matter how much people would argue that they would understand) - I'd rather not break their hearts, I really don't. People have belief systems in lives that could shatter in a little moment and I don't want to be that moment.

Putting all the emotional downpour aside (please excuse me for that), I was wondering if you could give me some advice GB. I don't know where to start. I am Asian. I don't know anyone gay, I don't plan to visit a support group. I don't drink so I wouldn't go in a gay bar. I actually am ironically homophobic in a sense that I find myself not attracted to gays who flaunt it and act a bit lady-like. How hard is it to find an older gay partner who acts very straight? What I can tell you is that I feel an intense attraction to mature men (40s and 50s). Does that make my situation even harder? It would be a dream come true to meet a serious mature man who equally longs for mutual company.

What are my chances here in London GB? Given my personality and expectations. I guess on the physical side I should fair off fine since I go to the gym everyday - just to put that into account. What do I do?

I am running out of time. I am going home soon (for good) but I have a tiny chance of staying here, although I will have to fight very very hard for it. Unless I find something, a tiny bit of hope, then I wouldn't be able to find the strength to make a fight and stay here in London. The journey home is imminent and I might just be one of those men who submit to a 'normal life' and grow old wondering.

Best regards

I felt a bit sorry for this reader, because if he does have to go back to his home country it sounds like it's going to be impossible for him to find himself a nice boyfriend, which is what he seems to want. So immediately I sent him an encouraging reply:

Dear reader,

Thanks very much for writing to me :-). I know a lot of Asian gay guys, so I do understand what you're talking about.

Let me reassure you that as a gay guy in your mid 20's you've got plenty of time to find a boyfriend for a long term relationship. Let me also reassure you that there are also plenty of mature gay guys who like younger Asian guys, so that should work too. One way to find them is via groups such as the Long Yang club. However, you really must avoid going back home. Or if you have to go back home, find a way to come back to London. Perhaps you've been a student here, and perhaps you'd now qualify for the skilled migrant points based work visa?

Usually the first step in terms of coming out is the hardest, and the hardest by a very long way too. Don't get me wrong, there are more hard steps to take, but it does get easier. Just as long as you stay on the path that you've just stepped onto, I'm sure that eventually you'll find happiness.

All the best for now, GB xxx

Within a days I'd received a reply from him:

Hey GB,

Thank you for writing back so promptly. As you and many other readers know, closets (well, every human being in general) regularly have bouts of world-detachment or feelings of anxiety and depression. I am in one right now. I appreciate your advice on the LYC but I might not be ready for that now yet. I was however thinking of going to London Friend Turning Point. I'm debating whether or not I should go now, because this is the most difficult time for us students. Should I let these feelings sit on my conscience for just a little longer or should I start untangling them while balancing out my other obligations.

But don't worry, if there is a strong enough wind on a person's back, it'll take him somewhere.


London Friend LogoI sent him a reply to say that I thought that London Friend Turning Point was a good idea. Indeed, having come out to himself and now to me via email, going to meet other gay guys face to face in a supportive environment is a good idea for his next step.

In terms of his original query about gym etiquette, one of my earliest posts is titled 'How gay men cruise gym saunas and steam rooms'. I still think it's a good post, and indeed, applies to locker room etiquette in general.

He's probably right that some gay guys in his home country force themselves into a straight lifestyle. However, now that he's come out to himself, he doesn't have to be one of them. It really doesn't matter that he's still a virgin and hasn't had any physical contact with another gay guy yet. When he starts making friends with other gay guys, he'll naturally lose his virginity when the time is right for him.

The biggest thing he has to do is to overcome his fear of being gay. The natural cure for that is to venture out slowly into gay London. For example, he can go to gay bars even if he doesn't drink alcohol. For example, I think Ku-bar in Chinatown and Kudos in Adelaide Street are popular with Asian guys and guys who like Asian guys. Given how hard he finds it to accept that he's gay, it would do him good just to walk into such a bar, even if he walks straight out again!

Of course, I also recommend using web sites like gaydar to meet other gay guys. He should feel comfortable doing that because he can do that from the privacy of his own bedroom. Since he's Asian, perhaps he should also try fridae. Even though most of the guys who're on fridae are based in Asia, it's also used by Asian guys elsewhere, and by extension by guys elsewhere who're looking for Asian guys. There are many different types of gay guys, so it really doesn't matter that he doesn't like the overtly feminine type of gay guy, he should just say that in his online profile. However, I reckon it's better to specify that he's looking for 'masculine' guys rather than using the term 'straight-acting'.

