Monday, June 28, 2004

Walk Like a Man

My father was the first person to figure out that I was gay.

Even when I was unaware of it myself, he sussed it out, he saw the signs: the first indications of a limp wrist, the hint of a sway in my hips.

He saw me replace the tacky floral print wallpaper in my sister’s discarded Barbie Dream House by gluing pages cut out from a House & Garden magazine. He became suspicious when I evicted Barbie, moved in Ken and GI Joe, and installed a tiny home gym made from matchboxes. But it was the house's avant-garde art pieces I fashioned from Play-Doh that confirmed his suspicions. That and the cotton swab topiary.

I was only about eleven or twelve, an age where you’re old enough to know about sex, but young enough to not know what sex meant. I don’t know about you, but I was fifteen when the idea of sex clicked—understandable, considering the bulb in my head was not going to light up in comprehension by rubbing two electric plugs together.

I was hungry and looking for a snack. My father was in the living room watching TV. As I walked past him on my way to the kitchen, I heard him give a loud, disgusted "tsk!"

I stopped. Usually, I only heard this sound when he was losing at playing mahjong with his buddies.

"Hay, naku!" he said. These are the Tagalog words indicating exasperation.

He got up from the couch and stood beside me. "Walk like a man, son," he said firmly in Chinese. He pulled my shoulders back and pushed out my chest. I felt like I was about to do the chicken dance.

"Strong," he said, puffing out his chest. "Purposeful," shoulders back. Then he walked, like John Wayne challenged to a gunfight.

I tried to imitate him. "No, no, no!" he interrupted, "Don’t waddle like a duck!"

"Determined!" He cried. He demonstrated again.

I tried it. But even before I completed my walk, I could see from his expression that I wasn’t cutting it.

"Tsk!" he went, shaking his head, "Tsk!" Then he lost interest and turned back to his TV program.

Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore. My father’s casual indifference sucked the hunger from my stomach leaving a cold, dead void. Sometimes parents are cruel in their impatience, their disregard. Sometimes a child just wants to please, to be worthy in his father’s eyes, to do something right for once.

I took myself back to my bedroom and shut the door. I took three bath towels and laid them end to end on the floor up to my mirrored closet door. I squared my scrawny shoulders and looked into the mirror in front of me as I practiced walking on my little terrycloth runway.

More Blake Carrington, less Alexis Colby! I coached myself. Purposeful! But not as if to get Krystle into a catfight! Strength comes from within! Not from oversized shoulder pads! I kept practicing...

Two weeks ago, I attended my graduation ceremony. I am now officially an MBA. My brother Peter is the only member of my family who was able to attend my graduation. I would have liked for the rest of my family to have been there. I would have liked for them to see me in the black cap and long, flowing gown which was perfect for my Stevie Nicks twirling gypsy impression.

As I stood on stage, the tassel from my cap touching my left brow, among the other solemn graduates, waiting for my name to be called, I thought about all the opportunities I have had in my life to get my name legally changed to "Derek" or "Lance." It would have sounded more glamorous than "Paul" over the speakers.

I thought about my father and the bare handful of life lessons he taught me. I thought about that day that he tried to teach me how to walk like a man.

It would be a few years before I successfully learned to walk like my father. I didn’t understand it right away—"walking like a man" was not the combination of stance, posture, cadence. It is a state of mind. It is to walk with strength, purpose and determination.

As I thought of him sitting on that couch, watching TV, a million years ago, I heard my name being announced on the speaker in the auditorium.

I walked, across the stage, just like he taught me.

Photos from my graduation: 1 2

Cute little Asian boy and his chicken, dancing
The Ultimate Dynasty Fan Site
Stand back! It's Stevie Nicks!

Walk Like A Man: What happened when I crossed the gender barrier

Walk like a HUMAN: The National AIDS Walk Directory

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Never Lose Hope

Part One: Shirts vs Skins
Part Two: The Model Minority

Note: If you don't wanna to hear a faggot rant, then please go away.


god hates fags

...and puh-leez, I’m sick of hearing the "you can choose not to be gay" bullshit. If I can choose to be straight, then you can choose to be gay. So go ahead and prove to me first that you can be gay before you expect me to go and do any carpet munching.

And none of that girls-gone-wild, girl-on-girl kissing for TV crap. If that’s what you think homosexuality is, then you’re just embarrassing heterosexuals everywhere.

I want you not only to have some I-love-fucking-this-person-of-my-same-sex-blow-my-mind-orgasm experience, I want you to fall in love with that person as well.

