Lena Ringstrom 「Asian American Silence in the LGBT Community in the 1970’s-1990’s」

Posted on May 31, 2013
The LGBT and Civil Rights Movements Come into the Public Sphere Why is this true? Why does silence persist, even today?

The LGBT and Civil Tights Movements Come into the Public Sphere
- 1969 Stonewall Riots
In the 60’s, police raids against gay-friendly bars were common; in the Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, a riot ensued where many gay people were arrested without cause. This sparked the national gay rights movement.

- 1979 March on Washington
Before the march, “few gay organizations were not dominated by white males.” It was after this March that Asian Americans finally gained momentum in becoming the leaders of various gay groups, even if this turned out to be short lived.

Why is this true?
Why does silence persist, even today?
For one, queer Asian Americans are a “minority within a minority” (Takagi, 430) because the LGBT community as well as Asian Americans are stigmatized in American society. Being stigmatized as both Asian and LGBT is referred to as “double jeopardy.”

LGBT Asian Americans face discrimination for both aspects of their identity.

Stigmatization of Asian American Gay Men
In a 1983 survey, gay Japanese American men, even those who were highly educated and politically active in their communities, overwhelmingly abstained from participating in political activities pertaining to either minority group.

This partially due to the representation of Asian Americans in the media; they are typically represented either as being asexual, feminine, submissive or “nerdy.”

Rice Queens
According to an article on Asian American Sexualities by Daniel Tsang, the name “Rice Queens” characterizes the way Asian men are seen in the gay community.
“Exoticized and eroticized, gay Asian males are nonetheless considered a ‘quaint’ specialty... Given the mainstream definition of beauty in this society, Asians, gay or straight, are constantly reminded that we cannot hope to meet such standards.”

Asian Men in Pornography
Sum Yung Mahn – only notable Asian to qualify as a gay porn star. His tapes are distributed through a company in San Francisco – 90% of the buyers are white men.
Terms of entry into this world are dictated by the perceived demands of an intended audience: what do white men want?
Case: 「Below the Belt」. The Asian male, who is listed in the credits as “the Oriental boy,” is always submissive; not an act of pleasure, but one of submission. Plays a karate dojo – dominant as a teacher, but in sex, there is a role reversal and the student dominates the sensei.
Even when Mahn acts as the dominant sexual partner in other films, the camera emphasizes the enjoyment of the white sub rather than Mahn himself.

The portrayal of sex through pornography speaks to power relations between Asians and Caucasians.. Sum Yung Mahn exists only for the pleasure of others – teaches those who want to learn, pleases those who want to be pleased.

This stereotypical and very common portrayal impacts the way the gay community sees Asian men, and also the way Asian men see themselves:
~ According to Richard Fung, a scholar on the subject, “often gay Asian men find it difficult to see each other beyond the terms of platonic friendship or competition, to consider other Asian man as lovers.”

Double Jeopardy and Miss Saigon
『The Heat is on Miss Saigon Coalition』by Yoko Yoshikawa represents an example of when gay and lesbian Asian Americans were ignored and then silenced by white gays and lesbians.

Miss Saigon also ties into the representation of Asian Americans as submissive and effeminate. The protest of Miss Saigon was due in part because of this misrepresentation and because the play was used as a fundraiser for a Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a law organization for gay and lesbian rights, and New York City’s Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center.

The organizations that ran these fundraisers perpetuated in this misrepresentation and excluded Asian Americans from the their communities by doing this. The protest lead to Lamda vowing “to be more sensitive regarding issues that affect people of color” (188 Yoshikawa). The coalition that formed to respond to the fundraiser eventually just fizzled out and became silent.

SILENCING from the General Public
- Dana Takagi says in her article, 「Maiden Voyage」, in the『Amerasia journal』, that race can be seen, but sexuality cannot.
“While both [sexuality and race] can be said to be socially constructed, the former are performed, acted out, and produced, often in individual routines, whereas the latter tends to be more obviously ‘written’ on the body and negotiated by political groups.” (432)

In other words, one can “hide” one’s homosexuality, but cannot “hide” their Asian lineage.
- Therefore, silence is seen as an “adaptive mechanism to a racially discriminatory society rather than an intrinsic part of Asian American culture.” (433)

- Rick Paris et al. in Communion - A Collaboration on AIDS (Asian American Sexualities)
~ Discusses that author Joel B Tan helped establish the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team in Los Angeles, finding out the personal struggles to AIDS prevention within Asian American Communities
~ Discovered that AIDS crisis is riddled with complexities
i. Sexuality, death, substance abuse, and homosexuality are taboo subjects in many Asian cultures; (201)
ii. Organized movements and mobilization against AIDS have been extremely difficult for Asian Americans, as “Asians” and especially gay “Asians” do not share a common culture, history, or language. Unable to discuss these issues amongst each other, it makes handling the issues alone more difficult.