So if he can stay in London, or indeed move to live in any of the main gay cities around the world, then I think he's got an excellent chance of finding happiness. Does anyone else have any other ideas for this reader?


Was Once said...

A person conflicted this much should to connect with others like him first before dating. My advice the sooner the better, and stop thinking. Guilt will make his world very tiny.

Anonymous said...

Definitely don't 'think' your way out of doing something. Say to yourself that you deserve a break from the conservatism and allow yourself to just let go a bit.

I don't think cruising in the gym is the way to go for the reader :-)

I used to go out all the time and not drink alcohol. It's not a problem at all.

Looking for guys in their 40-50s isn't that hard in London. For people on the lower side of that, try Duke of Wellington at the end of Old Compton Street. It you want something a bit older then you can always check out The Old Quebec (or is it City of Quebec? Can't remember) which is around the corner from Marble Arch, just off Oxford Street. The Wellie is more friendly and upbeat. The Quebec is quieter and more mature/conservative.

Even if you just go down to one of the bars, walk in, have one soda/water and walk out then at least you can get an idea as to the type of guys who go there.

Plus it's easy :-)

I'm a firm believer in just jumping in and doing something. Joining support groups etc just seems to be a delaying tactic.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know anyone gay, I don't plan to visit a support group."

"I was however thinking of going to London Friend Turning Point."

Well looks like you managed to make him change his mind without any persuasion, GB!

If religion is part of what's stopping him from coming out then a good thing to do will be to search for other gay guys who share his religious background whilst in London.

Many men will likely be put off by the idea that he is approaching them to gain leave to remain in the UK. This might also leave him in a disadvantaged position within any relationship that fosters. Immigration officers will be looking for evidence of a longer-term, sustained relationship anyway so this will not be a quick-fix option.

Seeking asylum will be difficult unless he can prove that his life or wellbeing will come to harm if he returns to his country of birth. At the end of the day it will be better if he obtains leave to remain on his own merit. On a side note British qualifications are well received if he plans to emigrate elsewhere later on.

Shawn L said...

Being a young gaysian I understand reader's situation. Coming out is never ending for gays. My advice is to be more aggressive (in meeting new people making new friends) and relaxed (that things will work out eventually) at the same time. While agreeing with GB on trying to stay in London, I think if the reader DOES move back to Asia he may still find gay networks in his country. Website like Fridae (which has been upgraded recently =) works well if he is only looking for friends at the beginning. One of my early strictly platonic friends was from fridae, and of course I met my bf there =)
All the best for the reader!

kent^21^ said...

I was in a similar situation a few years back, my advice to reader is whatever you do, please do not surrender to societal pressure! It took me some time to be comfortable with being gay, was also helped along by some nice guys I had the fortune to make the acquaintances of on gaydar. So that may be a good portal!

On a different note, what are the main gay cities in the world anyway? =) I'm planning to relocate to Melbourne, I certainly hope there is a nice pool of guys there =p, or should I consider Sydney?

Tony said...

I was in a similar situation last year as well, gaydar helped.. GB's right too, it get a little easier after one takes the first step.

He'll find that he's not alone. If he needs friends, just ask. =)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Does Asian mean oriental or South Asian. I go once in a while to quebec I (http://www.fluidfoundation.com/venueDetails.aspx?VenueID=5011) and found other asian man who are into older man. If he is into older masculine , he should check out the bear scene. May be the Kings Arms - the bear bar in london. I dont like the place as I felt people were within themself . It is difficult to make friends there. Usually in a bear bar , atleast people talk. And being an asian , it will be more difficult to make friends there.

Jiggy said...

Like Anonymous above, even I am confused. Does Asian mean Indian? I am Indian and I feel exactly the way this guy feels - be it about placing emotional compatibility over physical needs, feeling queasy in the company of overtly gay men or giving a lot of importance to family life.
And I think if he is Indian and he is hesitant to go back because he thinks he would not be 'accepted' in the society, then I guess he is mistaken. Cos London is as homophobic as India, if not more.

Anonymous said...

