dustinsohn:

During past family reunions, all my cousins and I used to get asked by our grandma/aunts/mothers, “Are you seeing anyone? Do you have a boy/girlfriend?” Of course for me, I would get asked if I had a girlfriend, which bothered the hell out of me because no, I’ve never been remotely interested in girls. Over the years, I saw my cousins get married off and have kids in chronological order from eldest to youngest. But ever since I came out of the closet, they all finally stopped asking me about my love life, which I hate to admit…kinda bothered me. So the shitty thing about being a woman, regardless of your college degree, is that society gives you a restricting formula from which to base your life: find a man, get married, have kids. In contrast, the thing about being gay is (at least from my personal experience), society doesn’t expect anything from you at all. As polite as my loving relatives are about my homosexuality, I know they don’t ask about my love life because…they see me as a waste of sperm and therefore I don’t have purpose. Harsh but true. And even though I think breeders are [insert unfair judgments here based the ecological and economical harm of overpopulation], it still stings a little.

Well, at least the recent legalization of gay marriage in the US is finally bringing some normalcy for the gay community and LGBT families, right? But a part of me also asks…is “normal” something we should strive for? Here’s a hypothetical, radical thought: *what if* straight marriage was illegalized instead? Maybe you’ve heard the argument that marriage is an “antiquated institution.” Whatever your stance is on the legality and politics, there is no doubt that we as a society can boil the purpose of our existence down to finding companionship and mating. Perhaps it is an innate biological instinct, but without a doubt it is a social expectation that is burned into our psyche. I grew up observing the exhausted, unsatisfied and/or divorced mothers in my family whom have all lived by the only formula presented to them in an impoverished part of South Korea during the 1960s and ‘70s, learning the hard way that no formula can guarantee fulfillment and happiness. I know through observation that making important life choices solely due to expectation is a risk that may yield disappointing results.

The intersection of being born gay and male in my family has its blessings, a huge one being: I am free. I am free to explore and live out a variety of life’s scenarios without the social expectation of becoming a husband or a father. And after my exploration, if I end up finding fulfillment in marriage and parenthood, then great (though I virtually have no interest in either at the moment). At least I had the freedom to write my own formula from scratch. It is a freedom the women in my family of all generations would never know because all their lives they were asked the insidiously harmful question, “Are you seeing anyone?”

There’s been some mutterings recently on Tumblr about the “authenticity” of Dustin Sohn and while his shirtless pictures can be problematic, I don’t believe that necessarily detracts from his other musings on race/LGBT/social justice issues. However, I would love to entertain other opinions otherwise (send an ask!)

In regards to this post, I find that Dustin’s formulation of gender roles in society to be rather stiff and Victorian (and as a reader commented, especially the derogatory term, “breeder”) but I think the point he makes about societal expectations regarding relationships have some merit. Dustin argues that while women are expected to “find a man, get married, and have kids,” gay men have no such expectations. I would say, however, that gay men are “expected” rather to be promiscuous and are incapable of settling down. I use “expected” in the sense of a broad social stereotype.regarding their relationships. As with any stereotypes, this preconception is blatantly false and reminds me of an argument during the gay marriage debate about the heteronormativity of marriage. As LGBT people, who have already opted out of the hetero-dominant society once, can we not forge a new space within relationships that is seen as legitimate as marriage and claim as our own? In particular, I’m thinking about open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and other “unconventional” relationships that allow us to embrace the nuances and fluidity of the sexual spectrum.

-Jeffrey

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Lesson 2: Love Is A Season

gregasaurus:

image

The initial buddings of attraction and the eventual bloom of romance. The intense heat and passion of the “honeymoon phase.” The slow, withering inklings of doubt and fatigue. The eventual decay of the relationship. These are the phases that all relationships are bound to follow.

____________________________________________________________

When I visited Singapore this past March, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend–we’ll call him AJ. AJ is a native Singaporean but has traveled extensively over the past decade or so, trekking everywhere from the deserts of Afghanistan to the concrete jungles of Manhattan, where I first met him 5 years ago.

AJ was a mutual friend of my boyfriend at the time. Despite the somewhat tense breakup that occurred only a couple months after our introduction, I kept in enough contact with AJ that we didn’t have to worry about crossing the invisible “you can’t be friends with my ex” line that some people like to draw. By that point he was my friend too–why should a new friendship have to end prematurely just because the relationship that started it had expired?

