Magazine article Cross Currents

Gay Asian Masculinities and Christian Theologies

Magazine article Cross Currents

Gay Asian Masculinities and Christian Theologies

Article excerpt

The gay Asian American male body is a highly contested site with respect to masculinity. On the one hand, we gay Asian men (1) are often seen by the white gay community as sexually undesirable because our "oriental" racialized bodies are perceived to be less masculine. On the other hand, we are often seen by the straight Asian American community as sexually dangerous because of our perceived deviance from the heterosexual norms of masculinity.

The experience of living at the intersections of racism and homophobia is a common theme in the narratives of gay Asian men. Many gay Asian men experience a profound sense of metaphorical homelessness. To paraphrase Jesus' saying about the Son of Man, we have nowhere to rest our embattled bodies. (2) We neither belong fully to the gay community that is overwhelmingly white nor do we belong fully to the overwhelmingly straight Asian American community.

This essay will explore how the embattled gay Asian male body, like the bruised and battered corpus of Jesus Christ on the cross, might serve an atoning purpose by decolonizing the racism and homophobia of contemporary Christian theologies. That is, gay Asian men--by the very fact of our hybrid and intersectional existence--are called to challenge both the whiteness of queer theology and the heterosexuality of Asian American theology.

Gay Asian Narratives

Although Asian male bodies have existed in North America since at least the 1700s, the voices of gay Asian men did not emerge until the rise of the gay rights movement in the United States in the 1960s. One of the earliest of such voices is that of Kiyoshi Kuromiya. He was a gay activist of Asian descent who wrote about his hybridized experiences of both racism and homophobia. Kuromiya, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in an internment camp during the Second World War and raised in a conservative Christian household. In 1965, he participated in one of the first-ever gay rights demonstrations, which actually occurred in Philadelphia several years before the Stonewall Riots in New York City. As someone who lived on the intersections of racism and homophobia, Kuromiya criticized both the exclusion of people of color by the predominantly white and middle-class homophile movement as well as the homophobic slurs of activists of color such as the Black Panthers. (3)

In the mid-1990s, the voices of gay Asian men emerged with full force. During this time, a number of groundbreaking anthologies of the LGBTQ. Asian experience were published, including Asian American Sexualities: Dimensions of the Gay and lesbian Experience (1996), Q&A: Queer in Asian America (1998), and Rice: Explorations in Asian Gay Culture and Politics (1998). (4) It also saw the rapid growth of many gay Asian organizations across the United States, including Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY) in New York City. The publication of several other anthologies of gay Asian voices followed, including Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (2000) and Embodying Asian/American Sexualities (2009). (5)

The narratives of gay Asian men in these anthologies include essays, short stories, poetry, art, and photography. One theme consistently appears throughout the various narratives: the experience of double marginalization in the form of racism from the white gay community and homophobia from the straight Asian American community. As the gay Asian writer Eric Wat puts it, those of us who are gay Asian men are caricatured as either submissive houseboys or corrupt perverts. In other words, we are "run over at the intersection of racism and homophobia" and "left in the middle of the road, unacceptable to those at either side of the street." (6)

Racism and the Gay Community

In a provocative essay from 1991, "Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn," the gay Asian filmmaker Richard Fung writes about how Asian men are viewed as "undersexed" by the white gay community. …

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