If you can do that, write me an e-mail and I’ll personally fly to wherever you are and kiss your feet. I will declare you Mr. or Ms. Heterosexual Who Can Be Homosexual At Will and give you a crown, a sash and a tacky plastic scepter. I will be the first to admit to you, yes I was wrong, you were right, and follow your lead to whatever fashion disaster you direct me to.

But you can’t do that can you? Because if you can, then you are saying you have control who you can fall in love with. You are saying that you can create physical and sexual attraction, intimacy, affection, devotion to somebody on demand. To me, that is perverted.

My friend Johnny* told me that he hates being gay. He came to me once in utter despair. He told me bitterly how hard it was to find somebody to love and love him back. He has all this love to give and nobody to give it to.

I don’t think he means that he wants to be straight. I don’t think he means that he would be happier if he could have relationships with women. I think he is frustrated at how hard it is to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Even more so when Metrosexuals are fucking up your gay-dar.

Well, Johnny, I am telling you right now, just as you want to love and be in love with someone, some gay guy somewhere is also hoping for the same thing. You just have to keep looking and never lose hope. Because, just as I found Brian so unexpectedly, someone could walk into your life today.

I know that these words are no consolation for those times when you woke up in the morning, racked with loneliness. But you have to persevere. You have to make yourself ready for that opportunity. It means that you've gotta clean house if you want somebody to move in, get a cleaning lady if you have to.

Isn’t that all one could hope for? To find somebody to love and be loved in return?

I cannot choose who I love. I bet neither can you.

*not his real name

You gotta see this, seriously: Linda Clement's "What You Don't Know Might Not Be So"
Take my poll: How Long Do You Think You Can Act Gay?
How to Save the Straight Marriage
Canadians concerned that Marriage Rights may be yanked
ESPN's top Metrosexual Men in Sports

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Model Minority

Continued from Shirts vs Skins

For those of you who happen to be here at this site for the first time, I guess you should know that not only am I an Asian but I am also a gay man. So, I can speak of my experiences being a minority in two distinct categories—three, if you include "comic book collector."

A lot of people think that Asians are the "model minority," which when I was younger excited me, because I thought this meant that I would have a career in haute couture. I practiced walking down the runway endlessly in my bedroom. Imagine my horror when I found out this really meant that I was expected to be a pocket protector-wearing math nerd, or a metal-mouth band geek. I was mortified.

The main difference I think is that when people look at me, they see an Asian, not a homosexual. Of course, this is until they hear about the way I idolize Sarah Jessica Parker, and then the jig is up. I mean the woman is a goddess—she made it ok for grown women to wear tutus on the streets of Manhattan.

I have been lucky I guess. I have no telling mannerisms that I am a gay. Despite my literary flourishes in this blog, I am sad to say that I am just a "regular guy". I do not have a high pitch voice. I do not have excessive hand gestures. I do not have frosted hair.

Others are not so lucky. When some gay men talk, a pair of capri pants falls out of their mouths. When they shit, a pair of capri pants falls out of their asses. This is the reason the hideous fashion statement that is men's capri pants won't go away.

Some people think that if we do not act stereotypically gay, then we would not be subject to all the discrimination that we claim we face. Some people say "why do gay people have to shove their gayness in my face all the time?" Some people think that if we turn off the switch, if we don’t talk about who we are, we would all be accepted into society and everybody would live happily ever after.

Well, honey, let me ‘splain something to you. Even though I am not your average flaming homosexual, I do not "act" straight. I don’t turn anything on or off, except my penis pump. If you cannot tell that I am a card-carrying faggot, it is not because I have misled you by subduing my instincts to swish.

And for my other gay brethren who may lisp, sashay, wear flannel or think of Home Depot as their second home, I would say, by and large, they are not acting either. They may take it up a notch for special occasions like an awards show or a really, really good sale, but I would say generally, this is the way they are.

So if you want the more stereotypical of us to turn this "off," you’re asking us to be someone else. Now you’re asking us to "act."

It is too hard to act anything for more than 5 minutes. Y’all should know that, after all, you weren’t really enjoying giving oral sex to your lover last night. You just pretty much moaned and mmmmm’d your way through it, hoping they would just cum already.

Even Disney theme park castmembers only have to act for 30 minutes at a time. We are supposed to act like somebody else 24-7. We're supposed to wear shirts with an ungodly percentage of polyester; use non-salon approved products to wash our hair; wear our underwear until it disintegrates.