We might not have talked much in person or over the phone, but Facebook kept me up to date with all of AJ’s adventures. He was in a different country practically every other week, and scrolling through his photos admittedly made me pretty jealous of his jet setter lifestyle. There were actually many things to admire about AJ–his insatiable wanderlust, his ability to easily form camaraderie among strangers, his spiritual worldliness–but the one thing that struck me was his frank detachment from stability.

AJ never had any difficulty making friends throughout his travels, but he always traveled alone, either out of principle or out of habit. And while he had had boyfriends in the past, the distance quickly wore on them and the relationships would inevitably crumble away. He never seemed starved for attention or intimacy though; in fact, it seemed like he didn’t need anyone at all to feel content. He was comfortably and unapologetically himself, and at the time I equated that kind of Buddhist asceticism with a sort of virtuous, emotional strength.

So when we met up at a small dessert cafe in Holland Village, it took me by surprise when AJ told me how well things were going with his latest relationship. Chatting over cheesecake and blueberry tea in that humid cafe loft, he told me about how he and his boyfriend had met through a mutual friend, how date by date their feelings gradually developed for each other, how they had even gone on a romantic trip to Europe earlier that year. Things were, in his eyes, going perfectly.

And yet at the same time they weren’t. As we got deeper into the conversation, he confided in me the doubts that he had about the relationship: how absent his boyfriend seemed now, how hollow their conversations felt, how bleak and uncertain their future looked. The stroll through nostalgia just moments before had quickly soured into something else.

“Maybe you’re over thinking it,” I reassured him. “Reach out and voice your worries to get on the same page. You can’t keep this going if you don’t communicate.” But even if he did take my advice, I could sense that it was only a matter of time.

I woke up to a text a week after our meeting. “I should have seen it coming.” And that was that.

When a relationship ends, we all get that nagging, I-Should-Have-Known feeling. It’s unavoidable–expected even–after heartbreak. And because our brains are programmed to be confirmatory, we’ll often lower our expectations for next time to spare us from future pangs of disappointment. The transaction is simple: trade in your vulnerability for pessimism. Wrap yourself in thinly veiled dignity and you’ll never be fooled again. That is the genesis of cynicism. 

What was surprising to me at the time though was that AJ in fact didn’t see it coming. Judging by the way that he was talking about his boyfriend at the cafe, it seemed so obvious that the relationship was on the rocks. But I couldn’t judge him for his myopia; cynicism hadn’t hardened him into the perpetual winter that I had come to so easily recognize.

For AJ, maybe the seasons of his relationships just passed more quickly, and cycled more frequently. For my parents, the seasons passed in reverse–tumultuous and bleak in the beginning but brightening now in their tender old age. For many of my friends spring and summer appear to last an eternity, but when the relationship rolls into its autumn, winter is not far behind. Seasonal love is a process, yet the way we approach and progress through it are as varied as the gradients of the seasons themselves.

And as for me? Even while smelling the roses, I can’t help but gaze toward the inevitable frost of winter ahead.

Follower Friday: talkingtothefish

Follower Fridays is a series of profiles highlighting members of Gaysian Third Space to showcase the diversity of gaysians in the Community. This week’s featured member is @talkingtothefish.

Who are you?

I identify as a young adult, gay male, Chinese Canadian. But to be honest, I am still figuring out what most of those labels mean, not only to myself but to those around me as well.

I’m really just a guy that enjoys going on adventures, eating yummy foods, trying to make witty/stupid jokes on whatever social media I’m using the most at the moment (currently snapchat), and writing about it all on my blog.

My blog is primarily a place for me to reflect and look back on my life experiences, like an online journal, and secondarily an opportunity for others to possibly view things from a different perspective or maybe realize that they aren’t alone in being lost and confused in this crazy world.

Where are you from?

Southern Ontario, Canada.

What do you do?

I pretty much live my life trying to better understand myself and the world around me. I can’t say I have any specific, long-term aspirations or significant work experience to define me as of this moment, and even if I did I’m not sure that’s how I would wish to present myself to others.

But for those of you who were looking for less of a whimsical answer, I am currently a student aspiring to work both domestically and abroad in various career fields.

What are you passionate about?

Canadian politics, participatory democracy, identity politics, mental health awareness, poetry, learning languages, and more recently, becoming more publicly vocal about these things I care about in order to promote positive change in the world.

What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?

I spent a long time trying to figure out what my “dream job” was and ultimately realized that there is no single job that can or ever will define my existence. More accurately, I could see myself in a number of varying career positions that I would be equally satisfied with.

