Are We Beautifooled?

Browsing the Internet on a particularly boring workday, I stumbled upon a Canadian Master’s thesis on the subject of gay sexuality, desirability, and race. The main idea was to think of the gay landscape, and arguably the gay experience, in terms of economic incentives: much like a modern capitalistic economy driven by supply, demand, socioeconomics, and race. 

I was a 23-year-old graduate of UC Irvine with a Mechanical Engineering degree when I read this 150-page thesis, and was a year into my professional career. Needless to say, I’ve had my experiences as a young, wild, gay, college boy. But encountering this work has certainly affected the perception of my self-worth when it comes to dating in the gay scene. 

As a Southeast Asian man, I’ve had my brushes with being fetishized and perceived as being submissive; I’ve come across racism and microaggression, all the while not knowing what they were at the time. And like the birth of an artisanal clock—the first gear turned, turning the others, bringing the clock to life— I came to the realization that I live in this sphere, this exclusive and selective arena: the gay marketplace of desire. 

This epiphany hurt because the words I read somehow lined up with feelings I previously had no descriptions for. Why am I attracted to a build —white male physique— above others? Why do I mostly watch white male gay porn? How come the people I find attractive don’t hit me back up on Grindr?

A mirror was held up to my face; what I saw was someone who was not desirable because he was not white and muscular. I’m well aware of the confirmation bias—I see gay, white males predominantly dating other gay, white males, both happen to be in great shape, and are able to maintain that specific lifestyle. 

Sometimes, I’d see a gay white male with a gay Asian male. I’d feel some hope, but the little demon in my head will say, “it’s only because he’s fit.” Even though I know this is wrong, I can’t help but to think that it might be right.

Everyday I have to fight the negative thoughts and notions about myself, other gay men, and the gay community as a whole. I’d like to think that our modus operandi in dating is not solely based on the muscles, big chest, six-pack abs, biceps, and perfectly groomed hair and face: the superficial. I’d like to think that I’m not alone in saying that we should all take a hard look at ourselves, and reassess the biases and preconceived notions that have been fed to us growing up queer; to question how we present ourselves, our actions, habits, and what it means to be a gay man; to realize and discover who we really are, and who we can be.

But first tell me: whose face did you think of when I was describing the man in the last paragraph?

– Con Fuoco