Ryan Tran / Canada
“As a Vietnamese gay cis guy who was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, it took a long time for me to have the self-confidence in myself and my body.
When my classmates started dating and pairing up around me, I didn’t understand why girls never had a crush on me. I don’t know whether I was too Asian or too flamboyant to attract anyone. It made me feel ugly. That feeling extended into the years when I was coming out. When I began using websites and apps to meet guys, I was mainly approached by particularly older White men who fetishized me. It was confusing because I longed to be wanted but it seemed I was only wanted as a submissive skinny Asian stereotype. In the end, it didn’t make me feel good.
It was only when I started getting more involved in the gay Asian community that I felt more accepted. Others have felt the same sexual racism. I learned that I didn’t have to passively accept the type of men who were coming to me. I gained more self confidence as I saw other gay Asian men who were all attractive in their own right. Now it doesn’t matter if I am too Asian or too feminine. I am comforted to know that attraction is not rigid, but expansive. I can’t control who would be attracted to me, but I am happier with being who I am.
Since I’ve been working at Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), I’ve met and heard from many gay Asian guys who have faced similar struggles as I have with finding a community where they feel they can belong. On top of sexual racism, we face additional barriers in accessing accurate sexual health information and services. Although we live in a multicultural city, a majority of services are provided in English and it is difficult to find both culturally-specific and LGBTQ-friendly services. With language barriers, misinformation, and conservative upbringings around sex, gay Asian men are at a higher risk of HIV transmission. I hope my work at ACAS can help reduce these service gaps and provide better sexual health education to the Asian LGBTQ community.”