The Antelope, The F*ckboy and The Closet

Dating as a Gay, Asian Male in 2019

By Trent Vu

As a gay man dating in 2019, you need to have a thick skin. I learnt that the hard way after my first ever Tinder date. Let’s take it back to December 2014…

When an antelope gives birth, it’s gross, it’s messy, and the poor baby antelope calf struggles as it awkwardly wobbles around on its frail legs after it breaks out of its placenta. Actually, I think the mummy antelope eats the placenta. But anyway, at this point in my life, I was that baby antelope. Fresh out of high school, I still had braces, hadn’t learnt how to maintain my overzealous eyebrows, and was stuck so far in the closet that, if I took a step backwards, I probably would’ve bumped into a faun and an evil witch offering me some Turkish delight. I wasn’t out to my family then, and only a handful of my friends knew I was into guys. So, without the judgment of my high school peers holding me back, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity for me to start dating. Just like every other person at that age, my only goal in life was to find a boyfriend. I probably ended up craving a relationship that much more given that I had to watch everybody else in high school getting the chance to find a partner from my front-row seats in the closet.

I had heard of this dating app called Tinder. The mechanics sounded fun, and I didn’t really know how else I’d meet the man of my dreams. So, I just went with it. After swiping my way through a few dozen guys, I ended up making date plans with a guy named James.

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He was 21 and seemed super cute. We met up and it was kind of awkward, but mainly because I had zero conversational skills and hadn’t yet mastered the art of how to not be a hot mess. I’m pretty sure that I started singing Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’ at some point. Yeah, it was that bad. That evening, he sent me a polite text saying that he wasn’t really feeling it. Even though I wasn’t really invested in our fledgling love story, it never really feels nice to be rejected. I remember having feelings of what I can only describe as hollowness for the first few days that followed; I wasn’t particularly upset or anything, I just felt empty.

This was the first in a long string of unsuccessful encounters with men. I’ve been ghosted, outright rejected and screwed over by countless fuckboys. To be fair, I’ve met a few nice guys - but it’s usually been the case that I realise that there’s no romantic or sexual connection between us. Each time, I feel more and more hollow, and get frustrated because it feels like I keep hitting a dead end. It’s usually at this point that I throw a bit of a tantrum and delete Tinder, Bumble and Grindr off my phone in an attempt to make myself feel better… only to redownload them a few months later when I feel lonely. I’ve reprised this same song about three or four times now. Dating’s a bitch.

Sometimes, and I’m ashamed to admit this, I wonder whether I’d have an easier time if I were a conventionally attractive white gay man. Maybe if I didn’t have my black hair and yellow-tinged skin, I’d actually get to be a part of the gay “community”. I’d feel welcome at gay clubs, and guys might ask for my number, swipe right for me on Tinder, or at least treat me with respect. I might even be one of those gays with a hot boyfriend, who looks exactly like me, and 20K instagram followers who thirst over the sexy pictures I post of myself at the beach parading around in speedos. I hate that I think about this hypothetical, because I like to believe I’m proud of my heritage. My parents and grandparents sacrificed so much for me to be raised in Australia; it’s almost a slap in the face to them, and everything they’ve done for me for me, to wish that I were white. I’ve noticed that I’m often relentlessly hard on myself. I beat myself up about the things I hate, rather than expecting more from the rest of the world.

Hot, cisgendered white gays are super cliquey. If you’re not one of them, it’s like you don’t exist. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve felt invisible in the Thursgay crowd at Yah Yah’s. The same hollow feeling washes over me as I’m dancing with my friends to some trashy pop song. I try to shrug it off, have a good time, and not let it ruin my night. Still, I sometimes leave the club wishing I had stayed at home instead.

One time, one of those gays messaged me on Grindr. He was hot, but in his bio, he had written that he was not interested in Asians or Indians. Saying “No Asians” in your bio is kind of like owning a restaurant and having a big old sign on the door saying that homosexuals aren’t welcome. White gay men (often rightfully so) love talking about being victims of discrimination; but they don’t realise they’re sometimes perpetrators too. Cis white gays can be really sexist (plenty of guys only want to date “masc” guys, because apparently anything “fem” is bad), transphobic, and ageist (if you’re gay and above the age of 30, you may as well check yourself into a nursing home) too. As you’ll see, some are also just plain dickheads:

I say “lol” a lot. Not because I’m actually laughing out loud, but often in an ironic kind of way. For example, “A racist dickhead messaged me on Grindr lol”.

I say “lol” a lot. Not because I’m actually laughing out loud, but often in an ironic kind of way. For example, “A racist dickhead messaged me on Grindr lol”.

I really should have told him that it  is  racist to essentially tell Asian men that they’re unworthy of his time and attention.

I really should have told him that it is racist to essentially tell Asian men that they’re unworthy of his time and attention.

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I was promptly blocked by him. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to hate members of a certain race to be racist. In fact, you could be my best friend and still be racist. Many of my close girl friends are incredible women and I love them dearly; but when I see them only swiping right for white men on Tinder, it hurts a little bit. Would they swipe right for me in a parallel universe where I’m straight and we don’t know each other? Or would they flick my face to the left, like all the other coloured men that appear on their screens?

Source: https://www.gq.com/story/henry-golding-men-of-the-year-2018

Source: https://www.gq.com/story/henry-golding-men-of-the-year-2018

An argument can be made for having “a type” - some people like their partners to be taller than them, older than them, hairier than them. Features we find attractive are instilled in us from a young age, based on the messages we receive from the people around us and the media we consume. Western popular culture often depicts Asian men in very narrow terms; it is part of the phenomenon of Orientalism. The portrayal of Asian men in emasculated and desexualised ways has affected the way that we are perceived in the dating world. We’re starting to see film and television move in the right direction, with hot Asian men being cast in lead roles. It’s a positive step forward; but we won’t be replacing white men at the top of the hegemonic ladder any time soon.

Basically, we can’t really help who we are and aren’t attracted to. However, it’s one thing to have a type, and another to blanketly reject people on the basis of their race. It's on us to be introspective and confront the prospect that we are racist, even if we claim not to be. It’s almost impossible not to be racist if you live in Australia, a country that so heavily privileges being white. Denying it and convincing yourself that, because you have an Asian friend, love Asian food, travel to Bali every year… that you aren’t racist, doesn’t help. Heck, even I’m racist. Internalised racism is a very real thing. The first step towards fixing this is to realise that, even if we do not see ourselves as racist, we live in a society which imbues us with racist attitudes. We need to admit to ourselves that we are all capable of making assumptions, and holding biases, which amount to racism. We need to try to do better. And next time you see a cute guy Asian guy on Tinder, try swiping right. Especially if it’s me. You might even be lucky to hear my rendition of Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’ if you take me out on a date.

Want to Learn More? On 22 June 2019, OWP will be hosting“Dating and Discrimination in Queer Spaces” in Melbourne- Tickets and more information available here