I often dreamed of going to study abroad and becoming a part of global gay community. I wanted to experience Western gay life so badly and meet somebody who could marry me as partner. When I look back now, however, the whole picture seems to be pretty pathetic. Recently I had a chance to talk about this particular topic with other Asian and Asian-American gay men. Why are there so many young gay Asians out there dating old White men? I don’t know the answer yet, but, in my case, perhaps I was hungry for something different. Given the fact that the society I grew up is not tolerant of homosexuality, I was craving for liberty and self-affirmation. For me, those Western gay men were symbolizing freedom. I was desperate to get myself validated.
Around the time I finished undergraduate course, I was dating with an American man (he is still a good friend of mine) who has been working for a Japanese company as an intercultural trainer. At that time I was fascinated by encounters with diverse cultures through the volunteer work I did for international students. As the graduation drew near, I started to think about seriously working in the field of international education. I began participating in seminars about intercultural communication and reading related books and literatures. He was very encouraging me to pursue my personal goal. I still appreciate the fact that I had a chance to meet him in that crucial time of my life. He told me about the field, his job and his opinion about the field. Also around the same time, I met a Japanese woman who had graduated from Lesley College at one of the seminars I attended in Japan. When she told me about the Lesley program, I became very much interested and two weeks later, she sent me the information about the college. I applied for it and luckily got accepted to the program. I came to Boston in January 1998.
I felt very lonely at the beginning. To be honest, I was so disappointed with what I came to see. As almost everyone agrees, Boston is not known for friendliness. I was tired of going out and feeling even more miserable. I was picked up sometimes by old White guys at bars and went back to their apartments not being sure I was enjoying it or not. They make ignorant comments about my country, “Where is capital of Japan?”, “Are there any gay people in Japan?”, “Are there any gay bars in Japan?” and so on. They don’t know and they don’t care. Sure, the United States is the best country in the world, so why should they know about tiny island country in Far East? Their ignorance hurt and infuriated me at times. One time, when I was talking with a man at a bar. He seemed to be somewhat well educated (later he told me he was a graduate of Harvard Business School), pretty handsome, thirtysomething – I enjoyed talking with him and everything was fine. Then he asked me about gays in Japan and I was explaining it to him. After listening to me, he said, “Oh, I’m glad I’m not Japanese! Sounds like pretty shitty place to live, doesn’t it? No wonder you came to the US for study.” I could not understand what he meant – what did he mean by “I’m glad I’m not Japanese”? His words echoed as if there is something wrong with being gay Japanese. His comment devastated me and I went home and cried in my room.
The landmark event for me was to participate in Boston Gay Pride Parade in July. I joined the team of Asian gay group. That was the first time to try to contact local Asian gay organization. That was really positive experience for me. Though the majority of Boston gay community is predominantly White, our team was marching on the street of Boston with a float decorated by all the flags of Asian nations, throwing packets of condoms at people. It was the first time for me to appear in public as a whole gay existence. I sensed enormous amount of freedom and validity. I danced with other Asians on the street. I walked on the street doing silly movements and that was fine. I remember I laughed so much. Even after that I went back to my everyday life and I have been dealing with my life as before, I was fortunate to have that one particular day.
Currently I have been conducting the research about gay Asians in Boston. This is the project for class, but I’m hoping to expand it into my thesis later. Through interviews and participant observations, I have just started to move toward what I call myself. My informants have told me their experience here in the US and some of the stories sounded painful – and I could relate to it. I’m hoping that this project would help me to look back where I come from, to sit through my anxiety and diffuse my rage against the mainstream society as well as the mainstream gay community. I feel that I have come long way so far and I still have been trying to find out myself. I don’t know when this would end and when I become more comfortable with me. Sometimes I wonder I could be happier if I did not take the racial and cultural issues seriously. Some people called me agitated, too political, paranoid and taking everything too personally. I no longer care what they may think. What I know is that this is necessary process and I can do this only at this crucial moment in my life.
I have become able to get in touch with myself better largely due to the generous support from my current boyfriend Brian. He is one of my classmates and we began dating the last August. We have had many difficult moments and the experience we shared brought us much closer now. He has seen my struggles and understood my issues. For the first time in my life, I feel myself so accepted and incorporated into someone’s life. I do not foresee the future of out relationship, but we both hope that someday we can get over all the obstacles lying ahead and have a meaningful life together. Ever since I came here, I have gone through many changes both externally and internally. It is still going to be challenging and I will continue to feel vulnerable, but I have become more aware and a little more tougher than I used to be. My experience in the US has taught me a lot and I wish more people, either straight or gay or whatever they may be, would find the value of transcultural learning experience.
This article appeared in the Spring 1999 edition of Lesbigay SIGnals