Rutham Lee discusses queer theory and anti-racism education in the classroom
~ “frequently when race and sexuality are mentioned simultaneously in these respective spaces the conversation shuts down, generating awkward silences and unresolved tensions” (Reader, Lee, 191)

Why can they be discussed independently but not together? NOT mutually exclusive
~ she mentions that she became accustomed to taking race-based classes with people of brown, black, and yellow skin but it was the moment that she took a queer course and suddenly encountered almost entirely white people that she couldn’t help but feel an “internalized phobia/mantra of ‘queer - white’” (192)

Men = wimpy asexual nerds, gangsters, etc;
Women = hypersexual, exotic & evil, passive victims bound sex enslavement
~ “Stereotypes are centered on the normalization of heterosexuality and function to justify historically racist, exclusionary immigration policies and policing practices” (195)

Responses to Coming Out Among Family and Friends
- Takagi says in her 「Maiden Voyage」 article that Asian Americans live a double life attempting to maintain both of their cultures (i.e., gay and Asian American), but they are never able to successfully combine them.
~ “It is the act of deliberately bringing these worlds closer together that seems unthinkable;” it’s a cultural strain. Wyn Young laughs at the idea of combining his family life with his boyfriend, saying that he couldn’t imagine a conversation such as the following occurring over dinner at the dinner table: ‘Hey, Ma. I’m sleeping with a sixty-year-old white guy who’s got three kids, and would you please pass the soy sauce?’” (433)

- Alice Hom in『Stories From the Homefront』– (Asian American Sexualities) discussed stories of Asian mothers who refused to accept the sexuality of their lesbian daughters.
~ Speaking about the Korean community, Liz Lee said that parents felt that, “As long as they’re [the gays] not in their house, not in their life, they accept it perfectly.” (45) “They say nature made a mistake. They didn’t think it was anybody’s choice or anybody’s preference.”

~ In Hawaiian Asian culture, “... they look down on those gays and lesbians, they make fun of them... It seems as if it is an abnormal thing. The lesbian is not as prominent as the gays.” They call her a tomboy because she’s very athletic and well built.” (40)

2000 to Present:
Current studies have shown that not much has changed regarding the intersectionality of LGBT Asian Americans.

While there have been efforts to expand the LGBT movement to be more inclusive of people of color, the failures to do so have hindered the movement as a whole.

According to the results of a 2004 East Coast regional study, LGBT Asian Americans continue to feel underrepresented and discriminated against in both the Asian American community and the LGBT community.

Tommy Tseng’s 2011 analysis of Chinese -speaking Americans’ attitudes towards the LGBT community indicated that many of those interviewed associated the LGBT identity with gender nonconformity.

When parents were asked if they would accept an LGBT child, many admitted that while they would eventually accept them, they would first attempt to “correct” them.

They mentioned a concern that they would be labeled as ineffective parents and be the target of ridicule within the Asian American community.

In Conclusion
Why is the LGBT movement so silent and stigmatized within Asian American communities?

1 - Social stigma within Asian American communities; in heteronormative Asian American society, families and communities view the subject of sexuality as taboo.

2 - Portrayal of Asian Americans in the media as sexless, or falling into predetermined sex roles, deters Asian Americans from putting themselves in the spotlight

3 - The “double jeopardy” of being both LGBT and of Asian descent pressures Asian American people to repress their sexuality in the face of stigma on two fronts.

Group Member Responsibilities:
Each group member researched and compiled sources, contributed to the Google doc, and organized the Prezi. We didn’t particularly divide up jobs – everyone mainly followed the above tasks, with some members focusing more on the initial research, while others typed up more of the Prezi content and located interesting images to add to the Prezi.

Alexa Cheng – 「On Being Asian and Gay in Straight America」. modelminority.com
Alice Hom, Dana Takagi, Daniel C. Tsang, Rick Paris et al., Russell Leong – 「Asian American Sexualities」
David L. Eng – 「Out Here and Over There: Queerness and Diaspora in Asian American Studies」
Link Springer Article – 「Lifestyles and Identity Maintenance among Gay Japanese American Males」. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01082992
Rainbow History Project. http://www.rainbowhistory.org/html/mow79.html
Richard Fung – 「Looking for my Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn」
Rutham Lee – 「Queer Theory and Anti-Racism Education, (Reader excerpt)
Tommy Tseng – 「Understanding Anti-LGBT Bias: An Analysis of Chinese-Speaking Americans’ Attitudes Toward LGBT People」 in Southern California. http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k78405&pageid=icb.page414494
Yoko Yoshikawa –『Miss Saigon Coalition』, (Reader excerpt)

Author: Lena Ringstrom/Date: May 31, 2013/Source: https://prezi.com/eqby2ly7zohw/asian-american-silence-in-the-lgbt-community/