It was obvious to me from my first erotic dream at the tender age of seven. From that first secret and shameful stirring deep within my lower body, I knew that I was destined to be an easy lay. And it must have been obvious, though perhaps a little later, to my peers as well. I was fourteen years old the first time one of my classmates called me a “gay cocksucking [sic] whore.” This would become a trend amongst my friends and acquaintances over the next half-decade: from the barrage of anonymous internet insults in the tenth grade to the random man last week who grabbed my ass and attempted to pull me into an alley, it seems that my sexual availability is common knowledge to the wide world.
So if I am such a slut – if this Asian, transgendered, feminine body of mine is such an easy mark – why is it so dang hard to get laid in this town?
There is no shortage, of course, of men on the streets, in clubs, bars, and grocery stores, who, alerted by the swish of my skirt or the sheen of my lipstick that I am “that kind of boy,” catcall from their cars at night and leer at my legs as I pass by. On any given weekend, I can don a tank top and tight jeans, go to Unity, and shimmy my hips for a few hours until a white man approaches me and says, “Ni hao, I love Chinese boys, and by the way are you a bottom?” But if what I am looking for is a liaison of the flesh that also respects my mind, body, and choices, I had better prepare my heart for a long and lonely hunt.
For most of my life, I did not know the difference between sexual objectification and sexual intimacy. I believed that being valued or loved meant the same thing as being fuckable, and as an Asian boy-child who wanted to be a girl, I knew that my body was less lovable by far than those of the beautiful white men I fantasized about. (How many times have I heard those fateful words: “I’m sorry, I’m just not into Asians?” How many Craigslist ads and dating site profiles proclaim: “No femmes, no fats, no Asians or Blacks?”)
Yet these men who move so easily and fearlessly through the sexual realm are not sluts. Their bodies – white, cisgendered, born with all the physical abilities that society favours, masculine, valued above all things – are not construed as something constructed for the pleasure of others, that can be bought and sold, summoned, or dismissed at a whim. No, the body of the slut is feminized and racialized; the slut’s face is the face that dares to gaze back without deference at the judgement of a world that deems it ugly, unlovable, devalued below all things.
Marginalized peoples are not meant to have access to sexual capital – we are not allowed to take pleasure in other people’s bodies, or in our own. If we are of colour, then we had better not presume to make love to whites – except to please them. If we are queer, we dare not desire straight bodies. And if we are women, we should not want to make love at all. In being combinations of these identities, our access to sexual pleasure, to that blurry line between objectification and intimacy, diminishes ever more.
It is in the wanting that we become sluts. It is our desire, even our capacity for desire – that secret-shameful stirring deep in our bodies – that threatens the hierarchy that keeps our bodies enslaved in sex. In surviving rape, in showing pride in our beauty, in wanting to be lovable and fuckable and everything in between, we challenge the domination of those who hold the keys to sexual power. And so we are insulted, assaulted, leered at on the streets and dragged into alleyways. Beaten down that we might submit once more.
I can be only what I am destined to be: an Asian man who dresses and has sex like a woman. Who wants sex, fears it, who still searches long and lonely nights for that hook-up, affair, relationship, in which I can be whole. It isn’t easy. It never is. Still, I want it. Still, I search.
Ryan Thom’s Memoirs of a Gaysian is a column about life, love, and intersectional oppression. Ryan is a writer, performance artist, and lifelong slut. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.