Follower Friday: ntongh2o

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 @ntongh2o.

image

Who are you?

I am a lover of cats, video games, technology, film, cars, and boys (obviously)! Overall I consider myself very cookie-cutter for an American born Chinese. I share many of the same interests and hobbies most ABCs born in the 90s have. One quality that makes me stand out is my cooking. Not that I ever went to culinary school or have the skills to work in a restaurant, but whenever I bring something to a potluck, I get compliments and asks for the recipe. My parents are from Hong Kong, so the secondary language I speak is Cantonese. I do NOT like sushi…

Where are you from?

I was born in Southern California in the 90s. I grew up with a sister, parents, and a variety of different pets through the years. I live quite close to LA and have been to all the amusement parks in the area. I went to UC Irvine for college(zot zot zot), so I resided there for four years of my life. Right now, I live close to one of the 21 missions in California and the city is named after one of them.

What do you do?

I currently work as a Unit Clerk at the LAC+USC Medical Center. Only been at the job for four weeks, but so far it has been quite enjoyable to work at the hospital. The nurses make great coworkers, meeting patients needs brings me joy, and the pay/benefits/hours are awesome!

What are you passionate about?

Technology, specifically computer hardware is my area of expertise. I have been attached to video games since I was in first grade and back then I only had a Playstation and Win95 PC. I remember playing CS 1.6 on a crappy PC with 256 MB of RAM and a Intel Pentium III CPU, which only gave me a measly 25 FPS. I started building my own PCs to game in high school and I have built three for friends and family. I take care of all the electronic gadgetry in the house and my friends come to me for tech support. Technology has advanced so rapidly in the past 20 years. We went from dial-up to fiber internet, landlines to touch screen cellphones, and bulky TVs/monitors to slim HD displays. One recent development that I hope to get my hands on soon is a VR headset.

What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?

A dream job for me is to manage my own cat cafe. I enjoy cats very much and being able to work with them as your “coworkers” would be awesome! I am a firm believer that one should be working a job that keeps him or her happy. A cat cafe would be a great environment to work in. You work to find cats new homes to enjoy and also pair owners up with their future loved pets.

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

To always be nice to those you meet. Working in a hospital ward, I meet many patients from all sorts of backgrounds. The hospital is located in the LA area, close to downtown, so we get some homeless patients in our ward from time to time. If I pass by them on the streets I would never talk to any of them. In the hospital they are mostly very polite and friendly and also have interesting stories to tell about themselves. Most of us have a preconception that all homeless people deserve to be where they are because they messed up in life and they should be regarded as lesser people. The golden rule isn’t even a new or novel idea, but it’s one that would make a huge difference if it was practiced universally.

Century Spa and Gay Cruising

keeptryans:

The other day, I went to Century Spa in Los Angeles Koreatown. For those who don’t know, public bathhouses are quite common in Asia, as a place to relax after work or to clean up like in the old days when people didn’t have plumbing. My experience with public spas in Japan, at hotels or in neighborhoods, revolved around that since I was there in winter and my body hurt from all of the walking in the cold. So it’s nice to soak in a warm bath and let the tension in my feet and thighs slip away.

Here in America though, nudity is more taboo and over-associated with sex, so these spas have become gay cruising grounds and Century Spa is one of the most notorious Korean owned ones. I was not unaware of this when I booked the Groupon for Century Spa. In fact, I was curious of how gays cruise for sex. I wasn’t expecting to try anything either. I was more interested in relaxing.

The bathing area itself was smaller than I thought. There was the ice cold bath, the lukewarm larger bath, and the hot bath. I enjoyed going from hot to lukewarm and cycling through to circulate my blood, then shutting it down with the cold. Naked of course. There was also an outside lounging patio and several saunas: marble warm, clay warm, hot wood, eucalyptus steam and Korean steam. Those were nice to sweat in. The eucalyptus was especially invigorating due to the menthol.

Upstairs were the coed sleeping areas and coed saunas that were more decorative. Being up there required wearing a T-shirt and shorts. It was quiet up there since it was Monday, and to my disappointment, the Korean cafe was closed. Otherwise, I could see myself staying the night there easily and just lounging around, as long as I could charge my phone.

The men varied in hotness. In the morning when I got there, some old Korean men were around. Later on, it got more diverse in shapes, race and fitness. The non-Asians were cruising, which became obvious as they circulated from sauna to sauna, stalking hot guys, playing with their junk, and signaling with their eyes. Being Asian, short and out of shape, I was not on their radar.