Instead, I like to focus on an “ideal lifestyle” which includes a stable job providing a comfortable wage, benefits, growth opportunities, and the ability to positively impact others/society. It also includes having lots of interesting hobbies, time to hang out with friends/family, opportunities to travel, a healthy, long-term relationship with a cute guy, and maybe a cat or a dog (probably a cat).

If you could change the world with one idea, what would it be?

I would say that we should all generally be more compassionate and open-minded to one another. Everyone is going through their own unique struggles in life and we should all learn to be more empathetic to these concerns instead of ignoring them or even exploiting them for personal gain.

A Parent’s Love

transientlove:

門前老樹長新芽

The old tree in front of the house has started sprouting new buds

院裡枯木又開花

The dead wood in the courtyard has started flowering again

半生存了好多話

Many words have been stored over half a lifetime 

藏進了滿頭白髮

Hidden in a head full of white hairs 

~
記憶中的小腳丫

That little foot in my memories

肉嘟嘟的小嘴巴

Those chubby little lips

一生把愛交給他

Using my one life to give him all my love

只為那一聲爸媽

Just to hear you say, ‘Mom, dad’ 

~
時間都去哪兒了

Where has the time gone

還沒好好感受年輕就老了

You still haven’t properly enjoyed your youth and have now reached old-age

生兒養女一輩子

Your son and daughter forever

滿腦子都是孩子哭了笑了

Your brain only full of the tears and laughter of your children

~

時間都去哪兒了

Where has time gone

還沒好好看看你眼睛就花了

I still haven’t looked at you properly and my vision is already blurry

柴米油鹽半輩子

Providing for you for half my life

轉眼就只剩下滿臉的皺紋

Before I knew it, all was left was a face full of wrinkles 

~

Additional dialogue in the music video: 

孫子自從你爸媽離開以後外婆都一直把你當成自己的孩子看待, 扶養長大. 現在你已經大了, 外婆病了, 時間也剩不多。外婆想回家鄉因為那兒是第一次抱你在懷裡的地方。 對不起,外婆一聲不響地就離開了。之前,一直都沒有機會告訴你,希望你不會怪外婆。對不起,外婆不能再繼續照顧你了,但是你要永遠記得。。。外婆愛你。

Nephew, ever since your father and mother passed away, grandma has always thought of you as her own son and raised you. You’re grown up now, grandma is sick and I don’t have much time left. I want to go back to our ancestral village because that’s the first time I held you in my arms. Sorry I left without any notice. I never got a chance to tell you before, so I hope you don’t blame me. Sorry I won’t be around to take care of you anymore. I just hope you always remember that grandma loves you. 

~

Unlike my tumblr handle, I do believe that my parents’ love for me is lasting and non-transient. I liked how the first few paragraphs of the song alternated viewpoints between the child and the caretaker. I’ve reflected on a lot of the relationships around me recently, both platonic and romantic. What does forever mean to me now? Emotional mess on Canada Day? Done! Having said all this, I’m glad I have something that I will never question. These kinds of songs get to me every time. Enjoy the translation and remember to love your parents. 

Happy Thanksgiving from G3S! On this day, I hope that everyone is celebrating the holidays in the company of loved ones, whether it be family or friends or a friend’s family. I personally am thankful, not just for friends and family, but also for the supportive network of new connections that I’ve forged on Tumblr. Special shout-out to @ro-mantik, @thoughtsfromthewalkhome, @alostfish, @sapiencespire, @gregasaurus, @letters-to-charles, @jsl009, @ox-85, @medicasian, and @shtsngigs!

-Jeffrey

Body image and conformity

ox-85:

thoughtsfromthewalkhome:

gaysianthirdspace:

The “gay community.”

For many individuals who are first coming out, the gay community is romanticized as a place where they can find love and acceptance. And yet, unless you are a white, “masculine,” cis-gendered male, the gay community can be anything but a welcoming, safe social sphere. However, as raised in previous posts such as “Picking the Rose” and “The Matching Hypothesis” perhaps one silver bullet to cut through the dominant power structure and gain acceptance is to have a ripped bod, with chisled abs and firm pecs. For better or worse, physical attraction holds enormous influence on whether one is deemed worthy of attention in the gay community. And attention becomes a stand-in for acceptance.

