My name is David Nguyen. I am 36 years old and I’m based in L.A. I originally grew up in Texas, and I’m Vietnamese first generation.
I think Texas in itself is its own culture. My parents barely spoke any English. And for the first couple years of grade school I was bullied and didn’t really have any friends, but then I started to develop a lot more friends as I got older and could speak English better.
And a lot of my mom’s family, luckily, that migrated over here were close together. And I did attend a Vietnamese church on Sundays so that was a community there. But it was still very small when you compare it to the city of Dallas or even Houston in general.
Growing up, the only other Asian person in my school was a girl. I didn’t really have anyone to look at for an example, or even kind of say “This is who I am; there’s someone out there that I can relate to.” I think it sometimes makes you lack confidence in the things that you know you’re good at but you never really outspokenly say. So I would stay quiet or I would overachieve at school to kind of make up for the expectations that people had of me.
At first I realized I was gay at maybe like 12, maybe even earlier than that. And I’d never really done anything or acted on it until after college. I really tried to suppress it a lot. So I dated girls in high school and even in college as well. I was even in a straight fraternity. And so I was just trying to repress those feelings and trying to say that “This passes.” And then growing up Catholic, as I’d mentioned, I had a lot of guilt and shame for who I was and really tried to do things that would counteract that and try not to give that impression. And then in my personal time I would pray. When boys start to masturbate I’d be like “Oh my God, maybe if I don’t masturbate I won’t think of guys and I won’t be gay.” And so I think there were a lot of things I was doing to torment myself and try to push away who I was, and it just kept coming back up.
When I moved out to L.A.–that’s right after college; I was only 20 years old–I was like, “I am going to be gay and be free.” I was very extroverted. And you start to see certain guys only speaking to you or people kind of brushing you off. And you start to think, “Oh, is it me?” But then you start to learn quickly that it’s a generalization, that “Oh, it’s because I’m Asian.” Or if I do talk to someone and they get to know me, they’re like, “Oh, well, I expected your personality to be like this, to be more submissive and not as loud or vocal.” You start to question yourself and your value and your confidence.
I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to build more confidence and really be comfortable with who I am. And I really think that Asian men or any person of color should feel comfortable, and sexual, within their body and who they are whether they’re big, small, short, tall. The more true you are, and not trying to fit in a box, I think the more a person shines, and that’s what people are attracted to.