You think this should be so easy, but you do not understand its ramifications.

To let you understand the magnitude of this, not only can you not try on that pair of Manolo Blahniks for kicks, it also means that if somebody asked you to bring your significant other to a function, you have to say no. It means that if somebody asked you why you are crying, you can’t tell them that your girlfriend is sick and in the hospital. It means that when you have children, one of you will have to sit out their school play. It means when other people have pictures of their families, their loved ones, their friends at their desk, all you can put up on yours is the picture of your dog Rusty.

It means that when you want to hug or kiss or hold the person you love’s hand, all you can do is look at them in the eye and hope that they know what you feel.

Next: The Rant


take the poll

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Shirts vs Skins

Once, at a gay bar, a drunk guy stumbled his way towards me, reeking of a mixture of sweat, CK One and alcohol. If it was closing time, I might be willing to ignore this combination of odors, but at 12:30a.m., I didn’t want to seem too desperate. There’s time enough for that later.

"Where are you from?" he slurred.
"I’m from Chicago," I tentatively replied, not sure why he was talking to me.
"No, no! I meant, you’re Asian, right, so like where are you from?"
I looked at him blankly.
"C’mon, say sumthin’ in your native tongue," he cajoled.
"Cun-nee-leeng-gus," I said.
"Cun-nee-leeng-gus," he repeated. "What does that mean?"
"It means 'I love my mother' in my language," I replied.
"Wow, can you write that down so I can tell my mother later?" He said. "Write down your phone number too."
"My pleasure," I grabbed a napkin and wrote down the syllables and the number to my favorite Chinese take-out.

I was really surprised by this guy’s question. I mean, I made sure to park my rickshaw where you couldn’t see it.

I also have a typical Midwestern accent, so your only tip-off that I was not born in the good ole U. S. of A. would have been that I, like Avril Lavigne, have a tendency to pronounce David Bowie’s last name "Ba-wee" instead of "Bo-wee."

Normally, I would find this only mildly annoying. I would just say I’m Chinese-Filipino and be done with it. Maybe it was the Attitude I was getting from the royal queen bitches parading at the bar that night that put me on edge, making me unforthcoming to this drunk.

I found it offensive that he assumed that despite my Aberzombified attire, I was anything but a corn-fed Midwesterner—you can check my toilet, I’ve got the corn kernel encrusted poop to prove it. I even use an extra-strong deodorant to get rid of that fresh-of-the-boat odor.

Being treated like a "skin" or racial stereotype is a universal experience: Latinos, blacks, white people from Canada—we’ve all experienced it. We cannot control what assumptions, prejudices, stereotypes, people put upon us. It’s a part of human nature, like a short-cut to getting to know someone. I mean, I do it all the time when I meet new people: if you talk to me, I assume that you want to go to bed with me.

There are certain things that you can do to control people’s impression of you: your job, your car, the smell of your feet. When people look at me, they see that I wear designer labels, fancy watches and Italian shoes, and they conclude that I have maxed out my credit cards. For me, it’s really important that people don’t think I’m boring. I think it’s much, much more interesting to be superficial.

But there are certain impressions that I cannot control. That is, despite what logo shirt I wear, it is the color of my skin, the shape of my eyes, that registers in the back of your brain.


*I realize of course that cunnilingus is not spelled like it is above. Don't shoot me. :)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Gay Experience

These days, the fabulousness of the gays is hard to contain. At no other time in the history of humanity have gay rights been the focus of so much attention in the media.

You’d think this would happen sooner, given the popularity of musical theatre.

There has been so much accomplishment in terms of achieving equality for gay people around the world. Gay people can now be free of discrimination, free of prejudice in hair salons around the country. People are finally understanding the fear, the terror we face when confronted with enlarged pores.

Many gay people compare this fight for equal rights and non-discrimination to that of African-Americans. However, members of the African-American community have not taken this comparison kindly. In this very site, someone said that "the experience is not the same". I take this to mean that the discrimination that gays face is not the same as that of African-Americans primarily (as it was claimed) because gay people can "choose" not to be gay.

I don't know what it is like to be black in America.

However, these things I do know:
  • A seven year-old boy was scolded and forced to write "I will not use the word gay in school again" after he told his classmates he had two mothers because they are gay.

  • Gwen Araujo, a transgendered 17 year-old girl, was killed by two men after they discovered that Gwen was not biologically female.

  • Theron McGriff was told by an Idaho court that he cannot see his own kids unless his male lover was not present in his own house.