Of course this “acceptance” is based on external attributes, a shaky foundation to place one’s self-worth once those looks inevitably fade. But one can argue that “looking the part” can serve as a gateway tool, attracting initial interest from others so that they are invested to learn more about one as a person. In fact, I would say that all of us, to varying degrees, have modified our appearances to societal norms of attractiveness. So where do we draw the line? At what point does “body positivity” become a privileged statement, where some are blessed with the right genetics to transform themselves to match an “ideal” beauty standard but others cannot?

How do we balance the tension between recognizing we should embrace being ourselves and the pressures to conform to a discriminatory, looks-based ideal?

After all, it’s easy to say that “looks don’t matter” and that “personality and content of character are more important” but in practice, reality is more nuanced than these noble goals.

I’m curious to hear what others in the Community have to say on this matter.

@ro-mantik @thoughtsfromthewalkhome @gregasaurus @jsl009 @ox-85 @alostfish @medicasian @sapiencespire @gaysiannyc @titotito @letters-to-charles @yourstrulyjustin @listenspeakcreate @arniesfarm2

-Jeffrey

To my sensibilities, questions like this require one to
answer three distinct questions. First, why do we find certain bodies
attractive? Second, to what degree should anyone derive self-worth from
another’s evaluation of his or her physical appearance? Third, what messages
does conformity – or a deliberate lack thereof – convey to others?

We doubtlessly find certain bodies attractive. As an
example, most gay men would likely enjoy photos of other men with chiseled
six-pack abs, suggestive v-cuts, and sculpted pectorals. When queried, many
would probably explain their attraction in terms of evolution. However, I think
we should be cautious of justifications for behavior that find their defense in
reference to “nature” or “biological programming”. To do so greatly
underestimates the degree to which attractiveness is a social construct and
casts the subject as something that we cannot – and, arguably, should not –
challenge.

Had this conversation occurred in the nineteenth century,
we might argued about the problematic nature of that time’s fashion for men to be
tall and slim to the point of wearing corsets
. Back in the Renaissance, we
might have recoiled at men who did not have the flawless
skin so widely depicted in the time’s paintings
. Perhaps we might have
obsessed about ways to achieve the leanness embodied by Hermes
had we lived in ancient Greece. What is “attractive” for men
is no less artificial
than
what it is for women
, even if it is much less at the fore of our minds.

If we can agree that a large part – though certainly not
all – of what makes someone visually appealing is societally conditioned, then
we cannot deny the power we collectively have to shape and question the values
presented. There is undoubtedly a cost to not conforming in any matter –
whether it be our sexuality, our ethnicity, or our physique. However, just as
the solution is not to violently
reject it in the manner of Jacques
, neither is it to obey without a
critical and thoroughly reasoned inquiry as to why we want to conform, what we
want to gain from it, and the consequences thereof.

While there are numerous physiologic benefits to making
the gym a four-times-a-week ritual, I am doubtful of the longevity of any
psychological advantage vis-à-vis appearances. Sure, one could look at the
mirror at age twenty-five and purr, but what happens at fifty? I think it
requires us to be truthful – perhaps uncomfortably so – with our motivations.
Are we primarily concerned with reeling in the next boyfriend or do we see it
as an investment in ourselves independent of the evaluations of whoever is on
Grindr?

Moreover, we should be conscious of the potential
psychological harm we may unwittingly inflict on ourselves. If the halo effect causes others
to evaluate us more positively, then it is conceivable that their interactions
with us might color their perceptions of our behavior in ways that result in
long-term harm. If we are obstinate, do we want people telling us until we are
forty that we are merely “principled” because of our dazzling looks? If we want
to enhance our writing, do we want others to tell us it is “fantastic” when it
is not because they want to date us? The halo effect can create attributional
ambiguity
, but it also has the subtle potential to deny us the honest
feedback necessary for self-improvement at a stage in life where we will be
most open to it.

Finally, we should ask what messages our actions might
embody in the eyes of others. If one enters “gaysian” into the Tumblr search
bar, the results overwhelmingly feature people in jock straps, underwear, or
revealing swimsuits. Doubtlessly, there is a benefit in having Asian men
control their own image and portray themselves in a way that mainstream media
usually refuses to. However, we must ask if – overall – we have gone too far in
the direction of accidental exclusion based on looks rather than a productive
redefinition that benefits all members of the community.

Even if we do not post scandalous selfies, we must not
deny our own small culpability in spreading detrimental ideas. Just as it may
seem inconsequential to throw a plastic bag out the car window, so too do our
likes and reblogs seem trivial. When confronted, we should not deny the
potential benefits of either plastic bags or having Asian men – gay or not –
subvert norms. However, we should also humbly accept that we contribute, at
least indirectly, to both the Great Pacific
garbage patch
and the current troublesome state of “gaysian” on Tumblr.

