ChoiceWords Blog

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Lost in Translation: API Sex and Sexuality

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April 11, 2014

The United States suffers from an unfortunate epidemic known as abstinence only programs. These sex after marriage talks are a common procedure in awkward health and sex-education classrooms around the country. For LGBT folks, abstinence only programs do us no good because, you know, we can’t really get married, and if we have to wait until after married, we’re going to be on a dry-spell for quite a while. Some advocates of abstinence only programs believe it is the right of the parents to have that conversation with their children, but for the API community, that is never a conversation we ever have.

The API community is very private and though I’ve never been a parent myself, I honestly believe our parents don’t want to encourage the ideas of “promiscuity.” Well mom and dad, you two are successful and capable adults who had sex and created me, so I think we’ll turn out just fine.

Immigrant families leave their homelands to give their children a chance at an education in the states. They don’t want us preoccupied with dating and relationships, when our efforts should be focused on school. The language barrier is also a problem many sexually active kids in the API community have to deal with. I can’t even think of the Chinese word for orgasm or oral sex, so if we’re forced to describe the action in our native tongue, things can definitely get a little awkward and complicated.

These talks are so crucial, but our parents don’t always have the tools to give us that education, even though we desperately need it. For queer API’s, like myself, coming out is a hard enough battle because of cultural expectations of bringing shame and dishonor to the family name and having to overcome our language barriers with them.  This is all while having to live everyday at school where API’s deal with the highest rates of bullying, whether that’s because of the accents in our speech, the color of our skin, or the fish sauce or curry packed in our lunch boxes. However, school might be the only place we have the opportunity to ever learn about safe sex.

The CDC’s 2011 HIV report indicates that two-thirds of the API community has not been tested for HIV and one in three don’t even know they have it. HIV groups don’t usually spend their efforts targeting queer API’s because it’s not a huge population, but that shouldn’t invalidate those of the community who do live with HIV. There’s a growing epidemic for the API community because parents first, don’t believe that they could ever have queer children and second, that their children are having queer sex. Sexual health for queer API’s whether through a proper explanation of how to use a condom or how to prevent the spread of STI’s is not a conversation we are having at our dinner tables with our parents.

This lack of education carries over into our relationships too. Our race sometimes shapes our sexuality, which can be quite dangerous. Queer API women are often casted off as either the “dragon-lady” narrative like Lucy Liu’s character in Kill Bill or are seen as a delicate submissive geishas retold in Madam Butterfly, Miss Saigon, and the infamous Memoirs of a Geisha.

For queer men as well, we deal with fetishization. API men are already emasculated where our only media icons are PSY or Ken Jeong from The Hangover series. We are used as comic relief. Our lives and history are reduced to jokes about our small stature and hairlessness, as if we could control that. Glenn Magpantay, of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance explains the stereotypes that come along with being a queer API in his Sex Positivity: Erotic Sex, Sticky Sex, Sexual Liberation, and the Gay Asian Experience workshop. He created an open dialogue to talk about how fantastic sex is and how queer men have to strategically navigate their sexual encounters. The gay API community has even created slang terminology for these racial preferences.

Rice Queens – Non API’s (usually white) who prefer to date East Asian men

Potato Queens – API’s who prefer to date white men

Curry Queens – Non API’s who prefer South Asian men

Sticky Rice – API’s who prefer other API’s

This fetishization can lead to a slippery slope where sexual assault and abuse is legitimized because we are seen as submissive, femme, and are all cute little objects that giggle behind our docile hands waiting to please our straight-acting, masculine, muscular partner. It is because we never had the first step in discussing our sex-lives and sexuality that we allow for fetishization to happen. We integrate into the LGBT community the best we can without recognizing our differences and ethnic background. We fail to examine our histories and internalized oppression which reflects in our partner choices. Our parents, at the end of the day, only want what’s the best for us. They want us to be happy, healthy, and successful, but they need to understand that sex, could possibly be a huge part of that.

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