  • A Chicago high school kid was kicked out of his home by his own father after telling his father that he was gay. Hear his story in his own words.

  • Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth make up 20-40% of homeless youth in urban areas.

  • 22.2% of gay youth skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe en route to or at school.

  • In 36 states, it is legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. In 46 states, it is legal to do so based on gender identity.

  • By 2003, nearly 9,000 men and women in the Armed Forces were discharged because they were gay.

  • In 1998, when Matthew Shephard confided to two men that he was gay, they deceived him into leaving with them in their car. He was robbed, brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. He died several days later.

If it were a choice, I think all these hundreds and thousands of people would have chosen not to suffer, face hardship, lose friends and family, their jobs and their lives.

I would never presume to understand the struggles of African-Americans. Gay people are not saying that being gay is the same as being African-American (unless of course, you are gay and African-American). I don't have to learn the Snoop Doggy Dizzle to be cool. But I know that I only have admiration for their achievements.

If we compare ourselves with African-Americans, it's only because we've seen what they have achieved and that's what we want for ourselves.

Some interesting discussions going on in my LiveJournal mirror.

Also, I highly recommend you listen to this Chicago teen's story from NPR. I found it very moving and distressing at the same time. I think it is worth 5 minutes of your time (requires Real media player - download the free version).

My Project

In case you haven't noticed, I started a project (see sidebar) where I will be quoting from various blogs that I encounter. I hope to share with you these voices from my community. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Come Together

Warning: some links are not work-friendly—you may want to wait until you get home.

Last weekend, my friend Han and I decided to check out International Mr. Leather (IML). Hundreds of big, burly men from all over the world descend into Chicago for this notorious event.

It would not be unusual to see a group of men seeing the sights, shopping, in full leather regalia: motorcycle jackets, leather straps, maybe some ass-less pants. The reaction of other tourists to the latter always makes me smile: incredulity, laughter, disgust—it is pretty much the same reaction I have to the tourists’ outfits.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to gay civilization occurred that weekend: It rained.

Due to some ditziness on our part, we did not look up the exact venue thinking that we would just follow the trail of leather-clad men. However, with the rain pouring down, there was nary a mary to follow. I had to call my brother Peter, who fortunately was also planning to attend the event and got directions.

I knew we were close when I caught a whiff of the heavy, thick, manly scent of...Chanel No. 5?!? I wonder why I am surprised.

Han and I were the only ones I could see in civilian clothes. I really felt out of place in my sneakers and t-shirt. We didn’t fit in, much like the guy with the man-boobs squeezed into a tight rubber tank top. But then I thought--waitaminute--I'm not the one with my hairy ass in full moon.

By then, I really needed to pee. I got in line for the restroom right behind a couple of guys with shaved heads and full beards. After several minutes of waiting, I wondered aloud why we hadn’t moved. The guy in front of me turned around and said, "This is the line for men who want to get peed on." And then he winked at me and said, "I’d be happy to relieve you right now..." I stammered an excuse and went in.

Inside, there was heavy cruising going on, men eyeing each other, exchanging meaningful looks. As I am already "taken", I ignored it and picked a urinal and started to pee. Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens, the relaxation of my bladder caused me to fart.

I forgot that farting is like a mating call among these folk. I am suddenly surrounded by amorous men, sniffing appreciatively.

"Smells like a spinach omelet, and um, maybe with a side of bacon," says one. I didn’t know whether to blush or give him a prize—that’s what I had for brunch. I settled for a polite nod and high-tailed it outta there.

While IML is ostensibly a convention for SM and bondage enthusiasts to get together, share ideas and techniques, in its heart, it is a beauty contest celebrating the hyper-masculine ideal. I don’t think anybody can deny there is a lot of irony and dry cleaning going on here.

The competition is fierce as contestants from around the world model their original leather creations, strutting and posing onstage. Contestants are judged rigorously and scored on their looks and their "leather presence." In between events, personal assistants help touch up hair and wipe off excess sweat; perhaps a mustachioed "seamstress" waits in the wings armed with a sewing kit or bolt cutter ready to make last minute adjustments.

And although I didn’t see the actual competition, it’s not hard to imagine the last two finalists standing next to each other, hands clasped, waiting tensely to hear the final tally. It’s not hard to imagine the runners-up crowding around the winner as the leather sash is bestowed upon the new reigning International Mr. Leather.

It’s not hard to imagine how through this event, these men have come together as a community.

Wanna play the Urinal Game?