“Gaysian” is not
you. It is not me. It is we.

When addressing issues of body image in the gay and gay asian communities, I think there needs to be a larger discussion on body dysmorphia and the persistence of eating disorders (Slate article).

There are real implications on why gay men continue to achieve a socially constructed ideal body image. Where does this line start is up for debate, but I think it begins when we start viewing our bodies as something to perfect for others, rather than for ourselves.

For me, this is the differentiation of having a healthy and happy lifestyle that I continue to work at for the betterment of myself. A corollary to this is when we seek affirmation from others through selfies, etc. (are we doing it to make ourselves feel better based on the number of likes we get… which therefore is doing it for others…?)

Anyways, there’s no one way to look or be gay and asian. we are all part of this community (socially constructed, and all). we should be proud of each one of our contributions to this wonderful mish-mash of body types.

[Chapter 24] What’s in a name?

ro-mantik:

A compelling point made by ox-85 and counterpoint given by cogitoreklo (please read them! very thought-provoking and they will inform your reading of this entry) and I see the value in both of the OPs’ arguments and commentary. Now, I present my unsolicited opinion that will probably come about as a weird amalgam of running-from-the-mouth thoughts and an attempt at structured argument.

For the longest time, I chose not to tag any of my posts “gaysian.” In line with the rejection of labels cogitoreklo mentions, I did not want to be categorized, or miscategorized, as a certain type of person based on how I chose to tag my material. Simply said, I did not want to be known only as a “gaysian” blogger. Though my writing sometimes carries themes and experiences that other gaysians have or can relate to, I am more than just gay, just Asian, and just that intersection. By choosing not to tag myself as a gaysian blogger, I allowed my writing and other posts to further define what my blog meant to my readers and to myself.

However, ox-85 has forced me to think a bit farther from my own keyboard. In our society today, names and labels have power. Unfortunately, society is not color-blind, class-blind, gender-blind, nor sexual orientation-blind and this will continue to be the sad reality (with regards to discrimination/subjugation with mal intent – I think difference and diversity among people are actually quite special and ought to be celebrated) for quite sometime. I am not an evolutionary biologist, nor am I an anthropologist or sociologist, but in my amateur, germane observations of my world, I cannot help but notice discrimination and separation based on group characteristics (ranging from race to commonly held interests). Most notably, communities that are not within power with regards to socioeconomic status (in the continental US that being upper/middle class, white, heterosexual men) are systematically disenfranchised through education, the justice system, politics, and, most pertinently, the media (of course, there are many more avenues of oppression).

When a questioning and confused 13 year old logs into Tumblr and wants to do research on what being “gaysian” or “gay” means, what will he see? Perhaps that example is a bit too unrealistic (if I were 13 right now, I’d probably use Tumblr for p0rn), but my point is this. Why am I afraid to label myself as gaysian (insofar as it comes to Tumblr tagging)? Is it because I think of the older, white men who called me their “gaysian doll”? Is it because I’m a bit uncomfortable of the blogs who fetishize the Asian body with image after image of declothed Asian men? 

Though I wish to be free from identity markers and the pervasive judgments that arise from them, I’m not and never will be. Though the essence of each identity is something I was born with, society is who bestows it meaning and creates divisions accordingly. I cannot singlehandedly change how humanity views and interprets identity and its intersections, but what I can do is address my own discomfort in tagging posts a certain way and actualize the underlying reasons for my hesitation. 

So, I have decided to post under the “gaysian” tag. What I am afraid of is being lumped into this group identity under which I do not identify, but distancing myself from a problematic situation does not cease making it a problem.  I can change that.

I am gay and I am Asian. Those are two identities to which I do ascribe in real life because I realize that there is power and worth in them and I make deliberate choices in how and to what they degree they mean to me. Further, they are very real and very significant communities of people with shared experiences that help inform me on how I wish to live my life.

In deciding to tag under “gaysian,” I think we are doing some of the same community-building on a smaller scale. I completely affirm one’s choice to post what they want in whatever tag on tumblr; it’s their right. However, I also now see there’s an important choice I can make in affirmatively posting to this tag, not necessarily to reclaim or co-opt, but rather to add my voice to the spectrum of experiences.

We are influenced by the judging eyes of others and so often the minority are only seen as one mass wave of people, but we can shift these views because our identities are fluid, ever-changing from our individual voices.