I am a Korean-American lesbian who identifies strongly as a pro-transgender feminist, a womanist, a soft butch, a witch, a spinster, and a hag. I live in Baltimore Maryland. This is about my struggles with race-based sexual attractions. Part 1 of this 3-part diary can be read here. I pick up the story with a return to the problems that led to the breakup of my relationship with a beautiful woman who I'll call “Trisha.”
A week after my ex-girlfriend, Trisha, informed me that she had a thing for Asian women I decided to ask her what she meant. She told me that she thought that I would be pleased by her statement. After all, LGBT folks are frequently quite segregated by race and class, as separate in our social relations as straights. Loving across the colorline is a beautiful thing, she said. I agreed and we wept and hugged, but then I told her that my concern was that she viewed Asian women as a kind of fetish, focusing on stereotypical parts of us rather than the entirety of our hard-to-define and quite heterogeneous personalities and lifeways.
She admitted that she had very clear stereotypical notions about Asian women. She believed that we were “softer” and “quieter” than White, Latina, and Black women. She even said that Italian, Jewish, Greek, Latina, and especially (in her view) Black women were the “loudest” to her. I bristled at her racism and told her that her stereotypes are generalizing about millions of people and all cultural groups can be loud or quiet at various times. Furthermore, some passive-aggressive or WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) behaviors (like aggressive silence or quiet exclusion) can have incredibly loud effects in ways that are often not discussed in the incessant blathering of racist stereotypes. I told her about my loud Korean grandmother who was deported back to South Korea after allegedly shoplifting and being discovered to have had an expired VISA. My grandmother was a self-defined bitch who fled North Korea, endured incalcuable harship (including the alleged murder of my parents). She sassed anyone in her midst for any reason. She told me that if I don't do well in school and become a doctor or a lawyer that she would kill me and “dump my body by the road.” Oh, she was hard! Oh, she was harsh! But I loved her so much! She taught me about survival and the kinds of intelligence that don't have a goddamn thing to do with books. According to my ex-girlfriend's racist logic, my Korean grandmother might as well've been a Black woman.
I then said the dreaded words:
Trisha, I think we need to really discuss sexual racism.
Then she exploded for the first time in our relationship:
What the fuck is that?!
I explained to her that I first heard the term “sexual racism” after encountering the work of a writer named Andy Quan.
Andy Quan is an openly gay Chinese-Canadian writer who lives in Australia. Even though I've never met him, I have an ideological kinship with him that transcends distance. Even though his writing focuses mostly on gay male lives, I have learned much from his understanding of Gay Asian sensibilities in English-speaking worlds. But, the main reason why I treasure Andy Quan is because he started a website called “Sexual Racism Sux” with his friend, Tim Mansfield.
Even with the help of Andy and Tim's ideas, I fear that even talking openly about this topic will open me up to the extreme forms of hate and invisibilization as a young Korean-American lesbian. And yes: I have been invisibilized when my friends, lovers, and coworkers have told me to “shut up–it's just a preference.”
It all came to a head with Trisha when she told me that I wasn't as quiet and cool as she thought I was. I was willing to talk more about the complex currents of sexual racism that flowed between us. But, as soon as I began NOT to fit her stereotype, she began distancing herself from me and if I confronted her about it she would grow colder.
This is the problem:
- Sexual racism is not just about excluding millions of potential love/sex partners of particular cultural groups based on under-articulated, under-reflected upon, or unacknowledged biases, fears, stereotypes, generalizations, and falsehoods.
- Sexual racism is also about fetishizing or sensationalizing particular cultural groups because of their assumed cultural stereotypes. This produces a vicious effect: the potential love/sex partner becomes parts-for-wholes, an object instead of a full, feeling, human being.
Yes: so much of sex is involved with totems and fetishes.
But can't we be more mature, more holistic?
Does sex and love always have to wallow in the same currents of cultural exclusion and fetish that so sullies the world?
Doesn't being progressive LGBT people mean interrogating human justice in all sectors of our life, including the bedroom?!