Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rice Queens, the colonization of the Asian body, and self-orientalizing, Part 3

Biyuti is a bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti

When you are a young bakla and you’ve been thrust into this world where most of the (White) guys you meet will (at best) pretend you don’t exist and (at worst) tell you straight out that they don’t date Asians (because of bullshit, racist ‘preferences’), you are vulnerable to rice queens and the pressure they exert on your self-image. You start to re-imagine yourself as a delicate lotus blossom for them to admire (and control).

You start to wish that you were thinner, smoother, more delicate. You start to swallow your opinions and bite your tongue from expressing yourself. You begin, in so many different and small ways, to lose yourself and to reshape yourself into what is desirable to the white, Western gaze. Why? Because, like most people, you are but human and want love/company/sex/friendship/etc.

This is the process a dear friend of mine called ‘self-orientalizing.’ It is also the subject of a this post. It is especially of concern when speaking of sex... Because I do remember doing more than a few things in bed that I wasn’t super enthusiastic about, but did anyways, just because I didn’t know when the next chance I’d have to touch another human being was. Because part of being feminized is also becoming sexually available to men -- all the time.

But this isn’t just attitudes of sexism coming into play with the feminization of Asian guys (not that I was a guy so my experiences are somewhat different). It is also about colonization and, in a strange way, about white saviours. It is about these rice queens wanting their own piece of Asia to control, exploit, and rescue. Because, boy, did they ever expect a person to be grateful for all they did, since it was/is considered to be something special if you can bring yourself to love an Asian guy (this also applies to women) despite their unmanliness and small dicks.

And if anyone thinks that this attitude is not behind the fetish and bullshit explanations: “I just appreciate their culture/bodies/personalities.” Tell me why these white men feel so entitled to the bodies of Asians? And, in this case, I’m speaking of the bodies of Asian men and women because the fetishizing is the same and the common denominator is white men (while I don’t doubt that there are queer white women who do the same thing, I am not going to speak on behalf of Asian lesbians). I do know that my (hetero) sister and I can swap stories that sound eerily the same.

In any case, a very human need for companionship will find many a young, gay Asian playing up stereotypes and pursuing white men like they are made of gold. You see them buying into the notion that whiteness is the most attractive, most manly, the most everything. This process of self-orientalizing (constructing yourself as the opposite of everything western) is incredibly damaging because it means both buying into the values of whiteness and, in turn, embodying all the values you’ve been told are bad/not desirable.

In addition, the Asian men I’ve known who refuse to participate in this process are the ones who end up single and incredibly frustrated with the very limited dating opportunities available to an Asian who does not want to be colonized and who refuses to mold themselves into what white people think is attractive.