In terms of action, the eucalyptus steam room was where it was at. The steam obscured views from the outside and it was somewhat tolerable in heat. One blonde tattooed guy sat in a corner jacking off until two other white guys came and stroked near him. The tattooed guy spread his legs in the air and let them finger him while he got off and moaned. An old fat man walked in and started jacking off too. I just sat there kinda stunned at the situation. After coming, they all left and showered.

In another situation, I was in the steam room with this hot bearded guy. I looked at him a lot and tried to see if I sparked his interest, but he seemed ambivalent. A younger black guy with a giant erection was not shy and they started touching each other. Eventually, they took it outside, presumably because the hot steam was becoming unbearable. At that point, I was somewhat disgusted with myself for staying that long around this debauchery, confused at why I wasn’t more turned by all this and embarrassed of my body for being so unattractive, so I left.

On my way out, I saw an old friend there presumably also cruising, and he told me not to mention to anyone that I had seen him. It was odd because I had not seen him in years. Later, we talked about why I was there (relaxing, curiosity) and he said to let him know if I ever came back so that we could go together. I guess misery loves company. I think I’ll try other spas before coming back and working out more to earn the muscle relaxing, and maybe, boost my self confidence.

TL;DR = Men are dogs, I did not partake in the debauchery, and I left feeling unattractive.

A look at the decidedly seedier bathhouse scene as told by @keeptryans. A traditional space reserved for rest and relaxation, the bathhouse in the US has been subverted of its cleansing environment for a dirtier reputation, much
as Songkran

has warped the festivities to a three-day circuit party. Yet, as @keeptrayans points out, this should come as no surprise given the Western cultural heritage of Victorian modesty and oversexualization of the human flesh. Within gay culture, the bathhouse is an ignoble institution where men can find casual partners and remains a fixture of the underground scene in spite of the apps. Gay Asia is no exception. When I was in Beijing volunteering with their LGBT Center, a principal target of their HIV outreach program focused on less scrupulous bathhouses, where men who have sex with men (MSMs) were less likely to engage in safe sex practices. Even the term “cruising” belies a carefree attitude, which is a dangerous mentality that as a community, we must be vigilant and continue to practice and promote safe sex behavior, regardless of the arrangement.

-Jeffrey

Escape from Mercury

life-in-grayscale:

When I left for college, I was eager to explore my
sexuality. Although I never resented being gay, I did feel a bit of chagrin at
never having had the opportunity to do what most teenagers in high school do:
date. As might be expected of a freshman, I clumsily stumbled into my first
relationship with the man who lived in the room next to me. Apparently, his
mother and I were acquainted – though I still do not remember how – and that
was enough to get my foot in the door.

As might also be expected of two freshmen who had never
dated anyone, neither of us were equipped for such a commitment. He was more
than happy to dish out insults, but could not take it when I – in an equal
immaturity – returned them with savagery redoubled. After a few months, I
called it off. Except for his Friday afternoon visits to the shop where I later
worked as a barista and shocking whispers passed down the grapevine, I never
saw or heard about him again.

For the rest of that first semester, my friends tried to
bring me to Mercury – one of the area’s only gay clubs. I adamantly refused,
believing that I could persevere, until Mel – a friend from middle school with
whom I reconnected in that semester – asked if I would go with him because it
would be his first time as well. If Mel, who was on a full scholarship for his
degree and seemed to have his life together, was willing to associate himself
with such a place, then could the clubs and the people in them really be as
terrible as I imagined them to be?

After two weeks, I realized that clubbing while sober was
like eating plain, unsalted pasta. It was much more palatable to go clubbing
after a half dozen or more drinks.

I did this every weekend of my second semester in
college, as well as for most of the subsequent summer. I hung out with the
group nearly every weekday as well. My
grades fell through the floor
. I dated nearly anyone who would have me.
Hardly a fortnight passed without some whirlwind tearing through my life or the
life of a friend.

For Mel, his terminal disaster happened as finals
approached at the conclusion of our first year. He had not intended to go to
Mercury because of his calculus exam, but the group eventually goaded him into
it. The moment Mel walked through the club’s doors, he saw his boyfriend
grinding upon and kissing a stranger on the dance floor. The boyfriend
apparently saw Mel’s absence as a license to engage in conduct unbecoming of a
romantic partner.

After several hours of intense arguments in the parking
lot, the two broke up. Mel and I returned to campus and sat on the road-facing
bench outside his dormitory. It was 5 AM and silent, save for his defeated
sighs. “I need to stop clubbing,” he confessed. Several weeks later, he learned
that he failed all of his classes. He lost his scholarship and received an
academic suspension. He returned home, vowing to come back and pick up the pieces.