Many cultures and societies haven't come to terms with homosexuality and to varying degrees many men play by social norms and live their lives as they are expected to. Conforming to those norms is an option. As with everything, you take a stand for what you believe and being gay is who you are. Conforming in a sense subscribes to the idea that it is a choice that you make, which to me isn't right.

I strongly agree with GB in that you should either stay or look to return to London or travel to another city that will allow you to 'come out' and enjoy your life as a gay man. Shawn is right about being able to connect with other gay people even in countries where there appears to be a strong intolerance for homosexuality if you do have to return.

A support group may help you sort out your thoughts...and make friends in a less threatening environment. You don't need to start in a bar but if you think you're up for it, friends can be made there too. Sounds like there's time pressure...but rushing this may not give you the time you need to think it through and understand your feelings and thoughts and be comfortable with yourself.

Good luck :)

Anonymous said...

kent^21^ - Melbourne is awesome. I live there and love it. IT has a great community and there's always something going on. I'd rate it over Sydney although Sydney has a lot going for it too. Yell out if you do find yourself down here.

Kevin said...

I am an Asian living in San Francisco, and I also have a similar situation. It would be nice to learn any update from this guy.

Hedonist said...

Wishing the best to the reader. I would also suggest finding some friends through Fridae, gayromeo or even gaydar if he's not comfortable going to a gay bar.

PS: LYC is no longer running, a couple of its spin offs like the badminton group are still running but not LYC itself. If he plays badminton that may be a great way of meeting a few other people outside the "circuit".

Anonymous said...

Guide to gaydar for your reader:

Height: Rather not say: Probably very short

Body type: Average: Overweight; Large: Very Overweight; Stocky: Overweight hiding muscles underneath; Rather not say: Overweight or extremely skinny

Ethnic origins: Rather not say: Usually means not caucasian or a caucasian who is too politically correct to admit his ethnic origin.

Hair: Shaved: Probably balding or bald.

General attire: Alternative, Leather, Military, Punk, Skin, Rubber: Emm?

Out: Rather not say: Closet case; Yes: Out to most except parents.

Dick size: Rather not say: Could be anything!

Cut/Uncut: Rather not say: Very tight foreskin

Body hair: Rather not say: Very hairy or hasn't shaved recently so very prickly and stubbly, Ouch!

Orientation: Bisexual: Has girlfriend or wife but loves guys. Curious: Closet case or hates men but loves cock. Open minded: Gay but unable to admit it to oneself.

Role: Active: Selfish Top. Active/Vers: Does not enjoy being bottom but relents at the sight of a large cock or only when in love. Vers, Passive/Vers, Passive: Bottom.

Safer Sex: Sometimes, Rather not say: Beware. Never: Hmm... Needs discussion: Guillible and loves to bareback if partner says he's "clean"

Smoke: Yes: Pack a day. Socially: Bad taste in mouth correlates with amount of alcohol consumed, usually likes rollups. Rather not say: Chimney (favourite brand usually Mayfair).

Drink: This is the rare instance where what you read is often what you get.

Drugs: Rather not say: In a position at work where he does not want people know that he smokes weed. Socially: Probably smokes weed. Uses other stuff occasionally but probably does not inject Often: Self-explanatory. Never: Uses poppers only.

Anonymous said...

dear gb i have just happened to stumbled on to yr blog and enjoyed reading it.i agree with what your asian friend feels.is he an indian? i am one now based in india.things are changing here but slowly.and yes social acceptability is always a question mark. we adapt very quickly to interacting and dealing with people in a multi lingual,religious,cultural society by being flexible and a bit sensitive.but then we keep a small part of ourselves to overselves. what u see is not what u get sometimes.(and this seems to leave a lot of my western friends baffled)and this is the same way a not inyourface gay person manages his life here. while iam not an authority on the subject i maybe able to help this person if he is from india or pakistan because i think i know where hes coming from. if hes an indian i wd suggest he return on a trial basis for a short while and test the waters. there is a small supportive community at least in delhi.if he needs to talk be happy to help. regards

Anonymous said...

I could relate to this guy, except I managed to become a permanent resident just last year here in Canada so I won't HAVE to go back home to China. My dad and his side family have been very pushy about asking me to go back to China for good, constantly talking about "girlfriend, marriage, kids"... makes me wonder if all gay immigrants came here to stay because they don't want to go back to their home countries where homosexuality is not accepted at all?

Asian Gay Reviews said...

good luck man and never be afraid to be yourself :)

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