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We were both drunk. For a long time, living on West 11th was my dream—and while its power over me came from Grace Paley having lived there, the brick buildings were low, so there was beautiful light, and from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson Highway, these beautiful rooms full of books and art suggested lives that mesmerized me as I walked by.

One of my very favorite writers once did me the compliment of naming someone in one of her stories, published in the New Yorker , after me—and giving him a home on West 11th. The closest I will ever get to this dream.

I think it was this moment that pierced me, but there were many, really. He was that sort of dangerous beauty with a knack for knowing just what I dreamed about. In retrospect I should have guessed: He reminded me of a friend from college who had studied Chinese and Korean, practiced Chinese calligraphy, trained in tae kwon do, and dated Korean women almost exclusively. A friend who'd once said to me, I'm half-Korean, too.

Setting Australia’s LGBTI agenda since 1979

Just, inside. On one of our first dates, he came over to my apartment and told me about the books I'd just been given by my grandfather, the jokbo for our family. I'm the oldest male in my generation, the 42nd, and by Korean tradition, we are given them. The books are kept in an antiquated Chinese script, and I am unable to read them, but he could read them.

My First (and Last) Time Dating a Rice Queen

It was the sort of thing that shamed me regularly for the sort of upbringing I'd had—my father had committed us to assimilation and had not wanted us to speak Korean. He had died when I was young, though, and the language gap left us estranged from his family afterward. In , we were putting these connections back together—I had just gone to Korea with my family that summer, and my grandfather had given me these books. But there was still so much no one had ever taught me. I practiced it as he watched and corrected me.

Roses re-emerging all through the garden. I think it's cursed there, that rose. There's no record anywhere of what I can now see the dream was about: I knew what rice queens were, and they didn't usually go for me. When I worked at A Different Light bookstore in the Castro in s-era San Francisco, I remember selling them copies of OG magazine—short for "Oriental Guy"—these men fantasizing about the sex trips they took to Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, all of them in search of smooth young Asian men living in precarious economic conditions who were willing to do things sexually for, well, probably less than the cost of the magazine, in order to survive.

Gay Chinese couple talks about acceptance in US vs. China

I had also been to the gay bars in San Francisco for Asian men, to discover they were for Asian men looking for white men and vice versa. As someone who was half, I was just exactly not enough of what each type wanted—exactly enough to be invisible to them or at least not eligible as desirable. They still walk by me sometimes, these mixed Asian and white gay couples, and I smile as both men seem to project their insecurities on to me, holding hands a little tighter as they walk by.

As a result, I gave up on the idea that I would ever end up dating either kind of man—the gay white man who liked Asian men was likely not ever going to ask me out. I remember dancing with a white man once at a club, and he reached over and pulled my shirt front down to reveal my hairy chest. He looked shocked and then turned and left the dance floor, not even a good-bye, like I'd lied to him about the goods.

I like Asian men, he said, after this confession. It's why I lived in Japan, why I studied Japanese. I tried to imagine it. Having an erotic imagination so focused on one race of people. All that my ex-boyfriends had in common was me. Do we belong to either western or eastern culture? Are our desires influenced by our struggle for identity? And what commonalities lie within our collective psychological experiences? The tension of east and west and some of its complexities are especially exhibited in our dating scene.

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In popular gay Asian colloquialism, there lies the cultural notion that desires revolve around two specific racial choices — rice or potato? This divide seemed commonplace, even manifesting itself within a speed dating event in Sydney. At the event, we were given 12 dates at five minutes each and no one was allowed to talk about work. Interestingly a lot of the people I came across were open to everyone in terms of race when I asked them. I wanted to pry even further though, so I inquired if there were any patterns or differences in their dating experiences when it came to dating either white or Asian men.

Three people separately mentioned smell which I guess is fair.

My First (and Last) Time Dating a Rice Queen - Queer Issue - The Stranger

A guy called Don told me he felt more comfortable with Asian guys since more of them wanted something similar in terms of a relationship , while Caucasian men were either interested in a hookup or seemed much older than him. Another person, Jason agreed with this and said that he preferred Asian men because they were similar in their traditions.

Jason also felt that other Asian men were culturally more family orientated and more open to monogamy and dating, whereas western guys appeared to be focused on sex.

As Eric continued to talk, he revealed how he became more comfortable with his cultural heritage growing up. It was during that process he became more open to dating other Asian men. Jason also recalled a similar experience.


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He believes some Asian men go through a journey where they discover themselves in life, and then are ready to date other Asians. In a sense, being able to attain this whiteness even through association through others marks a sense that we belong to this sort of class. Growing up as an Asian person in Australia can also be a disorientating experience be- cause of the bodies that surround us. We might personally wish that we had blue eyes and blond hair so we fit in to the represented ideal or normal person. And in addition to our sense of selves, our skewed ideals of romance are constructed through the same lens.