That never happened.

Mel’s five-word sentence, though heard midway through my
clubbing days, had no weight until later in the summer. After yet another
breakup, I said the same thing to myself. However, I realized that it was not
the first time I had said it.

I said it in January when I woke up on a Sunday afternoon
still drunk. I said it in February when my then boyfriend cheated on me and did
it again barely a week after I forgave him. I said it in March when the new
person I was dating said that he would rather keep clubbing and “having fun”
than continue seeing me. I said it in April after a “friend” sexually assaulted
me and I realized that few in the group would actually care if it meant
confronting the person who drove the nice car. I said it in May when I received
a 1.91 GPA for the semester. I said it June when I was literally too poor to
afford food, but felt so browbeaten by the group into purchasing alcohol that I
ate stale bread for the better part of that month. I said it in July when I
realized that I was foolishly looking for my boyfriend to compensate for my own
weakness in resisting the group.

Just as importantly, though, Mel and I were not the only
ones who had ever said it. Nearly everyone in the group, in their moments of
disarmed brokenness away from the pack, said it – and had been saying it for years. Was their fate the best thing I
could imagine for myself? If it was not, then what excuse could I create for
continuing to live in such a manner?

Mercury was a place, but it was also a poison.

A harrowing warning from @life-in-grayscale on the dangers of clubbing as hinted by @jsl009 in yesterday’s post. I think that Mel’s story as a bright, promising student who was sucked into a black hole of reckless partying offers a cautionary lesson on the importance of choosing your circle of friends. Despite his initial resistance, Mel was goaded under peer pressure to continue to return to the clubs, even as his studies fell off a cliff. By encouraging his irresponsible behavior, Mel was caught in a vicious cycle that unfortunately he was not able to break out of and bore heavy consequences for his actions. And perhaps most callous of all, his friends didn’t seem to care. So when you go to the clubs, enjoy yourselves but be sure to surround yourself with responsible and mature friends. Don’t make Mel’s mistake.

-Jeffrey

Songkran 2016

jsl009:

Call me a sadist, a masochist, or even both, but a part of me looks forward to the days proceeding these kind of purely hedonistic weekends. During this time I become far more preceptive, intuitive, and aware of my own thoughts. It’s a time when my emotional state becomes precarious and fractured. To some degree the pseudo-writer in me enjoys this self-inflicted disarray because I get to examine the fragments of myself. It’s as if I’m a surgeon who has intentionally chosen to operate on himself.  

Coming into this circumstance is nothing new to me. It all began in 2013 when the phrase “circuit party” entered my vocabulary. Easily the pinnacle of the gay scene, circuit parties are an experience unlike no other. They may seem like any other gay dance event, but this is dark side of the gay world–indulgently carnal yet unforgiving and destructive. Circuit parties bundle tribal rhythms, sculpted bodies, and manufactured bliss into a snowstorm of sin. It takes an experienced sherpa to scale these peaks and ridges unscathed, and I’ve just returned from the summit of Mt. Everest. 

image

The Songkran Festival marks the Thai New Year. Over three days Thai people use water to purges their past sins. Today, this cleansing is typically represented through water fights across the country. And somehow the gays of Asia have hijacked this holiday and now hold a coinciding three-day long circuit party in Bangkok every year. To the scene gaysians of the world Songkran is our Hajj–our annual pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca.  

image

This past weekend was the 10 year anniversary of the Songkran circuit parties, and the gaysians of the world descended onto Bangkok. It was truly unreal. Gays from Sydney, LA, Taipei, San Francisco, Manila, Hong Kong, Brunei, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Singapore, and more flew across the world and all came together for a single purpose. For three nights we danced, we laughed, we formed new relationships, and we pushed the limits of our minds and bodies. 

image

This may seem all so glamorous, but everything comes with a price. It’s been nearly four days since, and I am still recovering. I’ve used these technologies of perception to tear myself open, to bring me closer to those around me, to be within grasp of rapture. Raw and exposed I must continue to rest. In the days to come I hope to delve more into this temporary chaotic state of mind. I’ve been in need of inspiration to write lately and I can’t waste this opportunity. 

“I stared into the fury, and the beauty of it’s overwhelming strength.”

