Way back in 2003, I found an advice column by Dan Savage to a young gay Asian man. Dan’s been in the press like crazy lately with the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign and the Rick Santorum ‘I dare you to f*** with us’ campaign. I greatly admire him.
I wasn’t crazy about the advice given though — so, here’s the original column, and then my advice following it…
An advice column
By Dan Savage
Washington City Paper
February 2, 2001
I go to an Ivy League college and, after a long bout of being alone, I decided to hook up.Â I ended up going into the online chat rooms at Gay.com and — lo and behold! — there were many gay guys from my school online.Â I was really excited — until I started talking to them.Â I am Asian, you see, and though I think I’m pretty stable and have a decent body, Gay.com has been a very bad experience for me.Â The moment I tell them I’m Asian, it’s “Sorry, I’m not into Asians.Â ‘Bye.”Â I don’t think I’ll ever go online again.
— Lonely Gay Loser
Yes, it hurts when someone rejects you for your race — just as it hurts to be rejected for your age, weight, gender, or dick size.Â But what can you do?Â Everyone has an absolute right to reject anyone for any reason at all, however unfair or arbitrary the reason may seem to the rejected party.Â We can’t say, “That’s not fair, you have to fuck me!” when someone tells us to buzz off because of our race, weight or gender.Â I assume you’ve rejected guys — you can’t be attracted to all men, correct?Â Well, your reasons for rejecting a particular guy may feel just as hurtful to him as “I’m not into Asians” feels to you.
But there are ways to meet guys without hearing “I’m not into Asians.”Â First, get out of the house.Â When you walk out of your house into a gay bar, for instance, all the guys who aren’t attracted to Asians can see that you’re Asian, and they’re not going to waste your time approaching you.Â When you’re at home and online, however, people can’t see you, and people who aren’t attracted to Asians may chat you up.Â If you are going to meet people online, you can avoid chatting with guys who aren’t into Asians by letting guys know you’re Asian from the start.Â “Anyone can post a profile at Gay.com, and it’s best to be upfront about who you are and what you’re up to,” advises Jeff Bennett, Gay.com’s co-founder.Â “Letting people know who you are will filter out some of the negative vibes you’ve been getting.”Â Call yourself “IvyLeagueAsianBoy” when you go online to chat and I promise you’ll find an Asian-loving fag to make brown puddles with in no time at all.
— Dan Savage
Advice for the Advice Columnist
I don’t think your response is too bad. It’s well-meaning at least. The advice to “get out of the house” is probably the best part.
But LGL’s complaint about racism on the internet is a valid one.
And I hate the kind of response that you gave. I get it and have seen it all the tiime. When you tell someone about a racist experience you’ve experienced, and the other person tries to explain it, or justify it. As if we haven’t already thought out the dozens of excuses for prejudice.
And while most types of discrimination are hurtful or harmful, racism has its own flavours.
It’s true that LGL sent his complaint to an advice columnist asking him advice. But asking him step into the shoes of the racist or ignorant and see it from their perspective? Blah. I don’t agree.
And he never said everyone has to fuck him. Or fuck all of us Asians. He pointed out a shitty racist unfriendly place for him to be. I’m not sure we should defend it.
The idea that “everyone has an absolute right to reject anyone for any reason at all” is a response to the demand that “everyone has an absolute right to have sex with anyone else for any reason at all”. I don’t see that demand being made.
I think what he was asking for was hope and comfort, and without knowing it, perhaps this: to be treated with respect and decency. And that means to me that if you’re not attracted to someone, you can still treat them as a human being, and with the kindness that I hope you would wish to be treated with as well.
You are right that getting out of the house and not using chat-sites might be the best way to get around this though. Another way is to put up a photo of yourself on your profile so that it’s clear what you look like. Then you don’t have to put “Asian” in the title, which really is kind of reductive and sad, that in the currency of gay sex and relationships, race is the most important marker.
I think the best advice is: buck up, hold your head up high, and go on and get ’em, tiger! – but at the same time acknowledging that racism is out there, and it sucks.
(And now from 2011, I’d add to that advice Dan’s own words: It Gets Better)