I’m 35. I was adopted from Korea when I was 1 and I grew up in Idaho. Both my parents are white. And I have a brother who’s also adopted but from Thailand so we’re not blood related. According to 23andMe I’m Korean, Japanese, and a little bit Samoan. No one in my family looks alike, so when I see people that are related I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you guys have the same nose or eyes or whatever.”
I did live in Germany because my dad’s German. And I lived in Vietnam and Belgium, but I primarily grew up in Idaho. There were not very many people of color in general around. I think at the time I felt very out of place, very different, other, “other than.” I did not see myself reflected much if at all. I remember in “Die Another Day,” the James Bond movie, the villain was Rick Yune. And anyway some people were like, “Oh, you look like him.” But I think other than that, there was not a lot of representation.
When “Crazy Rich Asians” came out, I was like, “I hope this is a good movie!” Even when “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” came out I was like, “Here we go!” because it’s so rare to have this ensemble Asian cast. And luckily both of them were very successful.
I identify as a gay man and growing up being adopted, being gay, and being Asian, I don’t want to call myself a super minority, but there were a lot of fields that I didn’t relate to with the norm mainstream culture. In some ways I feel like I definitely stood out and that can be tough when you want to fit in, but it can also allow you to be unique. And I’ve tried to embrace that more as I’ve gotten older.
Everyone’s got a preference, especially when it comes to dating or romance or sex, and I think that’s totally fine. I’ve always been of the mindset, though, that I don’t want to date someone that only wants to date me because of my race or my outer appearance, which is just a shell. I think that I’ve been objectified more by people that either live in or grew up in environments where there were very few Asians, and then it becomes more of a fetishization.
Traditionally a lot of Asian men have been considered very intellectual, more passive, more feminine. I think there’s a lot of internalized homophobia that a lot of us experience one way or another. America is very masculine-driven in general. And about not just appearance but also personality. You know, “bigger is better,” loud, in your face, tough and gruff. So I feel like I definitely went through a culture shock when I came from Korea to L.A.
Seeing all of the violence that’s been going on towards Asians, it’s horrible what’s happening and I hope that it stops. But if we take a little bit of a silver lining, there is more visibility, and hopefully this will be a catalyst to help make some change within our community and hopefully globally with the way people view us as a whole. Having diversity and variety I think helps combat that a little bit. So we aren’t continually seen as a monolith: “all Asians look alike, all Asian men are this way, all Asian women are this way.” There are many different types of human beings and obviously we’re included.