Quite the psychedelic experience as described by @jsl009 on the gay(sian) circuit party scene. I appreciate that while exulting the gaiety (pun intended) and camaraderie of these parties, he acknowledges some of its dangers, not the least including these “technologies of perception.” I also note from the blurred pictures that many participants (or perhaps a biased selection by association) share a similar, muscular physique. While not having the look is certainly not a disqualifier from participating in the parties, I can imagine one feeling self-conscious and out-of-place, especially when the desire to fit in is so strong as social beings. Finally, I found it interesting to see @jsl009‘s invocation of a religious pilgrimage to describe Songkran and I’m curious how the local Thai people view these visitors as they celebrate their New Year. On one hand, the tourism dollars no doubt greatly boost the local economy but it comes at the cost of spiritual traditions. In many ways, I see Songkran in the same light as Holi, the Hindu spring festival, a cultural celebration that has been co-opted and secularized. It’s a phenomenon we also see in another cultural institution: the bathhouse. But more on that later in a couple of days.

-Jeffrey

Clubbing and Reflection

alostfish:

Yesterday I went to Weho again. I haven’t been there for quite a while. I wanted to show a friend who is visiting SoCal what the LA scene was like. Even though he was from out of the country, someone recognized him 20 minutes after we stepped into a bar. It just goes to show how small the community is, even cross country borders. 

The night was somewhat typical, except I got randomly groped for the first time (and I felt very violated). Earlier in the night when I was the drunkest (I usually drink more at the beginning so I sober up by the end), I noticed two guys staring at me when I was chatting with my friend. One of them end up trying to get my number on behalf of his friend. In retrospect, I should probably handle it a little better (like actually try talking to him or something), but in my drunken state I just giggled, turned to my friend and kind of ignored them. Hopefully I didn’t make the guy feel too shitty by completely disregarding him. 

And I met up with realityrehabilitation after fortuitously discovering that he was going to be there as well. It sounds like he had a much more interesting night than I had. The meeting was very short and in an environment not too conducive to chatting. We will definitely have to save that for another time! 

The more interesting thing of the night for me was actually a conversation with my friend on the drive over to Weho. He has been gay clubbing in many places – NYC, Taipei, Singapore among many more- and he has experienced the various scenes for a lot longer than I have. And it seems like gay life is more similar than they are different in most places. Our discussion revolved around the various experiences we and our friends have encountered in navigating the gay culture – hooking up, clubbing, hooking up while clubbing, dating, long distance, cheating boyfriends, cheating on boyfriends, etc. It seems like many people will go through these slutty phases, clubbing/partying phases, serial monogamy phases, druggie phases while dealing with cycles of falling in love and having their hearts broken. Some people eventually emerge and settle in healthy, productive relationships while others stay in one or multiple of these phases and might never come out. 

This conversation did help me to solidify some of the concepts I have been thinking about lately. I have been trying to figure out exactly where I stand in the spectrum of the gay experience. After stumbling into this world not too long ago, I did not know what I really wanted and therefore did not know what were the right things to do. There was a lot of different experiences, life style and philosophy out there. People have very different visions of what is considered the ideal. It was after much soul searching and productive conversations with a few tumblrers (thanks guys!) and real life friends that I think I am beginning to form a mental image of the kind of life I am happy in having. I still don’t know exactly, but I am making progress toward that elusive vision.  

The clubbing experience felt a bit different yesterday. I felt like I actually knew what I was doing for the first time in a long time. 

Hello again, everyone! It’s Jeffrey again back to commandeer another week for G3S. A huge thanks to @tumifer, @letters-to-charles, and @sapiencespire for their excellent contributions these past several weeks.

This week I wanted to explore another facet of the gay(sian) experience: the clubs. We’ve talked about the apps for a bit on G3S and I felt it was due time to address this other dimension of gay life, especially in light of the horrific Orlando shootings. Make no mistake, gay clubs are one of the few safe spaces in our society where the LGBTQ community can find refuge and be our whole selves. Thus, it’s natural that many questioning individuals turn to the clubs as a venue to explore their sexuality. However, because of its very nature as the nexus of revelry and charged sexual energy, the clubs offer a one-sided, hedonistic image of the gay community that continues to dominate mainstream perceptions of gay culture. In this week’s stories, we’ll take a look at how some individuals relate to the clubbing scene as they navigated their gay identities.

-Jeffrey

Wisdom from an elder

agaysianvagabond:

I met Dr. Ly Sao, the first Hmong surgeon in Laos today at Vientiane Hospital. Such a stark contrast to medicine in the states. No air conditioning in 100F weather! He told me, “you may have grown up and moved away, but remember that you are always Hmong. You must come back and see how your people are living. We are poor, but we survive. Hmong people are survivors”.

To wrap up my week of curating on ethnicity here at G3S here is one of my favorite personal posts from retired travel blogger @agaysianvagabond. Thanks for checking in at G3S. Cheers! 

-Letters